Canadian music producer and keyboardist, Bob Ezrin has spoken on Peter Gabriel’s solo career and how their collaboration helped the singer develop “a new confidence and swagger”.
After seeing Gabriel open up for Lou Reed in ‘76, Ezrin jumped at the chance to be involved with the former Genesis singer, later telling his wife: “I wanna meet that kid with the flower on his head!”
“Usually you ignore the opening act, but I was spellbound,” Ezrin recalls. “I met Lou after the show to talk about producing Berlin, but when I got home I said to my wife: ‘I’m really looking forward to working with Lou. But boy, I wanna meet that kid with the flower on his head!’”
In an interview with Classic Rock, Ezrin recalls how Gabriel had struggled through recording sessions for his debut solo album. However, Ezrin said the experience was easy-going for himself. Ezrin believes it was important to Gabriel that he “step out and be recognised as an individual talent”. He said the singer “is a larger-than-life personality”.
“Even though he presents in a fairly gentle, humble way, there’s so much fire, energy and creativity,” said Ezrin. “There are many different personalities in there that he has to be able to let out. The only way for him to do that without constraint was to leave Genesis and do it on his own.”
Ezrin believed the solution was to assemble a band of equally strong personalities, including Steve Hunter, Dick Wagner and Tony Levin. He recalls the members as being “like the Dirty Dozen – each of them was a psychopathic expert in their particular field of destruction”.
“It felt like letting the crack criminals out of prison and putting them together in a gang for the Big Job,” quipped Ezrin. “Peter said: ‘Well, could I at least have one Brit?’ So, he brought in [Robert] Fripp, which was great. Fripp was a totally buttoned-down English gentleman with these American wild men, yet they all got on very well. Peter stayed with many of them for years afterwards.”
Ezrin recalls the sessions being “easy” from his point of view, although, “not so much” from Peter’s. He said Gabriel “wasn’t used to being with someone so North American and … aggressive” as him.
“I came from a tradition of having to get things done quickly, on time and on budget, making decisions, sticking to them,” said Ezrin. “Peter was at a stage where he wanted to be more experimental. He’s said that he maybe would’ve been happier if he’d been allowed more time and latitude to try a few other things.”
Nevertheless, Ezrin recalled a “fabulous rapport” in the studio with the guys and said there was “no fighting whatsoever” between them. The legendary producer said Gabriel developed “a new confidence and swagger” with them.
“Prior to that he was a bit shy,” recalled Ezrin. “He had to learn to shout to get through to us. There were just so many characters in their own right involved.”
Gabriel’s debut album, Peter Gabriel (aka Car), released in February 1977 to a good reception and established Gabriel as more than just “the guy who wore the masks”.