In his new new biography, Without Frontiers: The Life and Music of Peter Gabriel, author Daryl Easlea manages to craft a definitive look at the man and his art. Peter’s life, music, performances, videos, productions, and charitable endeavors are covered in depth from the late 1960’s when forming Genesis up to today. The book is very well researched, as Daryl takes care to include frequent direct quotes from Peter, his band members, management, and friends. I found his inclusion of remarks by key collaborators including Peter Hammill, Richard MacPhail, and Daniel Lanois particularly interesting and revealing. These observations contain insights into not just Peter’s work, but his life, such that the reader really gets a sense of him as a person. One interesting angle I’d not known was his lasting but friendly rivalry with Tony Banks and it’s impact on their early work together. Daryl’s skilled narrative and storytelling manages to breathe new life into every chapter as he explores Peter’s influences, his focus on quality work, and continued ability to innovate and entertain.
Many fans of Genesis and Peter’s work who have read some of this information or seen documentaries in the past, will still find new revelations here. His formative years fronting Genesis are key to his development as an artist, and their work to many represents the golden age of progressive rock music. These times are treated with an attention to detail and the author takes care to incorporate parts of the story that add clarity to that short period of time, including matters both serious and entertaining.
After exhausting those years, Peter’s early solo career is examined in a way that sheds light on his search for direction as a solo artist. Every key development from 1977’s Car (as Daryl refers to Peter Gabriel 1) through to 1982’s Security is illuminated. I learned new facts about this era even though this is a time in particular when I was old enough to be a devotee of every album release, concert, and news item about the man. The rest of his career from his breakthrough, more commercial release So, to the Scratch My Back and New Blood Orchestra work is also well covered, along with his frequent charitable work. Often videos and filmed live performances are given short shift – not here – for instance it was a pleasure to see someone hail the 2013 Live in Athens DVD release as a spectacular document of Peter playing live near the end of the So tour in 1987.
This is a truly wonderful biography of one of the most amazing artists of our time. Highly recommended.