I was the tour manager for Genesis during the years that Peter Gabriel was with them. I was also largely responsible for what was arguably rock’s most embarrassing moment.
This was how the show’s climax had been planned and rehearsed so long ago.
Peter Gabriel, would be dressed in his “Gods of Magog” outfit, consisting of a long velvet black cape and a giant triangular headpiece. Through this helmet, only his green iridescent eyes pierced through because of the black light that ran along the lip of the stage.
The show would routinely finish with him throwing off his hat and cape revealing himself in a silver jumpsuit. He was made invisible to the audience during this transition by controlled explosions coming from metal pods on the front of the stage.
The flash and concussion would temporarily blind and daze the audience.
These canisters were filled with a martini of flash and gunpowder. They would be criminally outlawed today, whereas back then they were simply banned. We never told anyone we were going to do it. One of our roadies, Goeff Banks, filled them a couple of hours before the show and would set them off electrically at the right moment.
This incident took place somewhere between 1973 and 1975 either in Cleveland, Ohio or in Berlin, Germany. Believe me, in my world, this is terrific accuracy. Someone prophetically had the inspiration to “fly” Peter into the air while the audience was blinded, (This was most likely Peter himself).
He was to be “shot,” (hoisted) fifteen feet into the air by nearly invisible thin metal wires, “ called flying” in those days. He would finish the song, floating in a silver jumpsuit, as the front curtain closed, end of the show. Nice.
Gabriel was to be further concealed by smoke machines (they looked like leaf blowers) and an intense fog that bubbled up by dumping huge blocks of dry ice, by hand (gloved), into immense buckets of water by the crew from behind the speaker stage bins. They would explode with vapor, filling, if the prevailing winds permitted, the entire stage.
Here’s how the “flying” was to work. I had brought in an “expert” who had flown Elton John and his piano into the air a few months earlier. This guy was harnessed to the wires which were connected over the truss to Gabriel. The guy climbed to the top of a tall ladder on stage left, out of sight and waited. On my cue, he would leap off the ladder and because he was the counterbalance, up our artist would go. I did the cueing only because I had no other real job, having finished my very important job of literally running around hallways closing doors so no breeze would alter the course of our stage fog.
I sweated the cue because if I got it wrong, Peter would be mid-song and everything else would fall to shit.
Well, I thought I nailed the fucker, but I was maybe a second too soon and all hell broke loose. Peter went up fast and sadly, crookedly. His left shoulder was at least a foot and a half higher than his right. In his surprise, he dropped his live microphone launching it forward, onto the stage where it rolled into the explosions from the gunpowder pods, sending the blast sound into the giant audience speakers permanently deafening Lord knows how many of the punters who had the misfortune to have been standing near them.
Meanwhile, some asshole had clearly opened an outside door so all my smoke was blowing backward towards the dressing rooms leaving the mayhem clearly visible.
The flash pods, ( we were later to learn from the fire dept.) had been way overloaded thereby becoming perhaps the first incident of actual cannon fire ever, during a show, in the history of rock.
Peter’s mic sound, as my luck would have it, also went through the band’s stage speakers. Tony Banks, the keyboardist, I saw out of the corner of my now tearing eyes, was in the center of the stage hitting Geoff, the explosion roadie, over the head with a tambourine, screaming “I am deaf, you made me deaf”. All this was happening within a nightmare zone of about ten seconds.
So let me recap, seeing as we both have come this far. I have Gabriel nearly horizontal, fifteen feet in the air, with no microphone and a black cape dangling from his foot. I have the keyboardist pounding a roadie as the poor fucker is desperately trying to extinguish the residue flames still pouring from his canisters. I have an audience in a state of deaf mass trauma and I have smoke filling up the dressing rooms. So what was the absolute last thing this God could think of to do with me? The front curtain would not close.
In my mind’s eye, even today, this was not a tidy episode. To their credit and my forever resentment, most of the audience hung around to watch us try to get Peter down. It took such a long time.
Regis Boff (from his blog early 2013) – used with permission.
(Steve Hackett confirmed it was 19.2.75, The Ekeberghallen, Oslo, Norway!)
In the 1991 Documentary Genesis A History where Tony, Mike and Phil remembered it differently with Phil Collins saying “I turned around to the tour manager and said YOUR FIRED! “