Rock’s most embarrassing moment
by Regis Boff
I was the tour manager for a band called Genesis during the years with Peter Gabriel. I was responsible for what is arguably rock’s most embarrassing moment.
A standard show climaxed with Gabriel, the lead singer, dressed in his “Gods of Magog” outfit, a long velvet black cape and a giant triangular headpiece.
He was to throw off his hat and cape to reveal himself in a silver jumpsuit, and then finish the song, end of the show. We made him momentarily invisible by the detonating of flash and concussion powder. The controlled explosions came from metal pods on the front lip of the stage. The audience was blinded and dazed, an excellent early rock conclusion.
We filled these canisters with a martini of flash and gunpowder. They would be criminally outlawed today, whereas back then they were quietly banned. We never told anyone we were going to do it. One of our roadies, Geoff 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 Berlin, Germany. Believe me, that in my world this is terrific accuracy.
Someone prophetically, (I can’t remember who), 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 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 harnessed himself to the wires which connected over the truss to Gabriel. He 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 critical 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. It sent the blast sound directly into the huge audience speakers. Lord knows how many of the punters, who had the misfortune to have been standing near them are now deaf.
Meanwhile, some asshole had 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 live 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 hapless bastard is desperately trying to extinguish the residue flames still pouring from his canisters. I have an audience in a state of stunned 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 cut Peter down. It took such a long time.
Steve Hackett confirmed it was 19.2.75, The Ekeberghallen, Oslo, Norway!
In the 1991 Documentary, Genesis A History Tony, Mike, and Phil remembered it with Phil Collins saying “I turned around to the tour manager and said YOUR FIRED!