ROCK’S MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENT
by Regis Boff
I was the tour manager in the early seventies for a band called Genesis. Those years when Peter Gabriel was with this band.
I was additionally responsible for what was arguably rock’s most embarrassing moment.
Every other night the show would end this way. Gabriel, dressed in his “Gods of Magog” costume (a black velvet cape, and a giant triangular headpiece), throws off his hat and cloak, revealing himself in a silver jumpsuit. He finishes the song done.
During the climatic changeover, we made him momentarily invisible by the detonation of a cocktail of flash and concussion grey gunpowder. The controlled explosions came from metal pods on the front lip of the stage. The audience was blinded and dazed, an excellent early rock finale.
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. Today this would be criminally outlawed, whereas back then, one of our guys distracted the fire marshall while we filled them.
This incident took place somewhere between 1973 and 1975, either in Cleveland, Ohio, or Berlin, Germany. In my world, this is terrific accuracy.
Someone imaginatively, (I can’t remember who), had the notion to “fly” Peter into the air while the audience was blinded. It 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 the dumping of blocks of dry ice, by hand (gloved), into huge 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 I am not particularly musical.
Well, I thought I nailed the fucker, but I was maybe a second too soon, and shit began scattering everywhere.
Peter went up fast and, sadly, crookedly. His left shoulder was at least a foot and a half higher than his right. In his shock, he dropped his live microphone launching it forward, onto the stage, where it rolled into the explosions from the gunpowder pods.
The blasting sound shot directly into the fifteen-foot audience speakers. Many of the punters, who had the misfortune to have been standing near them, are no doubt deaf today.
Meanwhile, some assholes had opened an outside door. So all my smoke was blowing backward towards the dressing rooms leaving the mayhem visible.
The flash pods, we were later to learn from the fire dept were so overloaded there was speculation it was the first actual cannon fire, during a live show, in history ( except for Beethoven in the 1800s).
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 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. The keyboardist is pounding a roadie as the hapless bastard is frantically trying to extinguish the residue flames still pouring from his canisters. I have an entire audience in a state of stunned mass trauma, and all my smoke is filling up the dressing rooms.
So what was the absolute last thing 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!