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FIRST LISTEN: Peter Gabriel / “So” demos from the super deluxe box

Peter Gabriel / "So" demos first listen


In his letter to me in response to criticisms about the forthcoming So super deluxe edition box set, Peter Gabriel stated that the demo disc in the box – referred to as “So DNA” – was where he did most of his work. He trawled through “thousands of hours of demos” mostly on cassette tape “looking for the pieces that would tell the story of how the songs evolved”. With editor Dickie Chappell, Peter Gabriel has created unique versions of all the album tracks by piecing together different demos and creating an audio patchwork that, for the most part, takes you from Gabriel working alone at a piano to almost complete finished productions.

I’ve had the opportunity to listen to this disc and offer some thoughts and descriptions of the tracks below. The disc mirrors the running order of the album, although as you will see, the tracks are mostly longer than their album counterpart.

Pre-order the “So” Deluxe Box Set here (UK) or here (US).


Red Rain DNA Version (6.16)

  • 0:00 PG starts on a piano with unfamiliar lyrics and melody. Quite rough and ready!
  • 0:40 Well developed and familiar music comes in. PG now sings of “Red Rain” but with small melody variations.
  • 1:20 An unfamiliar rhythmic track comes in, to which PG starts singing “so crazy here, so crazy there, keep our eyes closed / We like it here, we like it there, got nothing exposed..”. There follows two minutes or so of this interesting demo section featuring largely unused music and lyrics – this part would have been very interesting on its own.
  • 3:35 New lyrics “put down your parasols…” to music more or less the same as the finished version.

Sledgehammer DNA Version (6.31)

  • 0:00 Beat box with bass piano figure playing the horns part of the intro. PG wails in the background working on melody… goes quite plaintive in the verse. Has a soulful feel to it. Piano figure apart, unrecognisable as Sledgehammer at this point
  • 1:31 A more produced arrangement in play. Verse melody starting to be recognisable, lyrics different.
  • 2:00 Different version kicks in, bass prominent.
  • 2:40 PG works on verse lyrics
  • 3:00 Chorus is getting there but no mention of “Sledgehammer” yet!
  • 3:20 Familiar bass comes in, verse melody sorted but lyrics still completely different. Vocal quite low down in the mix during this section.
  • 4:30 The outro music being developed ‘I kicked the habit, shed my skin…” lyrics in place.
  • 5:00 Signature horns! More work on outro element. Whistling!
  • 6:30 Track ends with “Sledgehammer” not sung once in the whole DNA version!

Don’t Give Up DNA Version (6.10)

  • 0:00 Straight in with PG singing a different verse lyric, against synth string backing.
  • 1:11 PG sings the Kate part “Don’t give up now, you still have us…” Lyrics similar, but melodic differences.
  • 2:27 Electric rhythm guitar chugs along as PG works out different melodies.
  • 3:43 “Moved on to another town..” starting to sound like the song we know.
  • 4:00 Please welcome Kate Bush…! A different vocal take, with some echoey background vox that don’t really work.
  • 5:14 The ‘classic’ Don’t Give Up outro kicks off. That bass. Some piano comes in with PG ad libbing neither of which are present on the finished version.

That Voice Again DNA Version (6.36)

  • 0:00 Solo piano with PG’s voice..”I just wanna talk to you with nothing in the way..”. Melody different, lyrics different, music recognisable.
  • 1:06 More produced, percussion and drums come in.
  • 2:00 Semi- familiar intro beats. Verse melody is there, but lyrics different. Longish piano break. Chorus isn’t really formed at this point. This section lasts for around three minutes.
  • 5:00 PG comes in with “Only love can make love…” Chorus is sorted with lyrics and melody.

Mercy Street DNA Version (7.50)

  • 0:00 Straight in with the familiar verse melody (PG sings “Looking down on city streets…”) with a simple electric piano backing and an echo-laden guide vocal. Spine tinglingly good. In terms of composition, PG obviously had this track sorted from the start.
  • 2:10 Heavy bass comes in with percussion.
  • 2:40 Different version kicks in, well produced vocal. Heavy piano chords. This song sounds so good, no matter what the treatment.
  • 3:53 Less percussion, more minimal. Voice up in the mix, music faded low. Familiar keyboard effects in place, quite similar to the album version at this point. An ill-advised sax makes an appearance! Ending section worked out. “Looking for Mercy..!

Big Time DNA Version (6.52)

  • 0:00 Heavy slightly boogie piano ‘action’ going down, with ticking drum machine backing. No vocals.
  • 0:55 Big jump to verse vocal melody with different lyrics. Funky bass in place.
  • 1:31 Chorus instrumental with cheesy, synthy horn stabs.
  • 2:00 “So much larger than life” female backing vox in place, then BIG TIME! Starting to sound like the finished track!
  • 2:41 Lots of cowbells and percussion – a ‘let’s take it down’ type section
  • 3:03 Heavy (and rather messy) drums with bass riff, no vocals (this is the “the place where I come from” bit).
  • 4:00 Vocals come in “I’m on my way I’m making it..” Sounds near to master version… but with some background differences. Like this until the end which is similar to finished track, with the bulge in his big, big, big, big…

We Do What We’re Told DNA Version (5.01)

  • 0:00 BIG dramatic piano chords, with PG trying to working up melodies over the top.
  • 1:00 “We do what we’re told” comes in…
  • 1:38 Electric guitar chords loud in the mix – intro section with familiar percussive backing.
  • 2:15 Big drums enter. All instrumental at this point.
  • 3:05 Vocals come in – sounds a bit Bowie-esque. Bigger and more dramatic than the album version. Weird discordant background noises and sound effects are evident. Fades to the end. Missing the “One doubt…” vocal coda.

This Is The Picture DNA Version (3.56)

  • 0:00 Ethereal vocals.
  • 0:21 Funky rhythm section. Vocals familiar. Music very similar to album.
  • 0:55  Vocals much lower in the mix than master version.
  • 02:00 Unlike other DNA tracks this is more like one demo.
  • 03:56 Ends abruptly.

In Your Eyes DNA Version (10.05)

  • 0:00 Band intro, familiar bass.
  • 1:06 PG on his own singing with piano. Chorus melody and lyrics are more or less correct but verse not there yet.
  • 3:00 Well produced version kicks in – arrangement coming together nicely – PG’s voice sounds brilliant, with lots of echo.
  • 5:20 Another verse, different backing, different demo.
  • 8:00 Different lyrics sung by PG, lots of vocals doing the “In Your Eyes” chorus. No sign of Youssou N’Dour yet.
  • 9:15 It’s still going.
  • 9:45 Dramatic piano ending.

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27 responses to FIRST LISTEN: Peter Gabriel / “So” demos from the super deluxe box

  1. AlanDistro says:

    Is the DNA disc available outside of the $100 set? This sounds pretty interesting, so I’d assume not. Hah.

  2. Pim says:

    Looking forward to hearing this, though I still think it’s a shame some seperate demo’s couldn’t be included as well. I hate it when multiple recordings are spliced together. EMI also did this on the Freddie Mercury Solo Collection in late 2000 :(

  3. Chris says:

    Sounds interesting indeed, but i’m still highly peeved over the absence of the b-sides.

  4. Ron says:

    So.. am I right when I say that this is just music and there is no talking through the demos (which is what I hoped for) like the Band on the Run commentary disc?

  5. Don says:

    Dang. The DNA disc does sound pretty cool. Almost like the “Kindergarten” disc in U2’s Achtung Baby set. But I just can’t bring myself to pay $100 for it. :(

  6. Hedley says:

    The whole So experience seems completely out of balance. The DNA disc sounds great but somewhat unreachable in such an expensive package.
    Then we have had a terrific “Back to Front So Tour” come through Detroit with a spectacular night of music and the encore series of the show is available for $15.00 – dont know about the other stops but if you want the tour buy Detroit.

  7. Matt says:

    While it wouldn’t be in high resolution format, I would be suprised if the set did not end up on Spotify or MOG. I have been very surprised to see the complete Smile Sessions and Quadrophenia sets on there. While I never find this option as fulfilling as buying a physical copy, at least you would be able to give it a listen.

  8. Tom Nagle says:

    UK based people – clips from the So DNA disc can be heard on the BBC Radio 2 documentary, Johnny Walker’s Long-Players:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01n0w5q/Johnnie_Walkers_LongPlayers_Series_2_Peter_Gabriels_So/

    (Don’t know if this plays outside the UK.)

  9. Robert says:

    Maybe I missed something here but “In Your Eyes” is not in the same place as it is on the original released CD. The order of songs on this is the same as he performed them in Chicago but “This Is The Picture” is the last song on the CD, not “In Your Eyes”.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      That’s apparently the way PG wanted it all along. It’s at the end on this new reissues and was also like that on the previous reissue.

  10. Mike Fisher says:

    For what it’s worth I also preferred In Your Eyes where it was on the original line up. It just doesn’t sound right being at the end.

    Aside from that, Paul – the review makes the DNA CD sound quite interesting, but do you think it bears several repeted listenings?

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      That’s a good question Mike. Probably more so than plain standard demos. For example, the beginning of Red Rain where PG is basically wailing ideas over piano – after 30 seconds or so you’ve had enough and are pleased when that gets left behind for the next section. So in a way the splicing does keep your interest. You can’t really get bored because they don’t linger too long. Sometimes it feels a little gimmicky, but in general it’s a success.

  11. Mike Fisher says:

    *repeated*

  12. Edward says:

    Paul, I am reading your marvelous site now for some 6 months and it has been a tremendous source for me in obtaining the new/old deluxe sets etc. I just wanted to complement you with your site, would like to thank you for your reviews, escpecially now for the preview of the gabriel So tracks. And I hope that by means of your information I will be able to buy much more rare new deluxe boxset.
    But for now, thanks for all you did on the So box….

  13. Edward says:

    yeah, that’s the one thing I did not want to mention. All the $$ involved..

    Since I found this website several months ago I found myself buying all those re-issues (that’s ok, I can afford it). I would not even know that they excisted if it was not for your site. So one final thanks…

    (now I am eagerly awaiting the johnny cash complete bumper set….)

  14. Rami says:

    So, Paul, would you say some of these songs on demo versions are better than their original CD counterpart? Would you listen to them more than once or twice?

  15. William says:

    Hey Paul

    Ys that BBC link plasy outside the UK, at elast it does down here in Aus

    cheers mate

  16. Hello Paul,

    How did you have access to the SO DNA CD before it’s officially released?
    Is there a promo preview CD ?

    Thanks a lot for your great review.

    All the best,
    Edouard

  17. Paul Kent says:

    PG’s not doing anything new here. Marillion did the same thing with 2-disc demo compilations for all their albums from “Brave” through to “marillion.com”. Each set featured snippets similarly presented as DNA on the first disc, with full completed demos in album order on disc two. I’ve never listened to any of them more than once.

  18. John Smithers says:

    Not enough unheard music to justifying spending $100 plus for. Instead I went to Hollywood Bowl on Oct.6 and heard Peter sing it live for about same price!

  19. Pingback:FIRST PICTURES: Peter Gabriel / “So” super deluxe box set | superdeluxeedition

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