Pardon the freakout screen capture of Gabriel in the above clip of “Shock the Monkey” from his fourth album*, but by the early 1980s, he somehow managed to combine just about all of the elements that would drive rock and pop music for the next decade: African polyrhythms, drum machines, gated drums, the Fairlight CMI synthesizer, sampling, it was all there on Gabriel’s third and fourth albums, at about the same time as MTV was concurrently launching.
It was around that time that England’s South Bank Show began shooting an episode which documented Gabriel’s lengthy efforts to first plan and then record his fourth album, Security. For anyone interested in home music recording, watching these early attempts at what Gabriel calls “electronic skiffle” is certainly fun, especially when you realize how far technology has advanced since then: the Fairlight that Gabriel demonstrates in the video below cost something like $35,000 back then; today the PC by your desk has much more computing power, and with the right software and soundcard, can do anything it could. (including replicating all of its preset sounds.)
The whole episode of the South Bank Show is online at YouTube, and in case it gets disappeared down the memory hole, there’s also a version online here in AVI format. But to whet your appetite, here’s a clip of Gabriel demonstrating the Fairlight, from a French rebroadcast of the show that’s been online at YouTube for ages, so hopefully it won’t vanish by tomorrow. It’s all in English once you get past the brief intro:
* Update (9/2/16): Video of Gabriel’s South Bank segment atop this post was indeed pulled, but fortunately, someone else uploaded it, albeit with a more sedate frame grab for its title card.