Since leaving Genesis in 1975, Peter Gabriel went on to have a successful solo career. Despite that, he keeps getting asked if he’s ever going back to Genesis. In the meantime, other musicians have shown their love for Gabriel’s non-Genesis work by recording their versions of his songs. Here are the 10 best covers of Peter Gabriel songs and YouTube videos for you to enjoy.
# 10 – Coal Chamber and Ozzy Osbourne: Shock the Monkey
This is a Goth-heavy version of Peter Gabriel’s synth-heavy hit about the horrors of jealousy. Vocals trade off from Coal Chamber’s lead vocalist Dez Fafara to Ozzy Osbourne. Although the lyrics remained mostly unchanged, Ozzy Osbourne does not try to do any of the high notes Peter Gabriel did in his 1982 original. Some of the synth parts are replaced by guitars. There is a lot of growling and yelling, instead, from Farfara. Back in 1999, this single reached a respectable 26 on the charts. It can be found on the album Chamber Music.
# 9 – Harry Styles: Sledgehammer
Styles is a huge fan of this song, stating in interviews that he considers this to be the best “mixed song ever.” This entry on our 10 best overs of Peter Gabriel songs is nearly identical to the original, even having the same synth intro. Styles recorded his album Fine Line at Real World Studios, owned by Peter Gabriel, which was built with the money Peter Gabriel got for So, the monster album “Sledgehammer” appeared on. Although not much different than the original, Styles does get kudos for introducing a whole new audience to Peter Gabriel’s music. Peter Gabriel has gone on record stating that he likes Styles’ take on his biggest hit. Styles performed this live on the Howard Stern Show.
# 8 – Scala and Kolacny Brothers: Solsbury Hill
Using Peter Gabriel’s music in churches is not new, with the uplifting anthem “Solsbury Hill” being a particular favorite. The song metaphorically recounts Peter Gabriel’s decision to leave Genesis, and ends on a hopeful note. Using just a piano and a large women’s choir, Scala and Kolacny Brothers reinterpret Peter Gabriel’s song of personal freedom. Unsurprisingly, it also ends on a hopeful note. A studio version of their cover song appeared on their 2010 album Circle.
# 7 – Adam Levine: In Your Eyes
Also performed live on the Howard Stern Show, this cover is also a hit from So. Before performing the song, Adam Levine said he thought In Your Eyes is one of the two best songs ever written. (The other is “God Only Knows” by the Beach Boys.) Turns out, he can also a really good imitation of Peter Gabriel’s unique singing voice. This is a remarkably good cover since its just Levine’s voice and a guitar, unlike the multi-layered, highly engineered original. Levine has not recorded a studio version. Check out Levine’s voice, guitar and funky bathrobe below.
# 6 – Tim Minchin: Here Comes the Flood
Unlike just about every song on the So album, Peter Gabriel’s closer from his first solo album is rarely covered. Multi-talented Tim Minchin fills in this cover gap with a beautiful live performance in the comedy radio show, Like a Version, in 2012. This is not a cover of the song that appears on the album, but a cover of Peter Gabriel’s live performance, which consisted of only him and a piano-sounding synthesizer. Minchin uses a grand piano here and adds more flourishes than Gabriel ever did. He flubs the lyrics once and plays a little with the tune.
# 5 – Bon Iver: Come Talk to Me
About 2009, Peter Gabriel had the idea of doing a covers album but with a twist – everyone he did a cover song of would do one of his songs in return. His covers album would be Scratch My Back and the covers of his songs would be called And I’ll Scratch Yours. One of the most radical covers was from Bon Iver. It takes the powerful, synth-heavy fan favorite “Come Talk to Me” and softens it with banjos and fiddles. It was first released digitally on March 30, 2010.
# 4 – Herbie Hancock: Mercy Street
“Mercy Street,” has seemingly been covered a thousand times, and yet 99.9% of those covers make it sound almost exactly like Peter Gabriel’s original. Hancock does something radically different and makes a sad song about the poet Anne Sexton into an almost-happy, trippy jazz tune. This is entirely instrumental without any vocals. It appears on the 1996 covers album The New Standard.
# 3 – Queensryche: Red Rain
This is a cover of yet another song on Peter Gabriel’s hit 1986 album, So. This cover version by Queensryche is a much heavier version of an already heavy song. It features a killer guitar solo and guitars played like drums. The lyrics are mostly faithful to Peter Gabriel’s original. The vocals are slightly distorted, as if they’re singing into a phone with really good sound. The cover song appears on the 2007 covers album Take Cover.
# 2 – Randy Newman: Big Time
Also, off the And I’ll Scratch Yours album, Randy Newman takes the electronic soundscape of the original version, tosses it and does an acoustic version with piano, organ and drums. He even keeps vocal layers to a minimum. This helps to emphasize just how good the lyrics are, although Randy Newman can’t help but tweak the lyrics here and there, cutting out the final two lyrics and adding an even more cynical final lyric. Randy Newman’s version is much shorter than Peter Gabriel’s and arguably the quirkier of the two.
# 1 -David Byrne: I Don’t Remember
Okay – imagine a Peter Gabriel song and a Talking Heads song mating. This song would be the child. It has the hand-clapping punk drive of a Talking Heads tune with the sinister electronic poetry of Peter Gabriel’s mostly-ignored song from his 1980 album, Peter Gabriel. Byrne not only changes the arrangements and background vocals, but also takes the original tune and delightfully twists it into something else. At first listen, you may be forgiven for thinking that these were two entirely different songs. That’s why this sits at the top of our list of 10 best covers of Peter Gabriel songs.
10 Best Covers of Peter Gabriel Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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Updated November 21, 2023