My Top 1000 Songs #579: Lead A Normal Life

[I've been writing up my Top 1000 songs on a daily basis--you can see them all in descending order by hitting the All My Favorite Songs tag.]

Peter Gabriel's third self-titled album (aka Melt), released in 1980 as I was entering high school, was my introduction to his work (which soon led to my discovery of his Genesis records, which have played a huge part of my musical life ever since). "Games Without Frontiers" was the break-out radio single that first got my attention, but the album is packed with great songs which hold up as stand-along tunes and as part of a sonically unified whole. In the scheme of this impressive package, the penultimate track "Lead A Normal Life" feels almost slight--a repeated piano & marimba motif with a break for one short verse. Yet somehow that was the song that made the biggest emotional impact on me, one which--despite my ongoing love of the entire album--continues to have the strongest tug.

Some of this pull stems from the song feeling almost like a prelude to the record-closing epic "Biko," an incredible work commemorating murdered South Africa activist Stephen Biko (which sent me scurrying to study up on the horrors of Apartheid just as it was permeating the US national conscience). I've always tended to listen to these songs as part of a segued continuum, maximizing their shared emotional impact.

Part is the appeal is that memorable piano riff played against the hypnotic marimba backdrop, contributed by legendary session musician Morris Pert, a brooding aesthetic that's truly haunting.

But mostly it's the brief lyric, mental illness delivered in concise yet no less poetic fashion, which has never left my imagination.

"It's nice here with a view of the trees; eating with a spoon, they don't give you knives. Expect you to watch those trees blowing in the breeze. We want to see you lead a normal life." 

Something about those lines has always absolutely terrified me.

Cool live cover version from The Security Project: