My Top 1000 Songs #645: Wallflower

[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--both as a solo artist and with Genesis--has countless songs that are more colorful and more fun. On the surface, "Wallflower" (from 1982's Security, a.k.a. the fourth unnamed Peter Gabriel album) is an unlikely candidate for this list and certainly one of his more challenging numbers. It's long; it's slow, almost funereal; it's bleak; it lacks the bouncy musical accompaniment found on the record's better-known tracks. But it's also a lyrical masterpiece, and if you're willing to hang on for the full 6 and a half minutes (the single shaves off a minute of the intro, probably wisely), it's an emotionally devastating piece of art.

A sequel of sorts to the equally harrowing "Biko" from the prior album, "Wallflower" finds Gabriel exploring his dedication to the plight of political prisoners. And it's unrelenting: "Six by six from wall to wall; shutters on the windows, no light at all. Damp on the floor, you've got damp in the bed, they're trying to get you crazy get you out of your head. And they feed you scraps and they feed you lies, to lower your defenses, no compromise."

Yet Gabriel finds hope: "Though you may disappear, you're not forgotten here. And I will say to you, I will do what I can do." The music is beautiful, mostly sparse keyboards, a little percussion finally kicking in along the way, and a bit of an overdue crescendo by the end.

All in all, it's a stunning motherf*cker of a song.

Live 2011:
2010 piano remake: