On October 2, 1982, the legendary ‘Six Of The Best’ reunion show with Peter Gabriel and Genesis took place at Milton Keynes.
In 1982, Peter Gabriel released his fourth solo album Peter Gabriel aka. Security, on which he had continued the experimental approach of his third album Peter Gabriel aka. Melt. Both albums established him not only as a solo artist famous for his experiments with sounds, synthesizers, strange rhythms and noises, but also presented him as a politically active celebrity.
His admiration for different (musical) cultures resulted in the WOMAD Festival in July 1982. Organized by Peter, the festival presented arts, music and films from all over the world, but despite it being a brilliant event, it was a financial disaster. In the aftermath, Peter received ‘horrible phone calls and death threats from people I owned money to. It was a very oppressive nightmare. Tony Smith offered to speak to the band to see if they could help and they were extremely gracious.’1
His old band Genesis offered their help and organized, for one last time, one concert together to pay off the debts.
Genesis themselves were on tour in 1982 and during their five-night-run at Hammersmith Odeon, Peter Gabriel came to rehearse with the band in the afternoon. At this point in their career, Genesis consisted of his old mates Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford and Phil Collins, but also live members Chester Thompson on drums and Daryl Stuermer on guitar. Together with Peter, they were the ‘Six of the Best’, the name the concert was announced as. Mike Rutherford recalls: ‘In the end we had only a few days of rehearsals at the Odeon Hammersmith, playing songs that, in a few cases, we hadn’t played for years.’2
The concert was scheduled as Six of the Best at Milton Keynes on October 2, Mike Rutherford’s 32nd birthday. Phil Collins remembers ‘it was pissing with rain, as it always did’3. Despite it being a rainy, cold autumn day, it was an open air concert, simply because they could sell more tickets. Fans arrived from all over the world to see this special show.
In his typical theatrical manner, Peter arrived onstage in a coffin and the band started the show with ‘Back in N.Y.C’. The set not only included Gabriel-era Genesis songs like ‘Supper’s Ready’, but also Peter’s solo hit ‘Solsbury Hill’ and Genesis’ Collins-era hit ‘Turn It On Again’, where ‘Gabriel and Collins embraced each other while passing on stage as Collins went to the front to sing while Gabriel took over the drums.’4 Tony Banks remembers that ‘Pete was trying to play bongos on ‘Turn It On Again’, not realizing that there was an extra beat every fourth bar or so. When you just listen to the song you wouldn’t think it contains anything odd, but when you start trying to play it you think, ‘Where have I gone wrong?’ I could see Pete throwing his hands up in the air in frustration or confusion.’5
The surprise was perfect when the band was completed by guitarist Steve Hackett for the encores ‘I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)’ and ‘The Knife’.
After the concert, the band celebrated not only Mike Rutherford’s birthday backstage, but also Tony Smith’s ten-year-anniversary as their manager. Then, Peter Gabriel and Genesis went their separate ways again and returned to their own careers.
Looking back, Mike Rutherford says: ‘I regret it now but I was keen not to record the show. I thought it would be a bit rough and ready and that it was better to be there and in the moment.’6
Peter Gabriel says about the event: ‘I was frustrated because it was very sloppy. I was certainly not sharp enough. You can memorize stuff and work on your own until you’re blue in the face but actually you need to be sitting in with the band and doing some warm-up gigs. So it was frustrating and yet it felt a warm occasion, there was a nice feeling up on stage. A lot of fans seemed to enjoy it even though it was very loose.’7
Banks, Tony; Collins, Phil; Gabriel, Peter; Hackett, Steve; Rutherford, Mike; Dodd, Philip (2007): Genesis. Chapter & verse. New York: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Griffin.
Bright, Spencer (1988): Peter Gabriel. An authorized biography. London: Sidgwick & Jackson.
Rutherford, Mike (2014): The Living Years. London: Constable.