Peter Gabriel's places: Bath, from “buen retiro” to “real world” - VIDEO & MEMORIES

Unforgettable places in the history of Genesis & Co., through audio, video, documents and much more.

By D.B.

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Key locations for Peter Gabriel include the city of Bath and its environs in Somerset, UK.

Bath from the Bath Echo website

A place that, from an initial buen retiro, to meditate at a distance on certain events, as we will see, was a source of inspiration and experimentation until the creation of the structure of his Real World.

Peter settles in the first house in his history with the city at Woolley Mill, in the homonymous valley, near Bath, with Jill pregnant; his daughter Anna-Marie will be born after a very difficult birth on July 26, 1974.

We are in the period following the tour of "Selling England By The Pound" and on the eve of the stormy sessions of composition, recording and related tour of "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway".

Here Gabriel takes refuge in his free moments, on "escape" from Headley Grange, where Genesis retired to compose and rehearse the songs on the new album.

Here, as Richard Macphail recounts ...

... receives a phone call from his mother asking for explanations on the meaning of The Lamb's lyrics.

And this is where, according to Daryl Easlea ...

... Peter retires after the tour e writes the long letter to officially announce his decision to leave Genesis.

After leaving the band, Gabriel devotes himself here to his favorite pastimes of the moment: the countryside and family. In Bath, again according to Easlea, it merges with the local community, and takes "two years to raise cabbages and children».

As Mario Giammetti reports ...

... Peter told Armando Gallo in Ciao 2001 in April 1976: «For at least six months after I left Genesis, I dated people not connected to the musical world, people who didn't even know about the existence of a band called Genesis.».

In Bath Peter experiments with alternative lifestyles, contemplates joining a commune (one of which is called Genesis), takes some drugs, without excess. He also shows up on the Stackridge Friends stage at Friars Aylesbury, stepping out of a birthday cake.

Gabriel sees the ancient Roman spa town of Bath as an excellent conductor of energy, which will soon lead him to start composing new music.

And among the new experiences there is a mystical one of the singer on Solsbury Hill, overlooking the city.

Little Solsbury Hill from the Kids of Bath website

As Davide Castellini writes ...

... "Solsbury Hill is a real physical space, a mound near Bath (...). But it is also a metaphorical place from where you can observe the "lights of the city" - the present reality and at the same time have a glimpse of the uncertain future that lies ahead - the eagle taking flight in the dark night».

Emotions that will be of great inspiration for his first solo single "Solsbury Hill", in which he also explains the reasons for the abandonment of Genesis, a song that he anticipated in February 1977 therelease of the first album.

Gabriel then found an inspiring place to let new ideas flourish. In this creative context, he begins to organize his home recording studio, which will soon be frequented by similar spirits. The first demos for the new album come from Woolley Mill's piano.

But Bath didn't always bring luck to Peter. Like the unfortunate first WOMAD Festival on July 16, 1982, held right near Gabriel's house, but this does not guarantee success, quite the contrary.

We are in the West Country, outside Shepton Mallet, in the same field where Led Zeppelin attended the second Bath Festival in 1970.

The whole event presents enormous challenges: the audience is ecstatic but the ticket sales are bad, the weather is bad, the BBC withdrew despite promising a TV broadcast, and a train strike has kept people away.

The limitations imposed by the local authorities put the expenses of the invited international artists on Peter. Peter and Jill even receive death threats from people they owe money to.

«It became a nightmare experience when we realized there was no way we could get tickets sold to cover our costsPeter told the Guardian in 2012.

Here is his performance at that Festival:

Debts that only the reunion at the Milton Keynes Bowl on October 2 of the same year, with old friends of Genesis, including Steve Hackett, they were able to write off.

Meanwhile, the Gabriel family have moved to Ashcombe House in Swainswick, northeast of Bath.

Peter rented the property in 1978 and converted the house's barn into his studio.

In this video it is possible to witness different moments (family and artistic) of his life at Ashcombe House:

At Ashcombe House Peter also worked on the screenplay for the film on "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway", with Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky. Two months of work considered by Gabriel very interesting, but the project is not successful.

It is better from a musical point of view. In the former barn studio, Peter composes the songs of the third album under his own name (also nicknamed Melt), from 1980, and there he records the next one from 1982 (or Security), the soundtrack of the film "Birdy", between October and December 1984 and "So", released in 1986.

Not only that: the track "My Secret Place" from Joni Mitchell's "Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm" album was recorded at Ashcombe House in 1986, as well as parts of the 1987 Robbie Robertson album (although the cover credits place mistakenly Ashcombe House in London).

In 1986, after the album So finished, Peter decides it is time to move from Ashcombe House to a permanent recording facility. The most important thing for Gabriel is to be close to the water. It takes into account several sites, mostly old mills, strictly in the Bath area.

But in October 1987, Peter and Jill separated permanently. They will divorce in March 1988. Fortunately, the ex-wife and the children are not going to be away from Bath and so Peter can see his daughters every Thursday night and every other weekend. In this period Peter begins the relationship with Rosanna Arquette, met during the reunion of Milton Keynes.

Box Mill (also known as Pinchin's Mill) is a 200 year old water mill on By Brook in Wiltshire. In 1864 it was part of the Box Brewery owned by the Pinchin family, who closed their Northgate Brewery at Pulteney Bridge in Bath that year.

In 1987 Gabriel buys it, fixes it and adds another building ("The Big Room"). 

Peter sets to work transforming the picturesque cluster of buildings into a live and studio complex, complete with a residential space for artists, a writing room and a large control room, filled with natural light.

Now the site has the size and space it needs, it's close to the river, as Peter wanted, it's in a beautiful area and it's accessible from London, with Bath 120 miles (200km) away, an hour and a half by train .

The first album to be recorded here is the soundtrack of the film "The Last Temptation of Christ" by Martin Scorsese, which will also inaugurate the fledgling Real World label, with the title "Passion" in 1989.

And right here, in the studies of his label, in 1997, a new love was born for Gabriel. You are Meabh Flynn, engineer and pianist, who has worked at Real World since the mid-nineties. She is 22 years younger than him. He married her in 2002. Isaac Ralph was born on September 27, 2001, followed by Luc in 2008.

Peter also maintains good relations with Jill, who now works as a counselor and psychotherapist in Bath.

And, among the many initiatives that see him take a position all over the world, he finds a way to think about "his" corner of England as well.

In May 2010 he joined a campaign to stop agricultural development right in the Woolley Valley. A farm had planned to intensively raise chickens. Gabriel joined the Save Woolley Valley Action Group to stop the project. 

To preserve the valley which hosted his first Bath home and which inspired his first solo single, "Solsbury Hill".


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