Peter Gabriel So

Don't Break This Rhythm by Peter Gabriel: Great B-Sides

Sometimes a record is so jammed with great songs that something worthy has to be shipped out to a b-side. Despite its huge success, Peter Gabriel’s So isn’t one of those records. Singles like ‘Red Rain’ and ‘Sledgehammer’ are terrific, and ‘That Voice Again’ is a very solid album track, but it’s a step down from past (Melt, Security) and future (Us) classics.

‘Don’t Break This Rhythm’ is an outtake from So that was used as the b-side of ‘Sledgehammer’. The emotional vocal against a percolating rhythm recalls tracks like ‘The Rhythm of the Heat’ from 1982’s Security. It’s a very good track that would have bolstered So, but Gabriel instead developed parts of the song into the beloved ‘Mercy Street’.

The link between ‘Mercy Street’ and ‘Don’t Break This Rhythm’ isn’t immediately obvious. The similarities are more apparent on the draft version of ‘Mercy Street’ included on the deluxe version of So. The disc So DNA featured embryonic versions of the So material. The early draft of ‘Mercy Street’ has an upbeat section (from about 2:10 to 3:55 in the running time) where the similarities are much more obvious. Gabriel referred to Don’t Break This Rhythm as “the beta version” of Mercy Street.

Despite the similarities to ‘Mercy Street’, ‘Don’t Break The Rhythm’ is too good to be forgotten. It’s since been anthologized, on 2019’s exhaustive Flotsam and Jetsam, which collates three discs of outtakes, remixes, and songs for outside projects.

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16 Comments

  1. Don’t Break This Rhythm does have a great groove to it…It could have worked as a suite if the timing would have been right…a pretty cool suite.

  2. I remember you mentioned a pattern of these solid b-sides falling into categories. Sounds like this one is in the ‘too similar to _____’ category, rather than the ‘not strong enough’ category!

  3. Really interesting stuff, especially the evolution of ‘Mercy Street’. Shows how much work should go into a great song. Glad he ditched the saxophone version though! I’d never heard ‘Don’t Break’ before – on first listening, it’s original but has ‘B side’ written all over it. The chorus is underdeveloped and a little dull compared to most of ‘So’. And would you really put ‘Us’ and ‘Security’ above ‘So’ in the Gabriel hierarchy?! Controversial!

  4. Certain artists I enjoy their B-sides, demos etc. I’v been listening to a lot of Pete Townsend’s work. Gabriel is another one that I would go that route. Maybe it’s the name “Pete”. Both people with musical ideas I like.

    • Have you checked out Gabriel’s Flotsam and Jetsam. Three CDs of outtakes and alternate versions seems a bit exhaustive for me, even though he’s great.

      • No I havent Aph. “Exhaustive” would be the watch word for me.. The reason I know all the Townshend stuff was that stuff came out when I was younger and I was more interested in chasing that stuff down so it’s been with me for a long time.
        The Gabriel stuff will be there if I’m inclined or get triggered. Giving my time to other music. Pete has got a few listens from me over the years. He is “great”

        • One of the best solo careers ever, right? He made some great records with Genesis, and his solo career measures up well (although I’d probably take Foxtrot and Lamb if forced to choose).

          • I agree. You are i think you and I are in the minority with ‘Lamb’. From what I’ve gathered it wasn’t the most the most well liked Genesis album. I absolutely dig it.
            (I must of set a record for using “stuff” on my previous response)

          • I get the impression Lamb is pretty well loved. It definitely breaks from the pastoral sound of previous Genesis, but lots of great songs.

          • Maybe the years have been kind. It seems to me when it was released (in my parts) it didn’t get a lot of love. But the Gabriel version of Genesis were more of a cult band back then. Maybe among fans it’s well received.

          • It’s a lot to take in, I guess. Apparently Genesis were deeply in debt for years – they only started making money when they got huge in the 1980s.

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