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Striving for Excellence, One Amazing and Surprising Example

I watched an excellent documentary about the making of Peter Gabriel’s Album “So” on Amazon Prime Video the other day. The film is called “Peter Gabriel: So” which included interviews of Peter, the artists who performed on the album, and the engineers and producers about their experiences making one of the great albums of our time (in my opinion).

What struck me as I watched, was Peter Gabriel’s almost obsessive attention to detail and the desire to create the perfect recording. It took over a year to record, mix, and produce the Album.

Here are examples of how Peter strived for excellence:

  • He searched and assembled a world-class team who he trusted and relied on for input
  • He was obsessed with achieving what he termed “sonic innovation”
  • He made sure that the songs told stories that moved the audience and made them feel
  • Some portions of the Album were recorded over and over to achieve his vision of perfection
  • For example, the single “In Your Eyes” was constructed from 96 recorded tracks
  • One song which required a much lower vocal range from Peter was recorded over and over without him happy with the result. Then one of the team had the idea to have Peter record it early in the morning before he had any tea or coffee. It worked!
  • He even put all the tracks on a cassette tape several times to finalize the order of the songs for the Album
  • He wanted to have "In Your Eyes" as the final track, but its heavy bass line meant it had to be placed earlier on the vinyl record, so there was more room for the stylus to vibrate

What can we learn from this?

  1. Excellence takes absolute and unrelenting commitment
  2. Excellence takes uncompromising standards
  3. Excellence takes a willingness to listen to others and new ideas
  4. Excellence takes a willingness to risk

It was released in May 1986 and compared to the typical Pop Albums of that era it was a significant risk.

Take a listen to Peter’s fantastic Album “So” and let me know what you think.

Was that obsessive attention to detail worth it?