At the time of its 1980 release, I had no idea Melt was a political record. In fact, I didn’t know Peter Gabriel had been in Genesis. I was twelve and only knew that this record led to some good songs on the radio. It would be a couple of years later that I would really ‘hear’ it. The kind of record that revealed new things after both multiple listens and a few more years of life experience.
Long before social media and Google, the political inspirations didn’t hit me immediately. However, as a young teen the theme of isolation sure struck home. In addition, it mixed pub-rock with instruments I wasn’t used to hearing in my straight rock records. It was the first connection. Unlike Genesis, which had gone in a more pop-like direction under Phil Collins’ leadership, Gabriel had decided his art should contain a confrontational viewpoint. Hell, even the Robert Fripp guitar work sounded antagonistic at times. Then later as an older teen and twenty-something the world views started becoming clear. This wasn’t some self-indulgent statement about personal disconnection, it was about the failure of people to recognize the humanity in others.
“Not One Of Us” went from being a first person song about seclusion to a tune about segregation.
As a twelve year old, “Biko” was a fable about a situation a world away. By fifteen I understood it as an injustice. An assassination of a good man to silence his voice.
The kid in me heard “I Don’t Remember” as a song about amnesia, which of course it is not. If anything, you can see it as the dehumanization of the “other” from the “others” point of view.
Today in 2017, Melt is a warning. The themes are just as relevant today as when Peter Gabriel recorded them. As I watch the news, a right-wing extremist has walked into a mosque… a place of worship, and murdered. Years of political ramblings and talk-radio idiocy catering to the lowest common denominator had normalized hate. Pulled it out of the shadows and normalized it. We had turned Muslim-Canadians into the “other” and as such dehumanized them. In another case of life imitating art, Melt could have written yesterday. Innocence being tossed into a world of xenophobia with the end result being the death of good people….
For those of you looking to add it to your vinyl collection, the choices are limited but very good. The original pressing is widely available in all kinds of conditions and price points. For new copies, you have four real choices. In 2002, the first remaster was put out in all formats including a 200 gram limited vinyl edition. Despite hitting several websites, I couldn’t get a number for just how limited it was.
In 2010, another limited run was put out in a much more special fashion. This was a 4 disc, single-sided, 200 gram vinyl edition that plays at 45 rpm. Good luck getting one for a decent price. While the 2002 disc will set you back about $100 CAD, the 2010 set goes from between $250 and $500.
A fresh remaster was done in 2015, resulting in the newest editions. 10,000 copies of Melt were being offered to the public as a 200 gram, 2 disc set that plays at 45 rpm. Placed in a gatefold cover, this was also a numbered edition. Even though this release was less than 2 years old, I was unable to track any down in my local record stores and Gabriel’s own site is sold out of this edition. However, online retailers are still offering it at regular prices.
In addition, just this past December (2016) a new version was released on 180 gram vinyl using the latest remaster. While there are none of the ‘bells and whistles’ of the other versions, it does indeed sound great and can be found in the usual $20 range.
Regardless of how you listen to it, Melt is both an important and amazing piece of work and remains a beloved part of my collection.