Games Without Frontiers

Released 4th February, 1980

Games Without Frontiers was the first single to be taken from Peter’s third solo album and was released in February 1980, three months before the album.

The song was written by Peter, produced by Steve Lillywhite, engineered by Hugh Padgham and recorded at Ashcombe House near Bath, using the Manor Mobile, and at The Townhouse in London.

The single cover is a side-on colour image of Peter, taken by Hipgnosis, which like the album that was to follow, utilises the Les Krims-inspired method of manipulating a polaroid picture from an SX-70 camera.

“I’d had a dream of a melting face, some kind of wax effigy caught possibly in a museum fire. To achieve the painterly dripping effect we used ordinary Polaroids (after Les Krims) and if one pushes around the developing picture sandwiched between two bits of plastic with a blunt instrument like the end of a pencil the image is then smeared as it develops. Since this procedure is dead easy we did it loads of times along with Peter Gabriel in disfiguring himself by manipulating Polaroids as they ‘developed’. Peter impressed us greatly with his ability to appear in an unflattering way, preferring the theatrical or artistic to the cosmetic. Because we couldn’t decide on a favourite, for they were all great fun, we used lots” – Storm Thorgerson.

“There was a photographer called Les Krims, who discovered that if you take a Polaroid and you squash it you can get the colours to run, and we used to go after them with different objects and sort of burnt matches and coins and fingers and all sorts of things and it was a lot of fun ‘cause you had to get the timing right, but you got some wonderful effects out of the distortions” – Peter Gabriel.

The single first charted in the UK at #48 on 9 February 1980. Rising steadily over the next few weeks to a peak position at #4. It stayed in the top 10 for three weeks and the UK Top75 for 11 weeks in total. In the USA the single reached #48 on the Hot 100 on 20 September 1980 and remained on the chart for 11 weeks.

The original video for the single was directed by David Mallet, but was updated, under the direction of York Tillyer, for the PLAY DVD. The newer version of the video features extracts from the films Active Site, Spiral and Grid by Michal Rovner and additional video material by York Tillyer, Dan Blore and Marc Bessant.

The track features Jerry Marotta on drums and percussion, David Rhodes on guitar, Peter Gabriel and Larry Fast on synth and synth bass and Kate Bush on backing vocals. Whistles come courtesy of Steve Lillywhite, Hugh Padgham and Peter.

The single itself was released on 7″ only in the UK:

Games Without Frontiers
The Start
I Don’t Remember*

* the single contains an alternate version of I Don’t Remembera song that was already being played live by Peter as early as 1978 – that was produced by Peter and Steve Taylor. This version is available on the digital only album ‘Flotsam and Jetsam’.