Monthly Archives: November 2015

2015 F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi — Results & aftermath

Rosberg wins final race of season in Abu Dhabi, finishing 2015 with 3-win streak, Hamilton P2 again; Raikonnen 3rd for resurgent Ferrari

Pics courtesy

Pics courtesy

Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg finished out his 2015 season on a high note on Sunday by winning his third Grand Prix in a row, bettering his conversion rate after also scoring six consecutive poles. Despite losing out on the Drivers’ Championship to his teammate and archival Lewis Hamilton for a second year in succession, Rosberg was able to earn the psychological salve of big time momentum heading into the off-season. Now, whether Hamilton lifted a bit after claiming his third overall World Championship in Austin four races ago is certainly a valid caveat to Rosberg’s new found supremacy. But there can be no arguing that after his unforced error at COTA sealed the title for Hamilton, Rosberg won the races in Mexico, Brazil and now Abu Dhabi in dominating fashion. He even had his rival complaining about his heretofore superlative Silver Arrows chassis, a sure sign that the Englishman was looking for external excuses for his slight drop off in performance. And during the day-into-night race at the gorgeous and opulent Yas Marina circuit, Hamilton could be heard begging his engineers to gamble on tire strategy by running his second set, the more durable prime soft compound, to the very end of the race. But the team vetoed such a risky strategy on the basis of diminishing returns and despite Hamilton pushing hard and getting to within 6.8 seconds during the closing laps, he was no match for Rosberg this day and wound up finishing over 8 seconds adrift. So for Rosberg it was another sweet victory over his nemesis and something truly positive to hang his hat on over the winter break. Of course, once the championship is up for grabs again in the new year it remains to be seen whether Rosberg really has the mettle to deal with a fiercely competitive Hamilton with his wick fully turned up and gunning for his fourth World Championship. If Rosberg wants to be more than a foil, he has simply got to win a title of his own some day. Otherwise, no matter how well he qualifies, how many Monaco GP victories he notches, or how many wins he picks up when the pressure’s off, he’ll never be considered anything but a “B” driver to Hamilton’s ace. In fact, until Rosberg win’s a title of his own it’s not really certain that he’s Hamilton’s true natural rival at all.


That distinction, as the esteemed Sam Posey pointed out in his pre-race feature for NBCSN, may well go to Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. Starting their careers at the same time, the same age and with Vettel’s four Drivers’ titles won with Red Bull to Hamilton’s three combined with McLaren and Mercedes, the German showed again on Sunday why he is such a special talent. Starting from way back in 16th on the grid after his team uncharacteristically butchered their Saturday Qualifying, Vettel methodically worked his way through the field, masterfully maximizing the performance from each set of his tires. This enabled him to finish on the super soft options and vaulted him up to a hard won fourth place finish. That was right behind his teammate Kimi Raikkonen, who started P3 on the grid and secured that position at the end in a strong, drama-free performance to cap a very up-and-down year for the veteran Finn. Nonetheless, Kimi is slated to be back again next season as Vettel’s wingman and by finishing P3 & P4 the Prancing Horse showed that their early season form was no fluke and that the car continued to improve to the point of being undeniably the second best chassis in the field. If they can just get some more power out of the engine to compete with Mercedes’ straight-line speed it could well and truly be game on in 2016. If Vettel has the proper tools to work with he should be the one to pose the biggest threat to Hamilton’s recent run of dominance. After all, the German this year is the only driver to win a Grand Prix other than a Mercedes driver with his three victories thwarting their efforts to run the table. With a rapidly improving Prancing Horse, a classic F1 showdown between Vettel & Hamilton could be in the offing for next year.

Further down the order, Force India’s Sergio Perez drove an inspired race to finish fifth, holding off Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo all afternoon long. Continue reading

2015 F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi — Qualifying results

It’s the last Formula 1 race weekend of the year and the two Mercedes rivals are still desperately trying to out-do each other in order to take maximum psychological momentum into the off-season. So time to find out how today’s qualifying went for tomorrow’s duel in the desert….

Rosberg keeps late season momentum going with 6th consecutive pole, Hamilton P2; Raikkonen P3 in Quali to spare Ferrari’s blushes after Vettel inexplicably bounced in Q1

Pics courtesy

Pics courtesy

As day turned into night and the sun began to set on F1 for 2015, Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg continued his late season onslaught by out-dueling his teammate for pole in Abu Dhabi, the German’s sixth in a row. While Lewis Hamilton may have let up ever so slightly since clinching his second consecutive Drivers’ Championship back in Austin, Rosberg nevertheless has responded to that disappointment very well by winning the last two races in Mexico and Brazil. And Rosberg set himself up for a possible three-win streak to finish out the year by yet again besting his English nemesis as time ran out in Q3. Hamilton will surely be just as keen to balk Rosberg as Rosberg is to enter the off season on an ego-soothing high so the first lap of tomorrow’s race should be a doozy at the fast and twisty Yas Marina circuit.

Ferrari had very mixed results, with bad strategy costing their ace Sebastian Vettel a chance to get out of the first round. The braintrust from Maranello inexplicably sent Vettel out too late in the session to improve on his initial banker lap, which was set on the prime tires. So when other drivers began to overhaul him using the super soft option tires, the former 4-time World Champion found himself outside looking in with not enough lead time to improve his position. Vettel will start from 16th and will have to count on his superior overtaking skills and positive past results at this track to help him slice through the field at Yas Marina yet again. His teammate Kimi Raikkonen was able to save a little face for the Scuderia by snatching P3 on the grid as Q3 expired, just pipping Force India’s Sergio Perez for the position. Perez, who has been running strong all weekend, will start P4, bettering his teammate Nico Huldenberg’s P7.

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was solid, out-qualifying his teammate Daniil Kvyat P5 to P9, while Williams’ Valtteri Bottas gradually improved to finish P6 in the final qualifying round after looking in danger of being bounced out in each earlier session. Rounding out the Top 10, Bottas’ teammate Felipe Massa will start P8 and Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz will start 10th on the grid.

Top 10 qualifiers for Abu Dhabi:

1 6 NICO ROSBERG  MERCEDES 1:41.111 1:40.979 1:40.237 12
2 44 LEWIS HAMILTON  MERCEDES 1:40.974 1:40.758 1:40.614 12
3 7 KIMI RÄIKKÖNEN  FERRARI 1:42.500 1:41.612 1:41.051 14
4 11 SERGIO PEREZ  FORCE INDIA 1:41.983 1:41.560 1:41.184 18
5 3 DANIEL RICCIARDO  RED BULL RACING 1:42.275 1:41.830 1:41.444 17
6 77 VALTTERI  BOTTAS  WILLIAMS 1:42.608 1:41.868 1:41.656 19
7 27 NICO HULKENBERG  FORCE INDIA 1:41.996 1:41.925 1:41.686 15
8 19 FELIPE MASSA  WILLIAMS 1:42.303 1:42.349 1:41.759 20
9 26 DANIIL KVYAT  RED BULL RACING 1:42.540 1:42.328 1:41.933 22
10 55 CARLOS SAINZ  TORO ROSSO 1:42.911 1:42.482 1:42.708 17

Complete race results available at

Tomorrow’s F1 season finale airs live beginning at 8AM Eastern on NBCSN here in the States. It’s the last chance to catch Grand Prix action in 2015 and with two motivated Mercedes drivers duking it out for off-season bragging rights, as well as some fast cars fighting for positions from the back, it should be a race worth remembering until the 24 Hours of Daytona wakes us from our winter motorsports hibernation in January. Hope to see you then!

Happy Thanksgiving from MFL!

Man’s Fine Life would like to wish our loyal readers a wonderful Thanksgiving Day full of feasting, friends, family & frivolity. And here’s to all those who do the hard work of putting the celebration together every year. Lord knows it ain’t easy and we’re certainly thankful for all their efforts and the fine food that results!

Enjoy your holiday, travel safely and know that we give thanks for you stopping by when you can. See you on the flipside for some day-after turkey sandwiches on rye with Russian dressing!

Gorgeous Lady of the Week — Annabelle Wallis

There is a moment in the enjoyably pulpy biographical BBC miniseries, Fleming, when the actress portraying Muriel Wright, Ian Fleming’s wartime flame and proto-Bond girl, walks away from the camera in her full-body tan leather motorcycle courier’s suit. She looks over her shoulder with a develish grin and a flip of her blond locks as if to say a cheerfully insouciant goodbye to her none-too-loyal lover. It’s in that moment that the viewer realizes he’s watching an actresss destined for big things. That actress is the stunning Annabelle Wallis.


The 31-year-old Briton was born in Oxford but spent her formidable years abroad in Portugal, where she became fluent not only in Portuguese but also French and Spanish. A niece of the legendary Richard Harris and cousin to the talented Jared Harris of Mad Men fame, it seems only fitting that Annabelle joined the family business. After several small roles she broke through in Showtime’s The Tudors as Jane Seymour, third wife to Jonathan Rhys Myers’ Henry VIII.


From there she was in the regrettably short-lived retro swinging stewardess series, Pan Am, alongside fellow blonde bombshell Margot Robbie and the always excellent Christina Ricci. Then in 2014 she was the inspiration for the archetypal Bond girl in two memorable episodes of Fleming opposite the up-and-coming Dominic Cooper in the titular role. That year was good to her, as she was also a lead in the supernatural thriller Annabelle and back on TV making a big impression with a major role in BBC’s excellent gangster series, Peaky Blinders, as the complex Grace Burgess alongside Cillian Murphy’s fierce crime boss.


With several more features in pre- and post-production, as well as a highly publicized romance with Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin, Ms. Wallis is surely poised to keep her momentum going. And with such a diverse range of quality work already on her impressive resume can it be long before Hollywood sees what we see in the fair-haired lass and starts putting her in big time leading roles?


True, with an attractiveness based on beautiful but not perfect features and sly wit, Annabelle is not the airbrushed, cookie cutter ingenue that makes her the “safe” pick for a leading lady. But with her impressive acting chops and that undefinable undercurrent of intrigue that she brings to every role, not to mention that fleeting, fetching smile, it seems to us that she’s the cure for the ordinary actress. We’d certainly take her in period costume or full length leather jump suit six days a week and twice on Sundays.

Earworm of the day — Don’t Take Me Alive by Steely Dan

Saw Steely Dan live not too long ago and this song has been bouncing around my brain since then. Don’t let the highly refined sounds fool you — this is one dark & paranoid mofo!


From 1976’s The Royal Scam, the Dan’s fifth studio album, “Don’t Take Me Alive” features the typcial tight musicianship, tricky song construction and world weary lyrics the group’s fans treasure so dearly. There’s also the requisite killer guitar solos, this time from studio ace Larry Carlton. Between his searing licks here and on “Kid Charlemagne” you can see why he was one of the most in demand session guitarists in his day. And with lyrics like “Got a case of dynamite/I could hold out here all night” the song is steeped in that creeping dread and burnt out neurosis so specific to the dystopian 70s. Is the protagonist a refugee from the Weather Underground making a last stand? A lone renegade fleeing familial discord under Shakespearean circumstances? Both and neither? Let your imagination fill in the blanks while Donald Fagan’s uniquely evocative singing voice dovetails with the elusive meaning as perfectly as on all the best Steely Dan tracks. Besides, once this song gets its hooks in you you’ll definitely want more than one listen to figure it all out for yourself.

Watch Collector’s Notebook — Affordable vintage with the Eterna-Matic KonTiki 20

It’s easy for the novice collector with a limited budget to get discouraged by the skyrocketing prices of elite vintage watches these days. But even if a Rolex Daytona, Omega pre-Moon Speedmaster or Universal Geneve Tri-Compax is not doable on your budget, there are still plenty of watches out there that can give you that little bit of vintage élan on the wrist without having to skip your mortgage payment. I’ve talked about vintage Longines & Tudor in the past as great options for the budget minded collector. And now I’ll throw the Eterna-Matic KonTiki 20 into that equation, as well.


Eterna is an old name in the Swiss watchmaking industry with roots back to the mid-1800s. In 1948 they came up with an innovative system for their automatic movements by mounting the oscillating weighted rotor on 5 steel ball bearings for reduced friction and balanced efficiency of winding. This innovation was so significant that the 5 ball bearings became the company’s logo, proudly applied to their dials. And this patented system also meant that Eterna could now upgrade any suitable ebauche with their own proprietary autowind system. The company had already received a huge publicity boost in 1947 when the famed Norwegian explorer Thor Hyerdahl wore one of their watches during his remarkable 5000 mile open ocean raft adventure. Hence, the Eterna KonTiki model name was born and with it the characteristic raft logo medallion seated on the back of these models, a marketing tie-in well poised to take full advantage of the technical innovation under the hood.


Meant to signify any of their water resistant watches, the KonTiki line soon blossomed with big, military-ready dive watches in the Submariner/Seamaster mode. But in the late 1950s & 60s Eterna also produced a plethora of simple, modestly sized “civilian” KonTikis with all-steel screw down cases and oversized crowns featuring a water resistance of 130 feet. That was no mean achievement and put these new versatile dress models, dubbed the “KonTiki 20”, right up there in Rolex Datejust territory in terms of WR. Eterna chose exceptionally robust ETA movements to power these watches, essentially the same calibers as found in Tudor’s Subs and dress models of this era but again with Eterna’s own modified rotor assembly.


So what they wound up producing with the KonTiki 20 is a handsome steel watch with sporty but classic looks, a semi-quicket date function, decent size at 36-37mm, excellent timekeeping performance and superior day-to-day water resistance. And how much will all that cost you today? Considerably less than a thousand dollars. In fact, almost always well under $800. While you might pay a premium for a blue, black or more exotic dials with red chapter ring or one with its original bracelet, generally speaking an Eterna-Matic KonTiki 20 in good shape should only set you back between $400 and $600 give or take. And with their nicely proportioned, all-steel sweeping-lug cases, stout and accurate movements and pleasing dial layouts that is some serious bang for the buck.


So again we see that a vintage watch doesn’t have to break the bank to give you happiness. Just as there are different levels of automobiles for different strata of buyers, not everyone can own a Ferrari right out of the gate. Sometimes you just have to enjoy the simple pleasures that a VW Bug can give. Likewise, there’s no point in envying someone else’s high priced vintage watch if you can’t swing it. Just spend a couple of hundred bucks on something like a KonTiki 20 and enjoy it for what it is — a well made, imminently wearable timepiece with that certain retro feeling a modern watch just can’t inspire. The joy of vintage watches is that there’s something for everyone at any level of the game if you just do a little research into what is and is not worth spending your money on. Along with classic entry-level Omegas, Longines and Tudors, Eterna Matic KonTiki 20s make an excellent purchase for the beginning or budget-minded collector. And once you strap on a quality vintage watch you’ll feel like you’ve spent your money well no matter how much — or how little — you paid for it.


2015 F1 Grand Prix of Brazil — Results & aftermath

Rosberg makes it two in a row with win in Brazil, Hamilton P2; Vettel earns a familiar P3 for improving Ferrari

Images courtesy

Images courtesy

With the Drivers’ Championship eluding his grasp for the second year in a row, Nico Rosberg’s only remaining mission is to finish out the season with as many race wins as possible in order to gain momentum for another title chase in 2016. With his victory this weekend in the penultimate race at Interlagos in Sao Paolo, Brazil, the German Mercedes driver and Championship runner-up is doing just that. Playing out very much like his win two weeks ago in Mexico, Rosberg started the race from pole and prevented his World Champion teammate and chief tormentor Lewis Hamilton from making a first corner overtaking move. From there, with both Mercedes running the identical race strategy, Hamilton was never able to pass Rosberg on the tight track and Rosberg sailed away to a relatively easy win. One could say that Hamilton no longer has the same manic drive that he displayed prior to clinching his second consecutive title in Austin three races ago. His antics out of his F1 ride would seem to indicate that, as well, with an inexplicable 3 AM collision with parked cars in Monaco last week. And one might also infer that Mercedes is actively trying to boost Rosberg’s fragile confidence after his remarkable unforced error at COTA gifted Hamilton the win and doomed his championship dreams. With Mercedes’ unwillingness to split their race strategy despite Hamilton’s pleas, deciding they would rather cover Ferrari’s 3-stop decision rather than risk Vettel sneaking ahead of one of their men, it might seem as if the team were putting their thumb on the scales in favor of Rosberg. But in truth, Rosberg was quicker these last two Grand Prix and Hamilton has lifted ever so slightly, which is only natural when you’ve got nothing left to prove. And it must feel good for the German to stand on the top step again in back-to-back races even if the bigger contest has been lost. Having finally secured his second place in the Championship over a game Sebastian Vettel with this win, Rosberg will surely be looking to finish out the season with a hat trick in Abu Dhabi in two weeks time, if only to convince himself that he can mount a credible challenge to Hamilton’a dominance come next season.

Ferrari showed the continuing improvement of their F15-T chassis, especially at high downforce circuits like the short, slippery Autódromo José Carlos Pace. Vettel once again was the best of the non-Silver Arrows, re-taking his very familiar P3 after an uncharacteristically poor effort in Mexico. Teammate Kimi Raikkonen managed to avoid any incidents on track with his fellow Finn and new nemesis, Valtteri Bottas, and was able to play the loyal tail gunner to Vettel by coming home a solid P4. Williams’ Bottas, who had clashed with Raikonnen in Mexico for a second time after their tangle in Russia, also managed to keep it clean and bring his car home in P5. That earned enough championship points to secure third in the Constructors’ Championship for Williams Martini Racing, a very impressive result even if their chassis was well short of downforce all season long. Bottas’ teammate Felipe Massa had an awful day, however. After a mediocre qualifying effort saw him starting from eighth on the grid, the native Brazilian finished exactly there but then had his results disqualified due to excessive tire temperatures at the start. All in all, a weekend to forget for the veteran at his home Grand Prix.

Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg had a great race, on the other hand, out-dueling Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat for 6th place. The talented German has now made it two strong finishes in a row, outscoring teammate Sergio Perez both times and rebounding from bit of a let down after his epic 24 Hours of Le Mans win for Porsche this past summer. Kvyat’s P7 was well ahead of his teammate Daniel Ricciardo, however, although the Russian was running the older spec Renault engine while the Aussie was saddled with an “upgraded” version, which forced Ricciardo to start from the back after penalties for that change. The team rolled the dice with an early pit stop for a tire change to the harder compound but it didn’t really work out, especially as the new engine was not actually that powerful, and Ricciardo finished out of the points in P11. Rounding out the top 10, Romain Grosjean had a strong run for Lotus with a P9 (promoted to 8th after Massa’s penalty), Toro Rosso wunderkind Max Verstappen aggressive as usual for a P10 (promoted to P9) and Lotus’ Pastor Maldonado lucky to get the last championship point with a promotion to 10th despite a time penalty for a collision with Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson.

Top 10 finishers in Brazil:


Complete race results available via

Th final race is two weeks from now, the beautiful day-into-night contest at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi. We’ll see if Rosberg’s can continue his momentum or if Hamilton can get his mojo back in the season finale. Hope to see you then!

2015 F1 Grand Prix of Brazil — Qualifying results

Rosberg earns 5th Pole in a row in Brazil, Hamilton 2nd fastest after bizarre week; Vettel P3 for Ferrari in Qualifying

With only two races left on the 2015 F1 calendar and the major championships locked up there are nevertheless still honors to be earned. And despite losing out on the Drivers’ title to his Mercedes teammate for the second year in a row, Nico Rosberg showed that he is still determined to both maintain his second spot overall in the points and finish the season on a strong and positive note. Rosberg earned his fifth pole position in a row on the tricky Interlagos track in Sao Paolo, Brazil, again outpacing his championship teammate Lewis Hamilton in Saturday Qualifying. And while his qualifying has not often enough resulted in equally good results come race day, Rosberg at least has victory in Mexico two weeks ago to help his fragile confidence in dueling with Hamilton for the win come Sunday. To be honest, it seems a bit as if Hamilton has taken his foot ever so slightly off the gas since clinching the title in Austin, an assumption given some credence by his bizarre 3 AM crash in Monaco last Tuesday where he inexplicably hit three parked cars with his Pagoni Zonda. Hamilton, who was said to be suffering from the flu as well as exhaustion at the time, tested negative for alcohol. For certain the British champ will be looking to put that strange and embarrassing incident behind him by getting back to the regular business of breaking his German teammate’s heart when the lights go out, something he had been doing with regularity until recently.

Coming in third fastest on the slippery circuit was Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari, with his teammate Kimi Raikkonen able to jump up to P5 with a solid last lap effort in Q3. Williams’ Vatteri Bottas was an impressive P4 but faces a 3-spot grid penalty for passing under a Red Flag in Friday’s practice session #2. Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg, who once scored a pole at Interlagos, continued to show signs of a rebound from his post-Le Mans slump after a good finish in Mexico a fortnight ago. Hulkenberg qualified P6 but his teammate Sergio Perez got bounced in Q2 and could do no better than P13 (though when all penalties are factored in he will start from P11 on the grid). Rounding out the top 10 qualifiers, Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo were P7 and P9 respectively, while native Brazilian Felipe Massa was P8 for Williams and wunderkind Max Verstappen was P10 for Toro Rosso.

Top 10 qualifiers for tomorrow’s Brazilian Grand Prix:

1 6 NICO ROSBERG  MERCEDES 1:11.746 1:12.213 1:11.282 12
2 44 LEWIS HAMILTON  MERCEDES 1:11.682 1:11.665 1:11.360 12
3 5 SEBASTIAN VETTEL  FERRARI 1:12.240 1:11.928 1:11.804 16
4 77 VALTTERI  BOTTAS  WILLIAMS 1:12.934 1:12.374 1:12.085 18
5 7 KIMI RÄIKKÖNEN  FERRARI 1:12.185 1:12.243 1:12.144 16
6 27 NICO HULKENBERG  FORCE INDIA 1:12.595 1:12.485 1:12.265 18
7 26 DANIIL KVYAT  RED BULL RACING 1:12.730 1:12.527 1:12.322 20
8 19 FELIPE MASSA  WILLIAMS 1:12.980 1:12.858 1:12.415 21
9 3 DANIEL RICCIARDO  RED BULL RACING 1:12.639 1:12.825 1:12.417 17
10 33 MAX VERSTAPPEN  TORO ROSSO 1:12.824 1:12.712 1:12.739 15

Complete qualifying results available via

Tomorrow’s race airs live here in the States at 11:00 AM Eastern on NBC Sports Network. This is your second-to-last chance to catch Formula 1 action this year so hope to see you then!

tomvox1’s Watches for Sale — November selection

For November, something stylish and oh-so-cool this way comes and just in time to dress up your holidays — an exceptional circa 1960s Longines with stunning silver sunburst dial in Near Mint original condition. With the stylized, elongated 12 & 6 Arabic numerals this hand-winding classic definitely has a real Mad Men feel on the wrist. And ticking away inside the American made all steel, front-loading Star Watch Case is Longines’ own caliber 285, the last of their legendary in house manual movements.

LonginesCal285Silver-3 copy

This beautiful dress watch with semi-quickset date is so sharp that it appears it’s barely been worn in its 50 years of existence. But as I’ve just had it fully serviced, that’s ready to be rectified by the lucky new owner. Not to mention that all this vintage style comes at a very attractive price. So what are you waiting for? Get your classy on, man!

Check out the complete ad with many more pictures and comprehensive condition report over at’s Sales Corner.  ON HOLD

What we’re listening to — Peter Gabriel

As time passes, it becomes clearer that Peter Gabriel was a victim of his own massive success. After being a cult figure as leader of the pre-Phil Collins/pre-Top 40 Genesis, immediately after leaving the group he produced some of the more intriguing and idiosyncratic music of the late 1970s and early 1980s. His uniquely theatrical, art house style seemed to find its climax in the catchy but weird “Shock the Monkey” and its improbably popular video coming right at the dawn of the MTV revolution circa 1982. Surprisingly, though, Gabriel had something even bigger up his sleeves. Just a few years later, in 1986, he unleashed the bona fide mainstream smash hit album So, which featured a plethora of hit singles & videos, including the omnipresent all-time number one most-played MTV video, “Sledgehammer”.  Produced by then-U2 helmsman du jour Daniel Lanois, it’s no hyperbole to say that So became a touchstone for a generation. Its pop culture impact was confirmed when a young John Cusack used the hyper-romantic “In Your Eyes” to woo Ione Skye via boombox in the archetypal 80s teen coming of age story, Say Anything. To the uninitiated it seemed an improbable success. But the cleverness of Gabriel was that he was perfectly attuned to the demands of MTV, having been an often-flamboyant performance art innovator for years with a penchant for the dramatic and offbeat that perfectly suited the new visual taste-setting medium. The fact that he was well ahead of the musical curve in terms of both digital production and the use of “world music” influences — see the incredible vocal solo by Senegalese singer Yousou N’dour on the aforementioned heart-melting “in Your Eyes”, for example — also seemed perfectly aligned to the prevailing zeitgeist in which David Byrne and Paul Simon were incorporating African and South American vibes into their standout 80s work, as well.

But all that radio/video play and overwhelming success led to burnout on Gabriel, as the once outside artist became a mainstream pop superstar. To be honest, I listened to so much Peter Gabriel back in the day that I took about fifteen years off from his music. But I’ve been coming back to it lately and damn if it doesn’t hold up well. And not only in that “old friend you haven’t seen in a long time” way either. No, it’s of its time for sure but definitely among the best of that time. So here are three pre-So tunes — since everyone’s heard every cut off that album so damn much — that I think are worth revisiting.

“Solsbury Hill” from Peter Gabriel I [Car] (1977):

All about Gabriel’s trepidation and hopes after splitting from Genesis, 1977’s “Solsbury Hill” from his debut solo album would have been his one-hit wonder… if he hadn’t gone on to have so many other big hits. The spiritual and optimistic tone of the lyrics highlight PG’s very good, slightly raspy Rock voice and the sterling musicianship in the service of the appealingly folksy-but-not-cloying song construction serve notice that this is a mega-capable songwriter. At the time it could have gone either way. But in retrospect the lovely, ultra-catchy “Solsbury Hill” was not a one-time flash but Gabriel’s opening salvo, laying down a marker that he was an artist to be reckoned with.

“Family Snapshot” from Peter Gabriel III [Melt] (1982):

After 1978’s perhaps overly arty and abstracted Peter Gabriel II [Scratch] failed to build upon the success of “Solsbury”, Gabriel really found something extra for his third studio effort in 1980. Nicknamed “Melt” for the disturbing Hipgnosis cover art, Peter Gabriel III is strong from beginning to end and features standout tracks with troubling psychological overtones like “Intruder”, “I Don’t Remember”, “No Self Control” and “Not One of Us”. Prefiguring Gabriel’s increasing human rights activism, an amazingly beautiful political anthem to slain South African civil rights leader Stephen Biko closes the album. “Games Without Frontiers” was the de facto hit, although in more of a cult fashion than a chart-topper. And perhaps its rather heavy handed metaphor about nations acting as children has not aged as well as the rest despite its undeniable angular catchiness. So for me the exceptionally creepy “Family Snapshot”, which not implausibly imagines a Lee Harvey Oswald-like character motivated by his loveless childhood, is the standout track. Continue reading