Friday, 4 March 2016

The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway

You don't need me to do the poetry. Peter Gabriel has drawn the scene - the hustlers, homeless and - emerging sheepishly from a subway - our hero, Rael. 

There is no way I can imagine that, when they wrote the track, the boys from Genesis did not think of the first Lamb I think of in these circumstances. The Lamb of the title is quite out of place amongst the city landscape. It doesn't do much - it's forgotten after its conjuring up of a wall-of-death in Times Square. 

But there amid the city dwellers - folk who never went to an English public school, or even an Ivy League college - the Lamb takes its place. Out of place, out of time, out of all logic, it lies down on Broadway.

It's a different, crowded city. And the prostitutes - more careful than the women on the New York scene - have stopped plying their trade. As the city bustle kicks off in the morning, a man is pushed and shoved through the crowds, carrying a plank of wood. The procession - for he is being led - goes past men who gaze with joy, or who care not. Women who weep. And those who are just getting on with their lives. And they wind through that busy city to a quiet hill, where the plank is raised on a standing post and the man is raised up.

And the Lamb lies down. The perfect one, fathered by God and yet rejected by the ones he is there for. How can one so good, so chosen - so longed-for, for that matter - how can the one who chose this place as the home for his Name, be put to death by those from the Temple they built to praise him? How much out of place is this Lamb, than one that wanders through the early morning New York traffic?

And the Lamb lies down.


  1. A beautiful and moving reverie. I agree that The Lamb in this track stands for a sacrificial victim (primarily Jesus, probably); and maybe for a sign of contradiction, of purity and innocence in a mad world. Peter Gabriel’s lyrics in this period were mind-blowing, and reminiscent (to me) of the pantheistic poetic imagery of Dylan Thomas, which I was studying for O-Levels at the time. (And then Gabriel went off and got interested in African music and Genesis became a pop group).

    The figure of the lamb appears again later on in this album, in “Carpet Crawl”, where it certainly has a religious significance.“There is lambswool under my naked feet”. Carpet Crawl is an overtly anti-religious song in the manner of Stairway to Heaven. The carpet crawlers who heed their callers are Christians/religious people, “hoping they’ll find peace”, with their faces “upwards to the ceiling, where the chamber’s said to be”. And of course there is also the track “The Chamber of 32 Doors”, clearly a song about why-are-we-here-which-way-to-go. So much for you to get your teeth into.

    You’ve moved on from “Foxtrot”. I take it you’re saving “Supper’s Ready” for Maundy Thursday.

    1. Anthony, as far as Supper's Ready goes, you're a very astute chap....

      Regarding the Carpet Crawlers. I remember that, at their last UK gig (so far - who knows), it was the last song. Implying for the thousands of us there at Twickenham and all we who loved them down the years - we are all, in a very real sense, Carpet Crawlers.


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