Sunday, September 07, 2008

First Recorded Instance Of Crowd Surfing?

Here’s a video of Peter Gabriel performing (the appropriately titled) “Lay Your Hands On Me” I maintain he is the inventor of crowd surfing.

Now, there are those who contend that “crowd surfing” was invented by Jim Morrison in 1968 and, considering how drunk/stoned Morrison was 95% of the time, I suppose that is possible. BUT – there is no documented evidence of Morrison doing it and, considering Morrison’s well-documented fear of audiences, it seems doubtful.

This footage (from the film POV – produced by Martin Scorsese) was released in 1990 but I understand that the concert footage was filmed in 1988. From the anticipatory mood of the crowd you can surmise that they were expecting Gabriel to “crowd surf”. My understanding is that, by this time, this was already an established part of his performance. If I had to guess I would guess that he was doing this from 1986 onward.

There are three things I would like to draw to your attention in this clip:

1. Gabriel is flipped onto his front at one point and immediately flips himself back – considering all the hands lifting him I suspect that this was done to avoid being handled about his genital area – which anyone could certainly understand.
2. Gabriel is ‘relieved’ of his jacket during the ‘surf’ – rather than resist this blatant theft he acts to remove the jacket. I find his apparent attitude in this to be admirable: ‘if they want it, let them have it.’
3. Gabriel’s energy level once he is returned to the stage. To me, this is the most significant thing about this clip. I don’t know if you have ever attended a Peter Gabriel live performance. In addition to this film, I also have the concert footage of his “US” performance, and I saw him live at Exhibition Stadium while he was touring to support the “SO” album. His concerts are carefully orchestrated events – every movement, every gesture, is pre-planned and calculated to give the audience the maximum experience – he leaves almost nothing to chance. But when his security people heave him back onto the stage after his crowd-surfing experience it is evident that his energy level has been boosted to the maximum and he can barely contain himself as he finishes the song. I find this very telling.

The clip is eight minutes long; I uploaded it to my youtube account. I suppose they will eventually pull it since it is copyrighted material but until they do, here it is.