Fantasy Deluxe #12: Us


As outlined in A Love Deluxe, the past year or so has seen me become just a little bit addicted to creating “fantasy” deluxe editions. You take an album, and use whatever extra material is available (B-sides, Single Edits, 12″ Remixes, Demos, Out-takes, non-album 45s) to piece together a multi-disc celebration of it. 

One of my all-time favourite albums is, of course, So by Peter Gabriel. It was also one of my earliest attempts at a homemade deluxe, running to six CDs in all (original, 2002 remaster, 2012 remaster, the 1987 Live In Athens concert and a final disc of assorted mixes, non-album singles and what-not). There have, however, been real-life special editions of So, which precluded its qualification for this series, or at least made it a less interesting proposition.

The follow-up, Us, has by contrast not been as enthusiastically mined for retrospective action, which is a shame because its lengthy gestation (6 years in the making) created plenty of scope for a deeper look at that period of Gabriel’s career. Quite why I didn’t think of having a shot at doing so myself until now is even more baffling.


Us was inevitably judged in relation to So, both artistically and commercially, and couldn’t help but suffer on both counts. Virgin Records even had the foolhardy idea to release it on the same day as R.E.M.’s Automatic For The People, guaranteeing a #2 entry at best.

There were five singles, just like So, but only four charted in the UK (if Come Talk To Me ever made it past the promo-single stage, I wasn’t aware of it at the time). Only one made the Top 10 (briefly, at #10 for a week). Us didn’t have a Sledgehammer. It didn’t have a Don’t Give Up.

The trouble with these sort of comparisons is it fails to understand that So is really the outlier in Peter Gabriel’s catalogue….the only album he’d released that found multi-platinum, mainstream success. Sledgehammer and the others propelled him into the major league that was never his true home. Six years is a hell of a long time in (pop) music, both in terms of what’s fashionable and also the progress (or otherwise) in the technology behind creating recorded music.

Six years is also a hell of a long time in the journey of a recording artist. Especially when all they’d released in that time was a movie soundtrack (Passion, from The Last Temptation Of Christ) and a Best Of (Shaking The Tree: Golden Greats) which tried to mix the big hits with his earlier work.


Shaking The Tree sold modestly (it was the Christmas of Madonna’s Immaculate Collection and The Very Best Of Elton John slugging it out at the top of the UK album chart), but served to highlight the direction he would perhaps take next; a gorgeously stripped-back version of Here Comes The Flood and the duet with Youssou N’Dour on the title track (sadly not the 1989 single version, but a remix). In some ways, the chart failure of this latter collaboration suggested that such densely rhythmical and exotic soundscapes, even with a memorable refrain in the chorus, would struggle to emulate the achievements of So‘s trio of big big big big big big big hits.

Almost two years on, we finally got a brand new studio album. Perhaps in an attempt to clarify that Us was not So, Part 2, the lead single was Digging In The Dirt; a suitably abrasive slice of undulating angst for the late 1992 chart landscape. It was recognisably Gabriel-esque, but not obviously trying to woo those who bought the previous LP.


Q magazine awarded Us the full five-star treatment, possibly in the excitement of being granted a guided tour of the Real World studios by Gabriel himself, along with a lengthy interview…or maybe just because, like me, they were in thrall to the music the man was making, and had made in the recent past.

I can’t claim to have been anything but biased in my reaction to Us in 1992. I bloody loved it. Both the Digging In The Dirt and Steam singles topped my personal Top 40. Whatever faults it had, I wasn’t interested in them. Of course, looking back it’s sometimes a bit too much like a roughed-up version of So; for Sledgehammer read Steam, for Don’t Give Up read Blood Of Eden, for Big Time read Kiss That Frog, and so on. Us tries to escape the long shadow of its predecessor on tracks like Only Us, Washing Of The Water and the utterly gorgeous closing track Secret World, but for whatever reason it still can’t help keeping one toe in the same commercial waters as So, even down to echoing the styles of its key moments.

As its 30th anniversary approaches (good grief, where do the years go?), what better reason to reassess the album, and Super Deluxe it at the same time!


Where the Us era begins and ends is open to various interpretations. Although my So homemade deluxe concluded with the 1987 (Live) single version of Biko, I ultimately felt that PG’s two guest appearances from shortly after this point – on Joni Mitchell’s sublime My Secret Place, and Fallen Angel from Robbie Robertson’s debut LP – still had that clean sound in common with So itself.  The lo-fi stylings began with the Passion soundtrack, and the Shaking The Tree single, from May/June 1989, and that is where I decided to start the road to Us.

(My Secret Place and Fallen Angel didn’t fall through the cracks completely, as both are featured on my 8-disc PG career anthology SOLO).

As for where and when to draw the line, that was less obvious. The Us campaign continued deep into 1993, then birthed the double Live set Secret World from the subsequent (and hugely groundbreaking) tour in support of the album. In amongst all this were some soundtrack-only songs, more collaborations (including the Be Still collective with Feargal Sharkey, Sinead O’Connor and Liz Frazer) and a smattering of recordings for one-off tribute projects.

With the two available masterings of the main album taking up CD1 and CD2, the challenge was to piece together all the other material into something that made sense. It proved tougher than I’d anticipated, but we got there.

Would all the edits/versions of Us‘s quintet of singles either (a) fill a disc by themselves, or (b) leave enough room for anything else? (b), as it turns out.

Disc Three Us…Plus
Singles & Non-Album Tracks 1989-1994

01 Shaking The Tree 1989 Single Mix
02 A Different Drum
03 Steam Radio Edit
04 Blood Of Eden Radio Edit
05 Kiss That Frog Album Edit
06 Come Talk To Me Clearmountain Mix
07 Steam Video Mix
08 Lovetown
09 Red Rain SW Live
10 San Jacinto SW Live
11 Mercy Street SW Live
12 Secret World SW Live

The tracks which introduced the dirtier, more (dare we say it) organic sound in 1989 kick off proceedings, then it’s all the Us singles. Two variants of the Steam edit (single/video mix) are featured for the hell of it. There’s room, too, for Lovetown from the Philadelphia OST and all the tracks from 1994’s SW Live EP (I did toy with the idea of incorporating the whole Secret World: Live 2CD into this set, but deemed it unnecessary).

This was also the stage where I got the idea for “+” or “Us Plus”, or indeed “PLUS”. Not a wholly original idea, apparently, since in 1993 Peter Gabriel issued a collection of tracks from the musicians who contributed to Us, entitled Plus from Us.


Next, how to sort the tracks recorded either side of the main album, and any demos or out-takes from the recording sessions? They come from before and after Us, so…I dunno….let’s roll with that idea…

Disc Four Before And After Us
B-Sides, Out-takes & Other Projects 1990-1994

01 Shaking The Tree [1990]
02 Here Comes The Flood [1990]
03 Liquid Selves
04 Feed The Flame Out-take
05 Bashi-Bazouk Digging In The Dirt B-side
06 Be Still
07 Summertime from The Glory Of Gershwin
08 Suzanne from Tower Of Song
09 Taboo from Natural Born Killers OST
10 Silence with Manu Katche
11 Qualquer Coisa a Haver Com O Paraiso

The above selection covers half a decade, slightly beyond my intended cut-off point of 1994. Suzanne, from the Leonard Cohen tribute album Tower Of Song, is a better fit here than it will be on any Up deluxe I attempt in the future. Liquid Selves was used as the music for a short art installation by Karl Sims and is loosely related to what became the Us album track Fourteen Black Paintings.

Only a solitary B-side from the era, as the CD-singles were filled with a variety of remixes and reinterpretations; some Us tracks, and some older songs. Speaking of which, that’s where we are headed with the fifth CD in this set.

Disc Five More Than Us

01 Digging In The Dirt Raw Stylus Mix
02 Steam Oh, Oh, Let Off Steam Mix
03 Blood Of Eden Remix
04 Kiss That Frog Mindblender Mix
05 Digging In The Dirt Rich-E Mix
06 Quiet Steam
07 Mercy Street William Orbit Remix
08 Games Without Frontiers MassiveDB Mix
09 Shaking The Tree Bottrill Mix
10 Steam Oh, Oh, Let Off Steam Dub Mix
11 Digging In The Dirt Instrumental

As ever with remixes, these are of variable quality and interest. I actually prefer the Rich-E mix of Digging… to the album version, it adds some contemporary (for 1992) extra percussion and a smoother bassline. The remixes of Steam are equally impressive, and Quiet Steam somehow works brilliantly. Not so keen on the alternate Blood Of Eden mix, from Wim Wenders’ film Until The End Of The World; the dynamic between PG and Sinead O’Connor is lost due to the latter’s non-appearance on this version, and the overall vibe is just a little too muted.

Pretty much all of these mixes were included on the (sadly) digital-only collection Flotsam & Jetsam, making it unlikely that a proper Deluxe Edition of Us will ever see the light of day.


I was all ready to sign my fantasy deluxe off as a 5-disc affair, when I happened on a curio in my CD-single collection. A limited-edition doublepack for 1994’s Lovetown included this bonus intervew disc, ME. At 47 minutes, it’s long enough to occupy a disc of its own here too.

For the artwork, I’ve used a promo poster/advert for the Us tour as the main focal point with the large black hype sticker used on the 1992 CD case design placed in a similar position to where it originally was. I added some text to reference the 30th anniversary, and my play on the “Us/Plus” concept. That’s repeated at the top of the rear sleeve, which is nearly all devoted to the tracklistings. As always with a Peter Gabriel design, the Real World coloured blocks that wrap around from the spine to the front and/or back cover are a must!


  1. Thanks Paul! I did put quite a bit of work into this – once I figured out the puzzle (as it were), it fell into place. I absolutely adored this album in 1992/93, so it was good to revisit it and delve into that period in more detail.


  2. I really like this deluxe version of “Us”. I want to pre-order this one right now! You have done a great job with this one. I can recommend the live DVD of “Secret World Live”. If you don’t have it, you should track it down.

    Liked by 1 person

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