Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Peter Gabriel 'Sledgehammer'

Chart Peak: 4


Hi-ho, it's back to the 1980s we go for the first time in what seems like ages. I've got quite a few eighties albums queued up here, but for now let's wind the clock back a quarter of a century (less a couple of months) with an album that's unique in the entire series for one reason that I shall reveal in due course.

Sleevenotes aren't quite as exciting here as they are the later albums of the 1990s, but let's plunge in to get a flavour of the style, and justify my 99p.
Peter's biggest hit since 'Games Without Frontiers' in March 1980, 'Sledgehammer' made No. 4 for 4 weeks in May/June 1986

Curiously, the notes don't mention the other notable achievement of this single: it was Gabriel's first (and so far only) US Number One single, which of course is one more than he's managed in his home country. Admittedly, this isn't really a qualification for inclusion on a UK compilation, but it'd seem like a point of interest to buyers. The other thing they don't mention is the video that's surely the first thing many of us think of when this song is mentioned: so much so that I contemplated looking for a YouTube link that didn't include it.
As this blog isn't about videos I don't intend to say much about it except that I do remember seeing a lot of it at the time, exceptionally so for the days when we only had four TV channels. I even remember seeing that bit at the start with the sperms, not that I knew that was what they were when I was eight.

By the same token, I didn't recognise what Gabriel was singing about - the song is a parade of more or less subtle sexual innuendos. Of course, the other effect of being the age I was is that I didn't know who he was, so I didn't expect him to be singing about hobbits or whatever early Genesis songs were supposed to be about. Nor did I know until much more recently that he was initially a reluctant singer who took to songwriting before performance: his vocal on this particular track is impressively direct, and though confident it's more like a soul singer than a rock frontman which makes the lyric rather more palatable. The music beneath it combines elements of jazz, African music and old-fashioned RnB in a way that is, with hindsight, not entirely unlike the sort of thing Talking Heads were doing around the same time. I went through a long phase of not liking this record, even giving away the copy of the single I bought by mistake, but I rather enjoy it now.

Also appearing on: Now 8, 23, 24
Available on: Shaking The Tree - Sixteen Golden Greats

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