Tuesday, May 13, 1986

Peter Gabriel’s So released


Peter Gabriel

Released: May 13, 1986

Peak: 2 US, 12 UK, 1 CN, 5 AU

Sales (in millions): 5.0 US, 0.9 UK, 12.1 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: rock


Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Red Rain [5:39] (6/14/86, 3 AR, 46 UK)
  2. Sledgehammer [5:12] (4/26/86, 1 US, 1 AR, 61 RB, 4 UK, 1 CN, 3 AU)
  3. Don’t Give Up (with Kate Bush) [6:33] (11/1/86, 72 US, 9 UK, 40 CN, 5 AU)
  4. That Voice Again (Gabriel, David Rhodes) [4:53] (10/18/86, 14 AR)
  5. In Your Eyes [6:27] (6/21/86, 26 US, 1 AR, 29 CN, 97 AU, sales: ½ million)
  6. Mercy Street [6:22]
  7. Big Time [4:28] (11/29/86, 4a US, 3 AR, 13 UK, 15 CN, 37 AU)
  8. We Do What We’re Told (Milgram’s 37) [3:22]
  9. This Is the Picture (Excellent Birds) (with Laurie Anderson) (Gabriel, Anderson) [4:25]

All songs written by Gabriel unless noted otherwise.

Total Running Time: 45:21


4.271 out of 5.00 (average of 20 ratings)

Quotable: A mix of both halves of Gabriel: the “more conventional pop-writing style and…[a] dark, brooding sense of experimentalism.” – Wikipedia

Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

For Gabriel’s fifth studio effort, So, many of his songs reflected “a more conventional pop-writing style and became radio hits, others still retain Gabriel’s dark, brooding sense of experimentalism.” WK Producer Daniel Lanois, who’d previous worked with Gabriel for the Birdy soundtrack, was “known for his ambient collaborations with Brian Eno as well as producing U2 since 1984. As he had with the soundtrack to the film Birdy, Lanois brought many of his own ambient sensibilities to this recording.” WK

“This was Gabriel’s first studio album to bear an official title from its inception. His previous regular albums were simply titled Peter Gabriel, including 1982’s Security, which was retitled by Gabriel’s U.S. label at the time, Geffen Records. It had been speculated that the album was named for the fifth note on the scale (do-re-mi-fa-SO), signifying that it was Gabriel’s fifth solo album. However, the fifth note of the scale is actually SOL, and according to Peter Gabriel himself, the title did not have any meaning. ‘It doesn’t mean anything’, he said in an interview with Smash Hits in 1986. ‘We just liked the form of the word and the two letters. That’s all.’” WK

Much of the album’s success had to do with “Sledgehammer, an Otis Redding-inspired soul-pop raver that was easily his catchiest, happiest single to date. Needless to say, it was also his most accessible, and, in that sense it was a good introduction to So, the catchiest, happiest record he ever cut.” STE The song was a #1 hit in the U.S. and its accompanying groundbreaking video, which won MTV’s Video of the Year, is generally in the discussion of best videos ever made. “Directed by Steven Johnson, it features stop motion animation by Aardman Animations of Wallace and Gromit fame. The dancing chickens were animated by Nick Park.” WK

“‘Sledgehammer’ propelled the record toward blockbuster status, and Gabriel had enough songs with single potential to keep it there.” STE Big Time was “another colorful dance number” STE that was “a send-up of the narcissism of the 1980s and was also accompanied by a video in the same vein of ‘Sledgehammer.’” WK

Also in the hit vein are “the urgent That Voice Again,” STEDon’t Give Up, a moving duet with Kate Bush…and In Your Eyes, Gabriel’s greatest love song which achieved genuine classic status after being featured in Cameron Crowe’s classic, Say Anything. These all illustrated the strengths of the album: Gabriel’s increased melodicism and ability to blend African music, jangly pop, and soul into his moody art rock.” STE

Bridging the gap between the hits and the more experimental material is Red Rain, “a stately anthem popular on album rock radio.” STE “Inspired by a recurring dream which Gabriel had of swimming in a sea of red water, its lyrics vividly depict dream imagery that reflect a sense of vulnerability. The song is one of the works in the story of Mozo, a wandering stranger who appears in several Gabriel songs,” WK others being “On the Air” and “Exposure.” WK “Of all the tracks on the album, Gabriel considers ‘Red Rain’ one of his favourites.” WK

“The rest of the record is as quiet as the album tracks of Security.” STEMercy Street is dedicated to poet Anne Sexton and takes its title from her 1969 play, Mercy Street (Sexton also posthumously released a book of poetry, 45 Mercy Street).” WK We Do What We’re Told (Milgram’s 37) “refers to the 37 out of 40 compliant subjects of Milgram Experiment 18.” WK It was also “featured in an episode of the TV series Miami Vice.” WK

This Is the Picture (Excellent Birds) “features vocals with co-writer Laurie Anderson. This track is not included on the original vinyl release of the album, but was added to the audio cassette and CD editions. Anderson had previously recorded a different arrangement of the song entitled ‘Excellent Birds’ for her 1984 album, Mister Heartbreak, which also featured vocals by Gabriel. A video rendition of the song featuring Anderson and Gabriel was included in the 1 January 1984 TV satellite broadcast Good Morning, Mr. Orwell. Anderson also performs the song in her concert film Home of the Brave, released around the same time as So.” STE

While on Security the singles “were part of the overall fabric; here, the singles are the fabric, which can make the album seem top-heavy (a fault of many blockbuster albums, particularly those of the mid-‘80s). Even so, those songs are so strong, finding Gabriel in a newfound confidence and accessibility, that it’s hard not to be won over by them, even if So doesn’t develop the unity of its two predecessors.” STE

Notes: “When the album was remastered in 2002 with most of Gabriel’s catalogue, the song ‘In Your Eyes’ was moved from the fifth song to the ninth song. This was what Peter Gabriel originally intended, but because of the limitations of the vinyl release format it was moved up to be the first track on side two.” WK

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First posted 3/17/2008; last updated 8/20/2021.

Thursday, May 1, 1986

200 years ago: Mozart's Marriage of Figaro premiered

Last updated 11/18/2020.

Le Nozze di Figaro
(The Marriage of Figaro)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (composer)

Premiered: May 1, 1786

Composed: 1786

Peak: -- US, -- UK, -- CN, -- AU

Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US and UK)

Genre: classical > opera


  1. Overture, Presto

    Act I:

  2. Duet ("Cinque dieci")
  3. Duet ("Se a caso madama la notte ti chiama")
  4. Cavatina ("Se vuol ballare, signor contino")
  5. Aria ("La vendetta, oh, la vendetta")
  6. Duet ("Via resti servita, madama brillante")
  7. Aria ("Non so piu cosa son, cosa faccio")
  8. Trio ("Cosa sento! tosto andate")
  9. Chorus ("Giovani liete, fiori spargete")
  10. Aria ("Non piu andrai farfallone amoroso")

    Act II:

  11. Cavatina ("Porgi amor qualche ristoro")
  12. Arietta ("Voi, che sapete che cosa e amor")
  13. Aria ("Venite, inginocchiatevi")
  14. Trio ("Susanna or via sortite")
  15. Duet ("Aprite presto, aprite")
  16. Finale ("Esci omai, garzon malnato, sciagurato, non tardar")

    Act III:

  17. Duet ("Crudel! perche finora")
  18. Recitative & Aria ("Hai gia vinta la causa! Cosa sento!... Vedro, mentr'io sospiro")
  19. Sextet ("Riconosci in questo amplesso")
  20. Recitative & Aria ("E Susanna non vien! Sono ansiosa... Dove sono i bei momenti")
  21. Duet ("Sull' aria... che soave zefiretto")
  22. Chorus ("Recevete, o padroncina")
  23. Finale & Chorus ("Ecco la marcia, andiamo!... Amanti costanti, seguaci d'onor")

    Act IV:

  24. Cavatina ("L'ho perduta... me meschina!")
  25. Aria ("Il capro e la capretta")
  26. Aria ("In quegl' anni, in cui val poco")
  27. Recitative & Aria ("Tutto e disposto: l'ora dovrebbe esser vicina; io sento gente... Aprite un po quegl' occhi")
  28. Recitative & Aria ("Giunse alfin il momento... Deh vieni non tardar, o gioja bella")
  29. Finale ("Pian, pianin le andro piu presso")

Average Length: 161:30


4.350 out of 5.00 (average of 4 ratings)


About the Album:

The Marriage of Figaro is a comic opera in four parts. “It tells how the servants Figaro and Susanna succeed in getting married, foiling the efforts of their philandering employer Count Almaviva to seduce Susanna and teaching him a lesson in fidelity. The opera is a cornerstone of the repertoire and appears consistently among the top ten in the Operabase list of most frequently performed operas.” WK

Initially, however, it received “fewer than ten performances in Vienna immediately after its première at the Burgtheater on May 1, 1786.” JH “At the time of the opera’s composition and first performances, there was a climate of antagonism among factions of Italian musicians and poets living in Vienna, among whom was counted Salieri,” JH and they tried to have Figaro banned from the stage. JH However, the opera had “tremendous success in Prague…before spreading to other parts of Europe and becoming a classic of the opera buffa repertory.” JH

“Mozart admired Pierre Auguste Caron de Beaumarchais’ politically radical play Le mariage de Figaro (1781), the second play in what would become a trilogy based on the autobiographical character Figaro. Beaumarchais’ Le barbier de Séville had been performed in 1775 and the third play of the trilogy, La mère coupable, would be premièred in 1793. In his Figaro plays, Beaumarchais, who himself was a participant in the Revolution, working towards anti-aristocratic revolutionary ideas, sharply spoofs pre-Revolution French society.” JH

“Mozart’s music for Figaro consists of conventional dry and accompanied recitative, aria, and ensemble pieces. The overture, despite having no development section, is essentially in sonata form. Mozart musically conveys the range of Figaro’s perturbation in his Act One cavatina, Se vuol ballare, by whimsically changing the character of his music to correspond with Figaro’s machinations. Mozart also imbues Figaro’s rondo-form aria, Non più andrai, farfallone amoroso, with colorful musical depictions of Cherubino’s forthcoming military service through dotted rhythms and trumpet arpeggio fanfares. The Countess’ cavatina, Porgi amor, conveys the character’s elevated social status through its graceful melodic language. The duet (Aprite, presto, aprite) between Susanna and Cherubino in Act Two bristles expectantly with its moto perpetuo string writing and nervous, patter vocal declamation.” JH

“In the Count’s and Susanna’s Act Three duet (Crudel! Perchè finora), the minor mode conveys the Count’s initial grief and a shift to major mode, after Susanna agrees to come to the garden, confirms a sense of momentary resolution. Later, in the Count’s accompanied recitative (Hai già vinta la causa!), the orchestra adds an extra emphasis to his verbal expression of anger and agitation through impetuous dotted rhythms and string tremolos. Through furiously rapid-scale passages and trills, the orchestra maintains this angry intensity in the Count’s vengeance aria (Vedrò mentr’io sospiro). Barbaina’s Act Four cavatina, L’ho perduta...me meschina! introduces a minor mode melody of classic Mozartean pathos. The finale of Act Four brings the principal characters to beg the Count’s forgiveness and the music swells from a pious hymn-like ensemble to a triumphant fanfare-laden exultation.” JH

“Sull’aria” from Figaro, as featured in The Shawshank Redemption:

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