Saturday, July 26, 1986

Peter Gabriel hit #1 with “Sledgehammer”


Peter Gabriel

Writer(s): Peter Gabriel (see lyrics here)

Released: April 21, 1986

First Charted: April 26, 1986

Peak: 11 US, 12 CB, 2 GR, 11 RR, 61 RB, 12 AR, 2 CO, 4 UK, 12 CN, 3 AU, 4 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.25 UK, 0.25 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 75.0 video, 92.68 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Peter Gabriel helmed the British progressive rock band Genesis from 1967 to 1975 and then launched a successful solo career. Genesis soldiered on as well with Phil Collins as their front man, becoming hugely successful. In 1986, the band landed its sole #1 song on the Billboard Hot 100. It was knocked out of the top slot by none other than Peter Gabriel with “Sledgehammer,” the lead single from So, which became the most successful album of his career.

The song took him “from art rock hero and college radio mainstay to full-on pop star.” AMG It was, as he said, “an attempt to recreate some of the spirit and style of the music that most excited me as a teenager – ‘60s soul.” FB To that end, the song featured a brass section led by the Memphis Horns’ Wayne Jackson, who had become “the most sought after ‘horn-for-hire’ of the last 30 years” with an impressive resume that included “expiernece in the house band for legendary record company Stax…with the likes of Otis Redding and Sam & Dave.” LW

< Lyrically, the song is full of sexual innuendo. The title itself is a reference to male anatomy as are the terms train, bumper cars, and the big dipper. SF Gabriel said it was “about the use of sex as a means of getting through a breakdown in communication.” FB

The “wildly inventive video” AMG directed by Stephen R. Johnson was “possibly the coolest thing that had ever been done in the medium.” AMG It included groundbreaking work with Claymation, stop motion, and pixilation. Gabriel had to spend sixteen hours a day for eight days lying under glass to film it. FB It won a record nine awards at the 1987 Video Music Awards, including Video of the Year, and is the network’s most played video of all time. ME It also won Best British Video at the 1987 Brit Awards. WK Rolling Stone declared it the best-ever music video. LW

Gabriel told Rolling Stone he didn’t think the song would have been a hit if it weren’t for the video. “I think it had a sense of both humor and fun, neither of which were particularly associated with me. I mean – wrongly in my way of looking at it – I think I was seen as a fairly intense, eccentric Englishman.” ME


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First posted 1/28/2021; last updated 11/25/2022.

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