RaR41 – Sledgehammer


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Sledgehammer by Peter Gabriel
Peter Gabriel was the co-founder of Genesis, which at its inception was a progressive rock band with a penchant for theatrics including performing in drag, bizarre masks, and surrealistic monologues between songs. Gabriel also liked to fling himself into the audience, trusting them to catch him and pass him around. Stage diving is now a rock show staple, but it was unknown in the early 1970s; Gabriel may well have invented it.

Family demands and personality conflicts led to his departure from Genesis in 1975; he was replaced by Phil Collins. After a hiatus of several years he released first eponymous solo album in 1977, which yielded the haunting single “Solsbury Hill.” The album was darker than any Genesis had tackled, and it also incorporated sampling—a technique then still in its infancy—minimalist textures, electronically constructed sounds, and rhythms from various foreign cultures. The last had long fascinated Gabriel; since the early ’80s, he has employed non-Western rhythms as a means of song creation. In 1982 he briefly reunited with Genesis to raise funds for the creation of WOMAD (World of Music, Art, and Dance), a touring festival intended to introduce the music of third world cultures to Western audiences. WOMAD soon became an annual event that helped stimulate interest in world music (or world beat) in the 1980s.

Gabriel’s third album (also titled Peter Gabriel) produced two singles that barely missed the Top 40; he finally cracked the charts in 1982 when the disturbing video for “Shock the Monkey” became a staple on MTV. With his background in performance art, Gabriel found music videos an exciting new medium for artistic expression, as well as a means to publicize his songs. He enthusiastically embraced cutting-edge techniques and made videos for nearly every track on his next album, So (1986). “Sledgehammer,” a collaboration with claymation pioneers Aardman Animations—a company that includes Nick Park, creator of Wallace and Gromit—and the Brothers Quay, experts in stop-motion photography, set new standards for computer animation and music videos. Rolling Stone has declared it the best video of all time. So yielded two more hit singles, the Stax soul-influenced “Big Time” and “In Your Eyes,” a Top 40 hit that experienced a revival when it was featured in the 1989 John Cusack film, Say Anything.

Gabriel has long been associated with charitable causes; he is a vocal supporter of Amnesty International and famine relief organizations. He is also the founder of Real World, a company “devoted to developing bridges between technology and multi-ethnic arts.” His devotion to world music continues; his most recent album, Up (2002), features non-Western icons like the Senegalese mbalax pioneer Youssou N’Dour and legendary Pakistani singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, who died in 1997.


Digital drum sounds
Major emphasis on synthesizers – horn figures!
Repetitive figures in all parts – draws attention to the vocals
Super groove!


The wild look of the video
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Gabriel has long been associated with charitable causes


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