Thursday, March 23

Our lives at 45 rpm

Second in a series of posts on one Dullard's collection of 45s

Single: "Sledgehammer"
Artist: Peter Gabriel
Year released: 1986
Highest U.S. chart position: 1

DULLARD TAKE: "Sledgehammer" represents the unlikely apex of Peter Gabriel's career, at least in a commercial sense. To this point, the former Genesis maestro was mostly known for deeply moving, politically motivated music such as "Biko" and "Games Without Frontiers." The "So" album featured a brighter tone than previous Gabriel works. "Sledgehammer" was the centerpiece of that shift.

"Sledgehammer" remains as strong as the tool it's named for. It's built around a deceptively simple groove, a hook complemented by the straight-forward lyrics of desire. This is the sort of song I love: a track that begins with the basics and then puts down layer after layer, with Gabriel's powerful vocals on top of it all.

Despite its memorable video, "Sledgehammer" has since been eclipsed in pop culture by "In Your Eyes," another fine track from the "So" album that gained new fame a few years later for its use by the character Lloyd Dobler in the film "Say Anything."

Since "Sledgehammer," Gabriel has seen his career slide into irrelevance. After the intriguing "Passion" soundtrack for "The Last Temptation of Christ," he offered "Us." That drab, self-absorbed 1992 album included a ripoff of "Sledgehammer" called "Steam." But the magic of the moment had passed, and like so much of Gabriel's post-1980s output, "Steam" is as forgettable as "Sledgehammer" is groundbreaking.

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