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Sledgehammer (Peter Gabriel song)

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Title: Sledgehammer (Peter Gabriel song)  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: 1987 MTV Video Music Awards, MTV Video Music Award, MTV Video Music Award for Video of the Year, Peter Gabriel, Stephen R. Johnson
Collection: 1986 Singles, 1986 Songs, Billboard Dance Club Songs Number-One Singles, Billboard Hot 100 Number-One Singles, Billboard Mainstream Rock Number-One Singles, Charisma Records Singles, Dance-Rock Songs, Funk Songs, Geffen Records Singles, Mtv Video of the Year Award, Music Videos by Aardman Animations, Peter Gabriel Songs, Rpm Top Singles Number-One Singles, Song Recordings Produced by Daniel Lanois, Songs About Sexuality, Songs Written by Peter Gabriel, Soul Songs
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Sledgehammer (Peter Gabriel song)

Single by Peter Gabriel
from the album So
  • "Don't Break This Rhythm"
  • "I Have the Touch" (mix)
  • "Biko" (ext)
Released 25 April 1986
Recorded 1985
  • 5:12 (Album version)
  • 4:58 (7" single edit)
Writer(s) Peter Gabriel
Producer(s) Daniel Lanois, Peter Gabriel
Peter Gabriel singles chronology
"Walk Through the Fire"
"Don't Give Up"
Audio sample
Music video
"Sledgehammer" on YouTube

"Sledgehammer" is a song written, composed and performed by English rock musician Peter Gabriel, which appeared on his 1986 album So, produced by Gabriel and Daniel Lanois. It hit No. 1 in Canada on 21 July 1986, where it spent four weeks; No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the United States on 26 July 1986;[4] and No. 4 on the UK Singles Chart, thanks in part to a popular and influential music video. It was his biggest hit in North America and ties with "Games Without Frontiers" as his biggest hit in the United Kingdom.

The song's music video won numerous awards, including a record nine MTV Awards at the 1987 MTV Video Music Awards[5] and Best British Video at the 1987 Brit Awards.[6][7] Gabriel was also nominated for three Grammy Awards: Best Male Rock Vocal Performance, Song of the Year and Record of the Year.[8] As of 2011, "Sledgehammer" is the most played music video in the history of MTV.[6]


  • History 1
  • Music video 2
  • Musicians 3
  • Awards and nominations 4
  • Chart performance 5
    • Weekly charts 5.1
    • Year-end charts 5.2
  • Covers and parodies 6
  • Samples 7
  • Soundtrack appearances 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10


The song was influenced by 1960s soul music, in particular the music made by the Memphis label Stax. The distinctive horn track was provided by a horn section led by Wayne Jackson of the Memphis Horns, the Stax Records label's house musicians. The song also features a synthesised shakuhachi flute generated with an E-mu Emulator II sampler.[9]

The lyrics are a mosaic of sexual innuendos, with references to steam trains, pollination, acting like a sledgehammer, fruit and bees as metaphors of sexual acts.

"Sledgehammer" is Gabriel's only No. 1 hit in the US. Ironically, it replaced "Invisible Touch" by his former band Genesis, which had been the group's only US number-one hit the previous week as well. "Sledgehammer" also achieved chart success on other Billboard charts in 1986, spanning the range between Album Rock Tracks (two weeks at the summit in May and June)[10] and Hot Dance Club Play (one week atop this chart in July).[11]

The single release also included a previously unreleased track called "Don't Break This Rhythm" and an "'85 Remix" of his 1982 single "I Have the Touch". US versions of the single contained an extended dance remix of "Sledgehammer". It was among the first singles released on compact disc.

Music video

"Sledgehammer" had a widely popular and influential music video commissioned by Tessa Watts at Virgin Records, directed by Stephen R. Johnson and produced by Adam Whittaker. Aardman Animations (of Wallace and Gromit fame) and the Brothers Quay provided claymation, pixilation, and stop motion animation that gave life to images in the song. The video ended with a large group of extras jerkily rotating around Gabriel, among them: Gabriel's own daughters Anna and Melanie, the animators themselves and director Stephen Johnson's girlfriend. Also included were six women who posed as the back-up singers of the song. Gabriel lay under a sheet of glass for 16 hours while filming the video one frame at a time.[12] Two oven-ready chickens, headless and featherless, were animated using stop-motion and shown dancing along to the synthesised flute solo in the middle of the song. This section was animated by Nick Park, of Aardman Animations, who was refining his work in plasticine animation at the time.

Many of these techniques had been employed in earlier music videos, such as Talking Heads's 1985 hit "Road to Nowhere", also directed by Johnson. The style was later used in the video for another successful single from the album So, "Big Time".

The "Sledgehammer" video won nine MTV Video Music Awards in 1987,[5] the most awards a single video has won.[6] It ranked at number four on MTV's 100 Greatest Music Videos Ever Made (1999). MTV later announced that "Sledgehammer" is the most played music video in the history of the channel.[6] "Sledgehammer" has also been declared to be MTV's number one animated video of all time.[13]

The video was also voted number seven on TMF's Ultimate 50 Videos You Must See, which first aired 24 June 2006. It ranked at number 2 on VH1's "Top 20 Videos of the '80s" as well as being named the No. 1 "Amazing Moment in Music" on the Australian TV show 20 to 1 in 2007. The video won Best British Video at the 1987 Brit Awards. Also, the video was nominated for the Best Music Video category for the first annual Soul Train Music Awards in that same year.


Awards and nominations

1987 MTV Video Music Awards
  • Won (9)[5]
    • Video of the Year
    • Best Art Direction
    • Best Concept Video
    • Best Direction in a Video
    • Best Editing
    • Best Male Video
    • Best Overall Performance
    • Best Special Effects
    • Most Experimental Video
1987 BRIT Awards
  • Won (1)[7]
    • Best British Video
29th Grammy Awards
  • Nominated (3)[8]
    • Best Male Rock Vocal Performance
    • Song of the Year
    • Record of the Year

Chart performance

Covers and parodies


Soundtrack appearances

  • The song appeared on a 1993 British television commercial for the Vauxhall Cavalier, followed by the guitar riff from Eric Clapton's "Layla".[47]
  • The song appeared in the 1993 Miami Vice episode "Better Living Through Chemistry", during a scene inside a biker bar. A slightly altered version of the shakuhachi refrain in the opening was used by background musician Jan Hammer at appropriate moments.
  • In 2012, radio commentator Rush Limbaugh played "Sledgehammer" on his show during his commentary on Sandra Fluke's crusade for free birth control, during which he called her "a slut". Consequently, Gabriel demanded that the program stop using his music.[48]


  1. ^ Staunton, Terry (December 2012). "Peter Gabriel: So".  
  2. ^ Reed, Ryan (13 October 2011). "Peter Gabriel: The Darwin of Pop".  
  3. ^ Grant, Steven; Robbins, Ira. "Peter Gabriel".  
  4. ^  
  5. ^ a b c "VIDEO MUSIC AWARDS – Biggest Winners".  
  6. ^ a b c d Peter Gabriel, 'Sledgehammer' (1986) at the Wayback Machine (archived 28 February 2012). Time. 28 July 2011. Retrieved 19 November 2011.
  7. ^ a b "The BRITs 1987".  
  8. ^ a b "29th Grammy Awards - 1987". Grammy Awards. Rock On The Net. Retrieved 19 November 2011. 
  9. ^ "Famous Sounds". Retrieved 4 October 2014. 
  10. ^  
  11. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Hot Dance/Disco 1974-2003. Record Research Inc. p. 106. 
  12. ^ Cross, Alan (7 October 2001). The Impact Of The Music Video.  
  13. ^ Episode Guide – Transcript of MTV's "Top 10 Animated Videos Countdown" at the Wayback Machine (archived 10 July 2012). Outpost Daria. 28 June 1998. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  14. ^ "Hits of the World".  
  15. ^ " – Peter Gabriel – Sledgehammer" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  16. ^ " – Peter Gabriel – Sledgehammer" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  17. ^ "Radio 2 Top 30 : 7 juni 1986" (in Nederlands).  
  18. ^ CHART NUMBER 1538 – Saturday, June 14, 1986 at the Wayback Machine (archived 7 November 2006). CHUM. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  19. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 0704." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  20. ^ Pennanen, Timo (2006). Sisältää hitin - levyt ja esittäjät Suomen musiikkilistoilla vuodesta 1972 (in Suomi) (1st ed.). Helsinki: Tammi.  
  21. ^ " – Peter Gabriel – Sledgehammer". GfK Entertainment. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  22. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Sledgehammer". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  23. ^ a b "I singoli più venduti del 1986" (in Italiano). Hit Parade Italia.  
  24. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Peter Gabriel - Sledgehammer search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  25. ^ " – Peter Gabriel – Sledgehammer" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  26. ^ " – Peter Gabriel – Sledgehammer". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  27. ^ " – Peter Gabriel – Sledgehammer". VG-lista. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  28. ^ "SLEDGEHAMMER – Peter Gabriel" (in Polski). LP3. Retrieved 4 October 2014. 
  29. ^ "South African Rock Lists Website SA Charts 1969 – 1989 Acts (G)". Retrieved 4 October 2014. 
  30. ^ " – Peter Gabriel – Sledgehammer". Singles Top 60. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  31. ^ " – Peter Gabriel – Sledgehammer". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  32. ^ "Archive Chart: 1986-05-24" UK Singles Chart. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  33. ^ a b c d e "So – Awards".  
  34. ^ CASH BOX Top 100 Singles – Week ending JULY 26, 1986 at the Wayback Machine (archived 2 October 2012). Cash Box magazine. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  35. ^ "Forum – ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts – Top 100 End of Year AMR Charts – 1980s". Hung Medien. Retrieved 4 October 2014. 
  36. ^ "Jahreshitparade 1986" (in Deutsch). Hung Medien. Retrieved 4 October 2014. 
  37. ^ "Jaaroverzichten 1986" (in Nederlands).  
  38. ^ "Top Singles – Volume 45, No. 14, December 27, 1986".  
  39. ^ "Top 100-Jaaroverzicht van 1986" (in Nederlands).  
  40. ^ "Jaaroverzichten – Single 1986" (in Nederlands).  
  41. ^ "Schweizer Jahreshitparade 1986" (in Deutsch). Hung Medien. Retrieved 4 October 2014. 
  42. ^ "Top 100 Hits for 1986". The Longbored Surfer. Retrieved 4 October 2014. 
  43. ^ The CASH BOX Year-End Charts: 1986 at the Wayback Machine (archived 2 October 2012). Cash Box magazine. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  44. ^ "Sledgehammer Every Time Play". Retrieved 4 October 2014. 
  45. ^ "DMBAlmanac". Retrieved 25 August 2008. 
  46. ^ Sledgehammer - live looping Peter Gabriel cover with Ableton Live on YouTube
  47. ^ Cauxhall Cavalier advert on YouTube
  48. ^ Schillaci, Sophie A.; Zakarin, Jordan (5 March 2012). "Peter Gabriel Withdraws Music From Rush Limbaugh Show Following Sandra Fluke Controversy".  

External links

  • Music video on YouTube
  • Sledgehammer at MusicBrainz
  • "Episode 8: Music Videos", Retrieved 19 October 2013.
  • Full lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics
Preceded by
"Who's Johnny" by El DeBarge
Canadian RPM number-one single
26 July 1986 (1 week)
Succeeded by
"Papa Don't Preach" by Madonna
Preceded by
"Invisible Touch" by Genesis
US Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
26 July 1986 (1 week)
Succeeded by
"Glory of Love" by Peter Cetera
US Cash Box number-one single
26 July 1986 – 2 August 1986 (2 weeks)
Preceded by
"Like a Rock" by Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band
US Billboard Album Rock Tracks number-one single
31 May 1986 – 7 June 1986 (2 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Invisible Touch" by Genesis
Preceded by
"Baby Love" by Regina
US Billboard Hot Dance Club Play number-one single
12 July 1986 (1 week)
Succeeded by
"Rumors" by Timex Social Club
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