After Peter Gabriel left the band Genesis in 1975 (prompting band drummer Phil Collins to take the frontman slot), he embarked on a successful solo career which continues to this day. But his post-Genesis breakout as a worldwide phenomenon didn’t come until he finally agreed to assign an actual title to his fifth solo album (his first four were untitled, and have come to be known as Peter Gabriel 1,2,3 and 4). The album, titled So, went on to 5x platinum status here in the U.S. and yielded several high-charting singles, including his first and only Billboard #1 hit, “Sledgehammer.”
Beyond the catchy groove of the song, which combines a traditional funk/soul feel with world music and 80s techno influences, much of the appeal for “Sledgehammer” came from its accompanying video, an innovative hodgepodge of stop-action animation and claymation sequences focused around Gabriel’s face as he mouthed the words. It went on to win a record nine MTV Music Video Awards, and still has the distinction of being the most-played video on MTV in its history.
Point of note: if you remember “Sledgehammer” and have never taken time to ponder the lyrics—it is what you think it is. The entire song is innuendo.