Sunday, May 22, 2016

Hi there!

Sledgehammer was released a little over thirty years ago, on April 25, 1986. In a year that was recently - scientifically - determined to be the worst in popular music history, I was astonished and thrilled by this song. Awesome horns, excitingly syncopated guitars, a funky, funky bassline, that slippery percussion, and lyrics that playfully extend absurd and absurdly obvious metaphors for fucking.

My interest in his work had started with his last complete album of original work, Security, and in the intervening years (1982-86, my entire high school career, actually) I has absorbed pretty much everything he had ever recorded, on his own and with Genesis, including their justifiably difficult to find first album, From Genesis To Revelation, which is really, really, really bad.

But I bought it.

And that was kind of the point. While I enjoyed delving into early 70s prog rock, and had piecemeal discovered that a great many tunes from my preadolescence for which I had a deep, subliminal affection (Solsbury Hill, for example, or Follow You, Follow Me) came from the same interconnected ensemble of artists, by my senior year in high school they were all a bit passé, weren't they? And you couldn't dance to them, and that was extremely important.

Listening to Sledgehammer for the first time, driving in my car (well, Mom's car) cruising down the highway from visiting my new girlfriend downtown, I was first struck by the fierceness of the attack, and immediately recognized the vocals, and that was so exciting.

A new Peter Gabriel album! A new girlfriend! These two events are intricately connected.

Distance: 5 miles
Duration: 40 minutes (or so)
Route: Boulevard-Noble Loop

The album So was released on May 19, 1986.

I have always found it gratingly ironic that an artist who had championed the end to apartheid long before most of his contemporaries lost out on the Grammy for Best Album for this record to a man who exploited the effort and talents of numerous black South African musicians to create Graceland.

So alternates, track by track between funky and upbeat - Sledgehammer, Big Time - and dour and downbeat - Don't Give Up, Mercy Street ... which I have chosen not to include in my running playlist, not because I don't like them but because I came to run, not brood.

Visceral and ethereal. He loves doing that, sliding back and forth, striving to represent his idea of godless, earth-bound spirituality. Peter Gabriel was thirty-five when he recorded this one. Once upon a time I might have thought that was when a man was at his physical strongest. Maybe some are. Not me.

Long before the movie Say Anything (1989) the song In Your Eyes was that summer's signature tune for walks on the beach, crazy-long make-out sessions, and basically any time the evening stretched on well past that point you know you really have to begin driving home because she has to be back by ten and you have to get up for school tomorrow, but five more minutes doesn't really make a difference at this point, right?

Temperature: 57°
Climate: The light! The heat!
Mood: I am complete.
Weight: 164.5 lbs.

Well. Today would have been a good day to run a half marathon.

So - Peter Gabriel (1986)
Red Rain
Sledgehammer (Extended Dance Version)
That Voice Again
In Your Eyes
Big Time (Extended Version)
This Is The Picture (Excellent Birds) ft. Laurie Anderson

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