Music / So
"The place where I come from is a small town
They think so small, they use small words
But not me; I'm smarter than that
I've worked it out
I'll be stretching my mouth to make those big words come right out"
is the fifth studio album by singer songwriter Peter Gabriel
, released in May of 1986. It has become his most successful album commercially, and it also fared well critically, appearing on the Rolling Stone
's "Top 100 Albums of the Eighties" list, taking the number 14 spot. A documentary about the creative process behind the making of this album can be seen in the Classic Albums
TV documentary series.
The album was listed at #187 in Rolling Stone: 500 Greatest Albums of All Time
Tracklist: Side One
- "Red Rain" (5:39)
- "Sledgehammer" (5:12)
- "Don't Give Up" (feat. Kate Bush) (6:33)
- "That Voice Again" (4:53)
- "In Your Eyes" (5:27) note
- "Mercy Street" (6:22)
- "Big Time" (4:28)
- "We Do What We're Told (Milgram's 37)" (3:22)
- "This is the Picture (Excellent Birds)" (feat. Laurie Anderson) (4:25) (CD bonus track)
This is the List (Excellent Tropes):
- Alliterative Title: "Red Rain."
- And Starring: Kate Bush sings along during "Don't Give Up."
- Book Ends: The video for "Big Time" both begins and ends with Gabriel, with a Fake American accent, saying "Hi there!" The song itself just has that part in the intro.
- Broken Record: "Big Time" has the word "big" repeated ad finitum near the end.
- Double Entendre: "Sledgehammer" is packed to the rafters with these; the very first line has the narrator promising his love interest a "steam train," and he doesn't let up from there.
- Downer Ending: "In Your Eyes" was written to win back a woman Peter lost — it didn't work. (At least it worked for Lloyd Dobler.)
- Epic Rocking: "Red Rain."
- Face on the Cover: Gabriel's face in close-up.
- God-Is-Love Songs: "In Your Eyes" is sometimes mentioned by Peter as being this; he deliberately wrote the lyrics so that it could be interpreted either as one of these songs or as a romantic song.
- Heroic B.S.O.D.: "Don't Give Up" is about a man driven to suicidal depression after becoming unemployed.
- Intercourse with You: "Sledgehammer:"
Oh let me be your sledgehammer
This will be my testimony
Show me 'round your fruitcage
Cause I will be your honey bee
Open up your fruitcage
Where the fruit is as sweet as can be.
- Limited Lyrics Song: "We Do What We're Told (Milgram's 37)."
- Lyrical Cold Open: "Big Time."
- Minimalistic Cover Art: The vinyl covers (except the 25th anniversary version cover) only feature the photo of Gabriel, without text. The other formats are aversions of this.
- Money Song / "I Want" Song: Again, "Big Time."
- New Sound Album: Compared to his previous albums.
- Not Christian Rock: "In Your Eyes."
- One-Word Title: "So" and "Sledgehammer."
- Pastiche: "Sledgehammer" is a pastiche of Southern Soul, and Gabriel himself has described the song as "[his] chance to sing like Otis Redding."
- Rearrange the Song: "This is the Picture (Excellent Birds)" is an alternate version of Laurie Anderson's own song "Excellent Birds" (on which Gabriel provided backing vocals).
- Retraux: "Sledgehammer," according to Gabriel, was written as a throwback to soul music from The '60s, and even features the Memphis Horns (who played on a lot of Stax produced records) on backup.
- Small Town Boredom: As shown in the quote on top of the page, it's heavily implied that the narrator of "Big Time" feels this way.
- Special Guest: Kate Bush on "Don't Give Up," Youssou N'Dour on "In Your Eyes," and Laurie Anderson on "This is the Picture (Excellent Birds)."
- Unusual Euphemism: The title of "Sledgehammer" refers to Gabriel's "sledgehammer," and the lyrics are littered with other such euphemisms.
- Viewers Are Geniuses: "Milgram's 37," as those who pay attention to psychologists know, is about Stanley Milgram's subjects in his shock experiments, and "Mercy Street" is about / Inspired By the works of the late poet Anne Sexton, who wrote the source of the song's title — 45 Mercy Street.