How Peter Gabriel Revolutionized Music Videos

February 9, 2021By

How Peter Gabriel Revolutionized Music Videos
How Peter Gabriel Revolutionized Music Videos

When the music channel MTV hit the peak of popularity, all the music industry has been changed. If you wanted to be successful, you not only had to produce videos, they also had to be sensational. Only then could you expect to land a hit and run on heavy rotation. Many musicians of the 1980s owe their great careers to spectacular videos that turned their songs into hits. The songs didn’t have to be extraordinary, a new image and a good video were often enough.

The stars of this decade became superstars with the visual realization of their songs. Just think of Madonna, Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, or Prince. But again and again, small visual masterpieces emerged that revolutionized the genre from the ground up. Ever since the Beatles shot a video for their classic Strawberry Fields in the 1960s, running the story backwards, people were hungry for music videos. But the situation was not like this before the legendary American music channel MTV was opened for the public. One man who pushed the technical boundaries was Peter Gabriel.

From Underground Hero To Superstar

The ex-vocalist of the band Genesis had no more desire for the big career in the 1970s and therefore quit the band. While the remaining band members around Phil Collins oriented Genesis to the mainstream, Gabriel preferred to devote himself to his sound experiments. After some quite successful solo works, he went to produce his next record in 1986. It was titled So and was full of African rhythms. It was to become the most successful of his entire career. Encouraged by a live band full of stars and personalities, he went into the studio with the famous producer Daniel Lanois. As the first single to the album, Peter Gabriel chose the song Sledgehammer. The song’s lyrics were full of sexual innuendo. The singer artfully hinted them in the music video. Inspired by the soul of the 1960s, Gabriel created a masterpiece with it.

As if that were not enough, the video conquered playlists all over the world in a flash. MTV played Sledgehammer almost around the clock. There was a reason for that. After all, nobody had ever seen anything like it had ever before. Director Stephen R. Johnson relied on clay animation and stop-motion effects to create the video. These were indeed groundbreaking. In the video, you can see the singer in an animated world. The animations clarify the content—the music video hit like a bomb. Sledgehammer took the charts by storm.

From Underground Hero To Superstar
From Underground Hero To Superstar

The accompanying album So sold millions of copies. The academy nominated Sledgehammer for the Grammy. But the song inexplicably lost to Addicted to Love by Robert Palmer. But at the MTV Video Music Awards, no one stopped Peter Gabriel’s winning run. The video for Sledgehammer won no fewer than nine awards in 1987. To this day, no one has broken this record. Numerous musicians tried to copy the technique presented in the video for the first time and failed grandly again and again as a result. For Peter Gabriel, Sledgehammer meant the rise to superstardom.

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