Great Rock Albums of 1986: Peter Gabriel- So


Thinking back to 1986, I realise that I wasn’t always as open minded about music as I tended to think. Peter Gabriel’s 1986 “So” album supports this. The thing was that I was so caught up in my quest of all things metal, that anything that sounded too commercial or synth pop got rejected without further investigation. My first thought when the single, “Sledgehammer,” came on the radio was that Peter was selling out and going commercial. Fortunately, I see things more clearly thirty plus years on and while I agree with those who say that “So” was Peter’s most commercially successful album, it was not a sell out.

The weird thing was that I never disliked that single, “Sledgehammer.” It does have a catchy tune and I can hear an electric  guitar in the background. Therefore, I have to admit that I think the song is pretty darn good. I am also familiar with the other two of the first three tracks on the album. “Red Rain” proves that he hadn’t strayed too far from the formula which brought him so much success with early Genesis back in the 1970s. It also proved that, along with GTR and ELP, that 70s style progressive rock had not totally gone away.

Track three, which I didn’t get to experience until I got to England towards the end of that year, “Don’t Give Up,” was a pretty good one. Kate Bush lends her vocal talent on the chorus and makes things more interesting. Reading a little of the history, Peter wrote the song in reaction to the rising unemployment under the Margaret Thatcher government in the 80s. It’s a good progressive ballad.


Kate Bush

Now for the rest of the album, don’t worry, I don’t think the rest of the album sucks. In fact, it’s quite good but saying that, I don’t think the remainder of the album is quite at the level of the first three songs. While not filler, Peter puts effort on each and every one, but none of these tracks have me standing up and shouting, “This song kicks f*ckin’ ass!” Of the six remaining songs, “Mercy Street” is the best of them and “That Voice Again” is done quite nicely. What you do get on those tracks is some good progressive rock that was right for the 80s, while not going synth pop. It’s a fine effort from Peter Gabriel but I still prefer his previous album, “Security.”

Track Listing:

  1. Red Rain
  2. Sledgehammer
  3. Don’t Give Up
  4. That Voice Again
  5. In Your Eyes
  6. Mercy Street
  7. Big Time
  8. We Do What We’re Told
  9. This is the Picture

Peter Gabriel

Peter Gabriel- lead vocals, Prophet synthesizer, synthesizer, percussion, piano, Synclavier

Kate Bush: vocals (track 3)

Tony Levin- bass (tracks 1-5 &7)

David Rhodes- guitar, backing vocals

Jerry Marotta- drums (tracks 1, 5 & 8), bass (track 7),

Manu Katche- drums (tracks 2 & 5), percussion

Chris Hughes- electronic drums

Stewart Copeland- hi hat (track 1), drums (track 7)

Daniel Lanois- guitar (tracks 1,2 & 4), tambourine, 12 string guitar (track 8)

Wayne Jackson- trumpet (tracks 2 & 7), coronet (track  7)

Mark Rivera- tenor, alto, processed and baritone saxophones

Don Mikkelson- trombone (track 7)

Richard Tee- piano (tracks 3,5 & ^0

Simon Clark- keyboards, backing vocals

L. Shankar- violin (tracks 4 & 8)

Larry Klein- bass (tracks 5 & 6)

Djalma Correa- surdo, congas, triangle

Bill Laswell- bass (track 9)

Nile Rodgers- guitar (track 9)

Laurie Anderson- synthesizer, vocals (track 9)

P.P. Arnold, Coral Gordon, Dee Lewis, Youssou D’Nour, Michael Keen, Jim Kerr, Ronnie Bright- backing vocals

And no sign of Steve Lukather!

Once again, I think back to all the cool progressive rock that I missed out on. Still, I was on a quest for metal so I have no regrets back then. But it was good to know that there was some great prog rock compliments of Peter Gabriel with “So” to be had.

Next post: The Smiths- The Queen Is Dead









































8 Responses to “Great Rock Albums of 1986: Peter Gabriel- So”

  1. I would describe this record as art-pop rather than progressive rock. I agree that it’s good, but a little uneven. Of the album tracks, my favourite is ‘That Voice Again’. It was a well deserved breakthrough, but albums like III (Melt), Security, and Us are tangibly stronger IMO.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, blast from my past. I was only a wee thing when this came out, but I remember watching the film clip to Don’t Give Up with my mum, both of us enraptured by the beautiful love story on the screen. Though, I must admit, I had no idea who Peter Gabriel was 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love this one, my folks got me into it. What a brilliant cast of musicians.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: