I was planning to see a film tonight, but before that, I was browsing my feed on Facebook, I am a member of several Facebook groups with primary interests in music or records. In one of these groups, I stumbled upon a documentary of how Peter made “SO” back in 1986.
I’ve seen this documentary before, and I always smile when I hear that he wanted Dolly Parton to sing with him on “Don’t give up”. I also marvel at the fantastic job that Daniel Lanois did as a producer on this record.
Through these 30 years or so, I’ve heard this record countless times. Every time (in every one of these years) I appreciate it as much as the first time, but in a slightly different way.
“SO” is the fifth studio album by Peter Gabriel, released in 1986. The album was a major commercial success, reaching the top 10 in several countries and earning Gabriel a Grammy Award for Best New Age Performance. The album is considered a classic of 1980s pop and has been widely praised for its innovative production and songwriting.
The album’s production was a collaborative effort between Gabriel and producer Daniel Lanois. Lanois, who had previously worked with Gabriel on his third album, had become known for his innovative production techniques and his ability to create a distinct “atmosphere” in his recordings. Gabriel and Lanois began working on the album in 1984, with the goal of creating a more “organic” sound than Gabriel’s previous albums.
One of the key elements of the album’s sound was Lanois’ use of ambient sounds and textures. He and Gabriel used a variety of unconventional recording techniques to create a sense of depth and space in the music. For example, they recorded the sound of a train passing by outside the studio, and then used that sound as a backdrop for the song “Sledgehammer.” They also used a technique called “gated reverb” to create a sense of power and energy in the drums, which can be heard in the song “Big Time.”
Another important aspect of the album’s sound was Gabriel’s use of live instrumentation. He and Lanois worked with a variety of musicians to create a rich, textured sound. For example, they used a group of African drummers on the song “In Your Eyes,” which helped to create a sense of rhythm and energy. They also worked with a number of guitarists, including David Rhodes and Tony Levin, who helped to create the album’s intricate guitar parts.
Gabriel’s songwriting on the album was also noteworthy. He wrote all the lyrics and melodies for the songs, and many of the songs were inspired by personal experiences. For example, the song “In Your Eyes” was inspired by Gabriel’s relationship with actress Rosanna Arquette. The song “Sledgehammer” was inspired by Gabriel’s experiences working on the video for the song, which was directed by Stephen R. Johnson and featured groundbreaking animation techniques.
The album was a major commercial success, reaching the top 10 in several countries and earning Gabriel a Grammy Award for Best New Age Performance. The album’s lead single “Sledgehammer” became a hit on both sides of the Atlantic and reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the United States. The album also spawned several other hit singles, including “Big Time,” “In Your Eyes,” and “Don’t Give Up.”
“SO” was a groundbreaking album that showcased Peter Gabriel’s talents as a songwriter, vocalist, and producer. His collaboration with producer Daniel Lanois and the use of unconventional recording techniques, live instrumentation and unique lyrics helped to create an innovative and enduring work of art. The album’s commercial success and critical acclaim solidified Gabriel’s place as one of the most influential artists of the 1980s, and its impact can be felt in the music that followed.