Peter Gabriel: 35 years of the album “So”, released on May 19th 1986 - STORIES, MEMORIES & VIDEOS

So, the album which, released on May 19, 1986, gave Peter Gabriel total worldwide success, not yet arrived with the first four discs, turns 35.

By Eugenio Delmale

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Here is Peter Gabriel's Facebook post on "So "'s birthday:

And here is Peter Gabriel's Facebook post from May 17, 2021:

10 elements that tell Peter's turning point.

1. After four albums in which all the cymbals were often banned, Red Rain, which opens So, begins with a surprising reintroduction of unused "metals". A significant break with the past, perhaps to show that the author is a new Peter Gabriel. The first sound of the song, in fact, is that of charleston and the dishes of Stewart Copeland of the Police, one of the many illustrious collaborators of this album.

2. Hard to believe, but Sledgehammer it was included in the album only at the last moment and it was born almost by chance, from an idea that ran in Peter's head, but that had not yet been developed, even if the recordings of the album were almost completed. The rhythm section was born first, created by the new drummer Manu Katché and Tony Levin on bass, then Daniel Lanois' guitar (another novelty, above all as a producer), and finally the wind section of the Memphis Horns. The title derives from the building-type metaphors used by Gabriel and Lanois in the recording room. The single comes fourth in the UK and first in the USA, undermining its own Invisible Touch of the Genesis. And the video of the song is record-breaking. 

3. Report Mario Giammetti (in Peter Gabriel. Not one of us, Ed. Sign), that the characteristic bass sound of Tony Levin in Don't Give Up, derives from the use of his daughter's diapers, to obtain that muffled tone. The female voice had to be initially that of Dolly Parton, American country star, who does not accept. So Gabriel turns to Kate Bush, remaining very satisfied. Although, writes Gabriel in the album's liner notes, the roots remain "gospel / country (...) in Richard Tee's fantastic way of playing the piano. "This hymn to overcoming obstacles has helped many people." Gabriel said that a well-known rock star and a comic actor both confessed that the song convinced them to give up suicide. "(Daryl Easlea, Without borders. Life and music of Peter Gabriel, Ed. Arcana)

4. Unusually the text of That Voice Again it is written together with David Rhodes, who, with Gabriel and Lanois, is the third main author of the album. A solution that the Canadian producer had to resort to, given that Peter did not decide to complete the lyrics of the song. It is possible that Gabriel could not go on for the theme of the song, which refers to his conjugal crisis of the moment with Jill. After 10 years ("not to create connections with Genesis", he told the Italian magazine Hello 2001), the 12-string guitar played by Lanois returns to the music of the singer. As rarely happens, the song begins with the refrain.

5. In Your Eyes sees the participation of various choristers including Jim Kerr of Simple Minds and above all the Senegalese singer Youssou N'Dour, who sings in the language here Wolof. It is probably a declaration of love for Rosanna Arquette, the American actress known on the evening of the concert Six of the best (read and listen to the Horizons Radio special). In crisis with Jill for years, Peter had a strange relationship with her. It is certainly the first direct love song composed by Gabriel in his solo career. And to say that it was initially titled Sagrada Familia and was inspired by the Cathedral of Barcelona and its creator, Antoni Gaudi.

6. Various overdubbed Peter voices contribute to the touching beauty of Mercy Street. Among these, a particularly low one was recorded at seven in the morning, to obtain a natural gloom. The percussion is by the Brazilian Djalma Correa, recorded by Gabriel in Rio de Janeiro. The wonderful bass work is by Larry Klein. Although officially inspired by the almost homonymous work of the American poet Anne Sexton, Mario Giammetti (in Peter Gabriel. Not one of us, Ed. Sign) reports an episode, told by Gabriel himself, which may have influenced the text: a makeshift landing, just of the flight to Brazil, taken to meet Correa.

7. A first version of Big Time, with the title Success had been recorded in the days of Security. Third single of the album, it reached the eighth place in the chart in the United States, where they appreciated the funky atmosphere of the song and its philosophy, so close to the American dream, even if declined with irony. Fundamental in the passage is the drumstick bass guitar, played by Tony Levin, who presses the strings, and by Jerry Marotta, who strikes them, obtaining that characteristic sound of the rhythmic part, combined with the Stewart Copeland drums.

8. Originally recorded for melt, then candidate to join Security, We Do What We're Told (Milgram's 37) it's different from the other tracks on the record, since it comes from musically remote times for Peter. Played on tour since 1980, in fact, it was an old acquaintance of the fans of the first hour. "He's there to show his new audience that if Gabriel wanted it it could still be disturbing and disturbing." (Daryl Easlea, Without borders. Life and music of Peter Gabriel, Ed. Arcana). The text is famously based on an experiment that scientifically demonstrated the Nazi "banality of evil", a theme also used by Genesis in the passage Just A Job To Do (Album genesis).

9. The vinyl ends with Milgram, but not the cassette and CD versions, closed by This Is The Picture (Excellent Birds) - and, in remastering, from In Your Eyes -, variations dictated by Gabriel's obsession with the sequence of the songs and the good mix of tails and attacks of the same. To insert This Is The Picture it was a singular choice, given that, composed with Laurie Anderson, was already part of the American artist's album two years earlier Mister Heartbreak, in a different version and with the title Excellent Birds. Gabriel wanted it fearing that he did not have enough material, other oddities, since he had already complete and unpublished songs such as Don't Break This Rhythm o curtains, which instead will become the B side of the singles Sledgehammer e Big Time.

10. Finally the cover and the title So. Surprisingly, the album comes with an outwardly normal packaging, with a beautiful portrait of Peter made by Trevor Key and none of the formal oddities present in the previous ones. Furthermore, for the first time Peter decides to use a title. Magazine Rolling Stone asked him why. "The new album has a universal title, - Gabriel replies -, so people won't risk buying the same record twice. I'm very happy I did, because it's in line with the small style change; I wanted the album were elementary, alive, natural ". (Cit. In Daryl Easlea, Without borders. Life and music of Peter Gabriel, Ed. Arcana). The video of Sledgehammer, the subject of another, contributed to the great success of the album Horizons Radio article - READ IT HERE. that's how Stephen R. Johnson and Peter Gabriel realized this and the following.


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