“Sledgehammer” by Peter Gabriel

“Sledgehammer” is a song filled with terminology which some may describe as sensual innuendos. That’s another way of saying that the metaphors used throughout are an expression of the singer’s desire to sleep with the addressee. And as is indicated by the title, this is hard bedroom fun we’re talking about here.

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Peter Gabriel's Sledgehammer at Lyrics.org.

Thus we have Mr. Gabriel comparing himself to the likes of “a steam train”, “an aeroplane flying”, the “Big Dipper” and “a bumper car” that is in the process of “bumping”. And all of this is in an attempt to persuade the addressee, a romantic interest, to give in to his desires. Or stated otherwise, he is trying to convince her that if she does capitulate, they will have a pleasurable experience together. And as we can see in the third verse, he is already anticipating how “sweet” having her will be.


Meanwhile the outro is a bit more ambiguous. Here, Peter refers to himself as ‘kicking the habit’ and ‘shedding the skin’. These phrases are pretty difficult to decipher in a sensual context. However, said passage is indeed lengthy, and closer to the end he starts talking about ‘building that power’ and ‘feeding the rhythm’. These terms are easier to apply to a sensual-based framework.

Thus at the end of the day, saying this song is based on sensual lust may be a stretch. But what we do know is that the singer really, really, really wants to be intimate with the addressee.

Lyrics of "Sledgehammer"

Release Date of “Sledgehammer”

This track is from Peter Gabriel’s fifth-solo English-language studio album, which is entitled “So”. In fact Charisma Records released it on 25 April 1986 as the lead single from that project.

A Hit

“Sledgehammer” was a massive hit. It topped four Billboard charts, including the Hot 100 itself. This marks the only time in Peter’s thus far 50-year career that he managed to score a number 1 on the Hot 100. It also topped Canada Top Singles and peaked at number four on the UK Singles Chart (in addition to being certified Silver in the UK). And overall it charted in over 15 countries, in virtually every case making the nation’s top 10.

Music Video

However the music video to “Sledgehammer”, which had Stephen R. Johnson as its director, was arguably even more successful. For instance, it set a record, which has stood for well over 30 years, by taking home a whopping nine MTV Video Music Awards. This was in 1987, and amongst the VMAs it won were Video of the YearBest Overall PerformanceBest Visual Effects and Best Concept Video. Additionally the clip won a Brit Award that same year for British Video of the Year. In fact the success of the song itself – and even the album it is featured – on was highly-contributable to this music video’s success.

Peter Gabriel’s two eldest children, Anna-Marie (b. 1974) and Melanie (1976), make an appearance in the video.

Media Appearances

The song itself has had a notable pop-media presence. For instance, it was featured on a 1986 episode of “Miami Vice”. And it was featured on a few major-motion films, such as 2006’s “Big Momma’s House 2”.

4 Responses

  1. Writer at SMF says:

    The stylistic inspiration behind this track was derived from the 1960s’ soul music of Stax Records, a label that held down the likes of Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes and Wilson Pickett. In fact Peter Gabriel enlisted one of the company’s former house musicians, Wayne Jackson (1941-2016), to assist him with the horns on “Sledgehammer”.

  2. Steve says:

    I saw an interview with Peter Gabriel way back in the 90s, and the song was about exposing political corruption in corrupt countries. Film the corruption!

  3. Cactus Jack Slade says:

    Thank you for the info and background on Peter and this song – an all time favorite 🙂

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