Tuesday, November 17, 2009


With MTV not showing music videos as they once day waaaaaaayyyyyyy back in the day (they've committed more of their air time reality TV). And I know ya' got MTV 2, 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 through 50 attempting to hold it down and that's a part of the point. With so many channels and online outlets for video content there's an ocean of stuff out there to swim through (or drown in). So, if you're a member of the so-called Gen Y or Gen Z (that’s creepin’ on a come-up), perhaps you've not seen the classic and technically groundbreaking music video for Peter Gabriel's 1986 single entitled "Sledgehammer" from his album SO. If you've missed this one or have not seen it in some years, this serves as an introduction and a reminder.

Gabriel, a onetime member of the hit UK rock group Genesis (also including drummer and singer Phil Collins), who left the group to go solo, had developed a reputation for marrying his music with unusual and groundbreaking visuals and graphic design (see the covers of his albums II (aka Scratch) and III (aka Melt). Gabriel took things to a whole other level-- that "other level" with the music video for "sledgehammer". The single became number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the U.S. in July. And the video, a stop motion animation tour de force, played on MTV seemingly around the clock- keeping viewers staring at the TV screen in awe every time it came on. I can say that this was indeed the case for myself. To this day It's one of the most stimulating music videos ever made with the stop-motion animation techniques employed for its execution only adding to its tangible textured appeal (now that we live in a easily added in shiny computer generated special effects world).

“Sledgehammer” was one of those cuts that caught play on the turntables of Black folks where the single found a home amongst record collections alongside other Black artists. Taking into account the influence on the song, this should come as no surprise. Apparently for “Sledgehammer”, Gabriel was influenced by the Black soul music sounds of the 1960s. There is evidence of this influence found in the fact that the song employed the use of the distinctive Horns which were provided by the Memphis Horns, house musicians for the legendary Black soul music label known as Stax records. The music video, which helped propel the song to become Gabriel’s only ever number 1 US hit, was directed by Stephen R. Johnson. What we here at StereoTyped find interesting about the production of this music video is that the animation for the video was produced by the legendary Aardman Animation studios (in the UK) in association with the Brothers Quay. Aardman Animation is the studio responsible for the wonderful stop-motion animation series Wallace and Gromit created by the renowned stop-motion animator and Aardman associate, Nick Park. Together, Aardman, founded by Peter Lord, Park and the Brothers Quay, delivered the now trademark claymation, pixilation, and stop motion animation to the video that brought the song's images to life.

For Gabriel, it required his laying under a sheet of glass for 16 hours while filming the video one frame at a time was completed. And Park, who back then was still developing/refining his technique for
plasticine animation, was responsible for the famous two headless and featherless dancing chickens sequence.

Pictured above: Images of Aardman Animation's Wallace and Gromit characters,
a shot of a character from Mary and Max,
Aardman founder Peter Lord
and animator Nick Park (left)

It won Best British Video at the 1987 Brit Awards.
It ranked at number two on VH1's Top 20 Videos of the 80's.
It was named the #1 Amazing Moment in Music on the Australian TV show 20 to 1 in 2007.
It was voted number seven on TMF's Ultimate 50 Videos You Must See (first aired in 24 June 2006).
It has been declared as MTV's number one animated video of all time.
It won nine MTV VMA In 1987. As of 2008 it was a record that still stood.
It ranked at number four on MTV's 100 Greatest Music Videos Ever Made (1999).
MTV announced that the "Sledgehammer" music video wass the most played music video in the history of the station.