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Sledgehammer, Peter Gabriel

YouTube Video

You could have a steam train

If you'd just lay down your tracks
You could have an aeroplane flying
If you bring your blue sky back

All you do is call me
I'll be anything you need

You could have a big dipper
Going up and down, all around the bends
You could have a bumper car, bumping
This amusement never ends

I want to be your sledgehammer
Why don't you call my name                  
Oh let me be your sledgehammer
This will be my testimony
Show me round your fruitcage
'Cause I will be your honey bee
Open up your fruitcage
Where the fruit is as sweet as can be

I want to be your sledgehammer

Why don't you call my name
You'd better call the sledgehammer
Put your mind at rest
I'm gonna be - the sledgehammer
This can be my testimony
I'm your sledgehammer
Let there be no doubt about it

Sledge sledge sledgehammer

I've kicked the habit
Shed my skin
This is the new stuff
I go dancing in, we go dancing in
Oh won't you show for me
And I will show for you
Show for me, I will show for you
Yea, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, I do mean you
Only you
You've been coming through
Going to build that power 

Build, build up that power, hey
I've been feeding the rhythm
I've been feeding the rhythm
Going to feel that power, build in you
Come on, come on, help me do
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, you
I've been feeding the rhythm
I've been feeding the rhythm
It's what we're doing, doing
All day and night

The problem with compiling lists of songs that deal with sexuality is that they are simply everywhere - libido, unlike passions like fear, translates perfectly into the blues based popular culture which has developed into the ubiquitous object of today. The problem is then to select the right songs and to have reason to justifying that choice.  This one is makes for a good choice, because the words, when sung along to simply don't give me much away about any clear meaning.  To be honest, when singing and dancing, we don't much care.  Coupled with the comical and colourful video, which only shows Gabriel without reference to another person, it really is quite easy to miss the innuendo at the hear of the song, something made all the more strange given that the innuendo isn't even subtle or delicately masked.   It's media friendly, family friendly and an all round fun song.  We kids we had great fun singing along to it and watching the video on Top of the Pops.


YouTube Video

Blues has always dealt with libidinous urges and artists were quickly developing ways of  saying the unsayable and breaking taboos by hiding meanings from those who have no interest in reading between the lines.  Gabriel had seen performers like Otis Reading perform at the Ram Jam Club (which also has sledgehammer like sexual suggestion) in the 60s and the horn sequences in the song may have been a tribute to that influence.  The song is unmistakably about sex and the cheeky innuendo was simply normal in the blues culture from which the song eventually sprang.  Commenting on the song Gabriel claimed that 'sex can break through barriers when other forms of communication are not working too well'.   The song is said to have been inspired by the a quotation from Nietzsche who wrote that a good book breaks through into our lives like 'an axe in the frozen sea'.

    On the one hand, the song works precisely because we don't dwell on the metaphors - a guy offering to be a girl's 'sledgehammer' is hardly going to succeed in opening up her 'fruit-cage' and the visual association it sparks are hardly very sexy or seductive.  It works, and can only work because we don't see it as an attempt to seduce, because if we did, we'd probably laugh at just how silly it is!