July 26, 1986 — Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” reaches #1 on the US charts

1986’s “So” was Peter Gabriel’s fourth solo album, and the first one not to be self-titled – and it’s possible that being able to refer directly to the album without confusing anyone may have improved sales of this one. But even so, the success of “Sledgehammer” was unprecedented in Gabriel’s career.

A lot of it probably came down to the sheer brilliance of the clip for the song: 4 minutes and 58 seconds of surrealist stop-motion animation featuring plasticene, frozen chickens, chalk on a blackboard and of course, Gabriel himself. The clip won a record nine MTV Video Music Awards, and is also the most frequently played clip in the history of MTV.

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