No­body could call this ob­scure; Peter Gabriel’s So sold a kazil­lion copies and was right in the cen­ter of the zeit­geist for months back in the late Eight­ies. The songs were good, the sound was good, and (e­spe­cial­ly) the videos were good, which re­al­ly mat­tered in 1986. Mer­cy Street was not one of its big hit­s, which al­ways as­ton­ished me; I thought it by far and away the album’s high­light.

So by Peter Gabriel

So isn’t in­no­va­tive or ground­break­ing or any­thing; the song struc­tures are con­ven­tion­al and the melodies are un­fussy. The pro­duc­tion quite prop­er­ly fo­cus­es on Gabriel’s vo­cal­s, which on this record are out­stand­ing in their artistry and just the sound of his voice, a pleasantly-rough English tenor, most­ly singing in the com­fort­able cen­ter of his range.

The words of Mer­cy Street flow smooth­ly and you don’t re­al­ly need to know that they’re in­spired by 45 Mer­cy Street, a po­em of Anne Sex­ton, and if you drill too deep, are prob­a­bly ter­ri­bly sad. This grabs at me: Dream­ing of the ten­der­ness, the trem­ble in the hip­s/Of kiss­ing Mary’s lips.

This is part of the Song of the Day se­ries (back­ground).

Links · Spo­ti­fy playlist. This tune is on iTunes but not ap­par­ent­ly on ei­ther Spo­ti­fy or Ama­zon; Gabriel must have razor-sharp at­tor­neys. There’s an of­fi­cial video; as for live, there’s load­s, and Gabriel has al­ways been a show­man, some­times sharp, some­times over­wrought. His Se­cret World Live DVD is one of the best con­cert cap­tures ev­er (but Mer­cy Street isn’t on it).

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February 11, 2018
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