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 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.
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).