Peter Gabriel’s 1986 album So had a number of hit songs on it. “Big Time” and “Sledgehammer” saw a lot of play on MTV and had accompanying music videos that were hugely influential (back in the days when MTV actually showed videos. Yes, I had to bring that up). And I still hear “In Your Eyes” on the radio now, almost 20 years after the album’s release, thanks in part (or possibly mostly) due to inclusion in the iconic John Cusack-holds-up-a-boom-box scene in Say Anything.
This week’s pick isn’t any of those. Instead, I’ve chosen track number five on So, which is the song “Mercy Street.” In doing the research for this week, I learned that the song is about the life and work of the poet Anne Sexton. I’ve loved this song for 25 years and never knew that. And to be honest, I never paid much attention to the lyrics anyway. I leave the lyrical analysis to our beloved site mistress.
I find the song to be haunting, sad, and beautiful. I was at a summer camp the first time I heard it. I was in high school and had gone to a week-long (or possibly two weeks) summer program for creative writing being held at a college in my state. We lived in the dorms and spent many evening the college’s lounge/snack bar/game room. One night, “Mercy Street” began playing over the lounge speakers. I’d never heard it before, but something about the song grabbed me immediately. I bought the album as soon as I returned home.
Thanks to the Internet, you don’t have to track down a copy of So. Peter Gabriel has the video for the song posted on YouTube. You can check it out HERE.
- Alan Decker
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