On this day in 1986, Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer hit #1 on the US Billboard charts; it bagged the former Genesis vocalist three Grammy nominations, but it was the song’s video clip which made a truly massive cultural impact.
Directed by animator and writer Stephen R. Johnson, the clip’s creation required Gabriel to lie underneath a sheet of glass for upwards of 16 hours, while Johnson captured the stop-animation frame by frame. Decorated English animation studio Aardman (of Wallace and Gromit and Creature Comforts fame) crafted further claymation and stop-animation effects, such as the sledgehammer hands Gabriel sprouts during the second chorus (see header image).
The scene in which two headless, plucked chickens dance on a spotlit stage was animated by Nick Park, the creator of Wallace and Gromit; Park had only just joined Aardman a year prior as a junior animator on commercial projects, and it would be three more years before he won his Oscar for Creature Comforts.
The Sledgehammer video won a record nine MTV Video Awards in 1987, and is consistently listed amongst the greatest music clips of all time.