Tuesday, November 12, 2019

"Big Time" by Peter Gabriel

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2950
Date:  11/29/1986
Debut:  88
Peak:  8
Weeks:  23
Genre:  Pop, Rock, Funk Rock

Pop Bits:  Gabriel's follow-up to his #1 smash "Sledgehammer," "In Your Eyes," didn't quite set the chart afire. It stalled at #26 despite reaching #1 at Rock. Still, it did well enough to push out a third single from his album So. This funky track was selected and it seemed to be what pop listeners wanted. It became Gabriel's second Top 10 at Pop while getting to #3 at Rock. It was certainly helped along by its associated video that got heavy airplay on MTV. The hit would further spur sales of the album, which would go double-platinum by the summer of '87. Eventually it would sell over five million copies.

ReduxReview:  This should have been the follow-up to "Sledgehammer," but my guess is that they needed time to make the video so they tossed out "In Your Eyes" instead. Probably not, but seems logical to me. Luckily, this single overcame its predecessor's mediocre showing at Pop and made the Top 10. It was another terrific track by Gabriel. He turned up the funk on this one while still giving it a commercial sheen. Although "Sledgehammer" is the classic track, this is the one that I end up adding to my playlists more often. It's a great workout tune. I seem to recall back in the day a rumor that this song was a bit of a swipe at Gabriel's former bandmate and newly minted superstar Phil Collins. I can't find anything to corroborate that, but it seems to fit. From what I understand, Collins and his ego were not necessarily well-liked during his heydays and Gabriel and Collins weren't exactly besties. So perhaps a bit of an unintentional skewering. Regardless, it remains a top-notch song in Gabriel's catalog.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The video for this song built upon the innovative filming methods that made the one for "Sledgehammer" such a huge MTV hit. There were various styles of animation and claymation combined other special effects. Gabriel shows up playing his ego-driven character to the hilt. While it was another highly successful video, it was unfortunately released in the same year of eligibility for the MTV Music Video awards as "Sledgehammer." That video would receive ten nominations winning nine. "Big Time" would only get two nominations (Best Concept and Best Special Effects) and no wins. Still, it was another influential and memorable video from Gabriel.  2) This song led to the invention of a music product. Looking to get a more percussive sound from the bass on this song, bassist Tony Levin and drummer Jerry Marotta worked together on a new technique that created the sound Gabriel and producer Daniel Lanois were looking for. While Levin fingered the notes on his fretless bass, Marotta would hit the strings with his drumsticks. The method added a percussive sound to the base that was unique. Levin then further developed this technique into an actual product called funk fingers, which were mini-drumsticks that could be attached to a bassists fingers and used to create the same effect.



  1. Dick Dale, King of the "surf guitar" sound, played the bass with drumsticks at his shows. He was also a pretty good drummer, and the sound produced was awesome. There are plenty of YouTube videos if you're curious. I saw him play live five times. He just passed away at 81. I'll have to listen more closely to Big Time; I wasn't aware of the technique being used there.

    1. Dick Dale is pretty awesome. Obviously "Misirlou" is a classic. Didn't realize he could drum as well. You can still order Funk Fingers. A company got the rights to make and sell them a few years back.