That Time Peter Gabriel and Genesis Took Turns Topping the Pop Chart
The mid-'80s were a commercial high point for a number of Genesis-related releases. Drummer Phil Collins, who'd stepped up to the mic after Gabriel's departure in 1975, was at peak power as a solo artist, coming off his hugely popular No Jacket Required LP; meanwhile, guitarist Mike Rutherford had also started his own well-received side project with Mike & the Mechanics.
Although Gabriel's solo releases hadn't achieved quite the same level of sales success, he'd also put together a string of hits dating back to the late '70s, largely in spite of the fact that his records weren't anywhere near as radio-friendly as his former bandmates' — at least not until the arrival of his fifth solo LP, So. While retaining Gabriel's distinctive sound and idiosyncrasies, the record boasted a number of pop gems made for airplay, led by the set's first single, "Sledgehammer."
So's May 19, 1986, arrival was followed less than a month later by the 13th Genesis studio LP, Invisible Touch. With Collins' Jacket hits barely faded from heavy rotation and Mike & the Mechanics still on the charts with "All I Need Is a Miracle," the Touch album had plenty of built-in momentum — and it took full advantage, peaking at No. 3 and sending its title track and lead-off single soaring up the charts.
It added up to a summer of Genesis members, past and present, all over the airwaves. While "Sledgehammer" had the advantage of a head start, "Invisible Touch" took the early lead, dislodging Simply Red's "Holding Back the Years" from the top spot on Billboard's Hot 100 chart for the week of July 19, 1986. Somewhat surprisingly given the run of radio success they'd enjoyed during the previous decade, "Touch" marked the group's first No. 1 in the States.
Watch Peter Gabriel's 'Sledgehammer' Video
It proved a short-lived reign. Leapfrogged on the way up the charts, "Sledgehammer" had the last laugh, knocking "Invisible Touch" off its perch the following week — where it enjoyed its own one-week stay at No. 1 before being bumped aside by former Chicago frontman Peter Cetera's "Glory of Love."
Ultimately, both "Invisible Touch" and "Sledgehammer" would prove to be the first and last U.S. No. 1 hits for their respective acts. Although Genesis returned to the U.S. Top 10 repeatedly with Invisible Touch's subsequent singles, and Gabriel would do the same with the So hit "Big Time," neither artist claimed the top spot again. In fact, after 1986, both Gabriel and Genesis slowed their creative pace considerably. The band's next album wouldn't arrive until 1991, and Gabriel returned the following year; Genesis called it a day after 1997's Calling All Stations, and upon releasing 1992's Us LP, Gabriel took a decade to deliver his next album of original material. Though he insisted the long hiatuses weren't a deliberate reaction to So's success, he's said he doesn't regret any lost momentum.
"I think that consumer culture tends to be very hungry. It can't get enough of you for a very short time and then your taste gets boring and they spit you out and take the next new thrill," Gabriel told Rolling Stone in 2012.."And so, while it was never a predetermined strategy, I would probably recommend it to artists now if they want a long career. If you've got something worth saying, if you've got something to put out, don't worry about what the record company tells you. Take your time."
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