|Studio album by|
|Released||19 May 1986|
|Studio||Ashcombe House, Swainswick, Somerset|
|Peter Gabriel chronology|
|Singles from So|
So is the fifth studio album by English singer-songwriter Peter Gabriel, released on 19 May 1986 by Charisma Records. After working on the soundtrack to the film Birdy (1984), producer Daniel Lanois was invited to remain at Gabriel's Somerset home during 1985 to work on his next solo project. Initial sessions for So consisted of Gabriel, Lanois and guitarist David Rhodes, although these grew to include a number of percussionists.
Although Gabriel continued to use the pioneering Fairlight CMI digital sampling synthesizer, songs from these sessions were less experimental than his previous material. Nevertheless, Gabriel drew on various musical influences, fusing pop, soul, and art rock with elements of traditional world music, particularly African and Brazilian styles. It is Gabriel's first non-eponymous album, So representing an "anti-title" that resulted from label pressure to properly market his music. Gabriel toured So on the This Way Up tour (1986–1987), with some songs performed at human rights and charity concerts during this period.
Often considered his best and most accessible album, So was an immediate commercial success and transformed Gabriel from a cult artist into a mainstream star, becoming his best-selling solo release. It has been certified fivefold platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America and triple platinum by the British Phonographic Industry. The album's lead single, "Sledgehammer", was promoted with an innovative animated music video and achieved particular success, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and subsequently winning a record of nine MTV Video Music Awards. It was followed by four further singles, "Don't Give Up" (a duet with Kate Bush), "Big Time", "In Your Eyes", and "Red Rain".
The album received positive reviews from most critics, who praised its songwriting, melodies and fusion of genres, although some retrospective reviews have criticised its overt commercialism and 1980s production sounds. So was nominated for the Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 1987 but lost to Paul Simon's Graceland. It has appeared in lists of the best albums of the 1980s, and Rolling Stone included the album in their 2004 and 2020 editions of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. In 2000 it was voted number 82 in Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums. So was remastered in 2002, partially re-recorded for Gabriel's 2011 orchestral project New Blood and issued as a box set in 2012.
Since 1978, Gabriel had composed his music at Ashcombe House, including his album Security (1982) and the Birdy soundtrack (1984). He had an inexpensive studio in the adjacent barn consisting of two rooms, one where Gabriel would produce his vocals and work on lyrics, and another where the music would be assembled. Preparing for So, Gabriel considered Bill Laswell and Chic's Nile Rodgers as potential producers. He eventually asked his Birdy collaborator Daniel Lanois to stay at Ashcombe and work with him further.
Rehearsals began in May 1985 and consisted of Gabriel, Lanois and guitarist David Rhodes. Gabriel had begun work on some songs and provided Lanois and Rhodes with chord structures, around which they improvised compositions. Lanois recalled they had "a nice starting point [as] in that kind of scenario, it's not a good idea to have a lot of people around because you get nervous that you're wasting other people's time". Consequently, there was a relaxed atmosphere surrounding these sessions and the trio would jokingly refer to themselves as the "Three Stooges". This also involved the wearing of construction site hard hats as they had a "turning up for work humour". As sessions grew, engineer/mixer Kevin Killen, bassist Tony Levin, and drummer Jerry Marotta became significant contributors, and were aided by percussionists Manu Katché and Stewart Copeland and violinist L. Shankar.
The studio's basic equipment consisted of "two analog 24-track machines, a Studer A80, and a Studer A80 shell that had been modified by a local electronics wizard, with its own audio cards and transport controls".[nb 2] To record vocals a Neumann U47 tube microphone and a Decca compressor were used without equalization. All of So's songs were made in a similar format. Gabriel would record a piano demo on a modified "B machine" and play this to the band. During rehearsals, the band would listen to the B machine through headphones and record their output onto the "A machine"; parts of Gabriel's demo would also be transferred to the A machine at this stage. Subsequent takes of the song were then put onto the B machine in order for the band to hear what they had played with the demo, as well as the song's new and old takes.
Other equipment included the "groundbreaking" Fairlight CMI synthesizer, which Gabriel said in an interview for Billboard meant "more human imagination is involved". He added, "the creative decision-making process has become more important than technique. You have a wider range of tools, a wider range of decisions". Although remaining continually inspired to produce new music, he often struggled to write lyrics and would procrastinate. His proclivity to being dissatisfied with them required Killen to isolate certain vocal performances as the master track, in order to keep other tracks available so new lyrics could be edited in. Lanois took adverse measures to encourage his writing, such as destroying his much-used telephone in the nearby woods and, on one occasion, nailed the studio door shut to lock him inside.
Towards the end of recording, Gabriel became "obsessed" with the track listing and created an audio cassette of all the song's beginnings and ends to hear how the sounds blended together. He wanted to have "In Your Eyes" as the final track, but its prominent bassline meant it had to be placed earlier on the vinyl edition as there is more room for the stylus to vibrate. With later CD releases, this restriction was removed and the track was placed at the end of the album. So was completed in February 1986 and cost £200,000 to make. It was over-dubbed at Power Station Studios in New York, despite Gabriel considering sending it via a computer-telephone set up, reasoning, "that's a lot of information to send via phone. Isn't it amazing though? You can send a song idea around the world to musicians then beam parts back by satellite". It was mastered by Ian Cooper in mid-February 1986 at London's Townhouse Studios. It was mastered in the US by Greg Fulginiti at Artisan Sound Recorders.
So has been described as Gabriel's most commercially accessible and least experimental album, one that features pop songs and incorporates art pop and progressive pop throughout. Like his previous albums, its basis is in art rock, although on So, Gabriel develops an increased focus on melody and combines this with elements of soul and African music. "With a song like (the previous album's) 'The Rhythm of the Heat' or 'The Family and the Fishing Net', if I were to strum that along on a guitar or piano, the song might not work very well ... whereas more of the things on this album do work just as lyric, melody and chords in a more traditional sense."
The songs are highly influenced by traditional world music, particularly African and Brazilian music, with Gabriel incorporating rhythms and drum beats from these regions. In a 2011 interview for Uncut, Gabriel said, "I'd had my fill of instrumental experimenting for a while, and I wanted to write proper pop songs, albeit on my own terms." Jon Pareles of The New York Times notes that Gabriel "doesn't just add on African drums or Indian violin to ordinary songs; they are part of the foundation." Chris Roberts of Classic Rock also notes that the album "[takes] the Fairlight synth and [adds] a palatable dash of world music to art pop." Daniel Lanois' production was noted as textured, replete with ambient details and "immaculate warmth giving each note room to breathe, its textures lavish (in the preferred style of the time) without being sterile".
Gabriel wanted the album to "crash open at the front". Despite disliking "metal" percussion instruments, he was persuaded by Lanois to allow The Police's Stewart Copeland to play cymbals and hi-hat on its opener, "Red Rain". Gabriel sings – in his upper register, with a throaty, gravely texture – of a destructive world with social problems such as torture and kidnapping. Its concept originated from a dream in which he envisaged the parting of a vast, red sea and human-like glass bottles filling up with blood. It was also intended to continue the story of Mozo, a recurring character on Gabriel's first and second albums.
"Sledgehammer" was the final track to be conceived. Most of Gabriel's band had packed away their equipment and were ready to leave the studio, but he asked them to reassemble to quickly run through a song he had an idea for. "Sledgehammer" was partially inspired by the music of Otis Redding, and Gabriel sought out Wayne Jackson, whom Gabriel had seen on tour with Redding in the 1960s, to record horns for the track. Opened by a shakuhachi bamboo flute, its beat is dominated by brass instruments, particularly Jackson's horn, and features lyrics abundant with sexual euphemisms.[nb 3] Manu Katché's drums were recorded in one take as he believed any subsequent version would be inferior to his original interpretation of the music.
So's most political statement, "Don't Give Up", was fuelled by Gabriel's discontent with rising unemployment during Margaret Thatcher's premiership and Dorothea Lange's photograph "Migrant Mother". The track began as a rhythm pattern of slow, low-pitched tom-tom drums that Gabriel made, and Lanois believed could serve as the centrepiece of a song. Tony Levin added bass to create a more harmonious sound, and during the second half of the track, put a nappy behind his bass strings to dampen the sound. Gabriel ensured the song, which follows a narrative of an unemployed man and his lover, was written as a conversational piece. He initially sought Dolly Parton to portray the woman, although Parton declined; his friend Kate Bush agreed to feature. Bush serves as the song's respondent, she assumes a comforting role and with delicate vocals, sings lines such as "Rest your head/ you worry too much".
The album's first side culminates with "That Voice Again", in which Gabriel explores the concept of conscience, examining the "parental voice in our heads that either helps or defeats us". Co-written with David Rhodes, who plays guitar over Katché and Levin's input, the song was written after Gabriel's initial discussions with Martin Scorsese about scoring The Last Temptation of Christ (1988).[nb 4]
"In Your Eyes" has been described as Gabriel's greatest love song. Inspired by the Sagrada Família and its architect Antoni Gaudí, Gabriel sings over a drumbeat of only feeling complete in the eyes of his lover. The track's powerful atmosphere is created through the singing of Senegalese musician Youssou N'Dour, who sings in his native language.
Gabriel became interested in the late American poet Anne Sexton after reading the anthology To Bedlam and Part Way Back. He dedicated So's sixth track to her, calling it "Mercy Street" after "45 Mercy Street", a poem released in another posthumous collection. "Mercy Street" is set to one of several Forró-inspired percussion compositions that Gabriel recorded in Rio de Janeiro. When these compositions were unearthed in the studio, they were accidentally played back ten per cent slower than the original recording, giving them a grainy quality that Gabriel and Lanois thought highlighted the cymbal and guitars. It features two harmonious Gabriel vocals; one a shadow vocal an octave below the main vocal. Intended to give a sensual, haunting effect, this was hard to capture except when Gabriel first woke up.
The dance song "Big Time" has funk influences and is built on a "percussive bass sound". Its lyrics satirise the yuppie culture of the 1980s, materialism and consumerism and are the result of Gabriel's self-examination, after he considered whether he may have desired fame after all.
"We Do What We're Told (Milgram's 37)" was recorded for Peter Gabriel or "Melt" and is described as an interlude. It references the experiment on obedience carried out by American social psychologist Stanley Milgram, intended as a reference to the obedience citizens show to dictators during times of war. Marotta's drums on the song – said to resemble "a heartbeat heard from the womb" – were coupled with Shankar's violin and "two overdubbed guitar tracks by Rhodes".
While "We Do What We're Told" was the final song on initial LP versions of the album, the cassette and CD releases close with "This Is the Picture (Excellent Birds)", which Gabriel decided to include only forty-eight hours before the album's submission. "Excellent Birds" was composed with American musician Laurie Anderson. This was interpolated with a recording called "This Is the Picture", on which Nile Rodgers plays rhythm guitar. According to Anderson, she and Gabriel "could never agree on what a bassline was. (I think I probably don’t hear so well down there.) I wanted to learn from him, but it turned into a standoff and so we each put out our own version of the song." Her version, with Gabriel on additional vocals, appeared on her 1984 album Mister Heartbreak. Prior to the song's inclusion on So, Anderson and Gabriel performed it during the 1984 global satellite television broadcast Good Morning, Mr. Orwell.
So is Gabriel's first non-eponymous album. Gabriel has noted his dislike for titling albums, mainly because it distracts from the sleeve design. In an interview for Rolling Stone, he explained that his American label Geffen Records refused to release Peter Gabriel IV until it was retitled Security. He elaborated that for So "[he] decided to go for the anti-title ... It can be more a piece of graphic, if you like, as opposed to something with meaning and intention. And that's what I've done ever since". When the album was profiled in the Classic Albums documentary series, Gabriel quipped that its short title meant it could be enlarged and useful when marketing it. Before the album was eventually named So, it was meant to be entitled Good. The album's cover is a portrait of Gabriel photographed by Trevor Key, who was then most famous for capturing the bell artwork for Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells (1973). The sleeve was designed by Peter Saville and Brett Wickens; Saville was best known for designing several sleeves for Factory Records artists and was paid £20,000 for his work on So. Gabriel recalled: "The only compromise I made was to go with Peter Saville's idea for a retro-style portrait. I was told my usual obscure LP sleeves alienated women." The cover was partly influenced by photographer David Bailey's work.
So was released on 19 May 1986. It topped the charts of seven countries worldwide, including the United Kingdom, where it became Gabriel's second number one album. In the United States, So became one of Geffen Records' most commercially successful releases, peaking at number two and remaining on the chart for ninety-three weeks. In April 1986, "Sledgehammer" was released as the album's lead single and became Gabriel's first and only number one on the Billboard Hot 100, displacing Genesis' first and only US number one "Invisible Touch". The track reached number four in the United Kingdom, where it ties with "Games Without Frontiers" as his highest charting single, and peaked at number one in Canada. The success of "Sledgehammer" can be seen, in part, due to its hugely popular and innovative stop motion music video, designed by Aardman Animations. Gabriel would go on to say in an interview for Rolling Stone that he believed the video exposed So's songs to a wider audience, bolstering the album's success. Two high-charting singles followed, "Don't Give Up", which rose to number nine on the UK Singles Chart and a less successful seventy-nine in America, while "Big Time" peaked at number thirteen in the UK and number eight in America. "In Your Eyes" saw moderate success in America, where it reached twenty-six on the Hot 100, while "Red Rain" peaked at forty-six in the United Kingdom.
Bono contacted Gabriel to perform at A Conspiracy of Hope, a series of Live Aid-inspired concerts that intended to spread awareness of human rights issues in light of Amnesty International's twenty-fifth anniversary. Gabriel accepted and in June 1986, he performed alongside Sting, The Police, Lou Reed, and Joan Baez, with a set that opened with "Red Rain" and featured "Sledgehammer". Gabriel described it as "the best tour [he'd] ever been on". In the same month, Gabriel performed at London's Clapham Common, along with Boy George and Elvis Costello, for Artists Against Apartheid. Gabriel eventually embarked on the ninety-three date This Way Up tour to support So, beginning in Rochester, New York on 7 November 1986. One of the dates was a special two-night residency (20–21 December) at Tokyo's Meiji Jingu Stadium to fund a global computer system for the University for Peace, a United Nations project. The tour suspended in early 1987 until June when it reached Europe, before going on to America and finishing at the Lycabettus Amphitheatre in Athens in October. Gabriel partially performed So at The Prince's Trust Concert and at Human Rights Now! Tour in 1988.
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
|The Village Voice||B−|
So received mostly favourable reviews from music critics. Jon Pareles of The New York Times wrote "only a handful of Western rock musicians have managed to use exotic rhythms and instruments with so much ingenuity and conviction". Pareles also praised his vocals, describing them as "grainy but not bluesy, ageless and joyless, the voice of some ancient mariner recounting disasters". Tim Holmes writing for Rolling Stone described the album as "a record of considerable emotional complexity and musical sophistication" and was pleased that the records would assist exposing Gabriel to mainstream pop music.
Terry Atkinson of Los Angeles Times viewed the album as offering "an amazing variety of tones, moods, and topics and a consistently powerful level of expression". Although disliking "Big Time", Atkinson concludes So is "a great album, possibly Gabriel's best". Steve Hochman, also of Los Angeles Times, praised Gabriel's reinvention too, describing it as "real progress" compared to the contemporaneous work of other progressive rock acts such as Genesis, GTR and Marillion. Chicago Tribune's Lynn Van Matre praised the album's "wave of funky rhythms" and called for more appreciation of Gabriel's talent, but noted a lack of "quirkiness" and said there were no tracks as impactful as his 1980 single "Biko". Robert Christgau was also lukewarm in The Village Voice, writing that "Gabriel's so smart he knows rhythm is what makes music go, which relieves him of humdrum melodic responsibilities but doesn't get him up on the one—smart guys do go for texture in a pinch."
So has continued to perform well in most retrospective reviews. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic commended So as the "catchiest, happiest record he ever cut". Erlewine particularly praised Gabriel's fusion of art rock with African music and soul. Jude Rogers of the BBC wrote "once you look past the bombast of "Sledgehammer", ... you notice how easily its artful ideas slipped inside the 80s mainstream". The Quietus' Wyndham Wallace praised So's sincerity and called it "a heartfelt journey through intense emotional territory, assembled and arranged with intricacy and commitment, laboured over with such care that it sounds effortless".
Ryan Bray, writer for Consequence of Sound, concluded So was an "all-too-rare record that manages to have it both ways, earning its richly deserved critical and commercial respect without giving so much as an artistic inch". He added that "it still stands on its own two feet as one of the consensus best records of the 80s". Mark Blake of Q described the album as "carbon-dated to 1986 thanks to those blaring saxes and Fairlight CMI digital sampling synths". He added that "Gabriel crafted an album of user-friendly pop that was still reassuringly odd." Terry Staunton of Classic Rock wrote "Red Rain was familiarly pensive and politically charged, but the radio waves completely surrendered to the record's muscular dance rock and slower tempo eloquence." Staunton concluded that Gabriel had displayed "a masterful confidence, delivering a satisfyingly unified whole".
In a less positive retrospective review, Mojo's David Buckley contrasted the album with Gabriel's earlier, more experimental work, stating "on 1986's So, he switched tack to write pop, and write big. The results are mixed. 'Sledgehammer', echoing both Stevie Wonder's 'Superstition' and David Bowie's 'Fame', retains its punch. Elsewhere, Gabriel sounds airbrushed on 'Mercy Street', 'Red Rain' and 'In Your Eyes', with only 'We Do What We're Told' a reminder of a daring past." Writing in Uncut, John Lewis also directed criticism at the album. He praised its state-of-the-art production in parts, highlighting "Big Time" and "Sledgehammer" as standout tracks, but stated elsewhere it interfered, such as the Fairlight CMI synthesizer on "That Voice Again" and whistling ambient accompaniment on "Mercy Street".
At the 29th Annual Grammy Awards, So was nominated for Album of the Year, losing to Paul Simon's Graceland (1986), while "Sledgehammer" received nominations for Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Male Rock Vocal Performance. At the sixth Brit Awards, hosted by Jonathan King at the Grosvenor House Hotel, London, Gabriel won Best British Male Artist and "Sledgehammer" won Best British Music Video. Gabriel was most successful at the 1987 MTV Video Music Awards where he was honoured with the Video Vanguard Award and "Sledgehammer" won an additional nine awards including Video of the Year, a record that has not been challenged. Its video is the most played music video in the history of MTV.
So is often regarded as Gabriel's best album, as well as one of the best albums of the 1980s. It enabled Gabriel to transform from a cult artist, acclaimed for his cerebral, experimental solo work, into a mainstream, internationally known star. Rolling Stone placed So at 187 (2003 edition) and 297 (2020 edition) on its 500 Greatest Albums of All Time and at 14 on its 100 Best Albums of the 1980s, noting that "despite its mass appeal, however, So also presented compelling challenges." Stereogum placed it at number one on its list of Gabriel's best albums, writing, "Peter Gabriel's fifth studio album is a mesmerizing dichotomy: simultaneously hooky and experimental; timeless, yet completely crystallizing its moment in history ... It's a masterpiece.
So has been profiled in the Classic Albums series and featured in 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. Slant Magazine listed the album at 41 on its list of the 100 Best Albums of the 1980s, describing it as "Gabriel's most accessible yet ambitious work. A chronicle of political, emotional, and artistic exploration, the album [attempts] to balance standard pop orthodoxy with his still-rumbling desire for sonic experimentation". Jim Allen wrote for Ultimate Classic Rock, "What makes So important is the way he seamlessly blended peerless pop savvy with an iconoclast’s adventurous artistic instincts. His slightly twisted pop songs packed enough emotional impact, sonic surprises and catchy melodies to make for one of the era’s most consistently rewarding records." Conversely, in 2002 The Guardian's lead critic Alexis Petridis stated that Gabriel had "suffered a musical mid-life crisis", lampooning it as "an album packed with ultra-commercial priapic cod-funk" and calling it "a ruthless bid for mainstream success, yet he emerged without a stain on his avant-garde credentials".
So is Gabriel's best-selling album, having been certified fivefold platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and triple platinum by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI). In 2002, So was re-issued and remastered. In 2011, several of tracks from So were featured on Gabriel's ninth studio release New Blood, a project of orchestral re-recordings from Gabriel's discography. In 2012, for the album's twenty-fifth anniversary, a limited edition box set was released. It includes the remastered So album, the Live at Athens (1987) album and a So DNA album which examines its production, as well as new liner notes, photographs, vinyl collectibles and the So: Classic Albums documentary. In the same year, Gabriel embarked on the Back to Front Tour where Gabriel plays every song on the So album with several of the session musicians from its recording.
Michael Glabicki of the American band Rusted Root acknowledges this album as a key influence on his own career exploring worldbeat music, saying, "I just kind of got locked into that sound. Peter Gabriel's So kind of gave everyone the go-ahead that this could work in a popular fashion. For people like me who were exploring those sounds, the wonder of if it's going to work or not just went away at that point." English musician Steven Wilson said, "People think the 80s were a shallow, superficial era", but he cited So as an album that was "really smart".
All tracks are written by Peter Gabriel, except where noted.
|3.||"Don't Give Up" (featuring Kate Bush)||6:33|
|4.||"That Voice Again"||Gabriel, David Rhodes||4:53|
|5.||"In Your Eyes"||5:27|
|8.||"We Do What We're Told (Milgram's 37)"||3:22|
|9.||"This Is the Picture (Excellent Birds)" (featuring Laurie Anderson)||Laurie Anderson, Gabriel||4:25|
So (2002 remastered edition)
|3.||"Don't Give Up" (featuring Kate Bush)||6:33|
|4.||"That Voice Again"||Gabriel, David Rhodes||4:53|
|7.||"We Do What We're Told (Milgram's 37)"||3:22|
|8.||"This Is the Picture (Excellent Birds)" (featuring Laurie Anderson)||Laurie Anderson, Gabriel||4:25|
|9.||"In Your Eyes"||5:27|
So (25th Anniversary Immersion Box) (2012)
|3.||"Don't Give Up" (featuring Kate Bush)||6:34|
|4.||"That Voice Again"||4:49|
|7.||"We Do What We're Told (Milgram's 37)"||3:22|
|8.||"This Is the Picture (Excellent Birds)" (featuring Laurie Anderson)||4:20|
|9.||"In Your Eyes"||5:28|
|3.||"Don't Give Up"||6:10|
|4.||"That Voice Again"||6:39|
|7.||"We Do What We're Told (Milgram's 37)"||5:00|
|8.||"This Is the Picture (Excellent Birds)"||3:58|
|9.||"In Your Eyes"||10:15|
|1.||"This Is the Picture"||5:57|
|3.||"Shock the Monkey"||6:44|
|6.||"Games Without Frontiers"||5:29|
|7.||"No Self Control"||6:15|
|9.||"The Family and the Fishing Net"||7:08|
|10.||"Don't Give Up"||8:16|
|12.||"Lay Your Hands on Me"||6:14|
|14.||"Here Comes the Flood"||2:48|
|15.||"In Your Eyes"||10:38|
|1.||"This Is the Picture"||5:58|
|3.||"Shock the Monkey"||6:46|
|6.||"Games Without Frontiers"||6:05|
|7.||"No Self Control"||6:18|
|9.||"The Family and the Fishing Net"||7:04|
|10.||"Don't Give Up"||8:09|
|12.||"Lay Your Hands on Me"||8:46|
|14.||"Here Comes the Flood"||3:30|
|15.||"In Your Eyes"||13:15|
|1.||"So – The Definitive Authorised Story of the Album"|
|3.||"Don't Give Up" (featuring Kate Bush)||6:34|
|4.||"That Voice Again"||4:49|
|7.||"We Do What We're Told (Milgram's 37)"||3:22|
|8.||"This Is the Picture (Excellent Birds)" (featuring Laurie Anderson)||4:20|
|9.||"In Your Eyes"||5:28|
|3.||"Don't Give Up" (alternative version piano and bvox mix)|
- "This Is the Picture (Excellent Birds)" was not included on the original vinyl release.
Credits adapted from So's liner notes. The track numbers correspond to the original release.
- Peter Gabriel – lead and backing vocals, CMI (all tracks), Prophet synthesizer (all except tracks 5 & 9), piano (all except tracks 7 & 9), LinnSequencer (tracks 3 & 7), synthesizer (tracks 5 & 7), percussion (track 4), Yamaha CS-80 (track 6), LinnDrum (track 9), Synclavier (track 9)
- Tony Levin – bass guitar (tracks 1–5), drumstick bass (fretting only) (track 7)
- David Rhodes – guitar (all except tracks 6 & 9), backing vocals (tracks 1 & 5)
- Jerry Marotta – drums (tracks 1 & 8), additional drums (track 5), bass guitar (drumming only) (track 7)
- Manu Katché – drums (tracks 2–5), percussion (tracks 3–5), talking drum (tracks 5 & 9)
- Chris Hughes – electronic drums, programming (track 1)
- Stewart Copeland – hi-hat (track 1), drums (track 7)
- Daniel Lanois – guitar (tracks 1, 2 & 4), tambourine (track 2), surf guitar (track 7), twelve-string guitar (track 9)
- Wayne Jackson – trumpet (tracks 2 & 7), cornet (track 7)
- Mark Rivera – tenor saxophone (tracks 2 & 7), processed saxophone (track 6), alto saxophone, baritone saxophone (track 7)
- Don Mikkelsen – trombone (tracks 2 & 7)
- P. P. Arnold – backing vocals (tracks 2 & 7)
- Coral Gordon – backing vocals (tracks 2 & 7)
- Dee Lewis – backing vocals (tracks 2 & 7)
- Richard Tee – piano (tracks 3, 5 & 6)
- Simon Clark – keyboards, backing vocals (track 3), Hammond organ, programming, bass guitar (track 7)
- Kate Bush – vocals (track 3)
- L. Shankar – violin (tracks 4 & 8)
- Larry Klein – bass guitar (tracks 5 & 6)
- Youssou N'Dour – backing vocals (track 5)
- Michael Been – backing vocals (track 5)
- Jim Kerr – backing vocals (track 5)
- Ronnie Bright – bass vocals (track 5)
- Djalma Correa – surdo, congas, triangle (track 6)
- Jimmy Bralower – programming kick (track 7)
- Bill Laswell – bass guitar (track 9)
- Nile Rodgers – guitar (track 9)
- Laurie Anderson – synthesizer and vocals (track 9)
- Greg Fulginiti – mastering
|Australia (ARIA)||3× Platinum||210,000^|
|Hong Kong (IFPI Hong Kong)||Gold||10,000*|
|New Zealand (RMNZ)||5× Platinum||75,000^|
|Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)||Platinum||50,000^|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||3× Platinum||900,000^|
|United States (RIAA)||5× Platinum||5,000,000^|
* Sales figures based on certification alone.
- All of these release dates pertain to their release in the United Kingdom, except "In Your Eyes" which was released in the US in September 1986.
- Killen notes that by September 1985, all of the material was on a Mitsubishi 32-track digital audio tape.
- When So was overdubbed at Power Station Studio, New York, the German electronic duo Kraftwerk were finishing Electric Café (1986) and "Sledgehammer" was played to them. David Buckley, a Kraftwerk biographer, wrote, "they were knocked back by how fantastic it sounded. They felt their record was puny sonically by comparison, even though it's a completely different genre of music".
- Gabriel eventually agreed to score the film and released Passion (1989) to acclaim, winning a Grammy Award for Best New Age Album at the 1990 ceremony. Note that Passion is sometimes titled Passion: Music for The Last Temptation of Christ. Gabriel has said this is due to "legal barriers".
- Allen, Jim (19 May 2016). "That Time Peter Gabriel Conquered the World with So". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved 21 September 2018.
- Reed, Ryan (11 October 2011). "Peter Gabriel: New Blood". Paste. Retrieved 24 June 2018.
- Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "So – Peter Gabriel". AllMusic. Retrieved 28 July 2014.
- Munro, Scott (21 July 2017). "Steven Wilson meets Bollywood in Permanating video". Team Rock.
- Easlea 2013, p. 378.
- Nielsen Business Media, Inc (20 September 1986). "Hot 100 Singles for week ending September 20, 1986". Billboard. 98 (38): 74. Retrieved 22 August 2014.
- Colin Larkin (2000). All Time Top 1000 Albums (3rd ed.). Virgin Books. p. 69. ISBN 0-7535-0493-6.
- Gabriel 2012, 12:50. sfn error: no target: CITEREFGabriel2012 (help)
- Gabriel 2012, 11:00. sfn error: no target: CITEREFGabriel2012 (help)
- Easlea 2013, p. 246.
- Easlea 2013, p. 247.
- Easlea 2013, p. 248.
- Droney, Maureen (1 May 1999). "Kevin Killen: On Recording Peter Gabriel, Elvis Costello and more". Mix. Archived from the original on 14 August 2014. Retrieved 11 August 2014.
- Hermes, Will. "Peter Gabriel biography". Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Retrieved 18 September 2014.
The album made Gabriel one of the biggest names in pop
- Moon, Tom (26 July 1986). "Gabriel Looks For Live Sound In the Studio". Billboard. Retrieved 20 August 2014.
- Gabriel 2012, 42:50. sfn error: no target: CITEREFGabriel2012 (help)
- Easlea 2013, p. 255.
- Google; Gabriel, Peter (22 October 2012). Peter Gabriel: "Back to Front", Talks at Google (Interview). Retrieved 12 August 2014.
- Buskin, Richard. "Peter Gabriel "Sledgehammer"". Sound on Sound. Retrieved 10 August 2014.
- Holmes, Tim (14 August 1986). "So". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 28 July 2014.
- Bambarger, Bradley (1 June 2002). "Vital Reissues - Peter Gabriel". Billboard. Vol. 114 no. 22. p. 26. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved 24 June 2018.
- WMMR interview, 16 July 1986, as transcribed by Fred Tomsett in Gabriel fanzine White Shadow #2, circa 1989
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