Oscar winning animator Nick Park is best loved for his Wallace and Gromit creations - but he also helped Sledgehammer star Peter Gabriel to nail his career.
Nick, who honed his skills at Sheffield City Polytechnic, now Sheffield Hallam University, was one of the animators on the icon music video.
With it’s jerky breakthrough animation, featuring fruit, fish and even a steam train moving around Gabriel’s face, Sledgehammer is sill the most played music video in the history of MTV.
Gabriel will perform the song live and other tracks from his iconic 1986 So album, which he will ply in full, plus other hits, when he brings his Back To Front tour to Sheffield Motorpoint Arena on Sunday, November 30.
VIDEO: Press the play button to watch Peter Gabriel talking about the So tour.
Sledgehammer won a record nine MTV Awards and Best British Video at the 1987 Brit Awards.
Park provided a dance scene involving two oven-ready, headless and featherless chickens, animated using stop-motion and shown dancing along to a flute solo in the middle.
It was a welcome break for Gabriel, during the two week filming, which saw him lay under a sheet of glass for 16 hours, while filming the video one frame at a time.
The Stephen R Johnson directed music video was four years before Park, of Aardman Animations, went on to give the world Wallace and Gromit in A Grand Day Out. But his talent was evident.
In an exclusive chat - hear it all online - he recalls: “Nick Park did the dancing chickens. He is a very quiet, unassuming guy, but you could tell - his particular area of the animation, he had an obsessive nature capable of delivering great things. So that was quiet evident.
“He would go off into his corner and do the mixing.
“It’s been wonderful then to see him in later years pick up so many Oscars.
“Making the video was quite a painful process for me. We had two days, a fruit session and fish stage - then another, where clouds were painted frame by frame, moving across my skin. So my skin was like sandpaper at the end of it.
“And the fish stank to high hell on day two, but it looked great and it was a lot of fun, because we had great creative people. It was two crazy weeks. Exhausting but very exciting to do.”
He adds: “The song and the video really opened a lot of doors. It was my brief encounter with pop stardom. It only lasted a short while, which was probably better for the world and me.”
Sledgehammer reached number four in the UK singles chart, drawing as his highest ever entry with Games Without Frontiers. But in the USA it knocked Invisible Touch off the number one spot, by his old band Genesis.
He laughed: “There’s always a little family rivalry. It was a strange thing. You’d wait three years to put your record out, then find they had one coming out the same week.
“It was just funny. I think we’ve been very lucky as a band because it was a group of songwriters, rather than musicians and we have all had interesting and successful careers, independent of the band, which doesn’t often happen.”
On tour he may play 1978 hit Games Without Frontiers.
But it is a celebration of So, which spawned four other hit singles, including three huge UK chart hits with Don’t Give Up, the duet with Kate Bush and Big Time, plus In Your Eyes and Red Rain.
He says Kate Bush, who recently made a live shows comeback, used to steady her nerves with a brandy during their recording of Don’t Give Up, a ballad, about the devastation of unemployment.
He said: “She did such a beautiful job and so many people have said that song touched them. I think a good part of that’s the quality of Kate’s voice
“The song is still relevant today - for anyone struggling with the injustices of the way we set up our economy.”
He said of the live tour: “We serve the show up in three parts; like a meal. The starter will be an acoustic bit, almost like we would be in rehearsal mode,
“From that acoustic starter we move on to the savoury dish, which is electric or more electronic stuff. If you survive that, then you get your dessert, which is the complete and uninterrupted album of ‘So,’ in the order in which it was originally intended.”