For the Peter Gabriel song "Sledgehammer", all the lyrics sites list the first two lines of the song as being:

you could have a steam train
if you'd just lay down your tracks

But every time I hear the song, it's evident that he sings something before this. It sounds a bit like "Someday... you don't want to lose it..." and then goes into the steam train line.

However it's indistinct and I've never been able to make out the words.

You can also see this in the music video - there are clearly words said/sung before that steam train line. Again, they are indistinct.

No lyrics site I've found lists those first words. Is there anything that tells us what they are? Can someone who can lip-read look at the music video and decipher them?



5 Answers 5


Yeah it’s Gabrielese. He’s talked about it in interviews. Some excerpts from the article:

Peter will be the subject of a one-hour interview special entitled Vocal Chords: Iarla Ó Lionáird In conversation with Peter Gabriel that will be broadcast on RTE Lyric FM in Ireland (and online) on Friday 26 December at 7pm. You can listen again to the interview here.

. . .

"I think everyone, musical or not, should learn to sing and find out about their voice... I think it’s an understanding of interpretation, as well as... delivering melody" says Peter as part of the in-depth discussion

"There’s this whole other interesting thing that happens with songwriting too, I’ve performed now a couple of times... on a couple of tours song that aren’t finished, because when they’re just rough sound and made up words.. (Gabriel­ese I call it), they have a different life than when you pin them down with real meaning and text... they’re just sound, and they’re maybe less sharp instruments but they’re every bit as evocative, emotionally."


I would say is vocalizing some scat.

On these three lives, for example, he sings differently :

It seems it doesn't say the exact same "words".

Also, this review article of Uncut says :

“Sledgehammer” (...) starts (...) with Gabriel singing gibberish.

Page archive.

FYI: These are not the only songs where he uses scat, he is quite familiar with that:

  • It's good thinking, but I'd like something more official and than a review article.
    – Tim
    Feb 19, 2017 at 20:14
  • OK, @Tim. Let me know if you find something. BTW I know Genesis because of your question, thanks ;-)
    – Bebs
    Feb 19, 2017 at 20:17

After trying to nut it out, I believe he sings...

Hey you' E'body do this (or maybe E'body chew this)

Of course I could be completely wrong and he's singing scat, or gibberish, or what someone else referred to on another site as "Gabrielese".


I actually thought it was "Hey, hey you... hey welcome to a new day!" It fits, and watching the music video as a kid had me lip-reading this a thousand times. Of course, it could always just be a Mondegreen.


I believe it's "Hey, Hey, U there! Hey, I got a-music".

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