When Netflix's “Orange Is the New Black” returned last month, it tipped the hat to a famous movie moment referencing British musician Peter Gabriel.
In the episode aptly titled “(Don’t) Say Anything,” Brook (Kimiko Glenn) shows up outside the library with a tiny radio held above her head, playing an Eminem song, apologizing to her girlfriend, Poussey (Samira Wiley).
It’s a callback to “Say Anything … ” and one of the most memorable screen moments from the 1980s, when John Cusack’s Lloyd Dobler lifted his boombox aloft to play Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” and win back his lady-love, Ione Skye's Diane.
It’s so iconic, I caught the reference and I had never seen “Say Anything” until I watched it earlier this week to write this article.
This a long-winded way of showing how “In Your Eyes” and the album from which it comes, So, helped cement Gabriel's legacy as an artist who keeps a foot in both the audio and the visual realms.
So, Gabriel's most commercially successful LP, celebrated its 30th anniversary in May and some of its most enduring tracks are sure to pop up Thursday when his collaborative tour with Sting stops at the SAP Center in San Jose.
Gabriel and Sting are doing a “tandem tour,” a performance which incorporates music by the two artists blended together in a single set. Think Jay Z and Justin Timberlake’s 2013 show at Candlestick Park, when both artists took turns with their own songs as well as ganging up for selected tracks.
While So looms large, some in the under-30 set may not know him quite so well. He has released one studio album of original material since 1992. He spent much of the past decade ensconced in a forgettable orchestral period, issuing 2010’s minimal, milquetoast cover collection “Scratch My Back” and 2011’s “New Blood,” a batch of orchestrated renditions of old favorites.
That leaves 2002's “Up” as the lone original studio slab under the Gabriel flag since George H.W. Bush was president, so it’s easy to forget or, depending upon your age, not even known what made Gabriel a powerhouse in the first place.
"Orange" helps pull that into focus. It’s appropriate that the image of Cusack hoisting that boombox above his head to blare “In Your Eyes” is so inextricably tied to the legacy of So and Gabriel’s work since his career has so frequently found the connective tissue between the aural and the visual.
Reaching back to his days in Genesis in the 1970s, Gabriel was known for his theatrical performances, layering himself in makeup and costumes to play characters on stage.
To the '90s millennials and younger, he’s best known for his soundtrack work. In addition to some full-length efforts, the younger among us know him best for his cover of The Magnetic Fields' “The Book of Love” for its use in the original cast finale of the NBC/ABC comedy “Scrubs” and for his Grammy Award-winning and Oscar Award-nominated “Down to Earth" for the 2008 Pixar film “Wall-E.”
Those are great examples of how his music is intwined with visual art. So didn't mark Gabriel's emergence as a visual/audio artist, but it remains his apex.
MTV once claimed his unforgettable video for “Sledgehammer” was the most-played clip in the network’s history. Seeing as MTV doesn't play videos much these days, I'm inclined to believe that record still stands.
The "Sledgehammer" video combined claymation and stop-motion animation to send the singer on a visual spectacle that had never been done before in a music video, especially at a time when the level of artistry in music videos wasn't as high as it is today. It won a record nine MTV Video Music Awards.
With that sort of pedigree, it's unsurprising that Gabriel's music has continued to find a marriage with visual mediums, to provide the inspiration to bring teenage lovers back together or help describe the return of humans to earth.
Although his output of studio albums has slowed during the past 25 years, references to Gabriel's impact and legacy as a visual and audio creative force can pop up in the most unlikely of places, even inside the walls of Litchfield Penitentiary on “Orange Is the New Black.”"Say Anything ... " boombox scene:
"Down to Earth":
"The Book of Love" scene in the "Scrubs" finale with its original cast: