Scratch My Back

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Scratch My Back
Peter Gabriel - Scratch My Back.jpg
Studio album by Peter Gabriel
Released 12 February 2010
Recorded 2009
Studio Air Lyndhurst and Real World Studios
Genre Symphonic rock
Length 53:26
Label Real World/Virgin
Producer Peter Gabriel, Bob Ezrin
Peter Gabriel chronology
Big Blue Ball
(2008)Big Blue Ball2008
Scratch My Back
New Blood
(2011)New Blood2011
Singles from Scratch My Back
  1. "The Book of Love" / "Not One of Us"
    Released: 30 January 2010
  2. "The Boy in the Bubble" / "Biko"
    Released: 28 February 2010
  3. "Flume" / "Come Talk to Me"
    Released: 30 March 2010
  4. "The Power of the Heart" / "Solsbury Hill"
    Released: 28 April 2010[1]
  5. "Mirrorball" / "Mercy Street"
    Released: 27 May 2010[2]
  6. "Listening Wind" / "I Don't Remember"
    Released: 26 June 2010[3]

Scratch My Back is the eighth studio album (and fifteenth album overall) by English musician Peter Gabriel, his first in eight years. It was released in February 2010. The album, recorded at Air Lyndhurst and Real World Studios during 2009, consists of cover versions of twelve songs by various artists, using only orchestra and voice.[4] It is produced by Gabriel himself with Bob Ezrin.[5]

The album generally received favourable reviews by music journalists and performed well on the album charts around the world, peaking at No. 1 in Belgium, No. 2 in Germany and Canada, and No. 3 in the Czech Republic, Italy and Switzerland.[6][7][8][9][10][11] It also reached the top 5 in France and Sweden.[12][13] In Gabriel's native United Kingdom it peaked at No. 12 on the UK Albums Chart on 21 February 2010, the week following its release.[14] In the United States it peaked at No. 26 on the Billboard 200, No. 2 on the Independent Albums chart and No. 3 on the Rock Albums chart on 12 March 2010.[15]

Scratch My Back was initially released on compact disc and as music download; a vinyl album edition was subsequently released in late March 2010.[16]


The idea behind the Scratch My Back project is a song exchange where each artist would cover one of Gabriel's songs in return for his covering one of theirs; the other artists' renditions of Gabriel's songs were to appear on an album entitled I'll Scratch Yours.[17] Initially planned to be released simultaneously with Scratch My Back in 2010, several artists were late in delivering their songs or ultimately declined to participate, necessitating changes to the companion album's concept. With several new artists aboard, the slightly retitled And I'll Scratch Yours was released in September 2013.

According to Gabriel, although he and arranger John Metcalfe had talked about Arvo Pärt and Steve Reich as inspiration, it was the work that Metcalfe did on "Heroes" that "gave us the confidence to be bold in the way in which we were going to approach the record."[18] "Heroes" became the opening track because "without any of the drive of guitar and builds an enormous tension that bursts open."[18]

Stephin Merritt, who wrote "The Book of Love", commented on Gabriel's cover of his song:

Gabriel's cover of "The Book of Love" appeared earlier in the 2004 film Shall We Dance?, on the series Scrubs in the season 8 finale episode entitled "My Finale," and the season 19 episode of "South Park" entitled "Tweek x Craig." "My Body is a Cage" appeared in the episode "Out of the Chute" from the seventh season of the American medical drama House, the teaser trailer to John Carter, and in the promo for the TV show Almost Human. His cover of "Heroes" appeared in the feature film Lone Survivor, and also on several TV shows, including the end credits for the fourth-season finale of Big Love, and at the end of the episode "Chapter Three: Holly, Jolly" of Stranger Things.

Cover art[edit]

The cover artwork is a micrograph of two red blood cells folding over each other.[20] It was shot by Steve Gschmeissner and was included in the cover by Marc Bessant.[21] Not coincidentally, the name of Gabriel's supporting tour for the album is "The New Blood Tour". The concept for the album's graphic design concept is credited to Marc Bessant and Peter Gabriel.

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Original artist Length
1. ""Heroes"" David Bowie, Brian Eno David Bowie 4:10
2. "The Boy in the Bubble" Paul Simon, Forere Motloheloa Paul Simon 4:28
3. "Mirrorball" Guy Garvey, Craig Potter, Mark Potter, Pete Turner, Richard Jupp Elbow 4:48
4. "Flume" Justin Vernon Bon Iver 3:01
5. "Listening Wind" David Byrne, Brian Eno, Chris Frantz, Jerry Harrison, Tina Weymouth Talking Heads 4:23
6. "The Power of the Heart" Lou Reed Lou Reed 5:52
7. "My Body Is a Cage" Win Butler, Régine Chassagne, Richard Reed Parry, Tim Kingsbury, Will Butler, Jeremy Gara, Sarah Neufeld Arcade Fire 6:13
8. "The Book of Love" Stephin Merritt The Magnetic Fields 3:53
9. "I Think It's Going to Rain Today" Randy Newman Randy Newman 2:34
10. "Après moi" Regina Spektor Regina Spektor 5:13
11. "Philadelphia" Neil Young Neil Young 3:46
12. "Street Spirit (Fade Out)" Thom Yorke, Ed O'Brien, Colin Greenwood, Jonny Greenwood, Phil Selway Radiohead 5:06


Gabriel originally intended to release Scratch My Back and I'll Scratch Yours simultaneously.[19] However, as completion of the latter dragged out, it was instead decided to release a series of double A-sided singles with one song from each album every new full moon during 2010 on iTunes.[22] The first, "The Book of Love" – Gabriel's cover of a Magnetic Fields song, together with "Not One of Us" – Stephin Merritt's (The Magnetic Fields' frontman) cover of a Peter Gabriel song, was released on 30 January 2010.[23] Gabriel's version of "The Boy in the Bubble" coupled with Paul Simon's version of "Biko" was the second, released on 28 February 2010.[24] The third in the series, Gabriel's take on "Flume" paired with Bon Iver's seven-minute long version of "Come Talk to Me" was released on 30 March 2010.[25]

On 17 April 2010 "The Book of Love" / "Not One of Us" as well as "Flume" / "Come Talk to Me" were also released on 7" vinyl to independent record stores.[26]



Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 67/100[27]
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3.5/5 stars[28]
BBC (favourable)[29]
The Daily Telegraph 4/5 stars[30]
Drowned in Sound 6/10 stars[31]
Entertainment Weekly B[32]
The Guardian 4/5 stars[33]
Mojo 4/5 stars[34]
MusicOMH 3/5 stars[35]
The Observer 3/5 stars[36]
Pitchfork Media (4.5/10)[37]
Robert Christgau (choice cut)[38]
Rolling Stone 2.5/5 stars[39]
Slant Magazine 2.5/5 stars[40]
The Times 2/5 stars[41]
Uncut 4/5 stars[42]

Scratch My Back received generally positive reviews from most music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalised rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, it received an average score of 67 based on 21 reviews.[27]

Scratch My Back was album of the month in the March 2010 issue of Mojo. Reviewer Mat Snow writes: "He [Gabriel] and his top-of-the-range collaborators (...) have created an album of great insight into the untapped potential of familiar songs, a profound re-imagining made manifest in an orchestral soundworld as rich and thrilling as ever recorded at Air (...)". He gave special mention to the reinterpretations of David Bowie's "Heroes" ("the songs underlying despair rises to the top"), Paul Simon's "The Boy in the Bubble" ("the song it might have been had not the writer been so determined in 1986 to bring the joys of South African township jive to the Western pop charts") and Talking Heads' "Listening Wind" ("Gabriel shines a soft light into the song's inner desolation"). On the downside Snow describes the version of Lou Reed's "The Power of the Heart" as "a misstep" and Randy Newman's "I Think It's Going to Rain Today" as "superfluous". He concludes the review on a positive note by saying: "An album to make you happy feeling sad, Scratch My Back gets better with each play; it might just turn out to be the best surprise birthday present of the year."[34]

In Metro, Arwa Haider awarded the album 3 stars out of 5 and commented: "Its most impressive quality is sensitivity; these are elegant orchestral arrangements … It’s sporadically successful; Gabriel saps the life from Paul Simon’s The Boy in the Bubble and somehow over-eggs Arcade Fire’s My Body Is a Cage" and concluded "this is exceptionally classy karaoke."[43]

In The New York Times, Jon Pareles wrote: "Covers albums don’t get any more idiosyncratic or high concept than Scratch My Back."[19]

Pitchfork Media reviewer Mark Richardson was less enthusiastic: "Every song on Scratch My Back, regardless of its original tone or meaning, is flattened out and turned into this one melodramatic and depressing thing (...)"; although the album "sounds earnest [and] professional", it consists of "ponderous, dull, and ultimately pointless versions of songs that sound much better elsewhere."[37]

Charts and certifications[edit]

Release history[edit]

Region Date Record label
Australia 12 February 2010[58][59] Real World Records/Virgin Records
United Kingdom 15 February 2010[4][60]
Mainland Europe
Canada 16 February 2010[60] Universal Music
United States 2 March 2010[60] Real World Records
Brazil 15 March 2010[61] EMI


  1. ^ "New on iTunes today". 28 April 2010. Archived from the original on 3 May 2010. Retrieved 1 June 2010. 
  2. ^ "'Mirrorball' and 'Mercy Street'". 27 May 2010. Archived from the original on 31 May 2010. Retrieved 1 June 2010. 
  3. ^ "Peter's Full Moon update". 27 May 2010. Retrieved 1 June 2010. 
  4. ^ a b Scratch My Back. WOMAD shop. Retrieved 6 February 2010.
  5. ^ Scratch My Back (CD insert). Peter Gabriel. Virgin Records. 2010. 
  6. ^ a b "Ultratop Belgique Francophone: Peter Gabriel – Scratch My Back (album)" (in French). Retrieved 26 February 2010. 
  7. ^ a b " chartverfolgung: Gabriel, Peter – Scratch My Back". Retrieved 26 February 2010. 
  8. ^ a b "Top 100 albums in Canada – 21 February 2010 – for the week ending 28 February 2010". Archived from the original on 16 January 2011. Retrieved 28 February 2010. 
  9. ^ a b "IFPI ČR – Hitparáda – TOP50 Prodejní – Týden – 201008" (in Czech). IFPI. Archived from the original on 18 December 2008. Retrieved 14 March 2010. 
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  12. ^ a b " Peter Gabriel – Scratch My Back (album)" (in French). Retrieved 26 February 2010. 
  13. ^ a b " Peter Gabriel – Scratch My Back (album)". Retrieved 26 February 2010. 
  14. ^ a b "Top 40 Albums Archive: Week 08: 21/02/2010 – 27/02/2010". The Official Charts Company. 21 February 2010. Retrieved 14 March 2010. [dead link]
  15. ^ a b c d "Scratch My Back > Chart & Awards". Allmusic. Retrieved 19 April 2010. 
  16. ^ Peter Gabriel: Vinyl + Premium Digital Retrieved 24 April 2010.
  17. ^ David J. Prince (2 January 2010). "Peter Gabriel Goes Orchestral For Covers Album". Nielsen Business Media, Inc. Retrieved 21 January 2010. 
  18. ^ a b "Track-by-track: Peter Gabriel Guides Us Through New Album Scratch My Back". The Quietus. 28 January 2010. Retrieved 5 March 2010. 
  19. ^ a b c d Jon Pareles (1 March 2010). "Peter Gabriel Says, 'I'll Sing Yours, You Sing Mine'". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 March 2010. 
  20. ^ "P242/342". Science Photo Library Retrieved 30 March 2011. 
  21. ^ "Peter Gabriel – Scratch my Back / Marc Bessant". Marc Bessant Retrieved 30 March 2011. 
  22. ^ McCormick, Neil (11 February 2010). "Peter Gabriel: Scratch My Back, CD review". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 19 February 2010. 
  23. ^ "The Magnetic Fields: Realism". 23 January 2010. Retrieved 6 February 2010. 
  24. ^ "The Boy in the Bubble and Biko on iTunes today". 28 February 2010. Archived from the original on 19 April 2010. Retrieved 18 April 2010. 
  25. ^ "'Come Talk To Me' and 'Flume' released today on iTunes". 30 March 2010. Retrieved 18 April 2010. 
  26. ^ "2 'Scratch' 7-inch singles for Record Store Day". 10 March 2010. Retrieved 13 March 2010. 
  27. ^ a b "Scratch My Back". Metacritic. Retrieved 17 April 2009. 
  28. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Scratch My Back > Overview". Retrieved 6 June 2014. 
  29. ^ Dean, Will (2 February 2010). "Peter Gabriel Scratch My Back Review". BBC. Retrieved 2 February 2010. 
  30. ^ McCormick, Neil (12 February 2010). "Album Review: Peter Gabriel – Scratch My Back". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 16 February 2010. 
  31. ^ Stannard, Joseph (17 February 2010). "Peter Gabriel – Scratch My Back". Drowned in Sound. Retrieved 19 February 2010. 
  32. ^ Vozick-Levinson, Simon (5 March 2010). "Scratch My Back Review". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 7 June 2012. 
  33. ^ Petridis, Alexis (11 February 2010). "Peter Gabriel: Scratch My Back, CD review". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 February 2010. 
  34. ^ a b Snow, Mat (March 2010). "Fair trade – review of Peter Gabriel: Scratch My Back". Mojo (196): 88. 
  35. ^ Hogwood, Ben. "Peter Gabriel – Scratch My Back". MusicOMH. Archived from the original on 18 February 2010. Retrieved 19 February 2010. 
  36. ^ Spencer, Neil (24 January 2010). "Peter Gabriel: Scratch My Back (Virgin)". The Observer. Retrieved 27 January 2010. 
  37. ^ a b Richardson, Mark (16 February 2010). "Peter Gabriel: Scratch My Back (Virgin)". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 16 February 2010. 
  38. ^ Christgau, Robert. "CG: Peter Gabriel". Retrieved 7 June 2012. 
  39. ^ Kemp, Mark (1 March 2010). "Scratch My Back : Peter Gabriel". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 7 April 2010. Retrieved 7 June 2012. 
  40. ^ Cataldo, Jesse (1 March 2010). "Peter Gabriel – Scratch My Back". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 1 March 2010. 
  41. ^ Paphides ogwood, Pete (13 February 2010). "Peter Gabriel – Scratch My Back". The Times. Retrieved 20 February 2010. [dead link]
  42. ^ McKay, Alastair. "Peter Gabriel: Scratch My Back, CD review". Uncut. Retrieved 19 February 2010. 
  43. ^ Arwa Haider Metro, 15 February 2010.
  44. ^ " Peter Gabriel – Scratch My Back (album)". Retrieved 2 March 2010. 
  45. ^ "Ultratop Vlaanderen: Peter Gabriel – Scratch My Back (album)" (in Dutch). Retrieved 26 February 2010. 
  46. ^ " Peter Gabriel – Scratch My Back (album)". Retrieved 26 February 2010. 
  47. ^ "Dutch Charts: Peter Gabriel – Scratch My Back (album)" (in Dutch). Retrieved 23 February 2010. 
  48. ^ " Peter Gabriel – Scratch My Back (album)". Retrieved 26 February 2010. 
  49. ^ "GFK Chart Track: Top 75 Artist Album, Week ending 18 February 2010". Irish Recorded Music Association. Retrieved 14 March 2010. 
  50. ^ " Peter Gabriel – Scratch My Back (album)". Retrieved 8 March 2010. 
  51. ^ " Peter Gabriel – Scratch My Back (album)". Retrieved 2 March 2010. 
  52. ^ " Peter Gabriel – Scratch My Back (album)". Retrieved 8 March 2010. 
  53. ^ "OLiS: sales for the period 15.02.2010 – 21.02.2010". OLiS. 
  54. ^ " Peter Gabriel – Scratch My Back (album)". Retrieved 8 March 2010. 
  55. ^ " Peter Gabriel – Scratch My Back (album)". Retrieved 26 February 2010. 
  56. ^ "Italian album certifications – Peter Gabriel – Scratch My Back" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved 18 April 2014.  Select Album e Compilation in the field Sezione. Enter Peter Gabriel in the field Filtra. The certification will load automatically
  57. ^ "Polish album certifications – Peter Gabriel – Scratch My Back" (in Polish). Polish Society of the Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 18 April 2014. 
  58. ^ Release date for Scratch My Back per Australian retailer Sanity. Retrieved 2 March 2010.
  59. ^ Release date for Scratch My Back per German charts website Retrieved 2 March 2010.
  60. ^ a b c Scratch My Back release dates Archived 30 December 2010 at the Wayback Machine.. News Archive (26 January 2010). Retrieved 6 February 2010.
  61. ^ Release date for Scratch My Back[permanent dead link] per Brazilian retailer Livraria Cultura. Retrieved 6 February 2010.

External links[edit]