Scratch My Back

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 with Bob Ezrin.[5]

Scratch My Back
Peter Gabriel - Scratch My Back.jpg
Studio album by
Released12 February 2010
StudioAIR Lyndhurst (London) and Real World Studios (Box)
LabelReal World/Virgin
ProducerPeter Gabriel, Bob Ezrin
Peter Gabriel chronology
Big Blue Ball
Scratch My Back
New Blood
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]

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 titled 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]

If you’re going to reinterpret something, then really do something. Nail your colours to the mast and say, ‘This is different, and it isn’t everybody's cup of tea.

— Peter Gabriel, on Scratch My Back.[19]

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

At first I thought, "How hilarious, he's got a completely different take on the song." But after a few listens I find it quite sweet. My version of the song focuses on the humour, and his focuses on the pathos. Of course, if I could sing like him I wouldn’t have to be a humourist.[19]

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 South Park season 19 episode "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, in the promo for the TV show Almost Human, in the final episode of Lucifer, in the ‘’Santa Clara Vanguard Drum and Bugle Corps Drum Corps International world championship winning production “Babylon”, and in the season 2 finale of Dark. 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 episodes "Chapter Three: Holly, Jolly" and "Chapter Eight: The Battle of Starcourt" of Stranger Things and Stranger Things 3[20] respectively.

Cover artEdit

The cover artwork is a micrograph of two red blood cells folding over each other.[21] It was shot by Steve Gschmeissner and was included in the cover by Marc Bessant.[22] Not coincidentally, the name of Gabriel's supporting tour for the album is "The New Blood Tour". The album's graphic design concept is credited to Marc Bessant and Peter Gabriel.

Track listingEdit

Special Edition bonus disc
No.TitleWriter(s)Original artistLength
1."The Book of Love" (Remix)MerrittThe Magnetic Fields3:40
2."My Body Is a Cage" (Oxford London Temple version)Butler, Chassagne, Parry, Kingsbury, Butler, Gara, NeufeldArcade Fire6:03
3."Waterloo Sunset" (Oxford London Temple version)Ray DaviesThe Kinks3:49
4.""Heroes"" (Wildebeest mix)Bowie, EnoDavid Bowie4:06


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.[23] 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.[24] 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.[25] 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.[26]

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.[27]


  • Peter Gabriel – production, arrangement ("The Book of Love"), design concept
  • Bob Ezrin – production
  • John Metcalfe – arrangement (except "The Book of Love" and "I Think It's Going to Rain Today"), mixing (except "I Think It's Going to Rain Today"), orchestration (except "The Book of Love"), additional "Oxford" recording
  • Nick Ingman – arrangement ("The Book of Love"), orchestration ("The Book of Love")
  • Will Gregory – arrangement ("The Book of Love")
  • Randy Newman – arrangement ("I Think It's Going to Rain Today")
  • Richard Chappell – mixing, engineering (except "The Book of Love"), Air Studios sessions recording
  • Tchad Blake – mixing ("My Body is a Cage", "Après moi")
  • Pete Sené – assistant engineering (except "The Book of Love")
  • Mark Claydon – assistant mixing (except "The Book of Love")
  • Kurina Támas – recording ("The Book of Love")
  • Kölcsényi Attila – recording ("The Book of Love")
  • Steve Orchard – Air Studios sessions recording
  • Olga Fitzroy – Air Studios sessions recording assistant, Pro Tools editor
  • Laurence Greed – Pro Tools editor assistant
  • Melanie Gabriel – vocals ("The Book of Love")
  • London Scratch Orchestra – orchestra performance
  • The Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxfordchoir ("My Body is a Cage")
  • Hungarian Orchestra - orchestra performance ("The Book of Love")
  • Tony Cousins – mastering
  • Marc Bessant – graphic design, design concept
  • Nadav Kander – photography
  • David Hiscock – photography


Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Review scores
Allmusic     [29]
The Daily Telegraph     [31]
Drowned in Sound          [32]
Entertainment WeeklyB[33]
The Guardian     [34]
Mojo     [35]
MusicOMH     [36]
The Observer     [37]
Pitchfork Media(4.5/10)[38]
Robert Christgau [39]
Rolling Stone     [40]
Slant Magazine     [41]
The Times     [42]
Uncut     [43]

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.[28]

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 song’s 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."[35]

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."[44]

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."[38]

Charts and certificationsEdit

Release historyEdit

Region Date Record label
Australia 12 February 2010[61][62] Real World Records/Virgin Records
United Kingdom 15 February 2010[4][63]
Mainland Europe
Canada 16 February 2010[63] Universal Music
United States 2 March 2010[63] Real World Records
Brazil 15 March 2010[64] 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. Archived from the original on 3 June 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.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
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  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.
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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 Pareles, Jon (1 March 2010). "Peter Gabriel Says, 'I'll Sing Yours, You Sing Mine'". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 March 2010.
  20. ^ Stevens, Ashlie D. (5 July 2019). "That cover song at the end of "Stranger Things" season 3 has its own back story". Salon. OCLC 43916723. Retrieved 26 January 2020.
  21. ^ "P242/342". Science Photo Library Retrieved 30 March 2011.
  22. ^ "Peter Gabriel – Scratch my Back / Marc Bessant". Marc Bessant Retrieved 30 March 2011.
  23. ^ McCormick, Neil (11 February 2010). "Peter Gabriel: Scratch My Back, CD review". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 15 February 2010. Retrieved 19 February 2010.
  24. ^ "The Magnetic Fields: Realism". 23 January 2010. Archived from the original on 29 January 2010. Retrieved 6 February 2010.
  25. ^ "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.
  26. ^ "'Come Talk To Me' and 'Flume' released today on iTunes". 30 March 2010. Archived from the original on 2 April 2010. Retrieved 18 April 2010.
  27. ^ "2 'Scratch' 7-inch singles for Record Store Day". 10 March 2010. Archived from the original on 30 December 2010. Retrieved 13 March 2010.
  28. ^ a b "Scratch My Back". Metacritic. Retrieved 17 April 2009.
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  31. ^ McCormick, Neil (12 February 2010). "Album Review: Peter Gabriel – Scratch My Back". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 16 February 2010.
  32. ^ Stannard, Joseph (17 February 2010). "Peter Gabriel – Scratch My Back". Drowned in Sound. Archived from the original on 5 March 2010. Retrieved 19 February 2010.
  33. ^ Vozick-Levinson, Simon (5 March 2010). "Scratch My Back Review". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 7 June 2012.
  34. ^ Petridis, Alexis (11 February 2010). "Peter Gabriel: Scratch My Back, CD review". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 February 2010.
  35. ^ a b Snow, Mat (March 2010). "Fair trade – review of Peter Gabriel: Scratch My Back". Mojo (196): 88.
  36. ^ Hogwood, Ben. "Peter Gabriel – Scratch My Back". MusicOMH. Archived from the original on 18 February 2010. Retrieved 19 February 2010.
  37. ^ Spencer, Neil (24 January 2010). "Peter Gabriel: Scratch My Back (Virgin)". The Observer. Retrieved 27 January 2010.
  38. ^ a b Richardson, Mark (16 February 2010). "Peter Gabriel: Scratch My Back (Virgin)". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 16 February 2010.
  39. ^ Christgau, Robert. "CG: Peter Gabriel". Retrieved 7 June 2012.
  40. ^ Kemp, Mark (1 March 2010). "Scratch My Back : Peter Gabriel". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 7 April 2010. Retrieved 7 June 2012.
  41. ^ Cataldo, Jesse (1 March 2010). "Peter Gabriel – Scratch My Back". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 1 March 2010.
  42. ^ Paphides ogwood, Pete (13 February 2010). "Peter Gabriel – Scratch My Back". The Times. Archived from the original on 9 July 2012. Retrieved 20 February 2010.
  43. ^ McKay, Alastair. "Peter Gabriel: Scratch My Back, CD review". Uncut. Retrieved 19 February 2010.
  44. ^ Arwa Haider Metro, 15 February 2010.
  45. ^ " Peter Gabriel – Scratch My Back (album)". Retrieved 2 March 2010.
  46. ^ "Ultratop Vlaanderen: Peter Gabriel – Scratch My Back (album)" (in Dutch). Retrieved 26 February 2010.
  47. ^ " Peter Gabriel – Scratch My Back (album)". Retrieved 26 February 2010.
  48. ^ "Dutch Charts: Peter Gabriel – Scratch My Back (album)" (in Dutch). Retrieved 23 February 2010.
  49. ^ " Peter Gabriel – Scratch My Back (album)". Retrieved 26 February 2010.
  50. ^ "GFK Chart Track: Top 75 Artist Album, Week ending 18 February 2010". Irish Recorded Music Association. Archived from the original on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 14 March 2010.
  51. ^ " Peter Gabriel – Scratch My Back (album)". Archived from the original on 24 October 2012. Retrieved 13 May 2020.
  52. ^ " Peter Gabriel – Scratch My Back (album)". Retrieved 2 March 2010.
  53. ^ " Peter Gabriel – Scratch My Back (album)". Retrieved 8 March 2010.
  54. ^ "OLiS: sales for the period 15.02.2010 – 21.02.2010". OLiS.
  55. ^ " Peter Gabriel – Scratch My Back (album)". Retrieved 8 March 2010.
  56. ^ " Peter Gabriel – Scratch My Back (album)". Retrieved 26 February 2010.
  57. ^ "Rapports Annuels 2010: Albums" (in French). Ultratop Wallonia. Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  58. ^ "Top Albums annuel (physique + téléchargement + streaming)" (in French). SNEP Musique. 2010. Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  59. ^ "Italian album certifications – Peter Gabriel – Scratch My Back" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved 18 April 2014. Select "Tutti gli anni" in the "Anno" drop-down menu. Select "Scratch My Back" in the "Filtra" field. Select "Album e Compilation" under "Sezione".
  60. ^ "Wyróżnienia – Złote płyty CD - Archiwum - Przyznane w 2010 roku" (in Polish). Polish Society of the Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 20 April 2021.
  61. ^ Release date for Scratch My Back per Australian retailer Sanity. Retrieved 2 March 2010.
  62. ^ Release date for Scratch My Back per German charts website Retrieved 2 March 2010.
  63. ^ 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.
  64. ^ Release date for Scratch My Back per Brazilian retailer Livraria Cultura. Retrieved 6 February 2010.

External linksEdit