Well Written Rock Songs: Solsbury Hill - Peter Gabriel (1977)
Updated: Mar 25
Song Name: Solsbury Hill
Artist: Peter Gabriel
Written by: Peter Gabriel
Genre: Folk Pop, Progressive Pop
Release Date: 1977
Album: B-Side of Moribund the Burgermeister
Inspiration for these reviews comes from just about anywhere and this one is no exception. I was watching TV and a Nespresso commercial came on starring George Clooney. Here is the commercial in question.
As you can see in the middle of the advertisement, Solsbury Hill by Peter Gabriel is used. It always reminded me how much I always loved this song. So I wanted to give you my thoughts on why for me, it is one of the best rock songs.
In case that you did not now, Peter Gabriel started his career as front man of the band Genesis. He was the singer from 1965 to August 1975, when it was officially announced that he was leaving the group.
Many Genesis fans were very disappointed to learn that he was leaving and some people actually stopped following the group after that.
As we know, Peter then went on to have one of the most successful careers in the 80's. He has such classics as Sledgehammer, In Your Eyes, and Shock the Monkey.
He is known for his live shows and one of the reasons he left Genesis is because he was feeling trapped or restricted in the group.
From Tony Banks:
"Pete was also getting too big for the group. He was being portrayed as if he was 'the man' and it really wasn't like that. It was a very difficult thing to accommodate. So it was actually a bit of a relief."
So it is fitting that the song that I wanted to review was the first single after he left Genesis is Solsbury Hill.
Climbing up on Solsbury Hill I could see the city light Wind was blowing, time stood still Eagle flew out of the night He was something to observe Came in close, I heard a voice Standing, stretching every nerve Had to listen, had no choice I did not believe the information Just had to trust imagination My heart going boom, boom, boom "Son", he said, "grab your things, I've come to take you home"
To keep in silence I resigned My friends would think I was a nut Turning water into wine Open doors would soon be shut So I went from day to day Though my life was in a rut 'Til I thought of what I'll say Which connection I should cut I was feeling part of the scenery I walked right out of the machinery My heart going boom, boom, boom "Hey", he said, "grab your things, I've come to take you home" (Hey, back home)
When illusion spin her net I'm never where I want to be And liberty she pirouette When I think that I am free Watched by empty silhouettes Who close their eyes but still can see No one taught them etiquette I will show another me Today I don't need a replacement I'll tell them what the smile on my face meant My heart going boom, boom, boom "Hey", I said, "you can keep my things, they've come to take me home"
Solsbury Hill - Peter Gabriel
I will admit that Peter Gabriel has always been considered a little underrated in my books. His fans will argue that fact but rarely do you see him in any top lists. He has been known as someone who started in the infancy of progressive rock and grew from there.
This song was written right after he had left Genesis and according to Gabriel the song means the following:
"It's about being prepared to lose what you have for what you might get ... It's about letting go."
This can be interpreted as how he felt leaving Genesis and letting it go to pursue his solo career.
Some people have interpreted as being a calling from God. He did say that the song was inspired by a spiritual experience that he experienced in Solsbury Hill in Somerset, England.
The best part about this song is that different people have had different interpretations. They interpret it the way that they want to. For me, it does sound like this song was him coming to terms with leaving Genesis and telling the world that he will conquer it.
One of the lines that I liked was this particular line:
My friends would think I was a nut Turning water into wine
Everyone has had that period of time in your life where you feel that people do not believe in you. That is fine and it is part of life. However, it does not mean that you do not have confidence in what you, do and you are convinced that you can take a bad situation and make it work.
Another part that I liked was:
Though my life was in a rut 'Til I thought of what I'll say Which connection I should cut I was feeling part of the scenery I walked right out of the machinery
Basically how i interpret the above is that although Gabriel was feeling like he was in a rut, he decided to break free from the touring and music machine and do it on his own. It sounds like he got out of that rut the minute he decided to leave the band.
In addition to the lyrics which can be adapted to anyone, the music itself is to me what makes it one of the best songs of all time. The music although made in 1977, feels like it is timeless. For years I thought this was created in the 80's. However, you can put it in any era and it would still fit with no problem.
The song is also one of the few songs that uses a unique time signature. It uses a 7/4 time signature. Most songs, especially pop use a 4/4 or 5/4 time signature. This means that instead of having 4 or 5 beats per measure or quarter, there are 7 beats. This can give it an odd beat but in this case it works. Some fans say that this, gives the song a constant sense of struggle.
When you put the lyrics and music together, you have a great combination and time is telling us that this is a pop classic and will be for a very long time.
Do you like this song? Was I on the mark? Let us know below.