Peter Gabriel

Solsbury Hill

Composed by Peter Gabriel

Song Review by

Making his solo debut with an eponymous 1977 album, Peter Gabriel notched his first solo hit with the lilting "Solsbury Hill," a metaphorical ode to the freedom and excitement he felt upon leaving the acclaimed art rock band Genesis. Gabriel had arrived at the decision after witnessing a Bruce Springsteen concert, and in the song's first verse describes the Boss as an "eagle [who] flew out of the night," "standing, stretching every nerve" when he performed. According to the song, the experience left Gabriel feeling that his life was in a rut, that he was just "part of the scenery"; before the feeling of epiphany evaporated, before the "open doors would soon be shut," he had to decide "which connection I should cut," which path to take from the crossroads he felt his life to be at. The solo route is likened to someone having come to take him home, a curious comparison for a decision made to bring him new challenges and jolt him out of the familiar. Musically, "Solsbury Hill" approximates that home-like feeling of warm comfort. It isn't as melodically or harmonically experimental as much of Gabriel's early work, instead based around bright, major-key figures played on folky acoustic guitars. The simple guitar riff that backs the verses simply descends the major scale, and it's doubled on flute and synthesizer, which provides the basic arrangement for most of the song. There's a subtle worldbeat influence as well, with quietly burbling percussion that draws from the pitch-shifting capabilities of West African talking drums. It isn't wildly complex, but it's all beautifully and elegantly interwoven, right up to the electric guitar power chords suddenly introduced on the final chorus. "Solsbury Hill" is one of the most personal items in Gabriel's catalog, and it's also a moving statement of purpose about having the courage to risk starting a new life.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Peter Gabriel [1] 1977 Real World Productions
Plays Live 1983 Real World Records
So 1986
So
Real World Productions / Real World Records 5:10
Slowburn 1989 Castle Music Ltd. 5:04
Shaking the Tree: Sixteen Golden Greats 1990 Real World Records
Virgin Value Collector Series 8 1990
Various Artists
Virgin
Classic Rock: 1966-1988 1991
Various Artists
Atlantic
Revisited 1992 Atlantic / WEA International 4:20
In Your Eyes [Live] 1992 Red Phantom
Secret World Live [VHS/DVD/Blu-Ray] 1994 Interscope
Secret World Live 1994 Geffen 4:42
No Image 1995 4:28
Solsbury Hill [Germany] 1999 3:24
Journeys 2000
Various Artists
Virgin 4:21
Music from Vanilla Sky 2001
Original Soundtrack
Reprise 4:23
Ö3 Greatest Hits, Vol. 18 2002
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 4:35
07 06 03 - Montreal, QC Bell Centre 2003 TheMusic.com
Hit: The Definitive Two-CD Collection 2003 Geffen 4:23
07.07.03 Mountain View, CA 2003 Real World Records
No Image 2004
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution
Play the Videos 2004 Rhino
In Good Company 2005
Various Artists
Hollywood 4:22
Still Growing Up: Live and Unwrapped 2005 Rhino/Warner Bros.
Play/Growing Up Live 2006 Warner Bros.
No Image 2007 Peter Gabriel
No Image 2009
Various Artists
Mixed Repertoire 4:22
Wondrous Stories: A Complete Introduction to Progressive Rock 2010
Various Artists
Universal 4:22
New Blood 2011 Real World Records 4:35
No Image 2011 Eagle Rock Entertainment 6:34
Live Blood 2012 Eagle Rock 6:21
The Old Grey Whistle Test: The Anthems 2013
Various Artists
Rhino 4:21
Scratch My Back/And I'll Scratch Yours 2013 Real World Records
No Image
De Pre Historie: 1977, Vol. 1
Various Artists
Eva 4:19
Secret World Eagle Rock
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