Peter Gabriel

Solsbury Hill

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 4:21
So 1986
So
Real World Productions 0:00
Shaking the Tree: Sixteen Golden Greats 1990 Real World Records 4:22
Virgin Value Collector Series 8 1990
Various Artists
Virgin
Classic Rock: 1966-1988 1991
Various Artists
Atlantic 4:20
Revisited 1992 Atlantic / WEA International 4:20
Solsbury Hill [Germany] 1999 4:45
Journeys 2000
Various Artists
Virgin 4:21
Music from Vanilla Sky 2001
Various Artists
Reprise 4:23
07 04 03 - Toronto, ON Molson Amphitheatre 2003 TheMusic.com
Hit 2003
Hit
Real World Productions / Real World Records 4:21
Hit: The Definitive Two-CD Collection 2003 Geffen 4:23
Artist's Choice: Sarah McLachlan 2004 Hear Music / BMG Special Projects 4:23
Play the Videos 2004 Rhino
No Image 2009
Various Artists
EMI
Wondrous Stories: A Complete Introduction to Progressive Rock 2010
Various Artists
Universal 0:00
New Blood 2011 Real World 4:35
No Image 2012 Real World Records 0:00
R-Kive 2014 Atlantic / Rhino 4:23