Behind the Meaning of “Solsbury Hill” by Peter Gabriel

Peter Gabriel got a second life in the music industry after deciding to cut ties with Genesis in 1975. He proved he could bring just as much magic to his solo career as he did to his time with the band.

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He punctuated his solo career with the release of “Solsbury Hill.” The song commented on the impasse he was facing in his career at the time. Uncover the full meaning behind the song below.

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Behind the Meaning

The story of “Solsbury Hill” was inspired by a spiritual awakening in Gabriel’s life. After parting ways with Genesis, Gabriel was left to forge a new path for himself. The awakening happened on the real Solsbury Hill in Somerset, England.

Climbing up on Solsbury Hill
I could see the city light
Wind was blowing, time stood still
Eagle flew out of the night

The opening verses are deeply visual. Gabriel describes the moment in acute detail. He recalls climbing the hill and looking out over the city. Suddenly, Gabriel meets a spirit guide that helps usher him into a new era in his life. I had to listen, had no choice, Gabriel sings.

The chorus sees Gabriel revel in the excitement of the journey ahead. This can easily be interpreted as a commentary on Gabriel’s solo career. Just had to trust imagination, he sings, moving forward with no definitive answers.

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”
Ay, back home

In the second verse, he narrows his scope further. He makes fairly iron-clad allusions to his departure from the band. 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’d say / Which connection I should cut, he sings.

Most of the song deals with Gabriel’s uncertainty. In the final verse, he resigns that he made the right decision.

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”

(Photo by Phillip Massey/WireImage)

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