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Solsbury Hill

by

Peter Gabriel



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

Most of Gabriel's songs have lyrics made up of various images that come to him, put this was a rare autobiographical song, dealing with his break as lead singer of the band Genesis and anticipation of his new challenge as a solo artist.
This was Gabriel's first single as a solo artist. It was a big deal for him, since the song proved that he could write and perform a hit on his own with a song that was meaningful to him. He remarked in interviews at the time that he was especially pleased with the song and surprised that it was a single, since at one point he was going to leave it off the album.
Built around an acoustic guitar riff, this song is much more simple and toned-down from his extravagant work with Genesis.
Even though this didn't have much chart success, it became a radio staple on various formats and remains popular. The timelessness of the song can be attributed to the fact that it was never overplayed by radio stations.
Gabriel used an unusual 7/4 time signature on this song. Another quirk: More instruments are added on each verse. "That 7/4 rhythm works well because it feels like a normal rhythm but isn't quite right," remarked Gabriel in Sounds magazine. "It's not like a clever rhythm, just a bit odd. It'll be interesting to see how people dance to it."
Gabriel considers this one of his favorites. It's almost always included in his live shows.
Solsbury Hill is located near Bath, England, where Gabriel would often walk or jog. According to legend, a temple was built there to honor Apollo, god of light, music, and poetry. Solsbury Hill was the focus of a long and bitter dispute in the 1990s between environmentalists and government concerning the construction of a 4 lane road which cuts deeply into the side of the hill. (thanks, Tim - Bath, England)
On his 2011 album New Blood, Gabriel recorded new versions of 13 of his older songs. He planned to leave this song off the set, but added it after fans requested the song. Gabriel sent his engineer to the actual Solsbury Hill to record the ambiance, which was used as the intro to the new version of the song.
The album was produced by Bob Ezrin, who had previously worked with Alice Cooper and would later produce the Pink Floyd album The Wall. Securing Ezrin, who was a top producer, demonstrated Gabriel's commitment to the album and to his solo career.
Peter Gabriel
Peter Gabriel Artistfacts
More Peter Gabriel songs
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Comments (100):

To me the song reminds me of the time that I experienced my spiritual awakening realising that this world is just an illusion. I'd left my body and rose up through the roof of the house and continued to soar through space with the Earth getting smaller and smaller. Feelings of unqualified love and acceptance flooding into my soul while a loving entity told me that everything would be OK with a peaceful loving masculine voice. In an instant I was returning to Earth as it grew larger and larger. I made the conscious effort to take note of what was in the street outside as I passed through the roof and returned to my body. Dashing out into the street everything I saw was as it was while I was out of my body, the same cars with the same number plates belonging to patrons of the night club across the road. Amazingly it was all real not just some crazy dream.
- Felix, Sydney, Australia
As with nearly all that Gabriel does, this song is beautiful.
- oldpink, Farmland, IN
I think many of us have an emptiness inside, a yearning for home - not a physical home, but the experience of acceptance and understanding. While it may not have been Peter Gabriel's intent, that is what this song invokes in me.
- Constance, Chestertown, MD
I don't care what it is about. It stirs something in my soul whenever I hear it! To me, it's a song about hope, being lost and then found.
- Elona, Ledgewood, NJ
I attended a Christian boarding school around the time this song was on the radio. I have remained convinced the song was about Mr. Gabriel's experience in a boarding school in England until now. I nearly had a nervous breakdown at the beginning of my Senior year and my mother picked me up and offered me one of her Salem cigarrettes. She took me home to reconsider my options. (I no longer smoke.) I graduated that year as valedictorian. My school's mascot was the Eagle. Thank you Mr. Gabriel for a song that is so meaningful to so many who are struggling, for so many reasons.
- martha, knoxville, TN
Peter Gabriel has gone on record to say that the idea that he was inspired by Bruce Springsteen to leave Genesis to be on his own and consequently to write Solisbury Hill, is completely untrue. He was unhappy with being in the music business, having his life planned for him two years out. Rolling Stone, October 10, 2011. He saw Springsteen in 1975 in London and was "blown away", but this was not connected to his departure from Genesis.
- Josh, Champaign, IL
I have called this song my favorite since a few years after it was released. I was in junior high at the time and listened to a lot of music in the 70s and 80s, but this song held a special place for me in those formative years, and it still does today. Anyone who thinks it is just one encrypted message to decode does not give the author enough credit. To me it is clearly about the raw emotion of soul-searching, the pure adrenaline that comes from taking a risk to believe in something against the grain, and the feeling of epiphany you get from realizing that change is what you needed. Of course Peter's break from Genesis was part of the inspiration, but he cleverly used lyrical imagery, a driving beat and other musical elements to evoke those emotions in others who had similar life experiences. If you are a religious person, you can't help but find God in the lyrics. If you are a soldier, images of battle may come to mind. If you are obsessed by UFOs, maybe the '77 hit you should be commenting on is "Come Sail Away" by Styx. I have hiked on a few mountaintops and know the feeling of "If I fall off here, I'm dead". The eagle is a great symbol of a creature that is in his element in places where we aren't comfortable. You can respect things that are outside your comfort zone or bigger than you if you have the courage to face your fears and get up out of the rut that limits your perspective - and what you will see is worth all the risk. You will know you are truly alive when your heart starts going BOOM, BOOM, BOOM. Life is short - Live it and don't be an empty silhouette! Thanks Peter!
- Pete, Loves Park, IL
I think whether Peter Gabriel intended to or not, he wrote a song that honored his Creator.
- Mel, Minneapolis, MN
I think it's about finding God. The lyrics "turning water into wine" just don't fit anything to do with leaving Genesis -- the entire feel of the song is rebirth -- the song builds at each stanza into something that must happen. He is trying not to listen, but God keeps talking to him. The final lyrics are fitting -- You can keep my things they've come to take me home. When Jesus enlisted the apostles, they left what they had and followed him. I believe Peter Gabriel was singing about either his own discovery of God or someone else's. This song has always meant so much to me that I can hardly refrain from crying when I hear it. I bought his first solo album on the strength of hearing this song only once. Everytime I hear it, I feel hopeful and full of love. I don't think if it were a song about leaving a rather stagnant rock band it would have such spirit within the melody or the lyrics. I love this song the same way I love Pete Townsend's "Let My Love Open the Door" which was in fact a song about his spiritual ephiphany.
-- Mimi, Sacramento, CA
- Mimi, Sacramento, CA
obviously Alice is confused ---i went t o bath uni near solisbury hill !
From Wikipedia
Little Solsbury Hill (more commonly known as Solsbury Hill) is a small flat-topped hill and the site of an Iron Age hill fort. It is located above the village of Batheaston in Somerset, England. The hill rises to 625 feet (191 m)[2] above the River Avon which is just over 1 mile (2 km) to the south. It is within the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It gives impressive views of the city of Bath and the surrounding area. The hill was immortalized in 1977 by Peter Gabriel in his song 'Solsbury Hill'.
- mike, perth, Australia
I have qalways loved this song a true masterpiece..
- Jim, Long Beach, CA
"Climbing up on Solsbury Hill"
(Codeword in 1941 for a British plot to get neutral America into WW2- very similar to Japan's code to press the attack on Pearl Harbor- 'Climb Mount Niitaka')
"I could see the city light, wind was blowing time stood still"
(The plot was conceived by an RAF pilot while walking the hill during blackout exercises, wind blowing= war, time stood still= German battleship Bismarck just sank HMS Hood, a very dark time)
"Eagle flew out of the night"
(17 USN pilots [Eagles] had already been sent to train RAF pilots to fly new lend-lease planes. And the plot: they would now assist in the search for the missing Bismarck, which was against Int'l law- FDR could have been impeached)
"He was something to observe"
(And that he did, Leonard Tuck Smith was at the controls and first to spot the missing ship )
"Came in close I heard a voice, my heart going boom boom boom"
(Smith brought the plane in too close and had the RAF radio man radio Command of the Bismarck's position. The boom's were actually anti-aircraft fire from the Bismarck)
"Son he said, grab your things I've come to take you home"
(Smith turns control of the craft to the RAF pilot- if they got shot down/captured, his presence would be viewed by Germany as an act of war)
"Turning water into wine, open doors would soon be shut"
(It would still take a miracle to sink the ship, open doors....shut= battle stations)
- mike, seattle, WA
I'm convinced this song is about christ. I agree with (Marvin, Birmingham, AL) He did not mention religion in the interview (Chip, Cuyahoga Falls, OH) for fear of being labeled a "Jesus Freak"
- Jonathan, Hamden, CT
Oh, you all, Doug, Lizzie... so many others... I have thought of this song for 30 years and not really listened. It has always brought an emotion/grey thought from my head. In the music...I hear a yearning, a searching-almost...but, how the song builds...when the line "Son, he said, grab your things..." I always have felt the answer to my yearning. I want my father to save me! And you can interpret this to be "Our Father" or "your" father- but I know... I thank Mr. Gabriel for being an artist who can speak to MY heart and makes this song special (and unique) to me. All YOUR thoughts and comments prove this is an importantant message and piece of art. Thank you for sharing!
- Peter, Hillsboro, OR
Boy this is one of my all time favorite Gabriel tunes.
I'd like to confirm that this song IS about Peter leaving his band Genesis.
I loved that band when he was in it; arrogant choice of names for a band IMO.
- JESUS@Heaven.org

Pet peeve: Why can't my followers spell? Good God that irks me...LOL.
- Jeff, Austin, TX
I thought this song was about the crucifixtion
- Jonathan, Hamden, CT
The Solsbury Hill area is very well known for alot of U.F.O activity and I believe Gabriel is only refering to going back home.
- STEVE MAGYAR, palm coast, FL
I love this song and often wondered if there is modern historical significance.When I listen to the song, It sounds like Peter is telling the story of a military rescue operation.
- that guy, Sandiego, OR
I like RG's interpretation. I know it's not on the mark, but so what? When it's not all spelled out for you, that's when the strange and wonderful stuff comes up. What a great video that could make.
- Jim, Lemuropolis, NC
Gabrielese. Hidden meaning.
- Eileen, Aston, PA
the band SAGA did a great cover of this tune...it's hard to find but they sound great doing it.
- mike, boca raton, FL
The only truth to be found is the deity that everyone has within, and one spends a lifetime to discover it. I had very high hopes for President Obama, but now I realized that he is nothing more than a man, a very bright guy who knows more than most of us and can fix some things if he got a chance, but his intellect and charisma cannot overcome the forces of evil. To me, the song is about finding God within after allowing oneself to believe in people. People cannot be trusted, but only you.
- jeff, Chicago, IL
"Grab your things, I've come to take you home" sounds like leaving a mental institute.
- Sarah, severna park, MD
I heard that Peter Gabriel is Bipolar. I am bipolar and this song sounds like a manic episode.
- Sarah, severna park, MD
@Greg, Knoxville, TN: I bet you go through a boatload of those religion cards forcing them on everyone like that.

I cannot really understand comments after the one from 'Chip, Cuyahoga Falls, OH' continuing the religion twist or anything other twists for that matter. Chip gives the meaning of the song straight from Peter Gabriel in black and white. It doesn't leave much room for any more interpretations, especially any religious anything.

@bernhard, mannheim, Germany: Well done! I still laugh when I think about your comment. Wish I could say I thought of it!
- Janette, Houston, TX
The comments to this song coming from christians remind me of a song by Carly Simon "you´re so vain, you probably think this song is about you...". I wonder what a buddhist or a muslim would read out of Solsbury Hill...
- bernhard, mannheim, Germany
This is so typical Peter Gabriel... :D
- Budoshi, Sandnessj√łen, Norway
I get choked up every time I hear this incredible song. It gives me chills too that SO many people are so profoundly affected by it -- it taps into something deep-seated -- listening to a live version and hearing the entire audience singing every word is so unbelievably moving.
- Lizzie, Toronto, ON
It's so obviously a metaphor about leaving Genesis I'm surprised it took me 32 years to find out. DOH! I always took it kind of literally and figured it was about a alien observer planted here who was recalled. I was more into the odd meter than the lyrics anyway.

BTW for Ave Maria in Philly, The album credits Peter playing both flute and recorder. If it sounds metallic and shrill it's a flute, kind of hollow and woody, it's the recorder.
- RG, Philadelphia, PA
This song could just as easiy be taken as someone having a transcendental experience on a Pagan site, someone who steps out of the machinery of daily corporate life and tells everyone to sell his material goods, he's risen to a higher, more serene plane, where the eagle flies. Attaching it to any particular religion is strictly at the preference of the individual listener.
- Leah, Brooklyn, NY
"I walked right out of the machinery" Obviously it became increasingly mundane for Peter being in Genesis and there was no fun left in it anymore. The last straw must have certainly been when the other members of Genesis couldn't handle Peter taking some time off touring to be with his pregnant wife who was having difficulty.

A very encouraging and comforting song.
- Greg, Calgary, AB
This is one of the greatest songs of out time! I have always felt this was about Jesus Christ.

Who is this 'Jesus Christ' everyone keeps talking about
- terry, bath, United Kingdom
I have gotten out of my car twice to dance in the streets to this song in my life-it takes alot to do that to me. Gives me shivers and I have new epiphanies every time.
- Jessica, New Canaan, CT
this song is about his break from Genesis. he was having trouble being part of the big machine and seeking individuality . when his wife jill was having problems at the end of her pregnancy with anna, their first child. Peter decided family was more important and decided to stay home with mother and child. this pissed the other band members off and was the final straw. peter wrote this song to deal with the feelings and tribulations that went along with the break up of a group of friends. the divorce came later, after the birth of their second child. the mention in the earlier post about sounding like U2 is funny , you think maybe U2 got some of their sound from Peter since he obviously came first ?????
- rob, colorado springs , CO
To me the melody sounds like it could be a Celtic folk song. The drum reminds me of U2, sort of. Does anyone know what that woodwind instrument is? I think this song is about starting something new and things finally going your way.
- Ave Maria, Philadelphia, PA
Saga's cover of this song is certainly worth a listen. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3UL8RKFJcis
- dllazarus, Newport News, VA
I truly believe, if you hear this song for the first time and fall in love with it for some reason you cannot describe, THAT IS PERFECTLY NORMAL. There are so many interpretations of this song, it's nice know now that I'm not crazy, Haha. But, if you are going through some personal or family issues (which was supposedly the reason why Gabriel wrote the song), this song will probably be your "getaway" if you consider it. Just don't obsess over this one song like some people might and basically, the way I would personally describe this song meaning is, "Endlessly Described". If this meaning was the one you were looking for, then I'm happy I could provide you it. If not, then I'm sorry. But I figure, however you're feeling at the time of hearing this song, is how you are going to "interpret" it. By this I mean, you could be open to believing this song is coming from a Higher power. Which is acceptable because of how unusual and original the layout sounds when listening to it over and over...and over.
- Me!! Trik!!!, Moo. Beach, NJ
I understand if you want to take this song as religious or about Jesus but in an interview in 1978, Peter Gabriel said he wrote this about leaving the band and family issues that had caused some problems with the band. His wife had had a difficult pregnancy and he had wanted to stop touring to be home and this had caused problems with the rest of Genesis.

He wrote the song after visiting Solsbury Hill and remembering a time when he ran away from home as a child and his father came to get him. With all of the issues going on at the time, he wrote the song. He did not mention religion at all in the interview.
- Chip, Cuyahoga Falls, OH
I understand if you want to take this song as religious or about Jesus but in an interview in 1978, Peter Gabriel said he wrote this about leaving the band and family issues that had caused some problems with the band. His wife had had a difficult pregnancy and he had wanted to stop touring to be home and this had caused problems with the rest of Genesis.

He wrote the song after visiting Solsbury Hill and remembering a time when he ran away from home as a child and his father came to get him. With all of the issues going on at the time, he wrote the song. He did not mention religion at all in the interview.
- Chip, Cuyahoga Falls, OH
I understand if you want to take this song as religious or about Jesus but in an interview in 1978, Peter Gabriel said he wrote this about leaving the band and family issues that had caused some problems with the band. His wife had had a difficult pregnancy and he had wanted to stop touring to be home and this had caused problems with the rest of Genesis.

He wrote the song after visiting Solsbury Hill and remembering a time when he ran away from home as a child and his father came to get him. With all of the issues going on at the time, he wrote the song. He did not mention religion at all in the interview.
- Chip, Cuyahoga Falls, OH
Grab on to your Higher power and take the ride of your life
- Chris, Columbus, OH
This is clearly a story about a man receiving Jesus Christ into his life, his struggle with breaking from the "world," and his ultimate decision to follow Christ in the face of what the "world" says is "right." It's about as overt as you could ask. If you don't get it, then you ain't "got it."....and you need "it."
- Greg, Knoxville, TN
I always thought this song was about making a major change in one's life...for me personally, this song was running through my mind as I was crossing the stage at my graduate school commencement. "I was feeling part of the scenery/I walked right out of the machinery."
- Ashley, Carlisle, PA
One of two rock hits of the '70s that is (for the most part) in 7/4 time. "Money" by Pink Floyd is the other. If you count it out, the last line, ending in "take you home," reverts to a pair of 4/4 bars before going back to 7/4. Check it out!
- Mark, Mobile, AL
This song is so beautiful. It gives me such a nice feeling everytime I hear it.
- Christina, North Bay, Canada
I absolutely agree that it is his greatest single song. It is one of my Top Ten of all-time, and I have been a huge music fan over the past four decades. For some reason, I have always seen the life of Christ as the inspiration. His personal awakening from "ordinary man", a humble carpenter with spiritual curiosity and interests, to the fact that he was actually "God incarnate". The inspiration is there every time that I hear the song, and I never flip the channel or otherwise leave the radio when it's on. An inspirational masterpiece. Many interesting interpretations here as well.
- Matthew, Philadelphia, PA
All about new beginnings and burying the past...great as a ringtone!
- Peter, Huddersfield, England
i think this song is about adrenaline. my heart going boom boom boom. this song is about the nervousness of leaving people or something behind. this song is also about leaving everything behind, possible bankruptcy. about being inspired...come on, ive come to take you home.
- mike, loserville, OH
i ve always thought that the main character is the eagle or more exactly 'the spirit of the eagle'
humans invaded his home but the spirit of eagle still around visiting those who can see and can hear.
it's both spiritual and a chant to protection of nature.
- anna, paris, France
(PG4 was entitled Security for the US market.)

Solsbury Hill has always struck me as being sung from the point of view of a boy at a boarding school, on the day that parents, etc were coming to take the children home. (In the 1st verse, he overhears one of his schoolmates being told that it's time to go. In the 2nd, he's being discrete about the news. In the third, he's presenting himself to be taken home.)

I can certainly see where it alludes to aspects of leaving the band. But it still seems to be framed mostly within the aforementioned metaphor--no surprise from a man notorious for abstraction.

It remains a simple masterpiece, filled with dimension and emotion, yet little, if any clutter.
- Brian, , AL
Ok , here goes my take. I love this song and the referances I hear are so much like what I think when I am shrooming.Is it possible?
- Brian, KNOXVILLE, TN
I also live in Bath, and work at the bottom of Solsbury Hill. Alice from Bath is incorrect, it is spelt Solsbury and definately not Salisbury, check any local maps and all of the road signs. Salisbury is the county town of Wiltshire and completely unrelated. And... yes the song is about Genesis but ultimately, it's whatever you need it to be about to make you feel better. Andy
- Andy, Bath, England
As a poet and lover of music, I appreciate and look for great lyrics in addition to great music. Certain songs combine the 2 in a way that produces songs that simply stand above the others. One of these is Solsbury Hill. The rhythm, the boom-boom-boom, the incredible lyrics have and will serve Peter Gabriel well as the years pass. I put in on a level with 'Across the Universe', 'Limelight',(I'm partial to Neal Peart) and 'Imagine', and 'For Emily wherever I may find Her'. It is one of the reasons that there is such a rebirth of the music of the 70's and reforming of the bands of the period. Try finding this quality of writing in today's music. Although there is some if you look, it's hard to find. One reason is that it doesn't get played. Anyway, I would lock myself in my room and sing along to Solsbury Hill over and over again. I hope to visit it's namesake before the Eagle comes talking to me. Thanks Peter for a great piece of music! T Owen Stark
- tom, Bluemont, VA
Has anyone heard the fairly recent version done by the British band Erasure? (They're still around...) This version is actually the one I heard first - not the original. When I heard it I knew I had to hear the original as it's such a great song. It's (erasure's) a good version in my opinion, of course I am a die-hard Erasure fan. You should check it out.
- Yumi, LA, CA
This reminds me of a night when the girl I loved drove me up to the outlook known in Auckland as "One Tree Hill" and it was dark and windy and the stars were glorious, and inspiration seemed to flow through my pores.
- Robomatic, Anchorage, AK
This song is about a guy getting taken back to his home planet by aliens. They are returning his weirdness back to the space from whence he came.
- Bubba Zanetti, Austin, TX
The first time i really "heard" this song I was going to pick up my son from a rehab he had checked himself into. I had gone the tough love route with him. He was only 18, kicked out of the house, and I hadn't been "available" to him for over 6 months until he called to tell me he checked himself into rehab. I talked to him by phone the morning I was going to get him and I said "Pack your things, I'm coming to take you home"! I get chills every time I hear that song! Life is good.
- Lucy, Etters, PA
There are few perfect songs written in this world. This just happens to be one of them. Beyond a doubt, it is one of my favorites.
- coffeegod, Brandon, MS
My brother thinks this song has to do about a man being committed to a funny farm. There are certainly some lines in the song that can lead you to that conclusion.

To me this song has a special and personal meaning. The line about "Son grap your things I come to take you home," reminds me of when I drive to pick up my sons from thier mothers house (I play it both on the way there and back)and I listen to the song as I drive there and play it for my sons as we drive back to my house/there home. It always fills me with a joy.
- walter, Taylor, PA
This song first clicked for me after I had heard a lecture about "near death" experiences, and I thought sure that's what this song was about. It still resonates with that meaning, even though I had heard it was inspired when Peter thought he had seen a UFO.
- Steve, Saint louis, MO
My first impression was that this was about the life of Jesus - e.g., all those years before he began teaching, and must have realised that to "come out" as a prophet would bring rejection from friends, family and others. The eagle would be the voice of God (or the Holy Spirit), and then he finally chooses to do it. At the same time I think it also describes Pater Gabriel's breaking out solo, as so many above have said, and also the same difficult yet life-making scenario in anyone's life. I think it's all 3.
- Ann, Melbourne, Australia
This song has a significant meaing to me. I first heard it back in 2000 while i was crossing the Tanimi desert Australia (in the middle of summer). I was drawn to the meaning of the lyrics. How I have had struggles and trials and in some ways feel like I can relate to what Peter is talking about.
Of course there is the conection with the spiritual world but for me it gives me the feeling of hope that in the end we will be taken home.
The music that accompanys the song always gives me goose bumps. Its a truely wonderful song and I will always look forward to hearing it for years to come. Thank you Peter.
- Owen, Springwood, Australia
this is my favorite peter gabriel song.
- Roger, Los Angeles, CA
What a great song--I made a cd of this song--18 times on one cd. It's an endless classic that never gets old.
- Sam, washington, DC
I love this song, I come from the place it's written about, and I have to point out that it's Salisbury Hill not Solsbury! (Although that is how it's pronounced). I think it's great that so many people see a religious significance to the lyrics, but I think it's obviously about Gabriel's internal struggle at a major turning point in his career. Salisbury Hill is famous locally as a place of pagan spirituality and when you climb to the top and look at the lights of the city of Bath somehow everything seems clearer. It's a beautiful place.
- Alice, Bath, England
still reckon it's about a religous epihanny
- pete, nowra, Australia
I think this song is about him when he left genesis
- Jesus, Caracas, South America
I allways grew up and thought that this song was about Christ ... and if you look at words I can see where that came from.
- Nick, Tampa, FL
Interesting discussions, all (well not completely all). I have always liked this song. I have it on vinyl from years ago. I hear it on radio from time to time, and put it on from time to time at home. This is what it means to me.

I lost my daughter to cancer five years ago. I know that she if fine. This song is one of the many things that make me know this. There are many others. Dreams among them. Where we all sit and examine the meaning of these lyrics is the dream, gone in the blink of an eye. My daughter grabbed her things and went home, after touching more people in nine years than I will in at least 56. I was not a Christian until she got sick, now I am. But it does not matter. It is the spirituality. We are one, nothing changes that. We will all go home. And whether if it is in the terror of a horrible moment, or after laying in a hospital bed for months, the eagle will speak. I've come to take you home.
- doug, lansing, MI
This song was used to great effect by film editor Robert Ryang in his award-winning recut of the trailer for "The Shining". This marvelous job of editing makes this horrific movie seem like a heartwarming family film.
- Stuthehistoryguy, Erie, PA
This is the first time I have read the lyrics but I've been hearing it on the radio since I was a kid. I was sure it was a tale of a man who had been committed to an asylum called Salisbury Hills. He had been cured and was allowed to leave. He was so happy that he didn't pack but just left. It makes more sense that this was Peter's epiphany about leaving Genesis. Oh well
- Lalah, Wasilla, AK
this song was in two recent movies. vanilla sky & in good company
- marlow, perth
I love this song... I think it is a story about one of the Apostles trying to decide if he is going to follow Jesus and pass on his teachings and the stories of his miracles while Jesus is on earth. The Apostle finally decides that he is committed to following in Christ's footsteps and that decision releases him from the mental tug of war that he is having with himself. He finds himself secure in his mind that he has made the right choice to follow the Lord, and there is nothing for him to take along with him but his spirituality. He joins Jesus and the rest of the Apostles and they take him home with them...
- Tom, Mililani, HI
To me the song has always been about an encounter with extraterrestrials.

Climbing up on Solsbury Hill ?I could see the city lights ?Wind was blowing, time stood still
(Many who have had close encounters say time seemed to stand still)
Eagle flew out of the night
(Eagle a.k.a. U.F.O)
?He was something to observe
(Extraterrestrial alien)?
Came in close, I heard a voice ?Standing, stretching every nerve ?I had to listen had no choice
(frozen possibly by telepathy)
?I did not believe the information ?Just had to trust imagination
(information being projected in his mind from the alien)
?My heart going boom boom boom ?Son, he said, grab your things I've come to take you home
(Many believe man was propagated on earth by aliens)??To keep in silence I resigned ?My friends would think I was a nut ?Turning water into wine ?Open doors would soon be shut
(resigning to not talk about alien encounter)
?So I went from day to day ?Though my life was in a rut ?Till I thought of what I'd say ?And which connection I should cut ?I was feeling part of the scenery ?I walked right out of the machinery
(deciding to go solo)
?My heart going boom boom boom ?Son, he said, grab your things I've come to take you home ??yeaah, 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
(Many refer to these as shadow people)
?Who close their eyes but still can see
(telepathy)
?No one taught them etiquette ?So I will show another me ?Today I don't need a replacement ?I'll tell them what the smile on my face meant
(he teaches them about a human reaction)
?My heart going boom boom boom ?Hey, I said, you can keep my things they've come to take me home
- Michael, Boston, MA
Solsbury Hill seems to mean many different things to many different people. Here's another idea:

Gabriel pulled the plug on the star-making machine [Genesis] and moved his family to the rural anonymity of the lush Bath valley. The change in Gabriel was so extreme that some feared for his sanity. "Peter spent the first six months making a vegetable garden and appeared to be going mad," says his wife Jill. "He would come into the house and play the piano in a very alone world. But I could tell from the way he was playing that he had to go out on his own."

When Gabriel's solo LPs began to emerge, they revealed a flair for flinty introspection and doomsday conviction. Songs like "Solsbury Hill," an uplifting tale of the exhilarating loss of childhood innocence that was an allegory for the breakup of Genesis, were contrasted with apocalyptic keyboard soul-chillers like "Here Comes the Flood."


--PAUL MATTHEW TRISKA

March 11, 2004
- Cory, solsbury, United States
Between the end of the first chorus and the start of the second verse, Gabriel sings "Hey, loo fuoy." "Loo fuoy" is "you fool" spelled backward.
- Joshua, Twin Cities, MN
OK I'm a total dolt.........I always thought it had to do with Stone Henge and alians......never read any biblical reference in to it at all so it goes
- Dave, Beloit, WI
"Petit mal" is also a lesser form of epileptic fit than a grand mal...
- Nigel, Wilmington, DE
Okay, I have to say this: the "petite mal" or little death refers to orgasm.
- Kelli, Cedar Rapids, IA
Come one folks -- although I don't doubt that Peter may be religious, this song is clearly only an allusion to religious experience. According to christian mythology, you don't get to back off from the `rapture' & make your mind up about it. This song is about realizing you could be something different (and apparently freer) than you are, taking a while to make up your mind to leave behind your comfortable life (& mess up others') & then finally setting off on your own new ideal.

The eagle may represent Bruce Springsteen on one level, but it almost certainly represents a free but solitary life course --- going solo. "Turning water into wine" -- obviously a reference to Jesus, but it could be a derogatory reference from people thinking he thinks he's better than the rest of the band.

Similarly the "come to take you home" thing is an allusion to religious experience, but normally associated with death. This neatly expresses both the fear and the promise of leaving a succesful band.

I don't know enough about Gabriel to know whether he intended for other people to see this song as an encouragement to do religious conversions --- knowing the secularism of British society I think it would be more likely he was trying to convince people to reclaim the epiphenal experience in their ordinary / secular / professional lives.

Jaibe
- Jaibe, Carol Stream, IL
One of the best songs ever. Also used in 'In Good Company' with Dennis Quaid...at least in the trailor. Gabriel is one of the most underrated siner/songwriters in music. Many, many great songs...Here Comes the Flood...Games Without Frontiers...Your Eyes...hard to believe his original label as a solo dropped him. Great live performer as well.
- tom, Bluemont, VA
This song was on the radio the other day -- 28 years+ old. The lyrics definitely hold much more relevance today for me than they did then. One doesn't always understand a religious epiphany. Perhaps Gabriel did/didn't know at the time he wrote this song and lyrics how identifiable to some people it becomes to the man Jesus. Much of the life of the young Jesus we don't know, but the reference to the eagle is also the symbol of John - the beloved disciple of Jesus Christ ("Wind was blowing, time stood still eagle flew out of the night. He was something to observe came in close, I heard a voice"). "Watched by empty silhouettes who close their eyes, but still can see" -- interestingly, Peter was one of the disciples who closed his eyes while Jesus Christ struggled in the Garden of Gethsemane. Interpretations aside, it is an incredible song -- one that in these past 28 years has always made me pause to listen to it whenever/wherever it's being played. Hopefully, my teenage sons will take the opportunity to understand the gift Gabriel has given us with his remarkable musical talents and his social conscience.
- Kris, Hagerstown, MD
While about Peter going out on his on from Genesis, I believe as others do that it talks to the life of Jesus Christ in 3 parts. The first stanza about hearing from God on the mount about his final fate in life (he was something to observe - had to listen had no choice - couldn't believe the information). The middle stanza about his life with this knowledge - a bit depressed and going through the motions (keepin' silence I resigned, So I went from day to day) and finally the last stanza about his torn feelings about his crucifixion that he knew he was pre-ordained to be part of , with the Romans around him and his eventually triumphant break to heaven (liberty she pirouette-when I think that I am free - who close their eyes but still can see - I will show another me). Each chorus has a version of 'Son, I've come to take you home'. God calling him home from mortal man to god). People think the last version, where it is "they" have come to take me home - is the holy trinity. I and others believe that this is the most human version of what a real Jesus Christ might have felt. And being allegorical to his leaving mortal genesis to heavenly solo career to boot (an amazing song writer). Funny because the movie of a more human feeling Christ - Last Temptation of Christ - did a worse job than this amazing song and of course has the score by Gabriel.
- Steve, Belmont, CA
This song tells the story of someone undergoing a religious conversion. The turning water into wine line specifically tags this religion as Christianity. Peter has also used the "come to take you home" = rapture metaphor in Supper's Ready.

The song then gets interesting because then he explains why he hides his conversion from others who might question his sanity or, even worse, threaten his career:

"To keepin' silence I resigned
My friends would think I was a nut
Turning water into wine
Open doors would soon be shut"

The narrator then thinks about his situation and sees his life as being divided between his religious sphere and another that is hostile to religion. He is somewhat alienated from both spheres and convinces himself that he must choose between these worlds (which connection he should cut).

In the final verse, the narrator reaches an accomodation with himself and is rehearsing the way he will explain his beliefs and choice to others.
- Marvin, Birmingham, AL
This song is one of those songs that you want to use for a life motto. It's an awakening of spirit. It's sitting in a mess of a life looking outward toward impending change with all the hope, love, and optimism one can muster. Besides that, it's a kick ass song. I believe any religious meaning or inception lies with it's spiritual rather than religious content. But that's just me.
- Josh, Kingston, NY
What a wonderfully crafted song. Anyone who can write and sing a song like this is truly talented. Have been enjoying this song a lot lately as I missed it when it first came out. If I reflect on the lyrics it would appear to me to be of religious significance. Maybe its a modern day version of God coming to Jesus through the voice of an eagle and Jesus wondering what his friends are going to think etc etc. Whatever it means it is a pleausre to get lost in this song and I will never tire of it.
- Tom, Adelaide, Australia
this is a really loverly song, but the lyrics confuse the hell out of me!
- rhett, Melbourne, Australia
Take it easy Josef-
Woah! A sniper? What about the first verse with the eagle etc.? I suppose that the eagle represents Springsteen, though...
- Charles, Bronxville, NY
what a beautiful song!
- Stefanie magura, Rock Hill, SC
To me, this song is about what Joseph Campbell referred to as "dying to your old self, in order to be born to a new self." What the French term "petite mal" or little death. This to me is about the many powerful, and sometimes life changing epiphanies you get in life when suddenly everything you knew is upside down, and you feel like your floating in disbelief trying to land your feet on something firm again--knowing that everyone is looking at you as the fool for not being "normal." Well, it's my intention to listen to as many Eagles flying out of the night as I can, and if turning water into wine and having my friends think I was a nut, well so be it. Here's to Mr. Gabriel's wonderful articulation of those critical moments in life where we are suddenly able to be one with everything, know everything and connect with the universe of souls--even if just for a few seconds of earth time--and see the truth of ourselves and know where we need to walk down our unmarked path. I guess that's all we can handle given our limitations as human beings--but man, what a rush! Just make sure to be open to those moments because that's when we all learn what our lives are all about, and likely how we need to start living them.
- Jeff, Cheltenham, England
isn't this song about a religous epiphnany
- pete, nowra, Australia
I can remember this song from the time it was released when I was about 10.
I only bought the album its on as a bit of an impulse buy when I became ill
a couple of years ago. Interestingly several people feel the song is about
religious epiphany, which can be one of the manifestations of the mania side
of Bipolar Disorder (Manic Depression). I found out today that Peter
Gabriel may be a Manic Depressive, according to the internet anyway! Its a
beautiful song musically and lyrically which means lots of things to lots of
people, but perhaps only Peter himself really knows its true meaning
- Richard, Didcot, England
This is one of the greatest songs of out time!
I have always felt this was about Jesus Christ.
- Celeste, Drexel Hill, PA
this song is completely about a religious epiphany. that religion is rock and roll.
- Brian, Philadelphia, PA
This track was used in 2001 by Cameron Crowe in his movie 'Vanilla Sky', a remake of Alejandro Amen√°bar's "Abre los Ojos". Watch the movie and see that the song fits it very well "Watched by empty silhouettes; Who close their eyes but still can see"
- Jesse, Osaka, Japan
Off of the album "Peter Gabriel". He managed to release four albums under this title before the record company insisted he start to give them proper names. The fourth one was titled "Security" retroactively for unknown reasons.
- Kent Lyle, Palo Alto, CA
I too thought that this song was about a religious epiphany. This is my favorite song in the world. It is, without a doubt, his best effort, ever!
- Heather, Alta Loma, CA
I always thought solsbury hill was about some sort of religious epiphany. I must be wrong after reading that, shame!
- Kieran, Harlow, United States
In my opinion, this song is about a sniper on solsbury hill preparing to knock someone. Just by the way he talks about keeping silence by resigning his freinds, turning water into wine (blood), heart going boom boom boom, grab your things I'll take you home...Oh yeah, and which connection(arteries)I should cut. Anyway, this not a fact but just an observance. I have always loved the song, I think one of his best solo efforts... J
- Josef, Corpus Christi, TX
Ironically, when he and Jill, his ex-wife were having difficulties and divorce was emminent, she attempted suicide on Solsbury hill.
- Geri, Nova Scotia, Canada
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