Solsbury Hill, aside from being a place, is a song by Peter Gabriel released on his first solo album. If you've never heard it before you've missed out.

First a word about the music. There are times, when a piece of music will, for no explainable reason, burrow itself through your brain, climb into your nerves and pull hard on that little lever that says instant magic. Solsbury Hill is one such piece.

The second the stirring guitar figure comes in, you can hear the goddamn sun rising in the music itself. Somehow the very essence of walking through empty city streets, with the early morning mist rising and climbing atop the hill to see sun rise, has been distilled into music.

Gabriel could have bought the world with just that, but then the lyrics come in.

Lets talk about mundane for a second here (for those of you looking for facts this is your section). Solsbury Hill was written after Gabriel's departure from Genesis. In this song he takes the fears that come with leaving fame and turns it into elation, the very excitement of having the courage to do what it is that you want. Gabriel knew that people would think he was crazy (his wife thought he'd gone a bit mad, but that was partly because after his withdrawal from Genesis he took to raising cabbages for a while) and he doesn't care and says so right here in his words.

Other sites seem to state that the realisation of his desire for freedom came as a result of the massive stress and breakdown of relationships within the group, with Gabriel coming to his decision after seeing a Springsteen concert. The first verse seems to be a description of that concert. I'm not sure how true that is.(1)

But the lyrics are much more then that. To me at least, it sounds like a man having a massive joyful epiphany and being unable to describe it those around him. The sheer truth of it is always there, however and eventually he takes those he loves to the site of his epiphany so they can finally understand what it is he saw.

For others the lyrics are about a man finding God. For some it is finding the courage to be free, to live in the face of modernity and boredom.

The lyrics and music always seem to give me goose pimples, simply because they hint at some ethereal layer that we can't entirely pin down and describe.

So listen to it. It is pure magic.


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