Solsbury Hill (song)
|Single by Peter Gabriel|
|from the album Peter Gabriel (Car)|
|B-side||"Moribund the Burgermeister"|
|Released||21 March 1977|
|Peter Gabriel singles chronology|
"Solsbury Hill" is the debut solo single of English musician Peter Gabriel. He wrote the song about a spiritual experience atop Little Solsbury Hill in Somerset, England, after his departure from the progressive rock band Genesis, of which he had been the lead singer since its inception.  The single was a Top 20 hit in the UK, peaking at number 13, and reached number 68 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1977. The song has often been used in film trailers for romantic comedies.
Gabriel has said of the song's meaning, "It's about being prepared to lose what you have for what you might get ... It's about letting go." His former bandmate Tony Banks acknowledges that the song reflects Gabriel's decision to break ties with Genesis, but it can also be applied in a broader sense to situations of letting go in general.
The song is mostly written in 7
4 time, an unusual time signature that has been described as "giving the song a constant sense of struggle". The meter settles into 4
4 time only for the last two measures of each chorus. It is performed in the key of B major with a tempo of 102 beats per minute, with Gabriel's vocals ranging from F♯3 to G♯4.
Producer Bob Ezrin placed some restrictions on the session musicians to give the song its distinctive sound. While earlier versions of the song featured more prominent electric guitar, Ezrin instructed guitarist Steve Hunter to instead perform the main riff on a 12 string guitar, an instrument "he hadn't played in a long time". However, Hunter states that he instead borrowed a Martin acoustic guitar, and Travis picked the voicings with a capo on the second fret. As Ezrin wanted the acoustic guitar to be tripled, Hunter was required to provide three satisfactory takes, all of which had to be aligned with one another. Bob Ezrin used the variable speed oscillator on guitar tracks to achieve the chorusing effect.
Rather than employing a full drum kit, Allan Schwartzberg made do with a shaker in one hand and a drum stick in another, which he used to strike a telephone book. For additional rhythmic textures, Larry Fast constructed a fake drum kit on his keyboard, which he dubbed the "synthibam", although the liner notes credit percussionist Jimmy Maelen with the instrument. After all of the session musicians departed, Fast also overdubbed some additional electronics, including the synth horn orchestration. From verse two onwards, a subdued four note flute riff, played by Gabriel himself, sounds-off the beginning of each section of the lyrics.
Use in soundtracks
It has been used in a number of films and television shows, including the 2001 film Vanilla Sky and the 2004 film In Good Company. More recently, it has been used in the trailer of Finding Dory and featured as the send-off song for the series finale of AMC's Halt and Catch Fire. It was also used for the conclusion of an episode of Fox's 9-1-1. It was used in a Cingular Wireless TV ad campaign, and a Nespresso TV ad campaign. Its prevalence in romantic comedy trailers has been called "ubiquitous", particularly its inclusion in a satirical re-cut trailer of The Shining.
7" UK single (1977)
7" "Old Gold" single (1982)
UK maxi-single (1983, 1988)
7" European single (1990 re-issue)
12" UK single/UK CD single (1990 re-issue)
7" US single (1983)
7" Netherlands single (1983)
7" US single (1983)
- Peter Gabriel – vocals, flute, recorder
- Steve Hunter – guitars
- Tony Levin – bass guitar
- Larry Fast – synths
- Allan Schwartzberg – drums, shaker, telephone book
- Jimmy Maelen – synthibam
- London Symphony Orchestra
|Canada Top Singles (RPM)||92|
|Germany (Official German Charts)||16|
|UK Singles (Official Charts Company)||13|
|US Billboard Hot 100||68|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Silver||200,000|
Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.
|Single by Erasure|
|from the album Other People's Songs|
|Released||6 January 2003|
|Erasure singles chronology|
"Solsbury Hill" was recorded by British synthpop duo Erasure in 2003 for their cover versions album Other People's Songs and released as a single in the United Kingdom on 6 January 2003. This Erasure single became a hit, reaching No. 10 on the UK Singles Chart, No. 7 in Denmark, No. 29 in Germany, No. 39 in Sweden, and No. 41 in Ireland. The track was chosen for the album by Erasure member Vince Clarke.
Clarke and singer Andy Bell turned the song into a mid-tempo electronic dance tune, displaying the signature Erasure sound. The band changed the structure of the song from the original 7
4 time signature to 4
4—except for the chorus, which slips back into 7
4 time for one line. This also results in the vocals in the verses effectively being shifted forward in comparison to Gabriel's (which start on beat 5 of each bar) to start on beat 1 of bars 1 and 3.
CD Single No. 1 (CDMUTE275)
- "Solsbury Hill"
- "Tell It To Me"
CD Single No. 2 (LCDMUTE275)
DVD Single (DVDMUTE275)
- "Solsbury Hill" (Radio Mix)
- "Video Killed the Radio Star"
- "Dr Jeckyll and Mistress Hyde" (Short Film)
US CD Maxi Single (9200-2)
- "Solsbury Hill" (Radio Mix)
- "Solsbury Hill"
- "Tell It To Me"
- "Video Killed the Radio Star" (37B Mix)
- "Solsbury Hill" (37B Mix)
- "Solsbury Hill" (Manhattan Clique Extended Remix)
- "Ave Maria"
- "Dr. Jeckyll And Mistress Hyde" (Short Film)
|Germany (Official German Charts)||29|
|UK Singles (OCC)||10|
|UK Indie (OCC)||2|
Other cover versions
In 2010, Lou Reed released a version of the song as part of the project Scratch My Back, with Peter Gabriel recording cover versions of other artists and letting them provide covers of his songs in return. Many of the versions were very different from the original recordings. Lou Reed's version, like Erasure's, changes the 7
4 time signature to 4
4, and shifts the vocals in the verses to start on beat 2 of bars 1 and 3.
In April 2013, an instrumental version of Solsbury Hill was included in guitar player Steve Hunter's album The Manhattan Blues Project. Hunter had played on the original Peter Gabriel (1977 album) recording and he invited his friend and original Solsbury Hill bass player Tony Levin to play bass on the track. In the 2014 biography by Daryl Easley Without Frontiers Gabriel gave Hunter credit for coming up with the guitar parts which became a signature for the song.
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- "New Releases – For Week Starting 6 January 2003" (PDF). Music Week. 28 December 2002. p. 12. Retrieved 1 September 2021.
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