Solsbury Hill (song)

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"Solsbury Hill"
Solsbury Hill by Peter Gabriel UK vinyl release.jpg
Original 1977 UK vinyl single
Single by Peter Gabriel
from the album Peter Gabriel (Car)
B-side"Moribund the Burgermeister"
Released21 March 1977[1]
  • 4:21 (album version)
  • 3:24 (single edit version)
Songwriter(s)Peter Gabriel
Producer(s)Bob Ezrin
Peter Gabriel singles chronology
"Solsbury Hill"
"Modern Love"

"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,[5][2][6] after his departure from the progressive rock band Genesis, of which he had been the lead singer since its inception.[7] [2] 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.[8] The song has often been used in film trailers for romantic comedies.[9]

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."[10] 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.[citation needed]

The song is mostly written in 7
, an unusual time signature that has been described as "giving the song a constant sense of struggle".[2] The meter settles into 4
time only for the last two measures of each chorus.[11] It is performed in the key of B major with a tempo of 102 beats per minute, with Gabriel's vocals ranging from F3 to G4.[12]


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".[13] 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.[14] 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",[13] although the liner notes credit percussionist Jimmy Maelen with the instrument.[15] After all of the session musicians departed, Fast also overdubbed some additional electronics, including the synth horn orchestration.[13] From verse two onwards, a subdued four note flute riff, played by Gabriel himself, sounds-off the beginning of each section of the lyrics.[2]

Use in soundtracks[edit]

It has been used in a number of films and television shows, including the 2001 film Vanilla Sky[16] and the 2004 film In Good Company.[17] More recently, it has been used in the trailer of Finding Dory[18] and featured as the send-off song for the series finale of AMC's Halt and Catch Fire.[19] It was also used for the conclusion of an episode of Fox's 9-1-1.[20] It was used in a Cingular Wireless TV ad campaign,[21] and a Nespresso TV ad campaign.[22] Its prevalence in romantic comedy trailers has been called "ubiquitous", particularly its inclusion in a satirical re-cut trailer of The Shining.[23]

Track listing[edit]

Live version[edit]


Robert Fripp is often credited. However, he has written: "I had nothing to add to the track after Steve [Hunter]'s superb & fitting contribution, although I would love to be on it."[25]


Chart (1977) Peak
Belgium (Wallonia)[26] 17
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[27] 92
Germany (Official German Charts)[26] 16
Netherlands[26] 13
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[28] 13
US Billboard Hot 100[29] 68


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[30] Silver 200,000double-dagger

double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Erasure version[edit]

"Solsbury Hill"
Single by Erasure
from the album Other People's Songs
Released6 January 2003 (2003-01-06)[31]
Songwriter(s)Peter Gabriel
Erasure singles chronology
"Moon & the Sky"
"Solsbury Hill"
"Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)"

"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
time signature to 4
—except for the chorus, which slips back into 7
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.[citation needed]

Track listing[edit]

CD Single No. 1 (CDMUTE275)

  1. "Solsbury Hill"
  2. "Tell It To Me"
  3. "Searching"

CD Single No. 2 (LCDMUTE275)

  1. "Solsbury Hill" (37B Mix)
  2. "Solsbury Hill" (Manhattan Clique Extended Remix)
  3. "Ave Maria"

DVD Single (DVDMUTE275)

  1. "Solsbury Hill" (Radio Mix)
  2. "Video Killed the Radio Star"
  3. "Dr Jeckyll and Mistress Hyde" (Short Film)

US CD Maxi Single (9200-2)

  1. "Solsbury Hill" (Radio Mix)
  2. "Solsbury Hill"
  3. "Tell It To Me"
  4. "Searching"
  5. "Video Killed the Radio Star" (37B Mix)
  6. "Solsbury Hill" (37B Mix)
  7. "Solsbury Hill" (Manhattan Clique Extended Remix)
  8. "Ave Maria"
  9. "Dr. Jeckyll And Mistress Hyde" (Short Film)


Chart (2003) Peak
Denmark (Tracklisten)[32] 7
Germany (Official German Charts)[33] 29
Ireland (IRMA)[34] 41
Scotland (OCC)[35] 13
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[36] 39
UK Singles (OCC)[37] 10
UK Indie (OCC)[38] 2

Other cover versions[edit]

In 1991, Canadian progressive rock band Saga released a cover version of the song in the second disc of the double compilation LP The Works.

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
time signature to 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.[39]


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c d e Unterberger, Andrew. "10 Reasons Peter Gabriel's 'Solsbury Hill' Is One of the Greatest Songs of All Time". Billboard. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  3. ^ Reed, Ryan (19 July 2013). "Peter Gabriel Albums From Worst To Best". Stereogum. Retrieved 12 April 2019.
  4. ^ Breithaupt, Don; Breithaupt, Jeff (2000). Night Moves: Pop Music in the Late '70s. St. Martin's Press. p. 67. ISBN 978-0-312-19821-3.
  5. ^ "Have A 'Spiritual Experience' On Solsbury Hill". Retrieved 9 July 2020.
  6. ^ Brodie, Ian J. (2016). Visit Somerset: History and Heritage. Somerset: Somerset Tourism Association. p. 32. ISBN 978-1-5262-0232-1.
  7. ^ "Solsbury Hill - Peter Gabriel | Song Info". AllMusic. Retrieved 22 June 2019.
  8. ^ "Peter Gabriel Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved 3 February 2015
  9. ^ "Peter Gabriel: Story That Bruce Springsteen Was Inspiration for 'Solsbury Hill' Is 'Hogwash". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 3 February 2015
  10. ^ Daryl Easlea (2013)."Without Frontiers: The Life & Music of Peter Gabriel". Music Sales Group
  11. ^ "Solsbury Hill by Peter Gabriel in Solsbury Hill, Somerset, England".
  12. ^ Gabriel, Peter. "Peter Gabriel "Solsbury Hill" Sheet Music in B Major (transposable) - Download & Print". Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  13. ^ a b c Easlea, Daryll (23 March 2018). Without Frontiers: The Life & Music of Peter Gabriel. 14-15 Berners Street, London: Omnibus Press. pp. 233–34. ISBN 978-0-85712-860-7. Retrieved 12 April 2019.CS1 maint: location (link)
  14. ^ "Gabriel 1 (Car) 1977". Steve Hunter. Retrieved 12 April 2019.
  15. ^ "Car (Peter Gabriel 1)". The Genesis Archive. Retrieved 12 April 2019.
  16. ^ "Vanilla Sky (2001) Soundtrack". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  17. ^ "In Good Company (2004) Soundtrack". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  18. ^ "Finding Dory (2017) Soundtrack". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 3 March 2016.
  19. ^ Adams, Erik. "The creators of Halt And Catch Fire walk us through their series' emotional conclusion". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 15 October 2017.
  20. ^ "Watch 9-1-1: Season 4, Episode 10, "Parenthood" Online - FOX". Watch 9-1-1: Parenthood Online - FOX. Retrieved 4 May 2021.
  21. ^ Shen, Maxine (11 April 2006). "YOU HEARD IT, HERE'S WHERE". New York Post. Retrieved 26 November 2019.
  22. ^ "The Quest features Solsbury Hill". 17 October 2018. Retrieved 8 December 2019.
  23. ^ Holmes, Linda (14 March 2011). "Recut 'Ferris Bueller' Trailer Accidentally Nails The Real 'Ferris Bueller'". National Public Radio. Retrieved 17 September 2012.
  24. ^ "Peter Gabriel singles".
  25. ^ Fripp, Robert (15 April 2010). "Robert Fripp's Diary: London Rising at Minxie". DGM Live. Discipline Global Mobile Ltd. Retrieved 12 April 2019.
  26. ^ a b c Hung, Steffen. " - Peter Gabriel - Solsbury Hill". Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  27. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 5257b." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 23 August 2019.
  28. ^ "solsbury-hill | full Official Chart History | Official Charts Company". Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  29. ^ "Peter Gabriel Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  30. ^ "British single certifications – Peter Gabriel – Solsbury Hill". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 19 February 2019.Select singles in the Format field. Select Silver in the Certification field. Type Solsbury Hill in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  31. ^ "New Releases – For Week Starting 6 January 2003" (PDF). Music Week. 28 December 2002. p. 12. Retrieved 1 September 2021.
  32. ^ "Erasure – Solsbury Hill". Tracklisten. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  33. ^ "Erasure – Solsbury Hill" (in German). GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  34. ^ " – Discography Erasure". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 27 January 2020.
  35. ^ "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  36. ^ "Erasure – Solsbury Hill". Singles Top 100. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  37. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  38. ^ "Official Independent Singles Chart Top 50". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  39. ^ Easlea, Darryl (2013). Without Frontiers: The Life and Music of Peter Gabriel. London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0-85712-860-7.