Solsbury Hill (song)

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"Solsbury Hill"
Original 1977 UK vinyl single
Single by Peter Gabriel
from the album Peter Gabriel (Car)
B-side"Moribund the Burgermeister"
Released21 March 1977 (1977-03-21)[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"
Music video
Peter Gabriel – "Solsbury Hill" on YouTube

"Solsbury Hill" is the debut solo single by English rock musician Peter Gabriel. He wrote the song about a spiritual experience atop Solsbury Hill in Somerset, England,[5][2][6] after his departure from the progressive rock band Genesis, of which he had been the lead vocalist 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]

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."[9]

The song is mostly written in 7
time, 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.[10] 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.[11]


Recorded at The Soundstage studios in Toronto,[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 twelve-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 employ a full drum kit, Allan Schwartzberg placed a shaker in one hand and a drum stick in another, which he used to strike a telephone directory. 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] It has also been used in the trailer of Finding Dory (2016),[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] a Toyota ad campaign,[22] and a Nespresso TV ad campaign.[23] Its prevalence in romantic comedy trailers has been called "ubiquitous", particularly its inclusion in a satirical re-cut trailer of The Shining (1980).[24]

Track listing[edit]

Studio recording[edit]

"Solsbury Hill"
Seven-inch vinyl edition
Single by Peter Gabriel
from the album Peter Gabriel (Car) and Shaking the Tree
B-side"Shaking the Tree" (New Vocal Remix) and "Games Without Frontiers"
Songwriter(s)Peter Gabriel
Peter Gabriel singles chronology
"Shakin' the Tree"
"Solsbury Hill"
"Digging in the Dirt"

7" UK single (1977)

  1. "Solsbury Hill" – 3:24
  2. "Moribund the Burgermeister" – 4:17

7" "Old Gold" single (1982)

  1. "Solsbury Hill" – 3:26
  2. "Games Without Frontiers" – 3:50

UK maxi-single (1983, 1988)

  1. "Solsbury Hill" – 3:24
  2. "Moribund the Burgermeister" – 4:17
  3. "Solsbury Hill (Full Length Live Version)" – 5:45

European single (1990 re-issue)

  1. "Solsbury Hill" – 4:24 / 4:22
  2. "Shaking the Tree" – 5:06
  3. "Games Without Frontiers" (Live) – 6:06

Live version[edit]

"Solsbury Hill (Live)"
Single by Peter Gabriel
from the album Plays Live
B-side"Kiss of Life (Live)"
ReleasedAugust 1983 (US) [25]
Songwriter(s)Peter Gabriel
Peter Gabriel singles chronology
"I Go Swimming (Live)"
"Solsbury Hill (Live)"
"Walk Through the Fire"

7" US single (1983)

  1. "Solsbury Hill" (Live) – 3:58
  2. "I Go Swimming" (Live) – 4:29

7" Netherlands single (1983)

  1. "Solsbury Hill" (Live) – 4:41
  2. "Kiss of Life" (Live) – 5:01

7" US single (1983)

  1. "Solsbury Hill" (Live) – 3:58
  2. "Shock the Monkey" – 3:58


Robert Fripp is often credited as having played guitar on the track. 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."[26]

Critical reception[edit]

Cash Box said that "its lighthearted feeling should go a long way in expanding his audience beyond the boundaries of so-called 'Progressive Rock.'"[27] Record World said that "the folk flavored song has an interesting electronic undercurrent."[28] In 2021, it was listed at No. 472 on Rolling Stone's "Top 500 Best Songs of All Time".[29]


Chart (1977) Peak
Belgium (Wallonia)[30] 17
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[31] 92
Germany (Official German Charts)[30] 16
Netherlands[30] 13
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[32] 13
US Billboard Hot 100[33] 68


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[34] Gold 400,000

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)[35]
Songwriter(s)Peter Gabriel
Erasure singles chronology
"Moon & the Sky"
"Solsbury Hill"
"Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)"
Music video
Erasure – "Solsbury Hill" on YouTube

"Solsbury Hill" was recorded by English synth-pop 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 lead vocalist 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]

Clarke directed a music video for the cover which was released on Erasure's DVD compilation Hits! the Videos.[36]

Track listings[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)[37] 7
Germany (Official German Charts)[38] 29
Ireland (IRMA)[39] 41
Scotland (OCC)[40] 13
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[41] 39
UK Singles (OCC)[42] 10
UK Indie (OCC)[43] 2

Other cover versions[edit]

In 2013, an instrumental version of "Solsbury Hill" was included on guitarist Steve Hunter's studio 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" bassist 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.[44]


  1. ^ "Solsbury Hill".
  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. ^ Daryl Easlea (2013)."Without Frontiers: The Life & Music of Peter Gabriel". Music Sales Group
  10. ^ "Solsbury Hill by Peter Gabriel in Solsbury Hill, Somerset, England". Archived from the original on 13 September 2018. Retrieved 9 August 2017.
  11. ^ Gabriel, Peter (20 May 2014). "Peter Gabriel "Solsbury Hill" Sheet Music in B Major (transposable) - Download & Print". Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  12. ^ Peter Gabriel (12 September 2023). "Solsbury Hill". Retrieved 12 September 2023.
  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.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location (link)
  14. ^ "Gabriel 1 (Car) 1977". Steve Hunter. Retrieved 12 April 2019.
  15. ^ "Car (Peter Gabriel 1)". The Genesis Archive. 25 February 1977. 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. ^ ""A New World" | Toyota". YouTube.
  23. ^ "The Quest features Solsbury Hill". 17 October 2018. Retrieved 8 December 2019.
  24. ^ Holmes, Linda (14 March 2011). "Recut 'Ferris Bueller' Trailer Accidentally Nails The Real 'Ferris Bueller'". National Public Radio. Retrieved 17 September 2012.
  25. ^ Hung, Steffen. "Peter Gabriel - Solsbury Hill (Live)".
  26. ^ Fripp, Robert (15 April 2010). "Robert Fripp's Diary: London Rising at Minxie". DGM Live. Discipline Global Mobile Ltd. Retrieved 12 April 2019.
  27. ^ "CashBox Singles Reviews" (PDF). Cash Box. 2 April 1977. p. 20. Retrieved 26 December 2021.
  28. ^ "Hits of the Week" (PDF). Record World. 2 April 1977. p. 1. Retrieved 16 February 2023.
  29. ^ "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. 15 September 2021. Retrieved 3 July 2022.
  30. ^ a b c Hung, Steffen. " - Peter Gabriel - Solsbury Hill". Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  31. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 5257b." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 23 August 2019.
  32. ^ "solsbury-hill | full Official Chart History | Official Charts Company". Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  33. ^ "Peter Gabriel Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  34. ^ "British single certifications – Peter Gabriel – Solsbury Hill". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 29 April 2022.
  35. ^ "New Releases – For Week Starting 6 January 2003" (PDF). Music Week. 28 December 2002. p. 12. Retrieved 1 September 2021.
  36. ^ "Hits! – The Videos » Videos & DVDs » Erasure Discography » Onge's Erasure Page [Archive]".
  37. ^ "Erasure – Solsbury Hill". Tracklisten. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  38. ^ "Erasure – Solsbury Hill" (in German). GfK Entertainment charts. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  39. ^ " – Discography Erasure". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 27 January 2020.
  40. ^ "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  41. ^ "Erasure – Solsbury Hill". Singles Top 100. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  42. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  43. ^ "Official Independent Singles Chart Top 50". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  44. ^ Easlea, Darryl (2013). Without Frontiers: The Life and Music of Peter Gabriel. London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0-85712-860-7.

External links[edit]