Solsbury Hill (song)

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"Solsbury Hill"
Solsbury Hill by Peter Gabriel UK vinyl release.jpg
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 a song by 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] The song was his debut single. [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", [2] 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

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

Live version


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


RegionCertification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI) [30] Silver200,000Double-dagger-14-plain.png

Double-dagger-14-plain.png Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Cover versions

Erasure version

"Solsbury Hill"
Single by Erasure
from the album Other People's Songs
Released6 January 2003 (2003-01-06)
Genre Synth-pop
Label Mute
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 and in the US on 14 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 the Republic of 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

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)

U.S. 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) [31] 7
Germany (Official German Charts) [32] 29
Ireland (IRMA) [33] 41
Scotland (OCC) [34] 13
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan) [35] 39
UK Singles (OCC) [36] 10
UK Indie (OCC) [37] 2

Saga version

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.

Lou Reed version

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 to 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.

Steve Hunter version

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. [38]

Related Research Articles

Peter Gabriel English musician

Peter Brian Gabriel is an English musician, singer, songwriter, record producer and activist. He rose to fame as the original lead singer of the progressive rock band Genesis. After leaving Genesis in 1975, he launched a successful solo career with "Solsbury Hill" as his first single. His 1986 album, So, is his best-selling release and is certified triple platinum in the UK and five times platinum in the U.S. The album's most successful single, "Sledgehammer", won a record nine MTV Awards at the 1987 MTV Video Music Awards and, according to a report in 2011, it was MTV's most played music video of all time.

<i>Other Peoples Songs</i> 2003 studio album by Erasure

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<i>So</i> (album) 1986 studio album by Peter Gabriel

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<i>Peter Gabriel</i> (1977 album) First of four eponymous solo albums

Peter Gabriel is the debut solo studio album by English progressive rock singer-songwriter Peter Gabriel and the first of four with the same eponymous title. Released on 25 February 1977, it was produced by Bob Ezrin. Gabriel and Ezrin assembled musicians, including guitarist Robert Fripp, and his future King Crimson bandmate Tony Levin on bass. On the album's release, Gabriel began touring with a seven-piece band under his own name. The album went to No. 7 in UK and No. 38 in the US. This album is often called either Peter Gabriel I or Car, referring to the album cover by London artist Peter Christopherson. Music streaming services currently refer to it as Peter Gabriel 1: Car. Gabriel's first solo success came with the album's lead single "Solsbury Hill", which Gabriel has said is about "being prepared to lose what you have for what you might get ... It's about letting go."

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<i>Hits! The Very Best of Erasure</i>

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