Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill” Lyrics Meaning

For starters, “Solsbury Hill” is an actual location found in Peter Gabriel’s homeland of England. And the song commences with the vocalist chillin’ at said locality, as in beholding the ‘city lights’ underneath and seemingly enjoying the weather. 

But then the narrative suddenly takes a permanent metaphorical turn, as at first we witness an eagle rolling up on Peter, instructing him to ‘grab his things’. And the reason being is that said bird has ‘come to take him home’.

The rest of the song is even more poetic. But what it basically boils down to is that at this point in his life, Peter was at sort of a crossroad. He had quit Genesis – a band that had firmly proven itself to be commercially viable – to venture out on his own, into an uncertain professional future. And according to Gabriel’s own explanation, that is what this song is meant to speak to. It centers on the the notion of basically mustering up the heart to forsake what you currently have in pursuit of a brighter tomorrow. 

Or as Peter more succinctly put it, “Solsbury Hill” “is about letting go”. And as you likely already know, the eagle is an animal which is often used to symbolize freedom. So that may be why he chose such a creature to play the character mentioned above.

Why Peter Gabriel left Genesis

Peter left Genesis because of internal issues within the band. But that wasn’t the sole reason he left. Another important reason he left was because he had certain beefs with the industry itself, on top of a desire to practice a more family-oriented lifestyle. 

And such a premise would likely explain the second verse and even more so the third, when the vocalist is symbolically depicted as someone whose life, on the surface level, appears all good. But underneath the façade, if you will, he is clearly discontent. And in fact the song concludes with the vocalist telling the powers that be, so to speak, that they can ‘keep their things’, as he has indeed resolved to go “home” – an undefined location but one that is clearly not alongside his established associates.


So whereas “Solsbury Hill” is heavily poetic, it is also one of those types of pieces – especially if you’re familiar with its background – that is still understandable. And what the vocalist is getting at, most simply put, is that he is dissatisfied with life and more specifically certain entities, in a manner of speaking, that he has to contend with. Owing to this, he is making a power-move to rectify the situation.

Lyrics to Peter Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill"
What Peter Gabriel said of "Solsbury Hill"

Facts about “Solsbury Hill”

Before going solo, Peter made a name for himself fronting Genesis. Phil Collins became the lead vocalist upon Gabriel’s departure. 

According to Peter, this song is about losing what you have to see “what you might get”.

With a release date of 25 February 1977, “Solsbury Hill” was actually the first single he dropped on his own. It is one of the songs on his debut album, which itself is entitled Peter Gabriel

This track grew to become one of the British singer’s biggest hits. It reached number 13 on the UK Singles Chart. Additionally it also fared comparably well in a few other European countries. And beyond that, this is a song whose chart showing does not do justice to its enduring popularity, even amongst critics.

Furthermore, this track has had a notable pop media presence. 

Another British musical act, Erasure, experienced chart success covering “Solsbury Hill” in 2003. 

Also, Peter dropped a live rendition of the song in 1983. Throughout the years, he has come out with multiple versions of this song. One of them can be found on his 2011 studio album entitled “New Blood”.

Peter is the sole author of this track, and its producer is a Canadian musician by the name of Bob Ezrin.

“Solsbury Hill” was a top-20 hit in Germany and Netherlands. In America, it charted on the Hot 100. On this prestigious chart, it reached a peak position of 68.

To note, Erasure’s cover was even more successful in the UK than Peter’s original version. Erasure actually grabbed a top-10 hit in UK with this song.

Solsbury Hill

3 Responses

  1. Tim Arbogast says:

    Question – who is the gentleman in the video? Family?
    Thank you,

    Tim Arbogast


  2. Nick says:

    I had always thought it was about a vision of Jesus and wondered how it became so popular. People tend to think you’re a nut and “close their doors” when it comes to songs about faith and Jesu and the like. Gabriel’s narrator just goes with it, though, resolving by the end of the song that the joy of believing is worth other people thinking he’s crazy. I’m not very religious but I still find it beautiful. Works nicely with the time signature, which doesn’t switch to 4/4 until the narration reaches that final resolution.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I could have sworn the song is about the crucifixion of Jesus.

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