Sunday, September 9, 2012

Fresh Starts: Solsbury Hill



THE LINK TO THE SONG WAS DISABLED AND THIS POST WAS REMOVED DUE TO A COMPLAINT ABOUT MY POSTING THIS SONG.  I HAVE BEEN A FAN OF GABRIEL'S FOR YEARS, AND HAVE LONG SUPPORTED HIS MUSIC, BY ATTENDING CONCERTS, PLAYING HIS MUSIC ON THE RADIO, BUYING MUSIC AND, AS DEMONSTRATED BELOW, POSITIVELY REVIEWING HIS MUSIC.  AS INDICATED IN THE POST BELOW, "SOLSBURY HILL" IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE SONGS.  BY INCLUDING A PURCHASE LINK, I HOPED THAT READERS OF THIS BLOG WOULD LISTEN TO THE TRACK I POSTED AND BUY THIS EXCELLENT ALBUM.  BUT NOW, READERS CAN'T EASILY LISTEN.

AS I NOTED IN THE POST, IT HAS BEEN TWO DECADES SINCE GABRIEL HAS RELEASED NEW MUSIC THAT I HAVE REALLY LIKED.  INSTEAD, HE IS FOCUSING ON REPACKAGING HIS OLD MUSIC OR DOING GENERALLY BAD COVERS.  NOTHING DONE HERE ON GABRIEL'S BEHALF WILL PREVENT ME FROM LIKING HIS (OLDER) WORK, BUT I WILL NOW CERTAINLY THINK TWICE BEFORE I SPEND A CENT ON ANYTHING THAT WOULD PUT MONEY IN HIS POCKET.  I KNOW THAT THIS IS NOTHING IN THE BIG PICTURE, BUT I'M ANNOYED.

I’ve never been able to really answer the questions “What is your favorite band/musician?” or “What is your favorite song?” There are too many of each for me to take a definitive position, but Peter Gabriel and “Solsbury Hill” always appear on my lists, even if it has been 20 (!) years since I have really liked anything that Gabriel has released.

Generally, this song is interpreted as relating to Gabriel’s departure from Genesis at what seemed to be the height of their popularity. That the band, without Gabriel, survived and became significantly more popular is an interesting phenomenon. I’m a fan who likes both versions of Genesis (I refuse to recognize the version with Ray Wilson on vocals), for different reasons. But when Gabriel left the band, there was a real question whether each would thrive.
“Solsbury Hill” appears on Gabriel’s first album, the first of 3 (or 4, for releases outside of the US) titled “Peter Gabriel” (supposedly modeled after magazines, which have the same title, but different covers and content). It describes his feelings of being in a rut, just “part of the scenery,” and his decision to cut his ties with the band and go off on his own and walk “right out of the machinery.” Many interpretations of the song ascribe his epiphany to seeing a Springsteen concert, but I’ve read an interview with Gabriel where he said that he didn’t think that was true. I’ve also seen interpretations that focus on some biblical/Jesus imagery, which may be real—Gabriel has never lacked for ego and seems interested in religious matters (See, for example, my prior posting about “Supper’s Ready.”)

I hear what some critics have said about the song’s odd 7/4 time signature and its sometimes clunky lyrics, but the song never fails to move me. I know that Gabriel isn’t alone in having felt trapped—in a job, a relationship, a situation—and longing for a way out. To his credit, he was able to do so, make a fresh start and forge a solo career of success and distinction. Most of us, though, do not have that luxury, because we have families that rely on us and bills that have to be paid. So his listeners can be inspired to think about making that leap, even if they never actually make it.

I’ve posted a live version of the song, which I have always really liked. It was released in 1983, before he hit it big with “Sledgehammer,” and the performances on the “Plays Live” album are incredible. His show at Asbury Park in 1980 is still one of my all-time favorite concerts.

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