Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Peter Gabriel--Solsbury Hill (1977)

     In the village of Batheaston, Somerset England, there is a small flat top hill known as little Solsbury Hill. It was here that a young Peter Gabriel came to a decision that would influence the rest of his life. He felt the need to separate himself from the band he helped create in 1967 at the age of 17.  Now, 8 years later, the band had become a success but it had come at a cost. Having begun more or less as a musical collective, the press began to focus more on Gabriel as the star, which caused tensions within the band. Secondly, he found himself a bit of a prisoner of his own success by helping create elaborate stage productions to go along with the music. Fans and media both became increasingly expectant of this, and Peter began to become concerned that the focus was getting off the music. Finally, when his then wife Jill was dealing with a difficult pregnancy and childbirth, he chose to stay at home with his ill wife and child rather than going on tour. The subsequent tension caused by all involved led him to the conclusion that it was time to part ways.
     The song itself has been the cause of a lot of speculation over the years. Gabriel himself admits that it was about a spiritual experience while on that hill. As with all of his material, the lyrics give just enough to concede this, but not enough to spell it out. If you are a fan of his (which I am), then you're aware that he is an obviously spiritual man and it is many times reflected in his music. Being a clever songwriter, he also allows you to fit your own version of spiritual things inside the music.
     No matter how you interpret things, this was a time and place which gave him a peace and will to make the break with the band. He made the decision and announced to the group prior to the tour to promote, "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway." As it turned out, both Gabriel and his former band went on to new heights. It became his first single in 1977 and a hit in the UK. The first solo album was also a hit in the US, and began a string of well received albums that achieves the rarity of garnering critical acclaim and commercial success.



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