“SON,” HE SAID “GRAB YOUR THINGS, I’VE COME TO TAKE YOU HOME.”
Hello all and welcome to another long awaited blog post! Today’s post is about Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill,” a beautiful and enchanting piece of work that I think is more than deserving of it’s own blog post. This is one I would have on repeat in the car after a long day of work; just wanting to feel something again after nine hours in a sad, windowless office building, lol. So, let’s delve into some background on the song, the storyline, the lyrics, and Peter Gabriel himself.
Peter Gabriel is an English musician, song-writer, producer and fellow Aquarius, born in Surrey, England in 1950. You might recognize him as the lead singer for Genesis, a progressive rock band born out of the 70’s. And if I’m being honest, I am not too familiar with the work of Genesis besides the popular hits, but maybe I should delve into them sometime. For now though, I want to focus on Gabriel’s debut hit as a solo artist, “Solsbury Hill.”
“Solsbury Hill” was Gabriel’s debut single as a solo artist, released in March of 1977 from the album “Peter Gabriel.” The song features a unique 7/4 time signature and a wistful blend of twelve string guitars, flute, synth, organ and shakers that build and build over time as the song and storyline progresses. The song was written by Gabriel shortly after his departure as the lead singer of Genesis and is autobiographical as well as enigmatic, seeing as the lyrics reflect the almost spiritual awakening and emotions that Gabriel felt as he embarked on a new journey in his career and his life; though the lyrics can also be related to in a broader sense for anyone experiencing the uncertainty and excitement of change. Gabriel stated, of the song’s meaning,
“It’s about being prepared to lose what you have for what you might get, or what you are for what you might be. It’s about letting go.”
As anyone can imagine, being the lead singer of a popular progressive rock band in the early/mid 70’s sounds like a dream, right? Your career is set in stone, you get to sing and travel for a living all while building a successful name for yourself. To leave all that behind, to walk away from that to follow your own dreams and pursue your own happiness is “risky.” What if you fail? What if you don’t become who you want to be? What if it was all for nothing? What if you miss your old life? Miss opportunities? What if the world continues to spin and you can’t keep up, falling behind? These are questions that may inevitably go through one’s mind as they walk away from anything, whether it be a job, a city, a relationship, or a career in order to pursue their own path and re-write what their life means to them. But, to me, the thing that sounds scarier than any of these questions is the thought that, if you don’t take the risk, you’ll never know what will come out of it. Yes, you might “fail” by society’s standards, but wouldn’t you feel a lot worse if you never allowed yourself the courage to move into the unknown, even though it could make you feel so much happier, so much more free? Gabriel needed to take this step for himself, regardless of what the outcome might be, and we see this unfolding in the lyrics throughout the song.
Speaking of the lyrics, let us dive into the story to better understand what the song is trying to say. Gabriel starts off with a beautiful image of the non-fictitious Solsbury Hill, located near Bath, England. This is a place Gabriel would frequent on his walks or jogs. We can see the rolling hill vividly, as he sings:
“Climbing up on Solsbury Hill / I could see the city lights / wind was blowing, time stood still / Eagle flew out of the night.”
I am sure we all have that one place, that one spot, that we go to when we need space, when we need time alone with our thoughts for reflection, for peace, for answers that we may not be able to seek ourselves. For Gabriel, Solsbury Hill was that spot. The image of the Eagle flying out into the night could symbolize a new life taking flight or a feeling of freedom releasing into the world. The Eagle could also embody a spiritual entity or an unexplained presence coming to guide Gabriel “home” as he sings that he had “no choice” but “to listen” as it told him, “grab your things, I’ve come to take you home.”
This part of the song, to me, reflects an epiphany or an awakening that one feels when they finally listen to their heart and what they want. We can see Gabriel struggling to go against the grain and allow himself to fully soul search free from judgement of others, as he sings “my friends would think I was a nut,” and “open doors would soon be shut,” realizing that taking this risk for what he believed in would result in some missed opportunities or other people thinking he was crazy for doing such a thing. But, his yearning to find a home within himself pushes him to listen to the voice that guides him, and not the voices of others, and as he climbs Solsbury Hill, his view is no longer blocked or clouded; his perspective no longer limited, and he can see clearly the path in which he must take.
The repeated line of “my heart going boom boom boom” symbolizes not only the physical feeling of adrenaline and a racing heartbeat, but the feeling of being alive, of listening to your heart, and of feeling that you have been reborn.
At the very end, Gabriel sings “you can keep my things, they’ve come to take me home,” which shows us he is leaving all his old worries and burdens behind him and truly starting anew.
I really give credit to Gabriel for following his own path and not letting the judgments of others cloud his perspective on his life. He did what he had to do for himself and his happiness, regardless of the risk, of the unknowns, of the outcome. I respect people like him so much; people that follow their own intuition and morals and values and who don’t allow others to make decisions for them or make themselves feel small. I think one of the most important things in life is to follow your own path and to stand up for what you believe in, challenge the status quo, and have the courage to go against what others so blindly follow. It is definitely a characteristic and a trait that I not only look for in others, but that I make sure to embody as I navigate my own life and my own path.
I feel as if my thoughts are all jumbled right now as I interpret what these lyrics mean to me, so I apologize for probably all the run-on sentences and word vomit that you have just read. I can’t control my thoughts and feelings when I talk or write about this song, because I think it is so beautiful and so meaningful and I want to express how I feel about it but also don’t even really know how to. It is one of those songs that feels beyond the capabilities of a human being to write and to come up with, much like all the songs I choose to write about on this blog. That is why I write about them in the first place, haha. But, I can really relate to this song at this point in my life, because much like Gabriel in this song, I am embarking on a new chapter in my life and starting new in many ways. I have just moved across the country from Colorado to Rhode Island, and started a brand new job. Much like when I left New York for Colorado, it is a leap of faith as I leave behind what has come to be comfortable to me. After spending the last year and a half in Colorado, I had made a routine for myself that felt comfortable and safe. I never felt like Colorado was my home though, often yearning to move back to the East coast where life was familiar and where life felt more aligned with who I am and what I value. And even though I did not find my forever home in Colorado, that is not what I set out there to do. I set out there to grow my sense of self, to experience something new and different, to challenge myself, to meet new people and to gain more life experience. I would never change my decision to move out there as it has led me to be exactly where I am today and exactly who I am today. But there were so many days where all I wanted was to move back and so many days where I definitely didn’t feel happy, which is a more than natural human feeling. And I can probably attest most of that to Covid and the lockdown. However, moving back to the East coast and starting new all over again is something I knew I needed to do for myself, regardless if it was risky or if there were many unknowns. The unknowns for me out here will just be life lessons and self growth opportunities. I do feel like I am back “home,” though the soul searching never stops, right?
Well, I hope you all enjoyed this jumbled blog post and I am happy to be writing a new one after a pretty long hiatus (we are 7 months into 2021 and this is my first blog post of the year…woops). Like I have said before though, I never want any of my passions to feel like a burden or feel like work, so I never force myself into any of my passions, I just let myself be until the inspiration strikes again. Please listen to this song if you haven’t yet and let me know your thoughts about it!
I love this song! Great musical arrangement and a catchy beat. Welcome back to the East Coast!