Peter Gabriel may have the unmistakable husky voice of an angel but he is also blessed with many other qualities including his involvement as a Human Rights activist. This life experience coupled with the public Peter Gabriel departure from rock band legend Genesis in 1977, resulted in his first solo single Solsbury Hill; a folk-rock song with a complex time signature and prominent digital piano underlay. Since going it alone, Peter Gabriel has had his fingers in many musical pies including standalone work and collaborations with artists including Kate Bush; continuing to perform whilst accompanying on digital grand piano and flute where appropriate. Today, Peter Gabriel continues to pursue his craft after some forty years plus in the business; still touring, and still with his signatory husky voice of an angel.
Solsbury Hill – Earthy Roots
This Peter Gabriel original has been a much used soundtrack at the centre of films as diverse as ‘Vanilla Sky’, ‘In Good Company’ and a remake that makes more uncomfortable viewing of that old ghost ‘The Shining’. ‘’Solsbury Hill’’ boasts a compound 7/4 time signature that embeds itself from the onset in this folk-rock favourite. Its hill-billy natured intro is performed with a Peter Gabriel ‘deep south’ earthy scoring for acoustic guitar, digital piano, bass drums and flute; all echoed by his easy-care vocal line:
Intro: G D G V1 G D G Em D Em
‘’Climbing up on Solsbury Hill, I can see the city lights’’
The characteristic stomp beat takes the music home as digital piano and flute play their interspersing dialogue with the vocal line. This is the song in a nut shell though the final refrain has your heart going ‘’boom, boom, boom’’ as the raucous instrumental fades out.
A New Sound From Under The Covers
Artists from Lou Reed to the more quirky sounds of Erasure have covered ‘’Solsbury Hill’’. The latter released their synth-pop version in 2003 via Mute Records but there was nothing quiet about this rendition of the Peter Gabriel original. The change of the time signature from 7/4 to the common 4/4 gave way to the new wave dance groove and hefty machinations of repeated rhythmic churnings from the digital piano.
The Erasure duo made an altogether brasher experience out of this rolling original; though they really didn’t need a Sledgehammer to crack this old Peter Gabriel nut.