‘My heart going boom boom boom’

by CynthiaYockey on October 9, 2010

Yesterday I was feeling well enough to spend the day catching up on chores — doing dishes, laundry, cleaning litterboxes. I had the TV on for company and the commercials for Katherine Heigl’s new movie, “Life As We Know It,” had the most piercingly beautiful popular song that I just had to take a break and go online to find its name. I thought surely it would be in the soundtrack, but it isn’t — it’s just on the TV commercial. It turned out to be “Solsbury Hill,” written and sung by Peter Gabriel. He wrote it after having a spiritual experience on the real Solsbury Hill near his home in England. It describes his reasons for leaving Genesis, the rock band he founded, for a solo career. It came out in 1977 and was his first solo hit.

I’m embedding a clip of Gabriel singing in a live performance in 2003 because Gabriel and his fellow performers and the audience are all so joyful. This is a song that makes the heart soar. By the way, most of it is in the 7/4 time signature — it’s easier to count as 1-2-3/1-2-3-4, and in the song the emphases usually fall on the first and fourth beats. For me it creates a feeling of wanting to spin and swoop — my heart going boom boom boom.

Climbing up on Solsbury Hill
I could see the city light
Wind was blowing, time stood still
Eagle flew out of the night
He was something to observe
Came in close, I heard a voice
Standing stretching every nerve
I had to listen had no choice
I did not believe the information
Just had to trust imagination
My heart going boom boom, boom
“Son,” he said, “Grab your things, I’ve come to take you home.”
To keeping silence I resigned
My friends would think I was a nut
Turning water into wine
Open doors would soon be shut
So I went from day to day
Tho’ my life was in a rut
‘Till I thought of what I’d say
Which connection I should cut
I was feeling part of the scenery
I walked right out of the machinery
My heart going boom boom boom
“Hey,” he said, “grab your things, I’ve come to take you home.”
Yeah back home
When illusion spin her net
I’m never where I want to be
And liberty she pirouette
When I think that I am free
Watched by empty silhouettes
Who close their eyes, but still can see
No one taught them etiquette
I will show another me
Today I don’t need a replacement
I’ll tell them what the smile on my face meant
My heart going boom boom boom
“Hey,” I said, “You can keep my things, they’ve come to take me home.”

Follow conservativelez on Twitter

Smudge October 11, 2010 at 12:11 am

I love this song. It’ll keep me in the car till it finishes. I struggle with its meaning. “I found God and no one will shame me out of it.” Is that it?

CynthiaYockey October 11, 2010 at 5:24 pm


I think that’s a valid interpretation. It seems to me that being in Genesis made him feel like “part of the scenery” and the spiritual experience he had on Solsbury Hill gave him the feelings of certainty he needed in order to leave the band and go forward to a new phase of his career as a solo artist — those were the connections he had to cut — but if he shared his spiritual experience as his reason for moving on his friends would think he’s “a nut.” But the joyous tone of the song and the lyrics that he is going home express his joy and certainty that he’s choosing the right path for himself — he’s going home. The 7/4 meter is waltz-march, waltz-march, so the feeling it generates is one of spinning with joy and marching forward. If you look at Gabriel’s early live performances of this song on YouTube, you’ll see that he jumps for joy as he’s singing. In the 2003 performance I embedded, it’s remarkable how the young audience jumps exactly the way Gabriel did during the song when he was in his 20’s. I think he resorted to bicycling on the stage to keep the same feeling of flying and freedom that he may not have felt he could convey as an older, heavier man — which it did, brilliantly.

“Solsbury Hill” is a wonderful song that describes anyone at a turning point in their lives who gains clarity about how to go forward and is wise enough to go on to the new, higher good without worrying about getting anyone’s approval for doing so.


Graumagus October 11, 2010 at 1:46 am

I love that song!

John in Michigan, USA October 12, 2010 at 10:46 pm

Nice post. I really enjoyed counting out the time 1-2-3/1-2-3-4 (I am a fool for rhythm).

Peter October 18, 2010 at 10:20 pm

It’s times like this that I’m mad at you for reminding me how tone deaf I am. I am like General U. S. Grant who only recognized two songs. He said “One is Yankee Doodle and the other isn’t.”

Of all the traits I could have inherited by osmosis from him, I had to get that one. Pooh. I did inherit another of his traits, though, I, like him, married a woman who stuck with me through my lowest point, eventually kept me from drinking and propelled me to a life far better than I ever deserved. So, Thank you, Sam Grant.

CynthiaYockey October 21, 2010 at 11:48 pm


You should read the Horatio Hornblower series by C.S. Forester, who also wrote The African Queen, which was made into a movie with Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart. Not only would you love Hornblower’s courage and resourcefulness in battle — even though he’s in the British Navy — but also he is tone deaf, which also should warm your heart.


Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: