Peter Gabriel’s Divine Call from Solsbury Hill

In the beginning, there was music. The music was chaotic and dissonant, irregular. The music was a challenge, and the challenge was good. A voice hovered over the music. It was not the voice of Phil Collins. The voice said “let there be spectacle, conflict and discomfort.” And the discomfort was sometimes good.

The voice was Peter Gabriel. And the band behind him was Genesis.

For in the beginning, Genesis were not pop tunesmiths. They were alt-prog-rockers. Their songs were 20 minutes long. There were no poppy hooks: no “Invisible Touch”‘s. There were no pop culture spoof videos, a la “Land of Confusion“. In the beginning, before “In the Air Tonight”, Phil Collins was a respected drummer (doubt it? Check out the chops on “Supper’s Ready“). This band reveled in challenging musicianship, strange theatrics, and stranger songs.

They were artists.

Like true artists, they suffered for their work. And Peter Gabriel seemed to want to stay in that Garden of Suffering Eden–for when the band seemed poised to enter the greater world of commercial success, Gabriel quit. Instead he preferred to remain on the fringe. The year was 1975.

It was a difficult decision to reach. It was more difficult for the public to understand. The band kind of understood. But, really, everyone thought Pete had bitten the wrong apple. He was deluded.

 But Peter Gabriel was experiencing a calling.  He was called to be front-man pop star. Peter Gabriel was created for a slightly different purpose: apparently to be solo front-man star.

He wrote about his experience of leaving Genesis in “Solsbury Hill”. I love this live version from Rockpalast:

Pete experienced a religious calling. He had a moment of feeling urged to move into discomfort: in this case, leaving Genesis. The song is thick with religious imagery: a communion with an eagle, turning water into wine, unbelievable premonitions, a feeling of being called home.

We know Peter’s fears: the uneasy feeling of sharing a Divine experience for fear of being a labeled “a nut”. Haven’t all of us convinced ourselves that the voice we heard calling us into a place of discomfort or that subtle urge we’ve felt to take a step towards something unknown… Haven’t we convinced ourselves that those are urges of our own creation?

So we don’t step into the uncomfortable or unknown. We resign to keep in silence about our calls.

What Solsbury Hill have you suppressed? Have you heard a voice urging you into the unknown?

Maybe Peter Gabriel’s story will give heart to those of us resigned to silence. He stepped out into discomfort for his calling… And learned that the voice was calling him home.


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