Tuesday, March 08, 2005

I Walked Right out of the Machinery

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
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 keep in 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."

"Solsbury Hill" - Peter Gabriel
Lyrics from one of my all-time favorite songs by one of my all-time favorite artists, Peter Gabriel. When I needed it, the lyrics to this song provided me with more meaning than any other poem, pop song or hymn, for that matter. Gabriel wrote the song about leaving the legendary British prog-rock band Genesis. He'd had such tremendous success with the band that, upon leaving folks thought him a bit batty. (Well, they thought him a bit batty for the dresses and the giant sunflower costume, too.) Of course, he went on to create a series of exceptional albums, including one of the most perfect pop albums of the 80's, So. The song was even a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy, since it appeared on his first album and turned out to be one of his biggest hits.

For me, the song's meaning runs pretty deep. As a young man who grew up within fundamentalist Christianity, when I began to question my beliefs, I went through a period when I thought I might, well, be going a little batty. I didn't know anyone who shared the conclusions I was beginning to draw. I didn't know anyone I could share my doubts with. As I allowed myself to doubt and change, however, I grew more confident, and eventually, although I knew that perhaps none of the people around me would understand my decision, I decided to leave fundamentalism and strike out on my own. Doing so, ironically, was likely the most redemptive action I've ever taken in my life. Since then, I've met many people who share my beliefs--in spirit if not always to the letter--and I feel much more confident with the belief structure I finallly embraced, a structure which, not only allows doubt, but encourages it.

During the long and sometimes dark time that I considered leaving the fold, Gabriel's song came to hold powerful meaning for me. Look at the lyrics above. They matched how I was feeling word for word for word. I mean, how often does a song do that for you? I remember turning the radio up and singing along for all I was worth. I remember hitting "repeat" on the CD player, so I could listen to it over and over again. Since then, whenever I've had a difficult decision to make that I thought was right, but that others may not understand, hearing the song has always proven an encouragement. I heard it at the gym tonight and that prompted me to write this post.

If you'll forgive me waxing a little sentimental: Thank you, Peter, you'll never know how much this song meant to me.

Who says rock 'n' roll can't save your soul?


Many other people share their thoughts on the song here. Feel free to share your own song in the comments.

Download the song. If you like it, consider buying one of Gabriel's albums.

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