If there's anything more joyous than Peter Gabriel singing Solsbury Hill while gleefully whizzing around the stage on a bicycle, then we haven't seen it

Peter Gabriel onstage
(Image credit: Peter Gabriel)

Stepping out of the shadows of his old band was a brave but necessary step for Peter Gabriel. "When I left Genesis, I just wanted to be out of the music business," he said. "I felt like I was just in the machinery." 

The desire to leave the business didn't last, but on debut solo album Peter Gabriel (known as Car by fans and Peter Gabriel 1: Car on Spotify) he ditched the complexity of his Genesis for shorter, sharper songs. 

Head of the pack was Solsbury Hill, a song that reflected on his departure from the band ("I was feeling part of the scenery / I walked right out of the machinery") and looked forward with optimism. The result? One of the most buoyant, life-affirming tunes you'll ever hear, as sun-kissed as it is breezy, as upbeat as it is effervescent. It's a song that radiates delight.     

"It's about being prepared to lose what you have for what you might get, or what you are for what you might be," Gabriel said. "It's about letting go. By letting go, you create the space for something new to happen. It's a personal struggle to learn to jump off the diving board."

It's the song that proved Gabriel had to commercial nous to step away from longform composition, and it's the song he's subsequently played live the most – with more than 800 performances and counting. And in 2003, on the Growing Up tour, he figured out a way of making his breeziest song even more delightful.   

He sang it while riding a bicycle. 

To be fair, this wasn't an ordinary bike. This was a Moulton New Series Double Pylon, a foldable, hand-made machine, with 24 gears and Campagnolo components. These days they retail for just short of £20,000. 

Gabriel starts the song at his keyboard, but after the first "boom! boom-boom!" he clambers aboard the bicycle and sets off, pedalling around the stage (conveniently, the stage is in-the-round, so he can do laps) with gleeful abandon, singing as he goes, a camera on the handlebars capturing close-ups of the great man's face as he rides.

It's fantastic. And it gets even more so as Gabriel reverses the direction of his journey as the stage rotates, allowing the musicians to walk on the spot without advancing, as if they're on some kind of magical treadmill. He reverses again, and this time has to make his through the band members as they skip merrily in the opposite direction. 

It's so simple. And it's utterly glorious.   

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.