“Over the Hills and Far Away” is a storytelling song about a wrongly accused man whose alibi is more compromising than the accusation. He was with his best friend’s wife on the night in question and is unwilling to confess this to save himself from prison. This makes him willing to serve the jail sentence; he hopes to return to the woman when he is freed.
Gary Moore wrote this song in an attempt to get back to his musical and cultural roots. It was also shortly after the death of his former bandmate, Phil Lynott, to whom Wild Frontier is dedicated. This song plays up the folk element of music by telling a juicy story, something connected to Moore’s heritage.
In this article, we’ll take a close look at these entertaining lyrics to decipher their intended meaning. We’ll also take a look at the songwriting story and other background information that contributes to the track. Without further ado, let’s get started!
The lyrics begin by introducing us to the situation. An arrest has taken place on “one winter’s night,” and the charge is serious: armed robbery. A certain man, the subject of the song, is being implicated because “his pistol had been found” at the scene.
Due to the evidence, the authorities take him away. The man knows he is being “wronged” but also knows that he is hopeless “without an alibi.” With a poetic flair, Moore ensures us that “tomorrow’s light” will “mourn” the man’s freedom – it will be a done deal by then!
The chorus makes this crystal clear. He’ll serve “ten long years” in a prison “over the hill and far away.” It seems like every day in this “prisoner’s life” will be tortuous, so why is the man willing to suffer through it? The next verse sheds some light on his situation.
In verse two, we learn that the man has to keep the matter of “where he’d been that fateful night” to himself. After fighting back “tears of rage,” he accepted his situation and decided to bear the cost. This is because, as the song dramatically reveals, he was “with the wife of his best friend” at the time.
The following chorus is slightly altered, and it lets us know what’s going through the man’s head. Although he’s “far from the mountains and the sea” right now, he’s going to be “back in her arms again.” This is something he’s very sure of, which the next verse demonstrates clearly.
The final verse moves forward in time, giving us a glimpse of his prison stay. “Each night within his prison cell,” the man “looks out through the bars” longingly. He desires the freedom to be with the woman again and “reads the letters that she wrote” to hold him over.
At this point, the chorus repeats until the end. As it does, it assures us that “as sure as the rivers reach the seas,” the two will be reunited. We never see this happen in the song, which creates a feeling of suspense.
In summary, “Over the Hills and Far Away” is a tale with a dark twist! Maybe karma is real after all – could that be the message Moore was trying to send? Either way, it makes for solid entertainment, which is no small part of the song’s success.
“Over the Hills and Far Away” is a single from the album Wild Frontier. This is significant because Wild Frontier is dedicated to Gary Moore’s former bandmate, Phil Lynott. On the rear cover of the album, the words “For Philip” appear.
While the two men certainly share musical talent, they also share Irish roots. According to an interview for Guitar World, Gary Moore wanted to get back to his heritage when writing songs like “Over the Hills” and “Johnny Boy.” This was just as important musically as culturally for Moore, who credits Ireland for producing many astounding musicians that influenced him.
This song also features The Chieftains, and they appear in the music video. These fine musicians are known for their traditional Irish folk stylings, which is another nod to Ireland’s culture. You can hear their energy permeating the track, giving it an authentically Irish feel.
The result of his efforts can only be called a success. “Over the Hills and Far Away” did well in the States but mostly excelled in Nordic countries such as Finland, Norway, and Sweden. It’s a song that’s been heard by millions of ears due to its high musicianship and attention-grabbing lyrics.
In addition to its own accolades, the track has been covered by several notable artists. These include Nightwish, Patty Gurdy, and
The next time you play this instant classic, let these pieces of background information make it even more special!