Musings From A Musical Mind

The Hidden Meaning…

I love the song, “The Book of Love” by Peter Gabriel.  The lyrics are thought provoking and deep.  I assumed I was the only one who loved it.  I was surprised when after listening to it in the car – on my CD – Greg stopped the CD player and asked the probing question:  “What do you think he’s talking about in this song?” Well SHUT my mouth WIDE open!!!  Greg interested in a song meaning???  What is the world coming to?  Who IS this man – and what has he done with my husband?

So we pondered and debated and tried to “out clever” each other on the meaning.  I have posted the song below – see if you can come up with your own meaning.

I believe the “Book of Love” could be referring to ancient “writings” of poetry or even possibly the ultimate book of love – the Bible.  And when he says it’s “heavy” – it could be talking about the fact that no one can live up to the standards that are set out for us – and that it DOES seem even boring at times.

Greg believes it is talking about “love” in general and not literally.  The feelings and emotions of love – and that can be heavy and even boring when talking about the many facets of love.

I read somewhere that Peter Gabriel when asked to sing this song for the soundtrack of  “Shall we Dance?” was amused by the notion of love – and thought it was okay for everyone else – thus the line in the second verse, “sometimes it’s transcendental – sometimes it’s just really dumb”  – this is only someones opinion – and not Peter Gabriel’s own words about how he felt.  But it would indeed make sense – that love is overwhelming and even “dumb” – UNTIL!!!!!!  It happens to you.  Then love isn’t so dumb after all.  No.  It’s sweet and sad and happy all at the same time.

Love makes you helpless.  You surrender to it.  It makes you a better person.  You feel like you’re losing yourself to it.  And in a way – you do.  There’s nothing else to do – when love has totally embraced you.  You are never the same.  The ultimate culmination of that love is a “wedding” between two people – thus “you ought to give me wedding rings” at the end of the song.



Strong emotions







All of this is – love

What is the hidden meaning to these lyrics for you?  Can you find it?  I’d love to hear your thoughts…

See for yourself…

Comments on: "The Hidden Meaning…" (26)

  1. This is a very beautiful song. What I find most amazing about this song is that most of us are unsure about the meaning behind the lyrics, but despite this we are deeply touched and moved by it. It is like watching the sunset, hard to explain it’s beauty but we feel it in our hearts.

    I’m not sure about the meaning, but I just like to think it is about true love.
    The unconditional kind, where you can give everything and accept anything.

  2. Hi Cindy,
    I absolutely love this song. I feel very emotional when I hear it. I was doing some research to see if I could find anything directly from the author about his intention of the song when I found your blog and enjoyed reading the comments here. The next article I looked at provided a little information and I had to come back and share it with you – you may find it interesting.

  3. Peter Gabriel is my favorite musician and has been so since I started listening to him in Genesis sometime around “72.” When I first started listening to Genesis I realized that Peter always played around the Christian theme in much of his music, without being Christian music. His name is real.(Peter Brian Gabriel) with both his first and last name being popular Christian names. His first major progressive rock group was Genesis (the first book in the Bible) with their first album being (From Genesis to Revelation.) Many of the song from Genesis had religious overtones and at the very least had duel if not outright references to biblical themes. Songs like “Supper’s Ready” from the album Foxtrot had the overtone of the Battle of Armageddon as well as songs like “Watcher of the Skies” as well, had these type of common Biblical references. I am a Christian and still love his music but I feel his music often takes a swipe at Chrisianity and if you take time to really read his lyrics, from both Genesis and his solo works, he often takes jabs at this faith. With songs like “Lay your hands on me,” (a common Penticostal term that is used during faith healing) had the lyrics No more miracles, loaves and fishes, been so busy with the washing of the dishes.” I am not questioning Peter’s faith or non-faith, I am just saying that he often uses these type of lyrics, not as a reference to the Bible but as a play on words as he often has during his tenure with his role in music. Much of his music is very deep; with lyrics that can cut to the bone and is very agressive in the struggle for human rights. Songs like “Biko,: that was written about Stephen Bantu Biko an anti-apartheid activist in South Africa was written well before this movement had any traction. The fall of this oppresive government can “IN PART,” be linked to people like Peter Gabriel and their compassion for his fellow man but I look at these tyrics and take them with a grain of salt, knowing that when Peter wants to make a point he usually does it directly and won’t use lyrics that candy coat what his intention is. The book of love is probably a book that was read to him as a child or something of that nature but then again…….

    • Thanks so much Denis! Wow – great comment above – I didn’t know that about the band “Genesis” – great information – thanks for stopping by!

  4. Hi Cindy
    I have just recently come across this song while watching a TV programme, happened to hear it on the background and it just stuck at the back of my mind so did a bit of research and finally found the name and singer!
    What a great song! I also agree with most comments here, I think the ‘book of love’ is a term to describe the whole idea of love in general. There are no given rules on how love happens, works and maintained. However there are many elements that are in relation to love, tips and hints, articles, songs, books and instructions etc as he mentions but regardless of that it doesn’t matter what the rules are when you are in love with that one person it’s a whole different story are the love is your own between that person these hints and tips are a distant memory for the person then.
    It’s just so meaningful and full of emotions!

  5. in my opinion, the book of love could be a collection of every moments of memories anyone remembers in connection with other persons.
    All things people passed together, all tests they mastered together.
    “the book of love is long and boring” seems to be just a phrase, because no one is really happy beeing reminded about times he passed, if he’s alone. I think you can just enjoy such things if your together, and the part “i love it when you read to me” is just a paraphrase, meaning to live such moments with this person.
    at least that were the first things running through my mind when i heard this special song the last time

    ps.: please don’t blame me for my terrible knowledge of the english language

  6. I think he is probably referring to an actual “book of love” – whether the one published in 1998 that someone mentions above, or any “book” about love (but probably not the Bible). I think his point is that information about love is lacking completely. Love must be experienced, and is only possible in relationship with another. So, while “the book of love,” or any book about love “is long and boring” and “full of charts and facts and figures ABOUT love, and therefore not interesting to the one speaking, he LOVES it when his lover reads ANYTHING to him- a book of love, or any book. And, though “the book of love,” or any book ABOUT love is “has music in it” – it doesn’t do anything for him, whether it be transcendental or dumb, BUT he LOVES it when his lover sings to him, and it doesn’t matter what she’s singing. Once again, “the book of love” or any “book” ABOUT love may talk about giving flowers or heart-shaped boxes of candy, but those don’t do anything or mean anything apart from the relationship with the one who gives it. So, that person can give him anything, and he’ll love it, and he hopes to receive the most meaningful gift – “wedding rings” symbolizing an unconditional, life-long, committed love relationship.

  7. […] The Hidden Meaning… July 200913 comments and 1 Like on, 5 […]

  8. actually, the song is originally by the Magnetic Fields. I think it’s more about how silly and useless the conventions of love are. The speaker however ends up being fine with these silly conventions simply because his love is so strong. He would be willing to do anything for her

  9. There is an actual “Book of Love.” It’s an 813 page book edited by Diane Ackerman and Jeanne Mackin, published in 1998, that contains fiction, poetry, art, songs, essays, letters and memoirs by famous and less famous people throughout the centuries. Sometimes a song is more literal than people think… (“The book of love is long and boring/No one can lift the damn thing/It’s full of charts and facts, some figures and instructions for dancing”)

    This book was no doubt given to Gabriel as a gift by his wife and they looked at it together… he loved when she read it to him, or sang him songs in it, and, even more, loved the fact that she had given it to him (“I love it when you read to me… I love it when you give me things”).

    Some of the best things don’t have hidden meanings at all 🙂

  10. I love this one too! It makes me want to cry every time I hear it. I think the book of love is the Bible as well. Or is it a reference to LOVE over the ages?

  11. well…dis song is actually a remake….this song belongs 2 de magnetic fields…i think peter gabriel is nt capable of cumin up with such gr8 lyrics…de credit goes 2 them…but gabriels version of de song is jus 2 gud nd simply the best…try listening 2 the original wouldnt believe it…

  12. Peter Gabriel is amazing – I also love David Gray and Gabe Dixon – all my new favorites 🙂 I am especially drawn to great lyrics that have great meaning – and there are many songwriters that fall into this catagory- and that would include artists like Joni Mitchell and James Taylor as well as the great Billy Joel, Richard Carpenter and even Stevie Wonder, Mannilow and Lionel Richie to name a few 🙂

  13. I hadn’t heard this song before. The music is beautiful.

  14. I bet we will too!

  15. This song is “perfect” for bringing out and discussing meaning…all of the sudden it seemed to grab me, even in traffic on I-405 last night!
    I just read a comment that it seems to be talking about a “cynic” who surrenders to his heart. I would tend to agree; looks like to the outside “observer” that sometimes love can seem “transcendental” and at other times “really dumb,” where the only ones that really get it are those involved in the relationship. It is all about perspective, isn’t it?
    While it’s possible to render a meaning based on the Bible (and I am open certainly to its possible influence here), I still believe the writer is refering to the “whole history/experience of love” as the “book” he’s referring to.
    Once you’ve been captured by the influence of love, it’s so true that “you can read/sing me anthing” – I mean, who really cares what it is, I just love to hear your voice!
    I have a feeling we’ll be discussing a lot more…

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