Genesis on Selling England by the Pound

Front cover

Selling England by the Pound is the fifth studio album by the progressive rock band Genesis, released on 12 October 1973 through Charisma Records (Europe) and Atlantic Records (United States). It followed Foxtrot and was the band's commercial peak at that time, reaching #3 in the UK where it remained on the charts for 21 weeks. The album went gold in the US in 1990. It was also a major breakthrough in terms of critical reception, and is considered one of the greatest albums of the progressive rock genre. The album cover is a painting by Betty Swanwick called The Dream. The original painting did not feature a lawn mower; the band had Swanwick add it later as an allusion to the song "I Know What I Like." A digitally remastered version was released on CD in 1994 on Virgin in Europe and on Atlantic Records in the US and Canada. The remastered booklet features the lyrics and credits which were missing on the original CD, while they had been on the inner sleeve of the LP album. The first track on the album, "Dancing with the Moonlit Knight", opens with an a cappella vocal. Then, the song progressively gets louder and more upbeat, becoming a rock number. 

Dancing with the moonlit knight

This song is one of several tracks where Tony Banks used his newly-acquired Mellotron M400; toward the middle of the song the 8 Voice choir is featured prominently, and in the closing section the strings are used. Guitarist Steve Hackett used very early examples of tapping and sweep-picking techniques on this song. The lyrics are an ironic commentary on contemporary England. The reference "chewing through your Wimpey dreams" is an allusion to the Wimpy Burger Chain that was prevalent in many UK town high streets, in the early 1970s. Peter Gabriel wore the Britannia costume to perform "Dancing with the Moonlit Knight" live.


"I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)" was the first charting single by Genesis. The single was first released in the UK in August 1973, and became a minor hit in April 1974, when it reached number 21 in the UK Singles Chart. The song's lyrics concern a young man who is employed as a groundsman and who says that he does not want to grow up and do great things, being perfectly happy where he is, pushing a lawn mower. The song, inspired by The Beatles, has a psychedelic rock sound, using hand percussion rhythms and an electric sitar riff. Keyboardist Tony Banks used a note played on the low end of the Mellotron during the intro and ending to imitate the sound of a lawn mower. "I Know What I Like" was the band's only pop hit of their early years, at a time when progressive rock bands largely avoided the singles market. The title of the track "Firth of Fifth" is a pun on the estuary of the River Forth in Scotland, commonly known as the Firth of Forth. "More Fool Me" is one of the two tracks from the Gabriel era to feature Phil Collins on lead vocals, the other being "For Absent Friends" from their 1971 LP Nursery Cryme. The track is much simpler and more sparse than the rest of the album. "The Battle of Epping Forest" was inspired, according to the liner notes, by a news story about two rival gangs' territorial battles. The track is characteristic for singer Peter Gabriel's changing of voices for different characters, as well as the frequent changes in tempo and time signature. "The Battle of Epping Forest" was performed live during the tour to support Selling England by the Pound, featuring Gabriel moving around the stage telling the story. The band's feelings about the song are mixed. The band members seem to agree that, although the track has a lot of good ideas, it suffers from having too many lyrics (some of which don't fit the background music) and an altogether too-busy arrangement, making it difficult to play live without mistakes being made. The song was dropped from the band's setlist after the Selling England tour. "After the Ordeal" was written mainly by Hackett, with help from Rutherford. The first half is an up-tempo classical guitar piece with a majestic piano backing; the second half is a slower piece performed on electric guitar. The lyrics of "The Cinema Show", written by Banks and Rutherford, draw much of their inspiration from the T. S. Eliot poem The Waste Land. They refer to Romeo and Juliet (after the famous Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet), each readying oneself for their date at a cinema show. The chorus makes reference to Tiresias, a character from Greek mythology who lived as both a man and a woman. "Aisle of Plenty" is not so much its own song as a reprise of "Dancing with the Moonlit Knight", with lyrics following the same thematic connections. This gives the album a book-end effect, a technique that had been popularized on then-recent albums by groups such as The Carpenters, King Crimson, and Simon & Garfunkel.

Track listing:
1. Dancing with the Moonlit Knight (8:04)
2. I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe) (4:07)
3. Firth of Fifth (9:35)
4. More Fool Me (3:10)
5. The Battle of Epping Forest (11:49)
6. After the Ordeal (4:13)
7. The Cinema Show (11:06)
8. Aisle of Plenty (1:32)

Personnel:
Tony Banks–piano, keyboards, mellotron, synthesizer, backing vocals, acoustic guitar 
Phil Collins–drums, percussion, backing vocals, lead vocals 
Peter Gabriel–lead vocals, flute, oboe, percussion
Steve Hackett–lead guitar, nylon guitar
Mike Rutherford–bass guitar, bass pedals, rhythm guitar, electric sitar, cello, acoustic guitar, backing vocals   

This is the 2007 Reissues Interview with all Genesis' members on Selling England by the Pound album, included in the Genesis 1970–1975 box set which was released in 2008.

Part I

Part II