GENESIS: Selling England by the Pound
It was their first album that reached the charts, peaking at No.3 in UK, and remained in the charts for 21 weeks in total.
The beautiful 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’.
On this album the sound is slightly changed when compared to the previous albums. Is more melodic, more soft and the sound is more ‘illustrated’ I could say, and it contains some of the best moments in the Genesis’ first era. (The one with Peter Gabriel). It also contains their first charting single ‘I know what I like’ that peaked at No.21 in the UK singles charts. (In the B-side of this single was the superb ‘Twilight Alehouse’, one of the best 5 songs of Genesis in my opinion).
The album opens with Peter Gabriel's the’ a-cCapella’ on ‘Dancing of the Moonlight Knight’, again one of the best 5 songs of Genesis. (Again in my opinion)… (A Capella means singing without music in the background). The sad tune at the start of the song slowly changes, more instruments are added, and the rhythm becomes faster. Many music styles can be found in this song in its many changes before the –again sad- finale.
The second track is ‘I know what I like’ , a rather “Pop” song (for Genesis’ style I mean), that was their only hit single, followed by the epic ‘Firth of Fifth’ with the glorious piano solo in the start.
The A-side closes with the ballad ‘More Fool Me’, the second song that Phil Collins was on lead vocals. (The first was ‘For Absent Friends’ from the album ‘Nursery Cryme’). (You can read about that album in the same series of posts, at No.1)
The B-side opens with the weird ‘The Battle of Epping Forest’. Even the band was having second thoughts about it, but they finally put it in the record. But its difficulty and complexity made it very hard to be performed live without mistakes. So, after the ‘Selling England…’ tour it was never performed live again.
‘After the Ordeal’ is an instrumental piece with wonderful classic guitar and a majestic piano backing. That song could be used as a (long) intro for the wonderful ‘The Cinema Show’ that is next. Another great song, one of the finest moments of the album.
The album is closing with the 1.32 – minute long ‘Isle of Plenty’, that is not much of a song, but mostly a reprise of ‘Dancing with the Moonlight Knight’.
Well, now it’s the time to apologise for making this post so long, but this album is a real music diamond, and a great example of the Progressive Rock scene of the ‘70’s.
As an epilogue, I will put Steve Hackett’s exact words after learning that John Lennon was a fan of this album: ‘When I was with Genesis I’ll never forget being on tour in the USA in 1973, when we were trying to make it there, hearing John Lennon say on WNEW (New York radio station) that he loved our album ‘Selling England by the Pound’. Even if I never sell another album in my life, I will always remember that. A tribute from Lennon, the great man himself listened to our records. It gave us a heck of a buzz and a real encouragement’.
In the following video you can watch a live performance of ‘Dancing with the Moonlight Knight’ from 1973. The sound is not very good, but I believe it is worth watching this. Also, P. Gabriel is dressed with his famous ‘Britannia’ costume.
P.S: It doesn’t really matter, but because I mentioned a couple of times in the post about the best 5 songs of Genesis in my opinion, I decided to write them down.
Here they are: (In Chronological order)…
The Knife (Trespass – 1970)
Musical Box (Nursery Cryme – 1971)
Supper’s Ready (Foxtrot – 1972) (But only in the live version that is included in the box set ‘Genesis Archives’)
Twilight Alehouse (B-side on the single ‘I Know What I Like’ – 1973)
Dancing of the Moonlight Knight (Selling England by the Pound – 1973)