Selling England by the Pound
|Selling England by the Pound|
|Studio album by Genesis|
|Released||12 October 1973|
|Recorded||August 1973 at Island Studios
|Producer||Genesis, John Burns|
|Singles from Selling England by the Pound|
Selling England by the Pound is the fifth studio album from the English progressive rock band Genesis, released on 12 October 1973 on Charisma Records. It was recorded in August 1973 following their tour supporting Foxtrot (1972).
Upon its release, Selling England by the Pound was the band's greatest commercial and critical success. It peaked at number 3 in the UK and number 70 in the US. The album reached Gold certification by the Recording Industry Association of America. It was remastered for CD in 1994 and Super Audio CD in 2008, the latter release including new stereo and 5.1 surround sound mixes.
"More Fool Me" is one of two songs from the Gabriel era to feature Phil Collins on lead vocals (the other being "For Absent Friends" from their 1971 LP Nursery Cryme). The song is about a man whose lover walks out on him, yet he is "sure it will work out alright." Musically, the song is much simpler and more sparse than the rest of the album as it features only acoustic guitar and vocals. It was written by Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford while sitting on the steps of Island Studios. It became Collins's featured solo vocal spot on the Selling England by the Pound tour.
"The Battle of Epping Forest" was inspired, according to the liner notes, by a news story about two rival gangs' territorial battles. The lyrics play out as such, featuring characters such as "Mick the Prick" and "Bob the Nob" as they battle for turf in east London on a grand scale. The song is characteristic for Gabriel's changing of voices for different characters as well as the frequent changes in tempo and time signature. The song 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. In Hugh Fielder's The Book of Genesis, the band members seem to agree that, although the song 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" is an entirely instrumental piece 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. Although Genesis never performed the song live, Hackett plays it on his acoustic trio tours as part of a medley in between Apocalypse in 9/8 (from "Supper's Ready") and "Hairless Heart." According to Banks, both he and Gabriel were against the inclusion of this song, and they had many arguments with Hackett about this issue. Although Hackett won out in this case, such disputes over his compositions would eventually lead him to quit the band four years later.
"The Cinema Show" is divided into two sections. The first section is a 12-string guitar-based piece, featuring vocal harmonies between Gabriel and Collins, as well as a short flute/oboe solo. Afterward, the song segues into a four-and-a-half-minute keyboard solo by Banks on the ARP Pro Soloist, with Rutherford and Collins laying down the rhythm in a 7/8 time signature. This solo was frequently integrated into the "In the Cage" medley that Genesis performed in later years. The song ends by switching back to 4/4 time and segueing into the following track, "Aisle of Plenty." In live performances of "The Cinema Show", however, "Aisle of Plenty" was not performed; instead, a new ending was added at the conclusion of the 7/8 section, as heard on the live album Seconds Out. The lyrics, 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 (named after the famous Shakespearian characters Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet), who are separately readying themselves for their date at a cinema show. Romeo is entertaining high hopes for a sexual encounter with Juliet afterward. The chorus makes reference to Tiresias, a character from Greek mythology who had lived as both a man and a woman, and who concluded that women derive more pleasure from sex than men do.
"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 popularised on then-recent albums by groups such as The Carpenters (on Offering and A Song for You), Cliff Richard (on 31 February Street) King Crimson (on In the Wake of Poseidon), and Simon & Garfunkel (on Bookends, an album which took its name from this technique). Genesis used it on later albums like A Trick of the Tail and Duke. The acoustic line that opens the song is repeated several times at the end of "The Cinema Show", thereby "connecting" the two tracks. This track uses word play such as:
- "Easy, love – there's the safe way home,
- "Thankful for her fine fair discount, Tess co-operates"
At the time of its writing, Fine Fare and Safeway were supermarket chains in the UK, while Tesco and the Co-op (The Co-operative Group) still are today. They reveal that the song's title ("Aisle of Plenty" instead of "Isle of Plenty") refers to supermarket aisles.
The album cover is a painting by Betty Swanwick titled 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" as Swanwick told them that she had not enough time to paint a new picture for their cover.
Selling England by the Pound was released in the UK on 13 October 1973. It peaked at number 3 in the UK and number 70 on the US Billboard Pop Albums chart. "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)" was released as a single. It was the band's first single to enter the UK chart, and peaked at number 21 in April 1974.
|BBC Music||(very favourable)|
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
Contemporary reviews for the album were mixed. Rolling Stone's Paul Gambaccini praised the band for attempting something utterly different amidst "a stagnant pop scene", but criticised the album's lyrics for their bad puns, their overuse of specifically British pop culture references, and their sometimes overtly silly rhymes. Despite additional complaints with some musical passages, they offered that the album "merits some recognition".
Retrospective reviews have been considerably more favourable. Allmusic, BBC Music, and The Daily Vault all commented that the album returned to the whimsical eccentricity of Nursery Cryme while retaining the hard rock intensity and pessimism of Foxtrot, combining the best of both elements to make Genesis's best album up to that point. The album's focus on storytelling was particularly applauded, and while The Daily Vault criticised the track "More Fool Me" as being jarringly out-of-place, they offered special praise for Tony Banks's distinctive keyboard work throughout Selling England by the Pound. Even Robert Christgau, who thoroughly panned most of Genesis's albums, admitted that the songs "Firth of Fifth" and "The Battle of Epping Forest" have "a complexity of tone that's pretty rare in any kind of art", though he summarised the rest of the album by saying "it sounds as snooty as usual."
All tracks are credited to Banks/Collins/Gabriel/Hackett/Rutherford. Original LP states "All Titles Done By All"
|1.||"Dancing with the Moonlit Knight"||Rutherford, Banks, Gabriel, Collins, Hackett||8:02|
|2.||"I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)"||Rutherford, Banks, Gabriel, Collins, Hackett||4:03|
|3.||"Firth of Fifth"||Rutherford & Banks||9:36|
|4.||"More Fool Me"||Rutherford & Collins||3:10|
|1.||"The Battle of Epping Forest"||Rutherford, Banks, Gabriel, Collins, Hackett||11:43|
|2.||"After the Ordeal"||Rutherford & Hackett||4:07|
|3.||"The Cinema Show"||Rutherford, Banks, Collins||11:10|
|4.||"Aisle of Plenty"||Rutherford, Banks, Gabriel, Collins, Hackett||1:30|
- Tony Banks – acoustic & electric pianos, organ, mellotron, synthesizers, 12-string guitar
- Phil Collins – drums, percussion, backing vocals, lead vocals on "More Fool Me"
- Peter Gabriel – lead vocals (except on "More Fool Me"), flute, oboe, percussion, additional backing vocals on "More Fool Me"
- Steve Hackett – electric guitar, nylon guitar
- Mike Rutherford – 12-string guitar, bass guitar, bass pedals, electric sitar
- John Burns – producer, engineer
- Rhett Davis – assistant engineer
- Nick Davis – 2008 mix
- Betty Sanwick – cover painting
|RIAA – US||Gold||20 April 1990|
- UK Chart Stats Genesis hits
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- Analysis of "Dancing with the Moonlit Knight" lyrics by George Starosin