Selling England by the Pound

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Selling England by the Pound
Studio album by Genesis
Released 12 October 1973 (1973-10-12)
Recorded August 1973 at Island Studios in London, England
Genre Progressive rock
Length 53:39
Label Charisma, Atlantic
Producer Genesis, John Burns
Genesis chronology
Genesis Live
Selling England by the Pound
The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
Singles from Selling England by the Pound
  1. "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)"
    Released: 3 August 1973

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), though still on the Charisma label initially.

Selling England by the Pound followed Foxtrot and was the band's commercial peak at that time, reaching #3 in the UK[1] where it remained on the charts for 21 weeks. The album went gold in the US in 1990, sixteen years after peaking at #70 on the Billboard 200.[2] It was also a major breakthrough in terms of critical reception, and many now consider this album to be a masterpiece, for Genesis and progressive rock in general.

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.

A SACD/DVD double disc set (including new 5.1 and stereo mixes) was released in the UK on 11 November 2008, including extensive interviews with the band and footage from concerts performed during 1973–74.

Cover art[edit]

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."


Peter Gabriel in the costume, "Britannia", worn during "Dancing with The Moonlit Knight" 1974

Dancing with the Moonlit Knight[edit]

I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)[edit]

Firth of Fifth[edit]

More Fool Me[edit]

"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[edit]

"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 singer Peter 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[edit]

"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. 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[edit]

"The Cinema Show" is divided into two main sections. The first section is a gentle 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,[3] 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,[citation needed] 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[edit]

"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 (on Offering and A Song for You), Cliff Richard (on The 31st of 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 is peppered with word play which may possibly escape those not familiar with the store names it references:

"Easy, love, there's the safeway home,
"Thankful for her fine fair discount, Tess co-operates...."

At the time, Fine Fare and Safeway were major grocery store chains in the UK, and both Tesco and the Co-op (The Co-operative Group), were, and still are, names of grocery stores. These lyrics are a pun because the word aisle is associated with grocery stores.


Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 5/5 stars[4]
BBC Music (very favourable)[5]
Robert Christgau B[6]
Rolling Stone (mixed)[7]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 2/5 stars[8]
SputnikMusic 5/5 stars[9]

Contemporary reviews for the album were mixed. Rolling Stone praised the band for attempting something utterly different amidst "a stagnant pop scene", but criticized 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".[7]

Retrospective reviews have been considerably more favorable. 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.[4][5][10] The album's focus on storytelling was particularly applauded,[4][10] and while The Daily Vault criticized 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.[10] 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 summarized the rest of the album saying "sounds as snooty as usual."[6]

In 2012, the album ranked seventh in Rolling Stone's "Readers' Poll: Your Favorite Prog Rock Albums of All Time".[11] It was also included in IGN's list "10 Classic Prog Rock Albums" in 2008.[12]

Robert Pollard of Guided By Voices considers Selling England by the Pound one of his ten favorite records of all time.[13]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Tony Banks, Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, Steve Hackett and Mike Rutherford.

Side one
No. Title Length
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
Side two
No. Title Length
1. "The Battle of Epping Forest"   11:49
2. "After the Ordeal"   4:13
3. "The Cinema Show"   11:06
4. "Aisle of Plenty"   1:32

Sound and live performance[edit]

The piano introduction to "Firth of Fifth" has not been included in a performance since 1974, in a Drury Lane Theatre concert, when Banks misplayed and Collins covered by starting the song from after the intro. "The Cinema Show" contains a long-form synthesizer solo in which Gabriel and Hackett played no part; during live performances, they both left the stage for this section. This solo section would later form the melodic centrepiece of the extended instrumentals in the 'In The Cage' Medley (a combination of song excerpts that Genesis would perform live years after it had stopped performing other songs from the 1970s).

"I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)" was Genesis' first single to receive any sort of chart action, hitting No.21 in the UK in April 1974.[1]




Year Chart Position
1973 UK Albums Chart 3[14]
1974 Billboard Pop Albums 70[15]


Organization Level Date
RIAA – U.S. Gold[16] 20 April 1990


  1. ^ a b UK Chart Stats Genesis hits
  2. ^ "RIAA - Gold & Platinum Searchable Database - May 02, 2013". Retrieved 2 May 2013. 
  3. ^ Sound on Sound (April 2009). "ReGenesis : Early Genesis for the modern keyboardist". Retrieved 13 December 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Selling England by the Pound – Genesis | AllMusic". Retrieved 25 July 2011. 
  5. ^ a b Jones, Chris (23 April 2007). "BBC – Music – Review of Genesis – Selling England By The Pound". BBC. Retrieved 7 June 2012. 
  6. ^ a b Christgau, Robert. "Robert Christgau: CG: Genesis". Retrieved 25 July 2011. 
  7. ^ a b Gambaccini, Paul (14 March 1974). "Genesis: Selling England By The Pound : Music Reviews". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 18 June 2008. Retrieved 7 June 2012. 
  8. ^ Nathan Brackett; Christian David Hoard (2004). The new Rolling Stone album guide. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 327. ISBN 978-0-7432-0169-8. 
  9. ^ "Genesis - Selling England by the Pound (album review 5) | Sputnikmusic". Retrieved 1 January 2014. 
  10. ^ a b c Hill, Herb (8 April 2002). "The Daily Vault Music Reviews : Selling England By The Pound". Retrieved 7 June 2012. 
  11. ^ Greene, Andy. "Readers' Poll: Your Favorite Prog Rock Albums of All Time, page 5 of 11". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 30 July 2012. 
  12. ^ "10 Classic Prog Rock Albums". 28 August 2008. Retrieved 30 July 2012. 
  13. ^ "The Onion Interview with Bob Pollard". 1999. 
  14. ^ "The Official Charts Company - Selling England By The Pound by Genesis Search". The Official Charts Company. 4 April 2014. 
  15. ^ "Selling England by the Pound - Genesis | Awards | AllMusic". Retrieved 1 January 2014. 
  16. ^ "RIAA Gold and Platinum Search for albums by Genesis". Retrieved 2011-08-05. 

External links[edit]