Selling England by the Pound

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Selling England by the Pound
Studio album by Genesis
Released 12 October 1973
Recorded August 1973 at Island Studios
(London, England)
Genre Progressive rock
Length 53:39
Label Charisma
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 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[1] and number 70 in the US.[2] 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.



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

"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,[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" 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.

Sleeve design[edit]

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[4] and number 70 on the US Billboard Pop Albums chart.[5] "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.[1]


Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 5/5 stars[6]
BBC Music (very favourable)[7]
Robert Christgau B[8]
Rolling Stone (mixed)[9]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 2/5 stars[10]
SputnikMusic 5/5 stars[11]

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".[9]

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.[6][7][12] The album's focus on storytelling was particularly applauded,[6][12] 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.[12] 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."[8]

In 2012, the album ranked seventh in Rolling Stone's "Readers' Poll: Your Favorite Prog Rock Albums of All Time".[13] It was also included in IGN's list "10 Classic Prog Rock Albums" in 2008.[14]

Robert Pollard of Guided By Voices considers Selling England by the Pound one of his ten favourite records of all time.[15]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are credited to Banks/Collins/Gabriel/Hackett/Rutherford. Original LP states "All Titles Done By All"

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
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
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
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

Original North American pressings on Charisma Records distributed through Atlantic Records merge The Cinema Show and Aisle of Plenty into one track, with a total running time of 12:40.



  • 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


Organization Level Date
RIAA – US 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. ^ "The Official Charts Company – Selling England by the Pound by Genesis Search". The Official Charts Company. 4 April 2014. 
  5. ^ "Selling England by the Pound – Genesis | Awards | AllMusic". Retrieved 1 January 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Selling England by the Pound – Genesis | AllMusic". Retrieved 25 July 2011. 
  7. ^ a b Jones, Chris (23 April 2007). "BBC – Music – Review of Genesis – Selling England by the Pound". BBC. Retrieved 7 June 2012. 
  8. ^ a b Christgau, Robert. "Robert Christgau: CG: Genesis". Retrieved 25 July 2011. 
  9. ^ 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. 
  10. ^ Nathan Brackett; Christian David Hoard (2004). The new Rolling Stone album guide. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 327. ISBN 978-0-7432-0169-8. 
  11. ^ "Genesis – Selling England by the Pound (album review 5) | Sputnikmusic". Retrieved 1 January 2014. 
  12. ^ a b c Hill, Herb (8 April 2002). "The Daily Vault Music Reviews : Selling England by the Pound". Retrieved 7 June 2012. 
  13. ^ Greene, Andy. "Readers' Poll: Your Favorite Prog Rock Albums of All Time, page 5 of 11". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 30 July 2012. 
  14. ^ "10 Classic Prog Rock Albums". 28 August 2008. Retrieved 30 July 2012. 
  15. ^ "The Onion Interview with Bob Pollard". 1999. 
  16. ^ "RIAA Gold and Platinum Search for albums by Genesis". Retrieved 5 August 2011. 

External links[edit]