Firth of Fifth

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"Firth of Fifth"
Song by Genesis from the album Selling England by the Pound
Released 13 October 1973
Genre Progressive rock, symphonic rock
Length 9:35
Label Charisma
Writer Tony Banks, Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, Steve Hackett, Mike Rutherford
Producer John Burns & Genesis
Selling England by the Pound track listing
"I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)"
"Firth of Fifth"
"More Fool Me"

Firth of Fifth is a song by the British progressive rock band Genesis. It first appeared as the third track on the album Selling England by the Pound, and was performed as a live piece either in whole or in part throughout the band's career.


Steve Hackett's guitar solo on "Firth of Fifth" has become a favourite among Genesis fans.[1]

The title is a pun on the estuary of the River Forth in Scotland, commonly known as the Firth of Forth. Though the song is credited to the entire band, most of the music was composed by keyboardist Tony Banks. He had written the bulk of the song by 1972, presenting it as a candidate for the album Foxtrot, but it was rejected. He redesigned the piece, which the group accepted as a candidate for Selling England by the Pound.[2] Banks worked on the lyrics with the group's Mike Rutherford, which he later dismissed, saying they were "one of the worst sets of lyrics [I have] been involved with."[citation needed]

The song starts out with a classical-style grand piano introduction played by Banks.[3] This section is rhythmically complex, with certain bars in the rare time signatures of 13/16 and 15/16, alternating with bars of 2/4.[4] This section changes tempo and segues into the first section of lyrics, accompanied by Phil Collins on drums and a chord progression between the Hammond organ (Banks) and guitar (Steve Hackett). The song then features a flute melody played by Peter Gabriel, followed by a synth-driven instrumental section which restates the opening piano theme. Hackett then plays the flute melody using violin-like guitar tones.[5] Peter Gabriel then sings a brief section of lyrics before Banks concludes the song on piano.

Live performances[edit]

Daryl Stuermer playing the guitar solo in "Firth of Fifth" live with Genesis in 2007

From autumn 1973 onwards, the song's piano intro was omitted during live performances.[1] Banks felt he could not do the intro justice on the RMI electric piano he used on stage instead of a proper piano, as the RMI was not touch-sensitive.[citation needed] The song survived the departure of Peter Gabriel in 1975, with Phil Collins taking over to sing lead, but was dropped as a piece overall following Hackett's departure in 1977 but for the 1981 tour wherein it was played as a full length piece.[1]

The instrumental section of the song, featuring the guitar solo, was resurrected for the We Can't Dance tour in 1992, with touring member Daryl Stuermer playing Hackett's guitar parts.[1] This section of the song featured on the Calling All Stations tour in 1998, with Anthony Drennan playing guitar. It was resurrected for the 2007's Turn It On Again: The Tour, again featuring Collins and Stuermer. The instrumental segues directly into "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)" in 1992 and 2007 versions.

Hackett has continued to play the song live since leaving Genesis.[1] It appears on his solo album of re-worked Genesis songs, Watcher of the Skies: Genesis Revisited (1996), with lead vocal by John Wetton, as well as on Hackett's live album The Tokyo Tapes. The song was also included as an encore on his Genesis Revisited tour (2013-2014), featured on the live album Genesis Revisited: Live at Hammersmith.


The song has had a strong critical response as one of the best examples of progressive rock. Particular highlights of the track include Bank's piano introduction and Hackett's guitar solo.[6] Rock author Edward Macan describes Firth of Fifth as "one of the finest nine and half minutes of music that Genesis ever put down".[7] Genesis biographers Dave Bowler and Bryan Dray describe his solo as "the crowning moment of Hackett's time with the band."[5]

Hackett has spoken favourably about his contributions to the song, saying "it'll always be twinned with me, and I still enjoy playing it. It's a great melody for guitar".[8]

Other uses[edit]

In 2009 the DJ Absolut sampled parts from the guitar solo for the song "Flashback Memories" for the mixtape "Blood On Chef's Apron" with MC's The Game and Raekwon.[9]


  1. ^ a b c d e Couture, François. "Firth of Fifth - Genesis". Retrieved 8 February 2015. 
  2. ^ Bowler & Dray 1992, p. 79.
  3. ^ Macan 1997, p. 109.
  4. ^ Sheet music of piano introduction
  5. ^ a b Bowler & Dray 1992, p. 81.
  6. ^ Lambe 2012, p. 47.
  7. ^ Macan 1997, p. 136.
  8. ^ Thompson, Dave (2011). 1000 Songs that Rock Your World: From Rock Classics to one-Hit Wonders, the Music That Lights Your Fire. Krause Publications. p. 159. ISBN 978-1-440-21879-8. 
  9. ^ retrieved April 9, 2015
  • Bowler, Dave; Dray, Bryan (1992). Genesis: A Biography. Sidgwick & Jackson Ltd. ISBN 978-0-283-06132-5. 
  • Macan, Edward (1997). Rocking the Classics: English Progressive Rock and the Counterculture. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-195-09887-7. 
  • Lambe, Stephen (2012). Citizens of Hope and Glory: The Story of Progressive Rock. Amberley Publishing Limited. ISBN 978-1-445-60737-5.