you tell me where my country lies", said the Unifaun to his
true love’s eyes is the very first thing you hear on Genesis'
4th album. No music, just Peter Gabriel's husky voice. The
music doesn't start until the third sentence, and by then
you already know that this album is something very special.
year after the critically acclaimed hit album Foxtrot
Genesis is back, with the difficult task to surpass the album
that had brought them their first real success and allowed
them to step out of the shade of small university and club
gigs, into the first bright rays of international success.
Selling England by the Pound succeeded and brought
the band international recognition with comparisons made by
the press to Yes, ELP, The Rolling Stones and The Doors.
Foxtrot had still sounded as if the band was yet searching
for a certain direction (despite the fact that this album
contained their all-time masterpiece Supper's Ready)
on Selling... they presented themselves as one solid
band. You could hear that the band had grown and matured during
their five years of existence and how the music had evolved
from the gained experience.
opening track Dancing with the Moonlit Knight is an
8-minute composition with the usual incomprehensible lyrics
of Peter Gabriel. It starts with vocals only, while the rest
of the band slowly joins in. After this mellow start all hell
breaks lose after the third minute where The Mellotron, so
blatantly introduced on the predecessor is now degraded to
a more supporting role. And although the instrument is present
on almost every composition on the album Tony Banks refrains
from indulgent actions like the Watcher of the skies intro
off the previous album.
know what I like (in your wardrobe) is the band's first
shot at the charts. Tony Banks' catchy melody line and Gabriel's
funny lyrics make the song perfect for a single. The song
reached a modest 19th position in the English charts and would
probably have been a real hit, had the promotional video not
been refused by Top of the Pops. The single did however boost
the sales of Selling England.
third track turned out to become another classic in Genesis'
history. Firth of Fifth (a word-spin on the delta of
the Scottish Forth River) is entirely written by Tony Banks
and probably the best he's ever done to date. The classical
piano intro is of true high-class standard. Tony's lyrics
are so full of metaphors that even the best linguist won't
get further than concluding that the song's about a river.
And Steve Hacket's partly improvised guitarsolo has been often
imitated yet never surpassed.
Fool me, the next track, is written by Phil Collins and
Mike Rutherford, with the result that Peter Gabriel let Phil
do the vocals on the track, although Phil is clearly trying
to copy Peter's vocal style. The song does however shows that
Phil is more than just the drummer of the band, although probably
nobody would have guessed at the time that Peter would leave
the band two years later, leaving Phil at the singing spot.
first song on side two The Battle of Epping Forest is
the only "misser" on the album. As Tony later explained in
an interview: "The music is great and Pete's vocal melody
is great, however the two just don't seem to work together".
Despite the serious subject of the lyrics, a gang fight, the
song just doesn't sound serious at all.
After the ordeal is the instrumental on the album.
It is a very calm, serene piece based around a beautiful guitarsolo
by Steve Hackett,
next track is the third song on the album that has become
an all-time favourite: Cinema Show. The song has a
slow build with a couple of lyrics sung by Gabriel, before
Tony takes over for a 6-minute keyboardsolo, which is still
considered one of his finest. (Although his solo of 1974's
In the cage is considered his best ever). The song
finishes with the theme of Dancing with the moonlit knight
which completes the circle.
last song on the album Aisle of plenty is also based
on that same theme, which makes it a short reprise of the
first song. The lyrics are a spin on the British supermarket
industry. (Ease you now, there's the safe way home. Thankful
for her fine fair discounts, Tes co-operates) and thus
makes the circle, which started with Moonlit knight
(which also deals with the British consumption industry) complete.
Selling England by the Pound is one of the few so-called
head-and-tail records. There is a clear start, a middle piece
and a worthy ending which sort of reprises the start.
album did indeed bring them the international success they
deserved after Foxtrot and a world tour followed the
album. The tour brought them to America, and Peter's stage
extravaganza received even more raving reviews by the American
press than it ever had got by the British press. It was something
they had never seen this side of hardrock.
me, this album stands as a solid rock in Prog history. Despite
the fact that their previous album Foxtrot was maybe
a more emotional album, with more feeling, and despite the
fact that their follow-up album The Lamb lies down on Broadway
is maybe a far more ambitious album, I still prefer to listen
to Selling... as this album is a lot easier to listen
to - it is a real listening album, rather than an album which
needs your full attention when you play it.
Written by Bart Jan van der Vorst