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3WA 2018 #10: Genesis – Selling England By The Pound

It’s my birthday weekend, I’ll fanboy if I want to.

What is it?

Selling England By The Pound is the 1973 album by Genesis, totaling eight songs of wildly varying length. The album is not quite as old as I am.

How does it sound?

It’s mixing better in your sampler:

Why this pick?

Full disclosure time: Knowing that I was restricting myself to one album by a given artist, and knowing that I could easily have flooded this year’s roster with Genesis-related albums, I picked Selling England primarily because it’s my favorite album featuring the main five guys. That forced me to not end up picking a Phil Collins record and a Mike (Rutherford) + The Mechanics record and a record from one of Tony Banks’ projects and a Peter Gabriel record and, oh, GTR or something-or-other involving Steve Hackett.

It helps that this is a great Genesis album, though. This isn’t a gimmick selection.

Which songs are the highlights?

Two of the all-time heavyweight great classic Genesis pieces come from this album: “Firth of Fifth” and “The Cinema Show.” In an album well stocked with lengthy, meandering, somewhat-ridiculous prog-rock pieces, those are the standouts. I never tire of either song, in nearly any recorded rendition.

(Side note: There’s an album by Yngve Guddal and Roger T Matte called Genesis for Two Grand Pianos Vol 2 which features the best version of “The Cinema Show” not recorded by actual Genesis band members.)

We also get what’s considered the band’s first hit single with “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe).” Nowadays I mostly just quote the opening spoken bit: “It’s one o’clock and time for lunch, dum de dum de dum dum…”

The other two eight-minutes-plus songs on the record are good, if not really great. “Dancing With The Moonlit Knight” is more interesting for its instrumental bridge section than for its lyrical content, while “Battle of Epping Forest” is nearly the opposite.

Speaking of instrumental sections, “After The Ordeal” is four enjoyable minutes of musical goofing-around.

Which songs don’t work so well?

“More Fool Me” is kind of a quiet dud. (Sorry, Phil. You do a better job as lead singer a few years later!) And “Aisle of Plenty” isn’t really a proper song so much as an odd two minutes of coda following up on “The Cinema Show” with a callback to “Dancing With The Moonlit Knight” so it’s a bit unfair to call it out like this, but there you go.

Which album did you almost pick in favor of this one?

I briefly considered going with Calling All Stations. It’s criminally underrated, for starters, and it would’ve covered the last-added of the official band members (singer Ray Wilson) while freeing me up to use a Peter Gabriel album elsewhere in the year. And maybe one of Phil’s. Maybe.

Did I mention criminally underrated? I have opinions, y’all. The temptation was quite strong.

I could have done one of these project posts for each of nearly everything in the Genesis catalog. The decision-making wasn’t hard at all, though.

Any final thoughts?

While I’m on a tear about it, sure: I wish they’d gotten a second album out with Ray Wilson. The potential was huge, and hugely wasted. Seeing what would’ve happened once Wilson was a fully-integrated creative partner would’ve been fascinating and (I’m certain) enjoyable.

On the other hand, I want to travel to the alternate timeline wherein Kevin Gilbert survived to audition to be the new singer for Genesis. Arguably the biggest and most talented Genesis fanboy ever to record his own album, Gilbert would’ve brought something interesting to the table, make no mistake.

In this timeline, however, what we’ve got is what we’ve got. I’ll leave you with a quick list of essentials, the Genesis albums I love best:

  • Selling England By The Pound
  • Duke
  • A Trick of the Tail
  • Calling All Stations
  • Invisible Touch

I’m sure I just offended nearly every other Genesis fan on the planet with that list, somehow. Oh well!

3 Comments

  1. I’ve actually had to think of how to comment upon this choice, and Genesis as a whole… that I’m writing this on the Wednesday after it was posted might give you an idea of how big a problem I have.

    There are, of course, two versions of Genesis (yes, yes, I know, shhh, I’m on a roll). I like to call these two versions the “Good” version and the “Bad” version. Like it? Came up with it all by myself!

    This album falls into the “Bad” side of the ledger. The problem is, as it often is for me, when I first came across the band; as I mentioned over at The Pond once, ABACAB was my true baptism into Genesis. Sure, there were the two hit tracks off of Duke, but I barely knew Genesis existed at that point… I mean, I was 11 or 12.

    Then ABACAB occurred, and I really liked it, then came the next two, and EVERYBODY really liked those and then I first began listening to the Peter Gabriel Genesis and…

    …WTF was that? No, seriously, WTF was that? Because it wasn’t the Genesis I knew. Where’s the “Tonight Tonight Tonight” that was used in a Michelob ad that I still remember to this day (though not as well as Clapton’s ad… that’s my favorite Clapton song right there)? Where’ s “Invisible Touch”? Hell, where’s my “Just A Job To Do”?

    You get the picture. I really liked the “new” Genesis, and it totally prevented me from liking the “old” band. In that post over at The Pond, I say that I didn’t mind me some prog rock/art rock/whatever you wanna call it, but strictly speaking that isn’t true. For example, I love “Roundabout” by Yes, but I didn’t like anything else they did up until the album “90125”. Why? Because other than “Roundabout”, I didn’t hear anything by them until they cranked out the hits.

    I admit that it’s quite possible the albums in what I lovingly called the “Bad” version of Genesis, it’s just that my brain doesn’t hear it as Genesis. Have the Foo Fighters release an album of nothing but ’80s-style New Wave synth pop and… no, that’s a bad comparison, because that’d be awesome. Have Judas Priest start singing Christian pop ballads… fans of the new stuff would have a stroke when they heard the old music.

    So. Um. Yeah. Sorry I like dis’d your favorite band, dude. Um. Gee, look at my wrist I’ve gotta go!

    • Funny thing: I was vaguely aware of Genesis at the time of the self-titled album (the one w/ “Just A Job To Do,” which is still one of my faves) .

      Trivia moment: I also watched The Insiders, a TV show which used the song as its opening theme. It was a cheezy Miami Vice knock-off. It lasted 13 episodes.

      Anyway! My first “real” Genesis album was Invisible Touch and I listened the hell out of that cassette during my trip to visit Grandma Hjordis down in Kingsville TX. After meeting a friend at school who was also into the album, and into Peter’s So record, we started digging through the back catalog and… well, here I am.

      I guess my tolerance for early-Genesis WTF-ery is stronger, that’s all. (I can’t even pretend to like the debut record, though. I’m not that strong of a fanboy.) No worries!

      • It’s actually becoming clear to me over the course of these entries that… well, my mind may have become somewhat ossified over the course of the last 50 years. It likes what it likes, and heaven help that which it doesn’t, because it never will.

        That’s a little sad.

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