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Why I ❤️ Genesis's Selling England By The Pound, by Fish

Fish
(Image credit: Martin Hunter/Prog Magazine)

I got hooked on Genesis at an early age. Although I was very aware of previous albums such as Trespass [1970] and Foxtrot [1972], it was Selling England By The Pound that defined my journey as a singer and a lyricist. 

I bought it during a family holiday to Creiff in Perthshire during 1973, the year it was released. Ironically for someone who ended up writing such long songs, my first copy was an eight-track and the only place I could listen to it was in my dad’s car. I still have strong memories of lying in the back of this Volvo estate car, the machine going ‘zghug, zghuggg’ between each song. 

It was Genesis’s fifth album and they’d really begun to tighten up. Keyboard player Tony Banks was making his mark, using a lot more synthesiser. Steve Hackett’s guitar contribution to songs like Firth Of Fifth was just sublime. With its Arthurian-style vibe there are few better ways to open an album than Dancing With The Moonlit Knight, which was a big influence on me when it came to writing Marillion’s debut, Script For A Jester’s Tear [1983]. 

The wordplay of The Battle Of Epping Forest definitely affected my own. I loved the fact that the 11-minute Cinema Show had a flavour of TS Eliot’s 1922 poem The Waste Land.

And at the other end of the scale there was More Fool Me, a beautiful song sung by Phil Collins – still the band’s drummer – that set the benchmark for his solo career. It’s just a wonderfully crafted, exquisitely balanced album. 

Genesis co-produced the album with John Burns, whom they retained for The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway [1974] and in terms of sound, it’s definitely stood the test of time. It was a lot more lush and full than what they’d done before. 

Another huge part of its appeal is the brilliant cover art, an illustration by Betty Swanwick. Years later I was invited to work with Tony Banks on his Soundtracks album [1986]. Having been such a fan for so long, I went through the front door of his house, looked up at the landing and there on the wall was the original Betty Swanwick painting. I was immediately punterized. 

I consider Selling England By The Pound the last great album made by the Peter Gabriel-fronted Genesis line-up, before it fragmented on the next tour. The writing is truly wonderful. As a backdrop to a Sunday afternoon in olde England, it’s indispensable.

Fish was speaking with Dave Ling. His latest album, Weltschmerz, is available from the Fish webstore