On the 13th of October 1973, Genesis released one of their most ambitious progressive rock achievements ever: Selling England by the Pound. Being their fifth studio album, it reached No. 3 in the UK and No. 70 in the USA.
The album was recorded in August of 1973, following the tour of Foxtrot (1972), and because of that album’s success, the band was given relatively more time to devise and construct new material. A recurrent theme was the loss of English folk culture, which was reflected in the album’s clever title. Though it received mixed opinions upon its release, the guitarist Steve Hackett said that it was his favorite Genesis record. Some of the songs on the album were so memorable that they remained regular choices in the band’s live setlist well into the ’80s.
The line-up included the frontman and singer Peter Gabriel, keyboardist Tony Banks, bassist Mike Rutherford, guitarist Steve Hackett and drummer Phil Collins. The album came along during the times when the critics were comparing the band with other prog-rock groups, such as ELP and Jethro Tull, and it really proved, once and for all, the distinctness and the beauty of Genesis.
The album was written in multiple sessions and locations. The first sessions took place in what reporter Jerry Gilbert called a “rambling old stately home” in Chessington, London. The neighbors were complaining about the sound since the band was working in the living room, and Tony Banks recalled from this period that the band was having difficulty coming up with any musical ideas. On the contrary, Collins did not remember the album being any difficult to put together. During that time, he was listening to jazz fusion groups like Mahavishnu Orchestra which in turn, influenced him to play odd time signatures in songs like “Dancing with the Moonlit Knight”.
Despite the setbacks, biographer Robin Platts wrote: “There were enough magic moments and inspired jam sessions to produce such enduring compositions”. So what’s your favorite song from this enduring album?