Sunday, May 8, 2016

88. Genesis - Selling England by the Pound

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The cover of Selling England By the Pound features a painting by Betty Swanwick, one called "The Dream". Her style is noted as being “quintessentially English,” according to the British Council for Visual
Arts. Peter Gabriel must have thought so, too.  In his quest to make Selling England more applicable to a British audience,  he chose an image for the cover that  evoked the fussiness and the passive
grandiosity that Brits do so well. In the forefront of the painting is a man sleeping on a park bench in the middle of a garden. While Selling England was still in production, Peter saw "The Dream"
and thought it’d be perfect. A big reason, I think, was that the song “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)” featured the lyrics “When the sun beats down and I lie on the bench. . .”

Peter asked Betty to add a little  something to the painting to make it even more applicable to the song – a lawn mower standing up next to the park bench.  It looks like it’s really supposed to be there,
perfectly  married to the song.  The Dream visually  tells a story of  a man who  simply wants to be left alone, but has other people  constantly making demands of him.  The same exact theme is
presented in “I Know What I Like.” That is truly a piece of synchronicity and the larger framework is the British character. N. Neal Paradise on Album Oriented.

On the work above,  the original album cover art design, 9 square inches in size was halved and restored at the centre of an 10 x 18 inch frame. This was repeated on exactly the same spot, making two
layers of the same image one on top of the other. A copy of the right half was then flipped  and added at left and a copy of the left half  was also flipped and added at right. The whole image was
now 9 X 18 inches. Positioned from the top, this still left a strip of 1 x 18 inches at the bottom of the frame.

The images on the sides were then  stretched in order to cover the  spaces below each of them.  Then the bottom layer of the left half of the image at centre was pulled  downwards to cover the space
below it and its top layer  was cropped in order  to reveal the upper body of the man below it.  The bottom layer of the right half was also  pulled down  to cover the remaining space. The whole
image was then processed in poster edges and crosshatched.

This is the original album cover art design.

Album art design from the painting "The Dream" by Betty Swanwick. Album produced by John Burns & Genesis. Charisma, Atlantic, 1973. 

Contemporary reviews for the album were mixed.  Rolling Stone's Paul Gambaccini praised the band for attempting  something utterly different amidst "a stagnant pop scene", but criticised the album's
lyrics, feeling they overused British pop culture references, and complained about some musical passages. Despite this, Gambaccini thought the album "merits some recognition". NME's Barbara Charone
said the album was "the band's best, most adventurous album to date". The Guardian's Robin Denselow wrote that "much of the material is indistinctive and tedious".

Retrospective reviews have been more favourable. AllMusic and BBC Music remarked that the album returned to the whimsical eccentricity of Nursery Cryme while retaining the hard rock intensity and
pessimism of Foxtrot,  combining the best of both elements to make Genesis's best album up to that point.  Robert Christgau, who thoroughly panned most of Genesis's albums, admitted that the songs
"Firth of Fifth" and "The Battle of Epping Forest" have "a complexity of tone that's pretty rare in any kind of art", though he summarised the rest of the album by saying "it sounds as snooty as usual."

Selling England by the Pound  has been praised  by other songwriters and musicians.  Rush drummer  Neil Peart has said:  "I think  Selling England by the Pound is an enduring masterpiece  of drumming.
Beautiful drumming, lovely sound,  and the arrangements, I think they really nailed the best of what that band as an entity could have done with that album."  Fish, solo artist and former lead singer of
Marillion,  has called it "the definitive Genesis album",  praised its "emotive" quality,  said the wordplay was  "one of the things tha t became quite an influence on me - the games within  the lyrics" and
concluded it "took a whole jump forward and was the album that really got me into Genesis". Singer and songwriter Robert Pollard of Guided by Voices  considers Selling England by the Pound one of his
ten favourite records of all time. John Lennon said he really liked the album during a radio interview, which the band took great encouragement from. wikipedia

(A) Dancing with the Moonlit Knight - I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe) - Firth of Fifth - More Fool Me

(B) The Battle of Epping Forest - After the Ordeal - The Cinema Show - Aisle of Plenty 

"I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)" live from RHINO on YouTube.