Peter Gabriel, the lead singer of Genesis, knew what he liked, and it wasn't hit singles. In 1973, Selling England by the Pound, the band's fourth album for Charisma, stretched progressive rock into new and often unfathomable shapes. “We'd always tried to avoid writing hits,” Gabriel later said. “Actually, now I think that was really dumb.” Touring the album was proving expensive. With an eye on the cash flow, Charisma took a punt on a 7in. “I Know What I Like (in Your Wardrobe)” – a whimsical yarn about lawnmowers and wardrobes – was lifted as a single in April 1974.
It did little to diminish the mounting debts, but grazed up the charts to No 21, helped, partly, by its non-album B-side, “Twilight Alehouse”. The A-side began life as a riff from Steve Hackett, the group's low-profile guitarist. He'd been playing it for a couple of years but it had fallen on stony ground with his colleagues. “The rest of the band felt it was too Beatles-ish,” Hackett recalls. “We used to joke about it as our hit single.” When the group's manager gave them three months to write Selling England by the Pound, the hit-single riff suddenly looked like a goer.
The band's keyboard player, Tony Banks, supplied a euphonious melody and Hackett's riff was elevated from a Fab Four pastiche into something more like Genesis. “Pete and Phil Collins jammed a vocal,” Hackett says. Lyrical inspiration came from a painting by Betty Swanwick – an interpretation of “Jacob's Ladder” that featured a supine figure on a garden bench. At Gabriel's request, Swanwick added a lawnmower and the picture was later used as the cover art for Selling England by the Pound.
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