Songwriters: Tony Banks, Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, Steve Hackett, Mike Rutherford
Original Release: Selling England By the Pound
Definitive Version: Seconds Out, 1977.
Speaking of medical procedures …
This is the song that made me a Genesis fan. I knew Abacab, of course, but at the end of my freshman year at Wabash, I decided pretty much on a lark (and with the influence of ELP firmly entrenched) to try Genesis, old Genesis. Because it was a live album, and therefore a collection of material, I went straight to Seconds Out.
I still remember playing it for the first time in Jin’s old bedroom at the Condo. I might even have played Side 2 first. The first time I heard Firth of Fifth, I liked it right away. Steve Hackett’s guitar solo pulled me right in, and it became the “pull song” if you will—the song that pulled me into the rest of the album.
The album, of course, pulled me into Genesis, leading to my eventual purchase of the “geometric figures” album and then concert tickets the next winter. Therefore, it’s logical to say that Firth of Fifth made me a Genesis fan.
With that in mind, there’s only one story I could tell regarding this song: I bought Seconds Out the day after I had all four of my wisdom teeth taken out, maybe two days later.
My appointment was the first week I was home after my freshman year of college—May 1983—before I went back to work at Food World for the summer. I knew that I would have to have my wisdom teeth yanked at some point, so it was no big deal. I had no worries about the surgery.
I had it done, as I recall, at Riverside Methodist Hospital, and it was performed by a surgeon, not my dentist or orthodontist. It certainly wasn’t the first time I’d been even to a hospital since I had my tonsils removed in 1968, but it was the first time I’d gone under a general anesthetic since then.
Actually, I don’t remember a lot of the details of the events leading up to the surgery itself. I remember the aftermath. I remember snapping out of it in the recovery room. Mom, being on the edge of being out of it herself—for reasons I hadn’t yet realized—was asleep in a bed next to mine.
When I awoke, I felt OK. I had gauze and stitches in my mouth, but I wasn’t in any pain. One of the first things on my mind was music. I knew that we were close to a Record & Tape Outlet on Bethel Road, and before the surgery, I asked Mom if afterward she would drive me over there, because I wanted to buy Seconds Out. So I asked again in the recovery room. She said we’d see.
Then, when we got to the car, I said, OK, let’s go to the record store. But this time, she said—not unreasonably—I’d been through a long surgery, and she was just going to go to the drugstore to get my pain prescription filled and then take me home. I complained that I felt fine, but it was of no use.
I felt gypped, but it turned out that Mom made the right call. If I don’t remember much before I was in recovery, I’ll never forget that almost as soon as we arrived home, my anesthesia wore off. All of a sudden—I mean, like flipping a light switch—I was in blinding pain, like someone was jackhammering my jaw.
I screamed out, and Mom quickly gave me a couple of the Tylenol with codeine. I went straight to bed and slept almost the entire day.
Now, this is where the memory gets fuzzy again. I don’t remember whether it was the same day—but later that day—or the next, but I remember two things that happened while I recuperated.
The first was that Beth came to visit me. She and her close friend from across the street, Theresa, walked over from where they lived to see me. However, because I wasn’t up to having guests—why I think it was the same day, that evening—she didn’t come in. Instead, they came around to the back patio, and I spoke with them briefly from one of Mom’s windows.
I definitely remember feeling that I looked like Hell, with my face all bruised and my cheeks puffed from my surgery, which, of course, I did. I also had a severe case of bedhead from having slept all afternoon. I was glad to see Beth, but I felt a little sheepish, and I think I went right back to bed again after the brief visit.
The second thing I remember, and this I’m more certain happened the next day, was that Scott really gave me the little brother treatment. Mom made steaks. I, of course, could have only bullion the first day.
Now it was bad enough that she made steak when I couldn’t have any, but where Scott really pounded sand up my butt was that he brought his up to my room to eat it in front of me. That’s not just LIKE waving a steak in front of a starving man, it’s actually doing it. I vowed from bed that I would have my revenge.
The next day after that I was more or less back to normal and off to see Beth for proper recovery treatment and then RTO to buy a certain album. You know the rest of the story.