Firth of Fifth

Song Review by

With its slow tempo and virtuosic piano introduction, "Firth of Fifth" is one of Genesis' most solemn songs. The first line, "The path is clear/Though no eyes can see," seemed to epitomize the whole lyrics: rather simple, although very sibylline. Their meaning is still disputed among fans. Nevertheless, the song became a favorite, mostly thanks to Steve Hackett's uplifting guitar solo in the instrumental middle section, arguably one of his best using volume pedal. The solo, backed by heavy drumming, bone-rattling bass pedals, and mellotron, gave the song its soul and constituted the emotional climax of many Genesis shows. "Firth of Fifth" was written in 1973 and first released on the band's fifth studio album, Selling England By the Pound. It was usually performed live without the piano introduction. The song remained in the live set after Peter Gabriel's departure, since the vocals didn't call on too many theatrics, the dramatic charge resting on the shoulders of the musicians. It virtually disappeared when Hackett called it quits in 1977 (making one noticeable return for the October 1982 reunion show), but the instrumental section (performed by Daryl Stuermer) was brought back in the form of a disappointing medley for the We Can't Dance tour. Hackett has performed the same section in medleys of his own throughout his career and recorded a surprising version for his album Watcher of the Skies: Genesis Revisited, displacing the musical climax by inserting a classical guitar interlude and an orchestral bridge. A complete live version with Phil Collins on vocals was issued in 1977 on Seconds Out; one from 1973 with Gabriel has been included in the box set Genesis Archives, Vol. 1: 1967-1975. The instrumental section can be heard on The Way We Walk, Vol. 2: The Longs.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Selling England by the Pound 1973 Atco / WEA International 9:37
No Image 1974 Arc Music
I Know What I Like 1992 On Stage / Sarabandas / Stage
Archive, Vol. 1: 1967-1975 1998 Atlantic 8:29
Platinum Collection 2004 EMI 9:28