Dancing With The Moonlit Knight (as made famous by Genesis)

“Dancing with the Moonlit Knight” is a song by the progressive rock band Genesis. It was released on their 1973 album Selling England by the Pound. The song was originally going to be titled “Disney”.[1]

The album takes its name from a lyric in the song.

Chris Jones of BBC Music wrote that the song “gives the perfect snapshot of what Genesis were about at this point”.[2]

The song was developed from several brief piano pieces composed by frontman Peter Gabriel, which were later combined with some of Steve Hackett’s guitar figures to make up the song.[3]

Gabriel contributed English-themed lyrics to “Dancing with the Moonlit Knight”, because the music press thought that Genesis were putting too much effort into appealing to the American audiences. He also included some references to Green Shield Stamps in the lyrics.[4] Rolling Stone wrote that the song was an “epic commentary on contemporary England”.[5]

The song’s ending, which contains a number of 12-string guitar figures, was originally supposed to segue into “The Cinema Show” (another song on the album) to make a song of around 20 minutes in length. This idea was scrapped, because it was too similar in length to the 23-minute song “Supper’s Ready” from Foxtrot, the band’s previous record.[4]

In an interview, Hackett said of the song:

That tune started off with the influence of a Scottish song, then it moved into something that I think of in a more elegiac way — something nostalgic and wistful, and common to a lot of Genesis tunes. Then it bursts forth, it fights off its shackles, really takes off like a rocket, into another section, which seems to borrow from something that sounds more Russian in a way. It’s European, but then at times, it turns into the jazz that I liked originally — but big band, with the accents.[6]

When performed live, “Dancing with the Moonlit Knight” had Gabriel dressed in a Union Jack dress, helmet and lance. The song was performed in 1973 and the year after, but was dropped from the band’s setlist once The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway was released, and only rarely did it show up afterwards.[7]