Annotations


~ A ~

 

An introduction to "A"

In 1980 the "A" album was released. It made clear how Jethro Tull moved away from from the folky sound of the previous three albums. In fact "A" saw the most radical change of sound and musical direction since Mick Abrahams left the band in 1968. It also was the first album to appear after the big split: the departure of John Evans, Barrie Barlow, David Palmer and - alas - the sudden decease of John Glasscock. In 1980 Chrysalis approached Ian Anderson with a view to releasing an album of his solo acoustic songs from previous Tull records. Ian thought it would be better if he went and recorded a solo album instead. It was something the fans had always wanted. So Ian started to record his solo project, but retained the services of Martin Barre on guitar and Dave Pegg on bass, although a member of the group since the Stormwatch tour, hadn't yet recorded with them.

Wanting a keyboard-based album, Ian contacted Eddie Jobson, who played with Roxy Music and Frank Zappa before. With his band UK he had recently supported Tull. His friend Mark Craney was brought in to play drums, and they recorded a set of Ian's songs in a matter of weeks. When they had finished, it was clear that what they had recorded could not reasonably described as a solo album from Ian, and eventually it was decided that "A"should be the new jethro Tull LP - and so, in effect, Barrie Barlow, John Evans and David Palmer were no longer in the band.

Hardly surprising then that "A" evoked mixed reactions from Tull fans. Ian has commented that "it should not really have come out as a Jethro Tull album. Of course I do not dismiss it: as a record it is fine, but I have never thought it fits in with the other albums as a whole. But then it is clearly very much a group album, certainly not a solo set." The album sounds from time to time very 'electronically', since keyboards and electric violin play an important role in most of the songs and Ian would explore this further on his solo album "Walk Into Light", released two years later.

While recording the tracks for the solo album in the studio the tape boxes were simply marked "A" for Anderson. The title stuck.
* "20 Years Of Jethro Tull"- album booklet

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Eddie Jobson playing his electric violin during the "A" tour.

Annotations

Crossfire

  • With the song Crossfire I had the title with some idea about the lyrics and we were actually rehearsing that track when my wife Shona came rushing in and said that the Iranian embassy in London had been besieged. We all stopped rehearsing and came to watch it on the television. Then the next morning before the others arrived for rehearsal I wrote all the lyrics. So although it was kind of aimed in that direction anyway, when this particular thing happened on the news I filled in the missing words. It is essentially a song sung from the point of view of constable Trevor Locke, who was actually in the embassy while it was all going on, and I think it's as simple as that you know, current news story.
    * Ian Anderson in "Jethro Tull In Concert, Official Program A-Tour"
  • The line "I've been waiting for our friends to come, Like spiders down ropes to free fall" refers to special airborne forces, who are transported by helicopters. These troops release themselves from their helicopter quickly by means of a cable right in the middle of a critical situation.
    A
    "Browning" is an automatic pistol, named after its American inventor.
    * Jan Voorbij


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Fylingdale Flyer

  • ..... was also provided by a news story about the last timethe Americans had a slight hitch with one of their early warning systems and they thought the Russians had provoked an attack. It's sung from the point of view of those guys at the Fylingdale Early Warning Station in Yorkshire. They think, well there is a missile coming across but it's only halfway to America. We've still got a bit of time left to work out wether it's serious or not and "time for a last game of bowls" which is just what Sir Francis Drake did in 1588 when he was told that the Spanish Armada has been sighted off Plymouth Hoe!
    * Ian Anderson in "Jethro Tull In Concert, Official Program A-Tour"

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Working John - Working Joe

  • .... was written at the time when a lot of flack was being thrown at the middle class by the unions. The song suggests that the chap who is the white collar worker, a director of a company, has the same hard slog day to day as the chap on the shop floor. He may drive to work in his Rolls Royce every day, but he gets stuck in traffic jams just the same and he lives further out of town and it's just as much a hassle, and the price he has to pay for his greater degree of wealth is ulcers and heart disease.
    * Ian Anderson in "Jethro Tull In Concert, Official Program A-Tour"
  • 'Working John - Working Joe' is about the capitalism of the Thatcher government - the switch from an allegedly 'caring' society pre-1979 to the 'every man for himself' ethic developing in the 1980s.
    * Neil R. Thomason

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Black Sunday

  • I wrote the lyrics to Black Sunday just before I went on tour, which is the sort of sound it has although I tried to write it in the kind of way that anybody would feel if they are having to go off to work and always wondering if, when they come back, they will find things the way they left them. It is just full of the kind of images that I see when I travel.
    * Ian Anderson in "Jethro Tull In Concert, Official Program A-Tour"

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Protect And Survive

  • The title is taken from the British Government pamphlet of the same name which, in the event of a nuclear attack, gives a very skeletal rundown on what to do. It is a slightly tongue-in-cheek dig at the Government for not having given the people enough information and for treating us in a very down-market way. The content of the pamphlet is really minimal and assumes that everyone is a complete moron - it also contains a substantial amount of mis-information. The sentiments of the song are not necessarily my own, but the way what I would expect an average person to react upon reading that sort of pamphlet, especially in the aftermath of a nuclear attack.
    * Ian Anderson in "Jethro Tull In Concert, Official Program A-Tour"
  • My "Protect and Survive" web site is about the UK government leaflet that influenced Jethro Tull to write the track Protect and Survive. The integral text of this leaflet can be found on my web site.
    * George Coney, Chorlton, Manchester

  • The Electro Magnetic pulse ("E.M.P.") is the electro-magnetic wave happens just after a nuclear explosion taking out every electric device.
    * Jan Voorbij


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Batteries Not Included

  • ..... is a bit macabre really. A child wakes up at Christmas morning to find this fabulous mechanical toy at the bottom of his bed, but it doesn't work because the batteries were not included. During the period of time that he is assessing its lack of life as being due to that he identifies with the toy so strongly that when his parents wake up they find he has become like the toy and he's switched off as well. On this track my son Jamie makes his recording debut.
    * Ian Anderson in "Jethro Tull In Concert, Official Program A-Tour"

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Uniform

  • The song Uniform is again a slightly tongue-in-cheek comment on the fact that we all dress up, we all undertake roles in society according to the clothes we wear. There are not many people who tend to express their individuality in terms of dress; they tend to conform to various social groupings, and they are severely in uniforms just as much as a soldier or a policeman.
    * Ian Anderson in "Jethro Tull In Concert, Official Program A-Tour"

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4.W.D. (Low Ratio)

  • ..... is just about having an affinity for four-wheel drive vehicles. I thought it nice to have a song about that, and it's spelt that way to avoid confusion with another song on the same subject which is nothing like ours musically.
    * Ian Anderson in "Jethro Tull In Concert, Official Program A-Tour"

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The Pine Marten's Jig

  • A traditional sopunding piece of music, but it is a lot more involved. It's very electric and therefore very 20th century. It employs a lot of fairly trickly little time signature pieces, and the instrumentation, mandolins and violin, although very traditional here, have an end result of being quite an electric thing.
    * Ian Anderson in "Jethro Tull In Concert, Official Program A-Tour"

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And Further On

  • This song is one of the most ambiguous, wistful things that have a private and personal connotation for the author, but a broad enough imagery, hopefully, to work in different ways for different listeners. To specifically explain my understanding of the lyric would be to rob the individual of his right to a personal interpretation! I suppose it really serves as a musical and lyrical postscript to the rest of the songs on the album.
    * Ian Anderson in "Jethro Tull In Concert, Official Program A-Tour"

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The "A" tour programme (1981).
By kind permission of Pete McHugh
(Electrocutas - The Jethro Tull Archive).

 


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Jan Voorbij (1998-2009)