~ Aqualung ~



In an article, originally pubished in Disc and Music Echo, 20th March 1971, are some relevant passages, all quotes by Ian: "All songs on Side Two somehow deal with the concept of God, from a personal standpoint".


My God

  • Ian: "'My God', the first track, isn't a song against God, or against the idea of God, but it is against Gods and the hypocritical church of the Establishment; it's a criticism of the God they choose to worship. It's very dissatisfying to me that children are brought up to follow the same God as their parents. God is the abstract idea Man chooses to worship; he [He] doesn't have to be worshipped.  I say he [He] only has to be acknowledged. Children are brought up to be Jewish, Catholic or Protestant just by an accident of birth. I think that's a presumptuous and immoral thing to do. Religion makes a dividing line between human beings and that's wrong.  I think it's very wrong that we are brain-washed at school with a set of religious ideas. It should be up to you to think and makes your own decision". ".... 'My God': This is a blues for God, in the way of a lament. So many religions operate as a social service instead of a spiritual one".
    * Ian Anderson in Disc and Music Echo, 20th March 1971
  • The song criticizes organized religion. I think the narrator criticizes especcially the fixed, monopolised concept of God as presented by the churches in the lines "... locked Him in his golden cage, made him bend to your religion, him resurrected from the grave". As this dogmatical concept is imposed on the believers by the church itself, it doesn't serve them much, for if that's all they can see "He is the God of nothing". Is Ian saying here, that this would be different if one is willing to make the effort of developing one's own concept of God, based on personal experiences, creativity and responsibility: "You are the God of everything, he's inside you and me", instead of showing docility in religious matters?
  • Something alike happens in the third verse, where the image of Jesus is concerned. This image, imposed by the church is so definite, that it leaves no room for the search for and the development of a more personal concept of Jesus: "And the graven image you know who, with his plastic crucifix, he's got him fixed". Both the concepts of God and Jesus are so definite and full of dogmatics, that the narrator is confused as he cannot relate to them, perhaps since they are miles away from his personal experiences.
  • I suspect, that the tenor of this song is: this minimized, limited God will not help you out. It's no use to pray and to confess: you'd better take responsibility for your own life: "... don't call on Him to save you, you from your social graces, oh and the sins you used to waive" and "You'll be praying 'til next Thursday to all the Gods that you can count".
  • The verselines:
    "The bloody Church of England
    in chains of history
    requests your earthly presence at
    the vicarage for tea.
    were not the original ones. The song was written before the 'Benefit' album and was performed live for the first time in april 1970. During the Carnegie Hall Concert in New York (November 4th 1970), parts of which were recorded on "Living In The Past" and on the "25th Anniversary Box Set", 'My God' was played and recorded before it was actually recorded for the Aqualung album. The original verse reads as follows:
    "The Jewish Christian Moslim
    is waiting to be free.
    Each claiming just a part of Him,
    also a part of me".
    I take it that Ian observed the sames processes as described above in other religions. What his reason was to change this verse I do not see. Maybe he did not want to be too offensive, or maybe he wanted to point all of his criticism to the situation in the UK.
  • Another point of interest about this song is, that Ian originally planned to entitle the album "My God" instead of "Aqualung". However, several 1970 concerts were bootlegged, and because one of them was released as a bootleg LP under the title "My God", Ian saw no other option than to chose a different title!
  • The song was recorded for the first time in June 1970, but that proved to be a failure. A retry in December 1970 was very successfull.
    * Jan Voorbij
  • A crucial part of the lyric --- all the faiths are claiming a little piece of God (the piece they fashion according to their own creed) as opposed to the Whole.  "Also a part of me" reinforces the idea that God is in Man, therefore any claim on God is a claim on the human spirit also.
    * Andy Jackson

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Hymn 43

  • ".... is a blues for Jesus, about the gory, glory seekers who use his name as an excuse for a lot of unsavoury things.  You know, 'Hey dad, it's not my fault - the missionaries lied.' "
    * Ian Anderson in Disc and Music Echo, 20th March 1971
  • I always thought Hymn 43 was like the Nietzsche "God is Dead"-bit, where he was only symbolically speaking of religious figures, and was literally speaking about the religion itself (when Nietzsche said that God was dead, he meant that the idea of God - religion, is dead, and meaningless); how it's been corrupted over the years in ways that have been said time and time again. "If Jesus saves, then he'd better save himself, from the gory glory-seekers, who would use his name in death" ... This is not ridiculing Jesus, is it? I think, generally, that Ian is using Jesus as a symbol to describe Christianity; and that's why he's in such bad shape in the last verse; so is modern Christianity, in Ian's eyes... nothing wrong with the religion, but everything wrong with how it's being used and abused. That symbolism extends to the first verse, as well: "Smile down upon your son", Christianity, "who's busy with his money games", etc.. (isn't Christianity as much God's son as Jesus is?) Ian has said time and time again that he has no objections to religion, but does object to some of the organized religion which exists today. This song is attacking just that; not Christianity, not the real Jesus, but evangelists and the like. The Jesus he talks about is the one they mention on the religious channels: "I have a message for you. Jesus loves you".
    * Alex Lozupone
  • Though I do agree with most of what Alex points out here, I think there is more to say about this song. First of all it is striking how raucous and angry the vocals are, supported by Martin's heavy electrical guitar playing. It is important to bear in mind that every verse that contains criticism on this album has this feature. When it comes to the lyrics, I want to point out, that the first and the second verse show us the hypocrisy and ambiguity of people praying to God and Jesus as well, while in the meantime they commit all kind of crimes and vices: "... his money games, his women and his gun", "... killed an Indian or three".
    The second verse and - more explicit - the third verse attack the violent way in which people in The America's and Africa were christianized by the Europeans, especially in the 17th and 18th century: "the gory glory seekers, who use his name in death".
    My interpretation of the image of Jesus in the last verse differs from Alex's: "His cross was rather bloody, he could hardly roll his stone". Here we see Jesus depicted as a tortured man, worn out and exhausted by the hypocrisy and crimes that were committed in his name.
    * Jan Voorbij

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  • "..... is a song about dying.  It doesn't mean it's the end of the world, but it hints at a life hereafter.  There's a line in it, 'And you paddle right out of the mess'.  It's brief and to the point, lyrically and musically."
    * Ian Anderson in Disc and Music Echo, 20th March 1971
  • In the line of Ian's critique in "Hymn 43" he portrays in short the average human life: You are born ("Well the lush separation unfolds you") and soon after that you start an empty life depending upon material things ("and the products of wealth push you along on the bow wave of their spiritless undying selves"). You leave everything behind when you die: "And you press on God's waiter your last dime as he hands you the bill". God's waiter is St. Peter. You're overseeing your past life and spin in your memories: "And you spin in the slipstream - tideless - (...nothing is pulling you...) unreasoning - (taking things for what they are worth) paddle right out of the mess". (by the time you die you at last realize you don't need material things to be happy ).
    * Phil Vaughn

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Locomotive Breath

  • "'Locomotive Breath'  is another song about dying, but it's not so serious as 'Slipstream'.  It's an analogy of the unending train journey of life; you can't stop, you've got to stagger on.  But it's not that serious.  All of the songs have an element of humour, and sometimes pure silliness".
    * Ian Anderson in Disc and Music Echo, 20th March 1971
  • This song is about modern man ("the all-time loser"), who can hardly keep up with the pace of life in our society ("locomotive breath"). He suffers from all kinds of desillusions, alienation and solitude, cannot get hold of his own life and in the end resorts to religion: "he picks up Gideons Bible, open at page one", in the hope to find a solution. The verseline "The train won't stop going, no way to slow down" symbolizes his/our life that goes on and on without a pause until we inevitably die. At this place in the bible one will find the book of Genesis in which is described how the universe, the world and all living beings on it were created. Roland Tarmo points out that "old Charlie" is a reference to Charles Darwin and his evolution theory, that offered a scientific alternative for the unconditional belief in creation as worded in Genesis, thus questioning the self-evidentness of this belief. In other words: he "stole the handle", that for centuries had defined men's position. I assume that "the all-time winner" refers to God.
    "Gideon" is the organisation that aims at spreading the Bible by having it placed in public buildings like hotels.
    * Jan Voorbij

  • Real Player video clip of "Locomotive Breath", performed live at the Pistoia Blues Festival, Italy,
    July 18, 1999. By kind permission of

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Wind Up

  • The title 'Wind Up' has several meanings in British slang.  As Ian explained in a US radio interview ( 'In The Studio - Aqualung', 19/11/90), he had three meanings in mind: 1. It's the last song on the album, 'winding' it up i.e. drawing it to a conclusion. 2. A 'wind up' is a con, a trick; so Ian uses the phrase to mean you don't have to trick God by attending church on Sunday then ignore Him for the rest of the week. 3. God isn't a clockwork toy, which needs winding-up once each week to keep Him working! Incidentally, in the same song, the line "in your pomp and all your glory..." might be a sideways reference to England's unofficial anthem, Elgar's 'Pomp and Circumstance No. 1 in D, Op. 39 ', commonly known as 'Land Of Hope & Glory'.
    * Neil R. Thomason
  • The inspiration for this song was drawn from Ians forced childhood church attendance. It deals with his disagreement that children have to follow the religious beliefs of their parents. Children rather should use their own minds to come to their own religious conclusions.
    * Greg Russo

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I've always seen a strong link between William Blake and Tull. Compare the following:

[plate 11] "The ancient Poets animated all sensible objects with Gods or Geniuses, calling them by the names and adorning them with the properties of woods, rivers, mountains, lakes, cities, nations, and whatever their enlarged & numerous senses could perceive. And particularly they studied the genius of each city & country, placing it under its mental deity. Till a system was formed, which some took advantage of & enslav'd the vulgar by attempting to realize or abstract the mental deities from their objects; thus began Priesthood. Choosing forms of worship from poetic tales. And at length they pronounced that the Gods had ordered such things. Thus men forgot that All deities reside in the human breast."
(from: "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell").

Compare this to the creed on the back cover of Aqualung:

"1. In the beginning Man created God; and in the image of man created he him.
2. And Man gave unto God a multitude of names, that he might be Lord over all the earth when it was suited to Man.
7. But as these things did come to pass, the Spirit that did cause Man to create his God lived on within all Men: even within Aqualung.
8. And Man saw it not.
9. But for Christ's sake he'd better start looking".

* Andy Jackson

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Aqualung inside cover

Inside cover of the Aqualung album

* The full text of the quoted articles on Aqualung can be found at:


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Last modified: September 13 - 2001

Jan Voorbij (1998-2009)