Annotations


~ The Broadsword And The Beast ~

(1)

 

An introduction to
"The Broadsword And The Beast"

The 'A' album, which was almost symbolic for Jethro Tull stepping out of the seventies, is generally considered as an innovative and musically spoken very interesting album. Many fans however find it lacking the heart, the subtle humour and the warmth that always featured the greater Tull albums. Ian must have been aware of this and also that he somehow alienated himself from the hardcore of fans, who grumbled over the rude dismissal of John Evans, David Palmer and Barrie Barlow. With a complete new line-up and conscious of the need of change, he looked for a way to compose innovative songs that however unmistakebly sounded as Jethro Tull songs, thus trying to catch the attention of a broad-based audience while catering "the regulars" as well.

In the fall of 1981 the recording sessions started for a new album. Martin Barre and Dave Pegg stayed on, while keyboard player Peter-John Vettese and drummer Gerry Conway joined. Over the four years to come Peter-John would become a very influential member of the band who would contribute so much to the new album, that he was credited for it on the cover. His arrival coincided with a for Ian very fruitful period of songwriting.
A few months later a series of twenty songs were recorded, from which ten were selected for the new album "The Broadsword And The Beast". Nine of the unreleased songs would later appear being included on the "20 Years Of Jethro Tull" box set: 'Jack-A-Lynn', 'Too Many Too', 'Overhang', 'Down At The End Of Your Road', 'I'm Your Gun', 'Mayhem, Maybe', 'Motoreyes', 'Rhythm In Gold', 'Jack Frost And The Hooded Crow').

It was the first time Ian used the assistance of a producer, Paul Samwell-Smith, who could give an independent view on the songs and the recording. With the objective in mind of intertwining innovation and tradition, one of Jethro Tull classic albums was born. Or, in the words of David Rees: "The new electronic keyboard sounds that featured so heavily on 'A' were used more effectively within the traditional Tull elements of heavy rock and Celtic influences, and the result was a musical success on two accounts. The media regarded 'Broadsword' as the album that dragged Tull kicking and screaming into the 80's, and yet the band had achieved their goal of making what could be regarded as a classic, traditional Jethro Tull album" (1).

When it comes to the lyrics, one can see Ian putting his poetical talents to effect once again. To me this really is an "eighties" album in the sense that it reflects the general atmosphere of crises that dominated the late seventies and early eighties: the feeling of being threatened by economic troubles, the fear and uncertainty about the future that comes from it, affecting (stable?) relations and not in the least the political climate of the era (remember Thatcher and Reagan) - it can all be traced in most of the songs. He 'reduces' social developments and phenomena to proportions we can understand, by showing how this all works out in human relations. As an artist, Ian applies his art to mirror what was going on in society in those days, both lyrically: in his imagery, his metaphorical language and musically: in chosing instruments, keys, different tempi, all in a combined setting of acoustic and rock music. I will try to work this point out in the annotations below.

The music press took a favourable attitude to the album - for a Tull-album, that is. 'Broadsword' sold very well in Europe, esp. in Germany and is still one of the most wanted Tull albums ordered via the internet. But in the USA the album sales didn't live up to expectations. However, the album itself and the two Broadsword tours that subsequently followed, showed a rejuvenated Jethro Tull, a band that got it's grip on things again, full of selfconfidence heading for the future.
* Jan Voorbij; 1) David Rees: "Minstrels In The Gallery", Wembley, UK (1998).

The "Broadsword" tour programme annex production manual (1982).
By kind permission of Pete McHugh (
Electrocutas - The Jethro Tull Archive).

Annotations

Ian Anderson's comments below are quoted from the 'Chrysalis Biography' (1982), a press release announcing this album. I'm very grateful to Andy Jackson who sent them to me. Apart from his illucidations, Ian talks about working with a producer for the first time, and how the release of the album was delayed because they couldn't find a suitable guy to work with. Then a couple of pages follow with information about Gerry Conway and Peter Vettese. The whole press release was written by Ian Anderson.
* Chrysalis Biography, Buckinghamshire, March 1982.

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Beastie

  • "All of us have some kind of private fear that we don't like to talk about, and this song is about those fears.  When I was a boy growing up in Scotland, we called anything that was particularly nasty that we didn't like a Beastie".
    * Ian Anderson, Chrysalis Press release, 1982.

"There's a beast upon my shoulder and a fiend upon my back"
A very rare picture taken during the Broadsword tour (1982) from an unknown magazine, borrowed from Ina Hacker. Ian used two versions of this beastie while performing this song.

The Clasp

  • "A song about people who shy away from physical contact. The word 'clasp' is used in the sense of a handshake, and the song is just exploring some of the ideas and attitudes behind the embrace of shaking hands, and saying wouldn't it be amusing and perhaps a little profitable to go up to a complete stranger and shake hands with him and say, "Hello, how are you, pleased to meet you." Ironically the handshake, when it is offered, is very often a forced gesture, far removed from its origin which was a way of demonstrating that you had no weapon in your hand and that you were offering your open hand to someone in peace".
    * Ian Anderson, Chrysalis Press release, 1982.

  • I'm afraid Ian doesn't reveal everything about this song in this quote. I think the song is not only "about people who shy away from physical contact" ("afraid to chance a gentle touch, afraid to make the clasp"), but is also meant to be critical towards our society, were everybody seems to be preoccupied with his own affairs ("Meeting as the tall ships do, passing in the channel") and not really interested in somebody else. It's everyone for himself: everybody is rat-racing around ("On ring roads, nose to bumper crawl commuters in their cages"), thus isolating oneself ("Double-locked and belted in") and working too hard to attain one's end. Though most people partake in this game, they somehow realize that it's not fullfilling, hence "the discontent of ages". This individualism makes our society into a very impersonal one ("the endless wastes"). The loss of human bonds and communal sense was previously critisized on the 'Songs From The Wood' an the 'Thick As A Brick' albums. In situations where the clasp is made, it seems to be insincere and meant to manipulate people's opinions: "and meeting as good statesmen do before the T.V.-eyes of millions, hand to hand exchange the lie pretend to make the clasp".
    A very interesting part of the song is the third stanza, in which our narrator advises us to
    "Let's break the journey now on some lonely road", make contact with our fellow-men ("Sit down as strangers will"). Once the stress is unloaded and confidential talk has become possible, we might feel save enough to talk about our secrets and exchange our feelings of anxiety and discover we are not the only ones suffering from them: "share a dark unspoken fear".
    I assume there is an implicit historical and literary reference in this stanza. We have seen before that Ian is familiar with English literature and history and I feel that this stanza refers to Geoffrey Chaucer's
    "Canterbury Tales". In this book we see how pilgrims travelling to Canterbury in the Middle Ages group together in the evening, exchanging stories and experiences, passing the dark hours together, thus chasing their fears away. It gives them the reassuring feeling of comfort, of 'being home' while on the road.
    I personally love these verse-lines very much, not only because they are some of the most beautiful ones Ian ever wrote, but also because they are so characterictic for his general 'message' as expressed in his earlier and later lyrics.
    * Jan Voorbij

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Fallen On Hard Times

  • "This song is not meant to be a political statement, but merely expresses the disillusionment that most people feel at some time or other with our political masters.  The tune is a Scottish folk melody in essence, but it is given a slightly funky rock 'n' roll treatment which gives it a light-hearted feel".
    * Ian Anderson, Chrysalis Press release, 1982.

  • Conceived in the early eighties, this song perfectly describes what many people were feeling in those days when looking at the future. There was a worldwide economical crisis going on, which started in 1973 with the socalled 'oil-crisis'. Unemployment rose to astronomical heights in the early eighties affecting the economical situation of millions. Once again we see how uncertainty and fear are elements on this song: "Come clean, for once, and hit us with the truth" (and) "Looking for sunshine oh but it's black and it's cold". From the mid-seventies on political leaders stated over and over that severe cuts in public expenditures were a necessity: "handing us the same line again", in order to pave the way for better times: "... you say that milk and honey's just around the bend". In this way they imposed their political views on the people, hoping to convince them there was no alternative and everybody would concur with their policies: "Go right ahead and pull the rotten tooth". The here mentioned "Prime Minister" (and) "Mr. President" refer to Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, who being conservatives both got along very well and shared the same political ideas on internal and foreign issues.
    * Jan Voorbij

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Flying Colours

  • "This song came about after witnessing several couples who were going through a bad patch with their relationships, taking delight in showing each other up in public. I'm sure we've all come across them in some sort of social gathering; they revel in digging up the dirt in front of an audience".
    * Ian Anderson, Chrysalis Press release, 1982.

  • The term "Flying Colours" originates from naval warfare. At least in the British Navy, 'colours' is the name given to a ship's battle flag; again in the case of the Royal Navy, it's a red flag with the a small national flag in the top left corner. In the days of sailing ships, it was possible for ships to approach close to one another without indicating their country of origin or intentions, but once the colours were raised, there could be no mistake. Thus, a ship with the colours flying at its masthead was being overtly aggressive, and probably about to attack. To lower, or 'strike' the colours was the signal of surrender, hence the expression 'nailing the colours to the mast' - the flag can't be lowered, so there'll be no surrender!

    In this song, an argumentative couple have previously agreed to hide their differences and not fight in public. However, as the evening progresses, their irritation builds, and they begin to exchange snide remarks
    ("the needle match"), until a full-blown argument breaks out.
    There is perhaps a double meaning in that the colours could also refer to red-faces, due to alcohol, anger, and the shame of fighting in front of their friends.
    * Neil Thomason

  • The way these people are dealing with eachother is very painful and destructive. Every occasion is used to hurt one another. Eventually nothing good will come from it. It reminds me of the Pinter-esque atmosphere in the film "Who is afraid of Virginia Woolf?" (Mike Nichols, 1966), in which Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor play a middle-aged professor and his blowsy wife who invite a younger couple to one of their vicious all-night bickering sessions.
    * Jan Voorbij

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Continuation

 


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Jan Voorbij (1998-2009)