~ The Broadsword And The Beast ~



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 ilucidations, 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.

Slow Marching Band

  • "I don't write many songs about human relationships in the boy/girl context, but this is one that deals with the sadness of parting.  But I hope it contains a hint of optimism!"
    * Ian Anderson, Chrysalis Press release, 1982.

  • "A slow marching band" refers to bands that preceed funeral processions, as still can be seen in e.g. southern Italy and Greece. They play sad and slow melodies, thus expressing (and supporting) the feelings of grief of the relatives. In this song this methaphore is used to portray the end of a relationship. However, in spite of 'the decease' of a relation that wasn't viable ("and join together in the passing of all we shared through yesterdays in sorrows neverlasting" (and) "You paid the piper and called the tune and you marched the band away"), life goes on and our narrator summons his (former) love to take life up again and go on: "just hum along and keep on going" and "Walk on slowly, don't look behind you".
    * Jan Voorbij

  • Since "Broadsword and the Beast" was recorded just after "A",
    which saw the rough dismissal of Barry Barlow, John Evans and Dave Palmer, and the creation of a new Jethro Tull formation, I have thought that the song could be interpreted as a kind of apologise and farewell to these ex-members of the band, who were not quite happy with what Ian had just done... Consider the followings lines in this light:
    "And join together in the passing of all we shared through yesterdays/in
    sorrows neverlasting./Take a hand and take a bow/
    You played for me; that's all for now,oh, and never mind the words:
    just hum along and keep on going."

    I see this as  an encouragement not to think to harshly on the past, but
    instead of thinking on the good times they had together, even when things
    were quite difficult for the band, and then a last farewell before telling
    them that each of them has to go his own way in life...?
    * Fred Sowa

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  • It seems that Ian - when writing this song - was inspired by an important theme in Britain's history: the invasion of the British isles by all kinds of tribes and peoples, especially from Northern Europe. In the opening verse this theme is seen from the perspective of the coastal inhabitants, somewhere in Scotland. They see enemy ships approach from the sea "I see a dark sail on the horizon", the defense is organized and women and children are hidden in a safe place, possibly in the roundhouse. Then in the second verse the perspective changes: we see the invaders approaching the coast, preparing themselves mentally for the battle to come. Their first intention is to establish a beachhead "Hold fast by the river." The verseline "Put our backs to the northwind." indicates they are sailing south, coming from a Scandinavian country. The necessity of their operation is emphasized by their thinking of the people they left behind: "Bless the women and children who firm our hand" and "Sweet memories to drive us on for the motherland". In the last verse these two perspectives come together, as for both the defendants and the invaders as well only one thing really matters in the end: surviving and finding c.q. maintaining a steady place to live for their families. I assume that the invaders in this song are Vikings ("Danes"), since a "cross of gold" is used as a talisman. As the spread of Christianity reached England in the fourth century and Northern Europe in the sixth, I'm quite sure that the invasion in this song cannot have taken place earlier.
    * Jan Voorbij

The Mousa Broch, one of Scotland best preserved brochs.
Courtesy of the
Shetland Museum, Lerwick, UK

  • "Get up to the roundhouse on the cliff-top standing". The here mentioned roundhouses are by archaeologists known as 'brochs', towerlike buildings made of stone. The word 'broch' derives from the Old Norse word 'borg', meaning 'fortification'. (Compare the Dutch ' borg' or ' burcht' , the German ' burg' and ' burcht' , the French ' bourg' ). More than 700 brochs are known to have existed along the north coast of Scotland, the Hebrides, the Shetlands and the Orkney Islands, from where they probably originate. They are without exception to be found near fields and arable land, built on a cliff or hill, overlooking the sea. In most cases little settlements were established near these brochs. Excavation has revealed, that these towers are in fact defensive structures and most of them were built during the late Iron Age (600 BC - 100 AD). Their structure and position in the landscape leads one to think they were erected for defense against dangers coming from the sea, probably the Roman fleet. There is evidence that Romans raided the islands and Scottish coast frequently between 100 BC - 100 AD, hunting for people they could take away as slaves. It is assumed that people would take refuge in a broch when a raiding party was sighted, possibly taking some of their valuable live stock with them. In later centuries these stongholds played a modest role in the defense against invaders: the Vikings from Scandinavia for instance. In 1974 Maureen Mollie Hunter McIlwraith published 'The Stronghold", an interesting historical novel about the genius who 'invented' the concept of the broch. She was awarded for it with the Carnegie Medal.
    * Jan Voorbij

  • "Set in historical times, lyrically as well as musically, this song is about a man's responsibility to protect the family unit".
    * Ian Anderson, Chrysalis Press release, 1982.

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Pussy Willow

  • "A song about a girl in an unrewarding job who fantasises about a more romantic, ideal sort of existence, but she still has to face the reality of catching the train to work in the morning".
    * Ian Anderson, Chrysalis Press release, 1982.

  • "The Spey" is a river in Scotland; "Mayfair" is a part of London once only inhabited by nobility.

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Watching Me Watching You

  • "The dilemma of people in the public eye!  A song about the claustrophobic feeling of being watched all the time".
    * Ian Anderson, Chrysalis Press release, 1982.

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Seal Driver

  • "This song is deliberately ambiguous. It could be about a boat, or it could be about a girl, but since ships and boats are always female, it seems quite a nice fitting sort of analogy".
    * Ian Anderson, Chrysalis Press release, 1982.

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  • "A closing song - perhaps 'au revoir' or 'auf wiedersehen' would be appropriate!"
    * Ian Anderson, Chrysalis Press release, 1982.

  • For over 15 years this song was/is the last one played at every Tull-gig, ending the 'encore' and saying goodbye to the audience.
    * Jan Voorbij

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Jan Voorbij (1998-2009)