~ Catfish Rising ~



Thinking Round Corners

  • This almost surrealistic song is a rock square dance with nonsense lyrics and is the result of word associations and word play. This collage of images reminds us of two songs in which Anderson applied this literary technnique: "Mother Goose" (Aqualung) and "Hot Mango Flush" (J-Tull Dot Com).
    * Jan Voorbij

  • "... covet gold finery through the eyes of a Jackdaw, dressed to the nines".
    Thinking Round Corners looks to me like a stream-of-consciousness lyric, a string of images without a great deal of meaning, just creating a mood.  But, if you want to learn more about the Jackdaw and its use in various English sayings and fables, you can go here: The Dictionary Of Phrase And Fable -- and just do a search on the word.
    * Andy Jackson

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Like A Tall Thin Girl

  • According to Greg Russo this humorous song is about Doane Perry's longing for a waitress working in an Indian restaurant on Baker Street in London. Doane and Ian, who both heartily enjoy Indian cuisine ("I'd rather do a Vindaloo"), saw her at the restaurant when eating there during Doane's 1984 rehearsal periode for the Under Wraps tour (1, p. 150).

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White Innocence

  • "White Innocence" is another of the "on-the-road" songs on this album. The main topic is not "lusting after sweet young women" as Barbara Espinoza states in her book (4, p.93), but loneliness and ambiguous, conflicting emotions.

  • It all starts when our narrator recognises the feeling of loneliness in a young woman he meets by sheer co´ncidence after performing at a rock festival. Note the double meaning of "drifted" in the line: "She drifted from some minor festival" and how the second line, that apparently refers to the festival goers in the third, stresses the condition SHE is in: "Didn't look like any summer of love".

  • He is moved by her beauty and her innocence: "Funny thing the charm of the young" and "See how she moved just like two angels (in white innocence)". It would be possible for them to help ending eachother's solitude for a while: "She was the hand to fit my glove" (...) "Did she see warm safety in my numbers to want to hitch a ride this way?". The conflict in his feelings arises when he becomes aware of the fact that he is sexually attracted to her on one hand ("Think I was sending out low-voltage electricity: played it right down for what it was worth"), while on the other hand he wants to take care for her. This subsequently embarrasses him: "Felt like I was taking her to market now to be sold as the last lot of the day".

  • Maybe the narrator realises that he is becoming a middle-aged man and watching this young woman may make him long for her ("There was the promise of early bed-time. There was the promise of heaven on earth"), he decides however not act upon it: "Funny thing, the wisdom of the lonely". This makes him more aware of his own solitude: "Funny thing, the distance of the lonely".

  • The lyrics contain two possible references to the year 1969: the "summer of love" refers to the summer of 1969, of the Monterey and Woodstock ("three days of love, peace and music") and other great rock, jazz and blues festivals in Europe and the USA. This year was the hayday of the hippy and flower-power era. Bear in mind that Jethro Tull toured the US for the first time during that specific summer.
    The line "I was doing some, some watching, some waiting" might have been borrowed from the Moody Blues' "Watching And Waiting", a song from their album "To Our Children's Children's Children" (1969), sung in the same tempo as "White innocence". So we have three references here to the year 1969 in one song. Co´ncidence? I don't think so.
    * Jan Voorbij

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    Sleeping With The Dog

    One obvious but probably simplistic interppretation of line 'sleeping with the dog' might be from an expression used in England "In the Dog house" which usually refers to a partners attitude when someone has not done something. In other words the partners not best pleased and the person is in the 'dog house', symbolically outside the home no longer thought of kindly. Another interpretation could be that Ian is talking about relationship problems and his usual wonderful partner becomes at times a 'dog': English coloquial expression for some one unattractive, but Ian could in this case mean someone spiritually unattractive for the moment, but yet he still sleeps with her because tomorrow will be different. The song could literally refer though to sleeping with the dog because he is no longer welcome in the marital bed.
    * Elwyn Davies

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Gold-Tipped Boots, Black Jacket And Tie

The Catfish Tour. This picture was taken during the concert at the Paramount Theater,
New York, November 10, 1991, when Jethro Tull was playing "Watching Me, Watching You".
By kind permission of John LaFazia.

Night In The Wilderness

  • "I'd put some spice in your rice.
    You'd give me blues in the stew.
    I'd give you catfish jumping.
    You'd give me all this work to do"
    It's still odd that the album title doesn't come back in one of the songs on the album. I remember hearing that a B-side that wasn't released otherwise was about catfish, but I'm not sure about that. 'Night In The Wilderness' was indeed recorded during the Catfish Rising sessions, but was omitted from the album for some reason. It was finally released on the 'Rocks On The Road' CD-single. The direct reference is in the second verse: I'd put some spice in your rice. You'd give me blues in the stew. I'd give you catfish jumping. You'd give me all this work to do. Who's got the cheque on this hot dinner? Who's got the tabs on the crab? Yes, it's another Tull 'food' song, though, as usual, it has little to do with food...
    * Neil Thomason

  • I think the most famous appearance of a Catfish is in Muddy Waters' song Rolling Stone, the song that one of the best bands in the world is named after. A catfish is a common fish in the Mississipi delta. One of the catfish species is the Blue cat. When Muddy moved from the Delta to Chicago, he became one of the first to experiment with electric guitars instead of playing acoustically. I'm sure Ian, like all his British peers, listened a lot to Muddy Waters. Robert Plant "borrowed" complete lyrics from Muddy Waters' The Hunter. Same goes for Peter Green from Fleetwood Mac who used some lines from "Catfish" in "Oh Well". Clapton, John Mayall, the Stones, Led Zeppelin, and in fact every other rock artist owe quite a lot to the late great Muddy Waters. I think the original Catfish Blues was not written by Muddy Waters though. Catfish Blues is a traditional Mississippi delta tune. BB King also recorded it, on that record it's credited to King Josea.While it is pretty obvious that Ian listened to a lot of blues in the early days, it would be interesting to hear Martin talk a little more about his earliest influences. I reckon it's also the blues, for he says that he is always playing blues, whatever he plays. Could it be that there was a little double meaning, with a hint to Ian's fishy business in Scotland?
    * Jeroen Louis

  • The article which appeared in "Guitar One" magazine written by Dave Rubin in conjunction with The University of Mississippi. entitled "Catfish Blues -The evolution of a classic lick" explains some more. Here is an extract of it. Why a Catfish? Bluesmen may have liked it as a metaphor for their own adaptability and survival, as catfish are hardy creatures that have been on earth a long time. Pan fried, they are a delicacy available to anyone with a fishing pole, which could help to explain the lyric:
    "I wish I was a catfish, swimming in the deep blue sea.
    I'd have al l these good lookin' women, fishing after me."
    Whatever the exact interpretation of the content, the form of "Catfish Blues" is derived from one of those deep Delta guitar licks that goes back to the origins of the music.
    The earliest version of "Catfish Blues" was recorded in 1941 by Robert Petway and shows no evidence of the licks that have come to define the song, having instead a syncopated chordal pattern that could literally be a precursor of funk. That same year, however, Tommy McClennam cut "Deep Blue Sea Blues" with the same lyric idea and licks that evolved to become the classic hook.
    In 1950 Muddy Waters made "Rolling Stone" with the Catfish lyrics and a form of the lick in the intro that Hendrix would later refine and credit to Muddy. Then in 1951, John Lee Hooker, Bobo "Slim" Thomas and Muddy Waters all recorded versions of the Catfish theme within months of each other, making it impossible to decipher the exact chronology. Muddy Waters had a second version of Catfish Blues with "Still a Fool". In the late 60's Jimi Hendrix cut several versions of Catfish Blues as well as his original composition "Voodoo Child". He set the standard for future guitarists wishing to tap into the deep mojo associated with this hypnotic phase.

    * Robert Jobson

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One of the American catfish species (Ictalurus Nebulosos).

  1. Over 30 families of catfishes are recognized, together comprising over 2000 species. Siluriforms are most diverse in species and morphology in tropical South America, Africa, and Asia. However, catfishes live or have lived in the inland or coastal waters of all continents.
    * John Lundberg

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Cited works:

1. Greg Russo: "Flying colours: the Jethro Tull reference manual", Floral Park, N.Y., 2000
2. David Rees: "Minstrels in the gallery, a history of Jethro Tull", Wembley, England, 1998
3. Contributions posted at the
TalkTull mailing list
4. Barbara Espinoza: "Driving in diverse: a collective profile of Jethro Tull", Kearney NE, 1999

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Last modified: July 31 2003

ę Jan Voorbij (1998-2009)