Cup Of Wonder
The Annotated Jethro Tull Lyrics Page

Annotations, information, comments, referencees

 

~ J-Tull Dot Com ~

(1)

 

An introduction to "J-Tull Dot Com"

It took four years since "Roots To Branches" was released before the new album "J-Tull Dot Com" saw daylight in August 1999. The odd title, derived from the URL of The Official Jethro Tull Website, once again offers an example of how Jethro Tull always chooses it's own course and manages to include and use actual developments in society in their art.

But there is more to that. With this website the band chose deliberately for a way of informing fans and others who are interested by offering news regarding the band and their art directly and at first hand. One can read the latest news about the current leg of the tour and how the band is going on with their work of composing, rehearsing and recording. A novum regarding the new album is that everybody who has access to the internet can witness the creating process of writing, composing and recording: audiofiles can be downloaded of four songs at different phases of this process. They grant all of us so to say "a peek in the kitchen": making it possibles to get a notion of how the "broth" is composed. Once again Tull has set a standard.

The internet has become important for the band and they take it very seriously regarding all the work that is invested in their website, their serious attempt of informing their fans and the correspondence with fans by email. On the other hand for fans the internet has become an important medium to inform eachother, discuss about all kind of questions chat- or email-wise, exchange gig reviews and stay in contact with eachother. The importance of the internet and it's social and cultural relevance has not escaped Ian's attention and is reflected in the lyrics of this album as I will try to point out below.

Whereas the "Roots To Branches" album offers us an innovative and a bit awkward Tull, inspired by all kinds of ethnic musical influences, expressing all differents moods and feelings, the new album seems to be a compromise. At first hearing one may conclude, that Ian Anderson plays at safe by reintroducing the - let's say - seventies rock style that made Tull so popular, esp. in the USA and Germany. Sturdy songs and Martin's soaring guitar seem to form the main feautures of the album.

But listening more close other features strike the ear: the enchanting, supporting flute (instead of the very well known prominent flute solo's), elements from ethnic music so carefully used to create different and for Western ears sometimes unusual atmospheres, the choice of instruments, the combination of soft and hard parts within the songs, the beautiful and warm melodic lines and the delicate, refined combination of all these elements; these features make this album into another listening adventure.

Though the album critically speaking is not at all innovative, it is well-balanced and radiates a certain maturity that integrates the many different features that are so typical for "Tull-music" into one album. I dare to state here that Jethro Tull once again managed to transcend the limitations of the rock idiom and delivered a piece of art that meets standards set by themselves. I deliberately do not speak here of an "Ian Anderson album"; it is definitely a band's achievement: they play so tightly, use a variety of techniques, keep their musical balance so well and have all contributed to the recording of all these songs. Aside of the Tull members, the album also features Najma Akhtar from India, who added her lovely female vocal to the title song.

Najma Akhtar

The album is entitled to attention and careful listening, but then again: good wine needs no bush. "J-tull Dot Com" is a milestone in Jethro Tull's development over the last three decades.

The disputed artwork of the booklet is again designed by Bog Zarkowski and the cover artwork features Ian's painting. After all, he started as a visual artist before switching onto music. It is a picture of an Egyptian god Chnum (Num, Chnumis, Chnubis - whichever name or transcription you prefer - meaning "spirit" or "breath", "spirit of God floating over the waters' surfaces"), later to be known as Amun ("the hidden one"), one of the eight bigger Egyptian gods (relevant to Zeus, Brahma or Wuotan = Odin).
"Amun was depicted in human form, with blue skin and either the head of a bearded man or a ram's head with curved horns. He wore a crown composed of a modius surmounted by two tall feather plumes. He was sometimes depicted in ithyphallic form with an oversized erect penis. His true appearance was considered beyond human understanding. He was said to be "hidden of aspect, mysterious of form", invisible yet omnipresent throughout the cosmos. Amun's sacred animals were the ram and the goose. His primary sanctuaries were at Karnak and Luxor near Thebes"**
The painting is based on a gargoyle-like sculpture by Ian's friend and former neighbour Michael Cooper. Now it stands by a pool in Ian's garden.
* Jan Voorbij, Ivory Rodriguez
** Source: Egyptian Gods & Legends: http://www.primenet.com/~wyvern/egyptgods.html

This photograph from the booklet of the "J-TULL DOT COM" album shows the current line-up.

Annotations

Spiral

Dot Com

  • On the promo CD, Ian introduces the song as follows:
    "When we'd completed most of the recording for the new record, I almost joking suggested we name it after our recently set up website, J-Tull.com. Surprisingly this idea met with approval from the band members and the record company guys, so I thought, well let's make that official! But as always, being one for dotting the T's and crossing the I's...is that right? and finishing the parcel tied up with a nice red ribbon I wrote an additional song and called it simply 'Dot Com'. It features the sultry crooning of Najma Akhtar, one of India's best known female classical and pop vocalists, and it's an ode to the communication options of the Internet; two lovers in touch only via their corporate email accounts."
    * DaniŽl C. Benchimo

  • This is the first Jethro Tull song that brings up the internet. It is about a far away beloved one, who apparently is very busy, always en route and probably has no time for our narrator. He misses her, longs for contact ("give a clue; leave a kind word") and hopes she will email him. The internet seems the only place where they can meet: "a domain where our cyber-souls might meet", albeit virtually; that is, if she does email him. In the context of this song, the line "And in case you wonder - I'll be yours" suggests the opposite: it is he who asks himself if she is still his......
    * Jan Voorbij

AWOL

  • On his way to work, the narrator feels he does not to waste his time there and decides to take a day off: "Won't be in today to work for you" and "unfit today to work for you". It seems he doesn't like the work he's doing at all and has nothing to lose ("Of a sudden, seems I can barely face myself: no face to lose"). So he decides to take a day off work doing other pleasant things instead like going out with a girlfriend. But in the end, "this romantic interlude" has to be paid for by working overtime.
    Like in "Dot Com" there is once again a reference to using the internet for contacting someone who can't be met easily:
    "E-mail that girl who's working nights".
    The
    Trump Casino in Atlantic City, mentioned in this song, is one of the venues the band played during the US tour in 1999.
    * Jan Voorbij

  • According to an on-line dictionary I checked, there is a british definition of Pontoon that equates to Blackjack, so I assume "Trump Casino calls Pontoon" sort of means "Trump Casino beckons me to play Blackjack". Pontoon is indeed a British variation of Blackjack. The difference being: When the player's total is the same as the banker the banker wins. A 5-card-trick, ie a hand of five cards is a winning hand. This means that Pontoon is more favourable to the casino than is Blackjack.
    * Colin Wright

Wicked Windows

  • Ian's introduction to this song on the promotion CD:
    "Funny how so many bad guys in history wore those little wire-rimmed spectacles; they lend an air of menace and cunning, disguised as frailty of diminished eyesight. You know, I bought of pair of reading glasses of that sort recently, and looked in the mirror and thought immediately, 'What Wicked Windows!' So, out came a song, sung in the first person and loosely based around the supposed character of one of history's all-time worst, whose name should be forgotten. Unless of course the harsh lesson still needs to be reread. See if you can figure out the villanous identity."
    * DaniŽl C. Benchimol

  • In a not yet broadcasted documentary for the Czech TV Ian tells where he drew his inspiration from for this song. He bought a new pair of glasses (see the cover photo above) and when looking in the mirror thought himself looking like a knave. Hence the title "Wicked Windows". When watching his own face, he comes to realise that it reflects his life, his memories, his experiences, his history. In fact it features him and cannot be overlooked since his past is "upon my face, around and over".

  • There is one of Ian's well-known and cryptic double-entendres in the line
    "Now and then: memories of men who loved me.
    No stolen kiss - could match their march on hot coals for me"
    .
    Memories of beloved people matter more to him in the long run and spring to his mind more frequently than 'stolen kisses', perhaps symbolic for superficial contacts with people on the road and his business relations. But these 'hot coals' are also a reference to his own piercing brown eyes!

  • When reviewing his past he draws up the balance-sheet and concludes he layed out his own course, made unconventional and independent choices, set in situations he was confronted with:
    "I have walked a line both faint and narrow, hard to follow.
    Caught up in circumstance. Harsh truth for history to mellow"
    .
    I suspect, that Ian here refers to his music, his artistic choices, the people he chose to surround himself with (band members, business associates) and his economic enterprises like salmon farming. His many responsibilities and obligations seem to get most of his attention and he tends to make these into his life's priorities:
    "Through my eyes: loyalties and obligation
    magnified. Obedience: the better fellow"
    .
    The last verseline suggests implicitely a quality that somehow is in contradistiction to the 'self-willedness' described in the preceeding lines.

  • Then - delicately supported by the music - the mood in the refrain changes from pensive reminiscence to melancholy with a touch of bitterness. It seems to me that Ian implicitely states here that in spite of his obedience to loyalties and obligations and the independent line he walked, he didn't achieve anything remarkable yet: "Better not remember me. Don't miss my passing". The "fierce winter" in the next line might refer to the oblivion we fall into after dying. (I have not the foggiest idea about the meaning of the "soft wet surrender" and "the bad blood" in the lines that follow). He than remembers the time that he was carefree and happy, a time that seems to be all too far way now and for people knowing him hard to imagine: "I laughed like any child - although you might find that strange".

  • In the next stanza his somber thoughts are relativized. He there realizes that everybody has dark moments reviewing ones past ("the silent scrutinizing", "through wicked windows"). We aren't completely happy about the choices we made in our life's histories: hence "this vulnerable squinting". It seems to me, that the "wicked windows" in this verse have a different meaning and that judging ones life in the self-denying way as is done in the first stanza and the refrain as well leads to nowhere as it produces only painful feelings of bitterness, regret and guilt.
    * Jan Voorbij

  • Given the overt reference to the 'net by virtue of the album's title, I expected to find further "computer" references in the lyrics, and supposed that they might plausibly be found in a song titled "Wicked Windows". Or was I projecting said expectations upon them?
    Anyway, pursuing this trajectory, it seemed reasonable that the
    "windows framed in silver and hung in toughened glass" might well be of the virtual sort, and that visiting Tull-related sites, reading the Tull newsgroup, e-mail and so forth gave him a chance - indeed, often forced him - to "review my past". Might the "men who loved me" then be former cohorts, particularly band members, memories of whom are continually dredged up online, and to whom he now wished to immortalise his deepest appreciation, in song? Did they not "march on hot coals" for him? The oft-noted 'driven and demanding taskmaster' aspect of his personality might be acknowledged here while penning that, while he may have been "hard to follow", in his view "loyalty and obligation" are worthy ideals that justify the effort required. Later he refers to "bad blood running in close families", possibly reflecting further sentiments regarding band members and difficult relationships. And they're "still waiting" for certain explanations. (Aren't you, Barry?).

  • He finishes this passage by musing "I laughed like any child" and "Christmas was my favourite holiday", as if to demonstrate good humour about it all, in self-defense: "Hey, I may have acted like a child sometimes, but I ain't such a bad guy, really I'm not". The rest of the lyrics seem to verify this "Internet-centric" theme, or at least not to contradict it. "I know you're out there; so am I, hiding behind windows just like you." The lyric that piqued my interest most was "I offer you no more disguising", not so much because I really expect him to quit this incessant posturing and hiding behind words, but as a possible admission that he does it. As if we didn't know. And love him for it, to boot. Or does he refer here to *our* online "disguises"?

  • Finally, he sees the "same bad blood running in new families". Might that be us, his newfound online companions? Nah--we're nothing if not perpetually decent and respectful in our dealings with each other! Or might something be astir in the current lineup? Well, of course there is. Sometimes more or less occasionally than others. Whatever. The one thing I know for sure about this song, this album, and for that matter the entire body of JT works: We're all equally correct in our interpretations, all equally full of shit.
    * Jim Hofweber

  • My immediate impressions of 'Wicked Windows' are:
    (a) Catching a glimpse of family portraits, portraits that are "framed in silver and hung in toughened glass", toughened glass obviously a metaphor for one's life;
    (b) The ongoing nastiness and unhappiness in that situation, a long history of it so that it is too diffcult to start fresh: "harsh truth for history to mellow";
    (c) But sticking with it for the status quo and  for appearance's sake: "loyalties and obligations"
    (d) Being concerned or worried of the consequences should one make a move, therefore surrendering to the powers that be, pulling one's ears and tail in: "Obedience the better fellow";
    (d) Surrounding one's self in a cold shell so as not to feel and therefore not to hurt: "Fierce winter fails to ruffle my icy sleep";
    (e) The nasty and often ugly feelings in family situations: "Bad blood running in close families";
    (f) The holiday season accentuating the negatives in the family: "Christmas was my favourite holiday" (The Christmas season brings home the harsh reality of
    the lack of loved ones or unhappy family situations);
    (g) Consoling one's self that others are unhappy in their families and being stuck, whether self or other imposed: "I am not alone in seeing the world through wicked windows";
    (h) And the saga continues elsewhere, in one's own descendents, as well as elsewhere: "Same bad blood running in new families".
    * Mary

  • I've noticed that the two analyses of "Wicked Windows" from j-tull dot com (as do the general overviews of the album in "A New Day") tend to assume that Ian is singing about himself. The quote from the promo CD suggests just the opposite. Once again Ian Anderson is very effectively demonstrating his ability to empathize with characters quite different from himself (such as the British soldier of "Mountain Men") and often unsympathetic by today's standards (as in "The Whaler's Dues") - in this case, and as Ian himself states, "one of history's all-time worst."
    The lyrics suggest this is a military figure, an old soldier, an aged general perhaps, most explicitly in the line,
    "We never quite vanish", as in the saying "Old soldiers never die; they just fade away." Such a narrator would also explain the scornful "No wet soft surrender". The first few lines seem to me to be just an extended lyrical description of glasses (spectacles).
    The lines
    "Now and then: memories of men who loved me. No stolen kiss - could match their march on hot coals for me" suggest to me a characterization of career military men whereby "male bonding" (to use a horrible contemporary term) and shared experience of soldiering is more valued than, say, romantic relationships with women. (For a study of more sinister versions of this attitude, see Klaus Theweleit's "Male Fantasies," a hefty study of proto-Nazi pre-Third Reich military literature and autobiography.)
    I think this approach to the song makes the rest of the lyrics fairly clear - all that stuff about obligation and loyalty, and the desire for some degree of sympathy on the part of the narrator
    ("Christmas was my favorite holiday").

    As to the identity of this villain, which Ian asks us to guess, I have no idea (though Himmler seems as good a guess as any). Since many Tull songs seem to focus on events contemporary with a song's writing (like all of "A"), I have to ask if Pinochet wears glasses. (Personally, if it weren't for all the military stuff in the song, I'd really like it to be Ian's take on John le Carre's George Smiley - Ian Anderson reads le Carre and likes spy stuff, after all. But I strongly suspect it's not.)
    * Mark Best

The "J-Tull Dot Com" tour programme (1999).
By kind permission of Pete McHugh.
(
Electrocutas - The Jethro Tull Archive)

 


Back to "J-Tull Dot Com" lyrics page


Forward to "J-Tull Dot Com" annotations page 2

 

Introduction Site Map Site Search TullSongs TullAlbums TullScapes
TullBooks TullUnreleased TullClips TullLinks TullResources About & Awards

© Jan Voorbij (1998-2009)