Cup Of Wonder
The Annotated Jethro Tull Lyrics Page

Annotations, information, comments, references


~ J-Tull Dot Com ~


Jethro Tull in concert during the current tour.
This photo was taken in San Diego, October 5 1999.
Courtesy: Dennis Crothers.


Hunt By Numbers

  • This song is about Ian's cats. In the lyrics the moment is described when the cats are about to go out for their nightly hunting. The dark, almost brooding music evokes a threatening athmosphere. For information about Ian's hobby of breeding Bengal cats, see this illustrated interview.
    * Jan Voorbij

Hot Mango Flush

  • Several people have noted the lyrics to "Hot Mango Flush" appear to have little rhyme or reason. Let me suggest this possible interpretation. There is a slightly Caribbean feel to some of the music. Both Martin and Ian spent several holidays in the Caribbean. That being the case the lyrics seem to suggest just an assortment of images, aromas, people as seen by Ian Anderson at some crowded outdoor market in a small tropical harbour town ("wood smoke, old fish, diesel harbour"), where locals and tourists fill the small streets and look for things they fancy ("The crowd moves like a flock of starlings"). The tropical heat, the colours, the constant moving of the crowd, the variety of aromas and the noise makes one think that "Down at the market all the world seems to simmer". These people all seem to be in a kind of holiday mood: "everybody's happy about something". The "ice cream hair" in the second verseline is a hairstyle from the 50's recently brought to life again in Florida and the Caribbean.

  • The absurdity of the lyrics may simply reflect the absurdity of what he saw. (Indeed, it need not be Caribbean. Take a look at just about any location where large numbers of people congregate and, with the right eye, one can see lots of strange images). Ian has used this technique of 'piling up' his impressions before in the lyrics of 'Mother Goose' from the Aqualung album. Both songs are so to say a 'painting in words'.

  • When it comes to the song title, I suppose "Hot Mango Flush" stands for the mix of all impressions on a tropical day in a Caribbean harbour town: the movements of the crowd and the mood(s) they are in, the multitude of sounds, colours and aromas, the simmering heat: it's all like a flush, really. An overwhelming experience. I think the retake, Mango Surprise, is a musical expression of this total of IMpressions.

  • The music was composed by Martin after Ian had written the lyrics as he simply did not quite figure out what to do with it.
    * RB (USA), Jan Voorbij, Ivory Rodriguez

  • "Jive on the jukebox - Jack and Joker
    split the night air with whoop and holler".

    When heading to various tropical locales, on thing I have noticed is that, no matter how remote the locale, two songs are in the jukebox.  The Rolling Stone's 'Jumping JACK Flash' and The Steve Miller Band's 'The JOKER'.  These are 'standards' in a lot of bars and areas south of the border and in the island countries.  Since these songs are 'old school' rock and roll (era early 70's) much of this is referred to as jive.
    So, conceivably IA could be referring to the jukebox selection in the island locale, with the patrons drunk and yelling/singing along with these well known classics (as is pretty common in these situations).
    * Rantz Hoseley

El Niño

  • Originally the name El Niño was used for the warm current in the Pacific near Ecuador and Peru, that arises around Christmas. El Ninõ is Spanish for 'little boy', in this case the "Christ-child". Today the name is only used for the years that the waters of the ocean are warmer than normal.
  • El Niño is like a season that comes at irregular intervals, mostly every four years, and stays for an unspecified period of time ("Bathing in uncertainty, another age seems to wing from T.V. screens in weather rage"). El Niño brings certain expected changes in climate and weather patterns. These changes, which begin in the tropical Pacific Ocean, have come to define El Niño. During an El Niño, the normally gusty trade winds along the equator in the Pacific fade ("Trade winds falter as if in dire consequence"). As the winds fade, a huge pool of warm water off the coast of Indonesia begins to flow eastward towards the Americas. This warm water heats and adds moisture to the air above it ("Blood-warm current sends to touch the skies"). This in turn alters storm tracks that blow across the United States and the world ("Cold thrust tongue extends its dark and watery touch"). The climate on large parts of the globe is affected, causing droughts, heavy rains, relative warm winters and several disasters like famine, forest-fires, inundations. Fish and seabirds die or migrate to other areas, causing economical problems ("Freezing fish to fry, fail to materialize"). The "little sister on another day" refers to the lesser known La Niña, considered as the "sister" of El Niño. La Niña features a set of anomalous climate conditions in the tropical Pacific, but with anomalously cool sea surface temperatures, strong east-to-west trade winds, exceptionally heavy rainfall in usually rainy areas near the western Pacific, and very dry weather in usually dry areas near the eastern Pacific. In many ways, the climate anomalies associated with La Niña are opposite those that characterize El Niño.

Black Mamba

The Black Mamba is one of the most venomous snakes on earth.

Mango Surprise

  • In fact an instrumental retake, however containing the spoken vocal line "Hot Mango Flush", based on the more Caribbean version of the above track's rhythmical pattern. I think that this retake is in fact a musical expression of this total of IMpressions as experienced and described in 'Hot Mango Flush'. I tend to regard this track as a bit of a musical joke.
    * Ivory Rodriguez, Jan Voorbij

Bends Like A Willow

  • The album contains three beautiful love songs: 'Bends Like A Willow', 'The Dog-ear Years' and 'A Gift Of Roses'. The first two share a common theme: the narrator's relation with his beloved one that stayed intact over the years, in spite of his shortcomings ("my unfathomable failings"). Please note that these songs, as well as 'Wicked Windows', are about reflecting on one's life, which tends to happen more frequently when aging. They mirror his reminiscing, his self-reproach and bitterness, his feelings of tenderness and gratitude.

  • Finally note the imagery that is applied here: the images of shipping and navigation in the first stanza, of warfare in the third (a reference to the turmoil of an over-occupied life?) and of nature/seasons/weather as a red line throughout the whole lyric.
    * Jan Voorbij

Far Alaska

  • I think that this song is about the ease of modern travel allowing, maybe not the masses, but at least the middle class to achieve the adventures that were only dreamed about a generation ago. But, while the dream is achieved, the experience is blunted by modern accoutrements: "fantasies of foreign fields. Lofty spires all well appointed". The prohibitiveness of the cost of foreign travel is also diminished: "... off season special deals" . Nowhere is too remote to those with and willing to spend the funds: "To far Alaska: down to to Rio... Norwegian fjords."
    The relative ease of modern travel is intertwined with an unease for routine air travel:
    "a freebie bucket seat for one". The uncomfortableness of air travel is also noted on The Dog Ear Years: "stale breath recycled in my face. Rattling through airways....", etc. There is an observation in the song about the recent phenomenon of air rage, which is connected to the massive volume of air travellers.
    "Post me cards and tell me nicely Say you wish that I was here". A desire to still cling to the old custom of sending a post card, which is fading. It's to note the accomplishment of arriving at the destination and to remember friends and loved ones. Maybe a hangover from the days when travel abroad was both time consuming, very expensive, and often dangerous. (Note that periodic "post cards" have been posted at the j-tull dot com website during the current tour).
    * Bob D.

The Dog-ear Years

A Gift Of Roses

  • After "Bends Like A Willow" and "The Dog-ear Years", this is the third love song of the album, that seems to be autobiographical. The narrator really looks forward to his home-coming and being reunited with his love. The song has a very festive atmosphere, thanks to Andy Giddings accordeon, calling up associations with cajun music.

  • The line "Like a Kipling cat I walk alone" is a reference to one of Rudyard Kipling's "Just So Stories", first published in 1902, titled: "The Cat That Walked By Himself". It also is Ian's own description of himself (at least as far as the creative process of songwriting is concerned: "...... and when the moon gets up and night comes, he is the Cat that walks by himself, and all places are alike to him. Then he goes out to the Wet Wild Woods or up the Wet Wild Trees or on the Wet Wild Roofs, waving his wild tail and walking by his wild lone".
    * Ivory Rodriguez, Jan Voorbij


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