Cup Of Wonder
The Annotated Jethro Tull Lyrics Page

Essays on the art of Jethro Tull

 

~ Songs from the wood ~
comments on the Caswell essay

By John Benninghouse

 

Introduction

I would like to discuss the music and lyrics of Ian Anderson/Jethro Tull. In doing so I will approach the art of Ian Anderson within and without Jethro Tull. I have never attempted an analysis of this kind before in the field of music. However, I have attempted an endevor of this nature in film using auteur theory. This idea states that the director of a film should be viewed as its author. So Stanley Kubrick is the "author" of 2001: A Space Odyssey in the same way that Charles Dickens is the author of Oliver Twist.

I think it is fair to approach the present topic in like manner as the vast majority of Jethro Tull's music and lyrics have been written by Ian Anderson. My "thesis," if you like, is that while examining Ian Anderson's lyric s as a body of work which contains many ideas, the primary theme is that modern (Western?) life is somehow empty because of a lack of historical perspective and a loss of tradition. This "dislocation" leads to a "materialistic" way of life which threatens the environment and humanity itself. Although this theme unfolds throughout Anderson's career, it is perhaps most overtly articulated in a series of three albums released in the late 1970's: Songs From the Wood, Heavy Horses, and Stormwatch. The use of an urban/rural dichotomy and appropriation of images from English/Celtic/Pagan folklore are the most prominent lyrical devices used by Anderson in elaborating this theme. Musically this dichotomy is represented by a juxtaposition of acoustic and electric ins truments. For live performances, Anderson adopted the persona of the medieval jester which I will elaborate upon later.
For the purposes of this paper I have divided the career of Ian Anderson chronologically into three periods. The first extends from the inception of the group under the moniker "Jethro Tull" in February 1968 until the late summer of 1970. It is during this time that the band sturuggled to forge a musical identity first within and then outside of the blues tradition. It was also in this peri od that Ian Anderson emerged as leader of the band and lyrically dealt with being a pop music icon. The second period lasts until roughly the summer of 1980 and the final period until the present day. In the second phase the music becomes more varied and c omplex and the lyrics turn to more broad subjects. The final period sees the band, at least early on, altering its musical identity with the appropriation of synthesizers while the lyrics seem a recapitulation of ideas and themes voiced in the second period.

Blues With a Feeling

The music of Tull's first album, This Was, shows a variety of influences and the presence of Ian Anderson's flute made the music (at least on the surface) unique in pop music at that time. He has openly acknowledged the influence of jazz flautist/saxophonist Roland Kirk on his style. In fact, the first song he learned to play on the flute, Kirk's "Serenade for a Cuckoo", appears on This Was. Unlike later efforts, Anderson was not the sole songwriter.
Like Anderson, guitarist Mick Abrahms was heavily influenced by the blues. (After he left Tull because of the band's move away from the blues, he formed Blodwyn Pig.) Tull's first effort was lumped in with the work of the emerging British blues-rock scene comprised of bands like Fleetwood Mac, Cream and Chicken. What's important here is that Anderson showed his love of the blues in compositions like "Someday the Sun Won't Shine for You" as well as another track from this period that didn't appear on the album, "To Be Sad is a Mad Way to Be." (For the band's 25th Anniversary album he recorded Brownie McGhee's "So Much Trouble." ) Soon, however, he became disenchanted with this approach to music. As he wrote in 1982:
"...I quickly became dissatisfied with what we were doing. I found it hard to go on stage and convincingly be a polite shade of black. What really got me was that I was singing something essentially stolen. And it wasn't just stealing music, it was stealing somebody's emotions and point of view, almost pretending to have an awareness of what it means to be black".
Still , not only did Ian's flute playing owe a debt to Kirk (who was black) but also his manic stage presence. In his book Time Passages, George Lipsitz discusses Kirk at some length. He discusses how Kirk's unusual attire and stage behavior is "subversive." He also notes that Kirk had an aggressive sense of humor which was manifested in satirical renditions of hymns and "mischievous wordplay." Lipsitz's intention was to show Kirk as an artist outside of "high art" that tried to express something by using references to the past and a sense of history or tradition.

Shortly after the release of their first album and a visit to the BBC where they recorded a version of T-Bone Walker's "Stormy Monday Blues," Abrahms left the band. At this point Anderson felt free to begin his songwriting in earnest, free of the blues tradition. This new found freedom was explained in the song "Play in Time" from 1970's Benefit: "Blues were my favorite color till I looked around and found another song that I felt like singing Trying so hard to reach you, playing what must be played, what must be sung-- and it's what I'm singing Talking to people in my way".

The first song he wrote in this new phase was "A Christmas Song." It's an acoustic piece that heavily features mandolin. I don't want to mislead the reader because the mandolin was featured even while Abrahms was still in the band. I refer to the early B-side "Love Story." But "A Christmas Song" is completely acoustic unlike "Love Story." The song's meter is also somewhat irregular and the lyrics include a bit of social commentary:

"When you're stuffing yourselves at the Christmas parties You'll laugh when I tell you to take a running jump. You're missing the point that does not need making: The Christmas spirit is not what you drink".

It is here that Ian's views on drugs and alcohol emerge. From the beginning to this day he has remained a staunch opponent of them. In a 1969 interview in Hit Parader he expresses his dismay at having to play for people under the influence:

"It's a little disturbing playing to people who are, to quote, turned on. It's difficult to know how to play to them. It's disturbing to know that they must to some extent imagine that I personally, and the other fellows in the band, are just the same as them, y'know?"

A couple years later he explained that he avoided intoxication because he felt it interfered with his creative process. (Although he has said that he enjoys an occasional Lowenbrau!) Of course at the time thi s made him somewhat of an outcast. Audiences and performers alike imbibed and ingested drugs of all sorts. Unable to express the sentiments overtly without ostracizing much of his audience, his opinions towards drugs were "bottled up" and arose as bitterness and anger in his music towards the general culture of the times.
Returning to the piece itself, "A Christmas Song" is also important because of its kinship to traditional Christmas carols. The carol is a very old mid-winter English tradition that evolv ed from pagan ring dancing. Originally caroling was to aid in the rejuvenation of life. Winter was a dead time and it was thought that caroling would aid in the return of life in spring. In exchange for blessings of bountiful harvests, people would offer the carolers money or food as a mid-winter sacrifice. It was seen as an interaction with nature that would benefit the entire community. The song clearly implies that modern-day Christmas celebrations have lost ties to traditional solstice festivities. He says:

"How can you laugh when your own mother is hungry? And how can you smile when your reason for smiling are wrong?"
Those with plenty refuse to give to those without. The modern community is failing to provide for its own. (This would later be echoed in 1982's "Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow." ) It also implies that this endangers the rebirth of spring and future harvests when viewed through pagan tradition. The idea of a metaphorical winter not giving way to spring is elaborated on 1979's Stormwatch. Finally, implicit in the song is a less than warm view of organized religion. This view would return in a year in songs that would appear on the Aqualung album.

Tull's second and third albums continued the move from blues orthodoxy. More acoustic songs ap pear and an adaptation of a Bach lute piece is presented as well. According to Craig Thomas in his liner notes for the 25th Anniversary box set, it was during this time that Tull began to use an electric/acoustic (or blues&R+B/folk) dichotomy in their mus ic to represent "...the clash between the individual and society, between the rural and urban, between happiness (however qualified) and disillusion...." During this period, Tull toured heavily. As drummer Clive Bunker noted, Ian became more introverted wh en off-stage. He would retire to his hotel room early to write more songs. Being the singer, songwriter and frontman made him de facto leader of the band. Ian felt the pressure and quickly became disillusioned with life on the road. These feelings and th ose of a sense of separation from his generation are evident on Benefit. He tells us that he means to "spend more time on the inside" and that there is "no time for everything." A sense of dislocation is evident in "For Michael Collins, Jeffery and Me." Mic hael Collins was one of the 3 astronauts who made the first flight to the moon. While Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked in the surface of the moon, Michael Collins stayed in the lunar module. Jeffrey was Jeffrey Hammond who was in the John Evans Band, a precursor to Jethro Tull, and a good friend of Ian's. He was the subject of a couple previous songs, "A Song for Jeffery" and "Jeffery Goes to Leicester Square." Perhaps Ian felt that as Tull became more popular and John Evans joined the band on keyboards, Jeffery and the simpler "good old days" when they were just starting out in the music business were being left behind. If Ian was completely against overindulgence, then bassist Glenn Cornick was his polar opposite in this respect. His habit of drinking and chasing women (the life of a "typical" rock star) distanced himself from the band and he left in 1970. He went on to form Wild Turkey, named after his favorite drink. His replacement was the aforementioned Jeffrey Hammond who took on an extra "Hammond" in his surname upon joining. As Ian has stated, he was recruited not because he was the most technically proficient bassist but because he was a friend and got along with the rest of the band.

The Minstrel in the Gallery

Hammond's first appearance was on the Aqualung album. Judson Caswell points to three elements of this album that are important here. First, there is social commentary on organized religion (specifically Christianity/Church of England) and Ian 's views on the less valorous aspects of human nature as seen through the lower classes. (And, as I will argue, the upper classes.) Secondly, the acoustic/electric dichotomy comes to the fore. Finally, Ian's lyrics become more "vulgar." Ian's views on religion are quite clear in the songs "My God" and "Wind Up." He clearly sees it as a case of style over substance:

"People what have you done? Locked Him (God) in his golden cage Made him bend to your religion" and "He's not the kind you have wind up on Sundays"
I think there's more at stake her e than just organized religion and the lower classes. I interpret the album as being (perhaps unintentionally) about, at its core, human nature or at least one aspect of it. The songs portray people as egoistic and self-serving. The songs critiquing religion also critique the upper classes. "....don't call on Him to save you / from your social graces..." , "Oh Father high in heaven / smile down upon your son / who's busy with his money games....", "Well the lush separation enfolds you / and the products of wealth" , "In your pomp and all your glory you're a poorer man than me...."
If Anderson uses organized religion as a pretext for criticism of the upper classes, then he is all too direct when criticizing the lower classes. There are no paeans to those less fortunate. Instead we find Aqualung, a dirty, old bum who "eyes little girls with bad intent" and cross-eyed Mary, a poor school girl who sexually services poor men and steals from those who have little, like herself, rather than from those who are wealthy. The rich abandon the substance of religious tradition and use the empty shell of liturgy to suit their own needs. The poor are no better. They prey on each other for their own gain.
The second important element on this album is the growth of the acoust ic/electric dichotomy. There are 6 songs which prominently feature heavy electric guitar while the remaining 5 are mostly acoustic. Even in a few of the more raucous songs, acoustic and electric instruments are pitted against one another. ("My God" , "Wind Up" , and the title track.)

We have seen how Ian's lyrics became more vulgar in his description of the lower classes. His stage presence also developed in this direction. Increasingly the flute became a mock-phallus and comments such as "My Gawd! Me microph one stand has an erection!" became more frequent. This appropriation of vulgarity on record and in concert was explained by Anderson himself, "There came a point for me when I started doing it (the antics) for myself, and it gradually evolved into being, for me, at any rate, a true physical expression of the music we play".
In May of 1971 drummer Clive Bunker left to get married and was replaced by yet another alumnus of the John Evans Band, Barrie Barlow. (In yet another instance of history repeating itself, a fictional "-more" was added to his forename.) This configuration of the band would last for 4 years and come to be regarded as the "classic" Tull line-up. So in the context of the band, Ian Anderson is surrounded by 3 old friends and 1 new one. (We al so know that David Palmer, who started doing orchestral arrangements for the band in 1968, would join the band 5 years later.) Anderson states in the band's 25th Anniversary video that Barlow had a big hand in the arrangements of band's music. Indeed, after he joined the band the credit "Arranged by Jethro Tull" started appearing on the album covers. The point here is that although Anderson was still primarily responsible for the music, I don't think it mere coincidence that the responsibility became more diffuse as Ian became surrounded by old friends.

Aqualung proved to be a popular album in America. During this time the band were featured in Rolling Stone magazine with Ian on the cover. Of relevence here is a quote from the article refering to America: "Everybody is sort of grabbing at something, out for theselves. Particularly on the East Coast....You get the feeling that you're in the midst of some incredible game....everybody is rude, pushy, grabby...." Keep this in mind as we continue.
At this point in his paper (which is obviously a template for my own), Judson Caswell jumps from 1971 to 1974 and the Warchild album and then proceeds to invoke the historical image of the jester and attempts to compare Ian Anderson to this image. I would like to make some comments on the intervening 2 (3?) albums.
1972's Thick As a Brick went to #1 on the American album charts and consolidated Tull's success. At the same time press criticism became more voluminous and harsh. Lyrically, the album has been described as "so ciological examination" of Anderson's youth. He describes how society stifles individuality and pigeonholes people to suit its own needs.

"See there a son is born and we pronounce him fit to fight". Here I think Anderson is trying to say that society conditions its young to take part in a life that is, at its core, a competition.

"We'll make a man of him Put him to a trade". Here society decides what the individual will do not the individual him/herself. In his analysis of Thick As a Brick Tull fan Paul Tarvydas interprets the album as describing society supplanting "freewill" with its own values. He seems to argue that the lyrics implore people to "think for themselves" without the influence of society, that the mere act of a society enculturating its citize ns is wrong. I disagree with this interpretation. I think it difficult to argue that a child has the ability to exercise any kind of "freewill" in terms of determining their place in society. A child's environment is going to be an influence. An infant cannot choose which language to learn. It can be argued that it's perfectly natural for a child to emulate its parents in certain ways. I think that Ian Anderson was trying to criticize the quality of what a society imparts to its young not the quantity.
The stage show at this point became increasingly outrageous with the humor taking on an absurdist, Monty Python-esque bent with the band dressed as bunnies hopping around the stage, songs coming to an abrupt halt so that a band member could answer the phone and a weather report being read to the audience.
In 1972 Jethro Tull went to France to record the follow-up to Thick As a Brick at the Chateau D'Herouville studios. The backing tracks plus some overdubs for three sides of a double album were ocmpleted befo re Ian called the sessions off. Two songs, "Solitaire" and "Skating Away On the Thin Ice of the New Day," appeared two years later on the Warchild album. About 50 minutes of the so-called "Chateau D 'Isaster" tapes were released in 1993 on the Nightcap album. Keep in mind the unfinished nature of this album as I discuss the songs. There is no way to tell how the album would have turned out had it been completed and released. I don 't know of any lyrics that weren't recorded. (I have heard of a short, acoustic song from these sessions that frequently mentions sailors that remains unreleased.) Finally, I'm not convinced that the sequencing of the songs in 1993 is the same as it was envisoned in 1972. One songs seems particularly out of place. Well, on to the music....

The first song is "First Post." I interpret this to be equivalent to the "starting post" in a race, namely the "rat race" that is modern life. (Remember his comments about New York.) "Animelee" follows. The title (the first 3 songs are instrumentals) suggests a fight between animals or at least a general sense of turmoil. The last introductory song, "Tiger Toon" , brings in a specific animal, the tiger, known as a predator and makes reference to the cartoon suggesting the what follows is a caricature.
The first song with lyrics is "Look at the Animals." It lays out the order of the food chain in Anderson's world. Personification is rampant in the song. The animals wait in line on a stairwell to use the bathroom. But it seems here is the melee. The animals put chewing gum in each other's hair and swing from chandeliers. There are also further scatological and sexual references continuing the vulgarity of Anderson's lyrics. The cat comes out "to take a leak" while the rest of the animals are "treading in their elephantine stools." At one point the animals are "playing with their tools."
The analogy with people is emphasized when the narrator asks alternatively, "...how would you like to be one?" , "....how would you like to free one?" and "...how would you like to queer one?" The narrator seems to be demonstrating the baser elements of human nature and asking the listener if that is really how they want to be.
"Law of the Bungle" follows and reintroduces the tiger. He is king of the jungle and forces the other animals to submit to his will. The "tiger" in this case wears a suit and has "business sense. " Notice the use of the term "bungle." Why not "jungle?" I think the reason is two-fold. One, it adds to the cartoonish, caricaturish nature of the lyrics. Secondly, it serves to point out that the business world is in some way inadequate or does its business clumsily.

After a six-song cycle which makes use of animals in the lyrics to satirize people, a second cycle begins. The theme shifts to Anderson's reaction to the scathing criticisms of the press that his music has elicited. This cycle is started with the song "Left Right." Here is where I think the 1993 sequencing may have distorted what was planned in 1972. The song has no references to the rock critics th at prevail in the next three songs. In fact it introduces us to the idea of a play that is significant in the last three songs and on the next album. The song introduces us to "The master playwright." Perhaps this is reference to human nature. He "urges you to play right/play wrong." I take this to mean that people can be both good and bad. This idea is reiterated later in the song but now the narrator describes us as dancing around maypoles while the vicar toasts our pagan ceremony. It is not clear exactly what this means but I think it may have something to do with Christianity's adoption of pagan holidays as its own. (This very idea would be explicitly stated on the sleeve of their 1976 "Solstice Bells" EP.) "Scenario " begins the third cycle which makes use of the metaphor of the passion play. (Here again I find my interpretation at odds with fellow fan Paul Tarvydas'. He sees these songs as being about freewill vs. a "God-driven pre-destiny." This interpretation requires that the thematic unity of the alb um be broken in contrast to the previous and next two albums. My interpretation tries to integrate the songs of the last cycle with those of the previous cycles.) In it Anderson mentions "the age of man." In the song he says that before the beginning of this age, men lived peacefully but that at some point they were told that they "have to learn to hate the things you fear." After this, a "passion play" begins. Fathers and sons are now at each other's throats. The play is modern life - life in modern, urban city. "The actors milling helplessly--- / The script is blowing out to sea" "The lines you'll have to improvise / The words are written in the eyes / Of politicians who despise their fathers." "And so the play necessitates / That all you boys participate / In fierce competition to eliminate each other." (Once again recall Ian's comments about New York City.) But the narrator intimates that these values are not innate. Society passes them down; "But what the hell, we didn't even pass an audition." The last cycle refers to "god/God." Before the "age of man" when hate and fear did not prevail, man invented his own god that reflected his attitudes.

"In long years of ancient time Stood alone of friend of mine Reflected by the ever-burning sigh Of a god who happened by."
Recall that on the back of the Aqualung album cover, it said that Man invented God in His own image. So when the "Age of Man" begins, a new god is created. I maintained that the songs on side 2 of Aqualung critique the wealthy's (mis)use of religion for their own ends. We see the same idea here. This is why I perceive the Passion Play here as being about modern, urban society. The rich run society by propping up their own "god" and imposing a system of competition which they know they'll be sucessful at. A swipe at capitalism perhaps?
The lyrics to the Chateaur D'Isaster tapes are complilcated and because the album was never finished lack a certain sense of cohesion. But the important idea here is to see that Ian Anderson continued his critique of modern, urban society. For the first time he puts forth the idea that modern man has lost something by abandoning the tradition of the past. He also mentions paganism and perhaps indirectly asserts it as being at least part of the tradition that has been lost and superceded by the rat-race of modern society. As I said, the album was never completed. Some musical ideas and bits of lyrics were recycled for the next album A Passion Play. Anderson has been quoted as saying that that album is about the dichotom y of good and evil. It is an exceedingly complicated album to understand. The lyrics tell the story of a man named Ronnie Pilgrim who dies, experiences and afterlife and then is reborn. Notice his last name, Pilgrim. A pilgrim is someone who goes on a lon g voyage, generally to a sacred place. He meets up with Peter Dejour or Peter of the Day or St. Peter of the day. Then he is led to a movie theater where he is shown his life. Since the album is presented as a play complete with a program, we have an inter v al. After the interval, teh play resumes in the business offices of G. Oddie and Son or God. From there Ronnie goes to Hell and meets Lucifer and finally Magus (magician) Perde in his drawing room. The album ends with Ronnie Pilgrim facing impending rebir th. So what does this all have to do with good and evil? Well, we see that both God and Lucifer are present. A blatant good/evil setup if I ever saw one. So our character Ronnie would seem to be a metaphor for humanity. He steers a course between good and evil. He accepts neither God nor Lucifer:

"Here's the everlasting rub: neither am I good nor bad I'd give up my halo for a horn and the horn for the hat I once had".
Man is neither wholly good nor wholly bad but both at once. This human paradox informs all of our lives. The three previous albums were critiques of modern society. This album mostly avoids this (although God has a business office!) in favor of an extended commentary on one aspect of human nature. Although the album would eventually chart at #1 in the U.S., critics lambasted it and the band. This resulted in the announcement that they would stop touring and relations with the press were cut off. This situation lasted only a short time but the rift that developed between the band and the press h as never been bridged since.
In 1974 the band released Warchild. An interviewer wrote that it was "Anderson's answer, his philosophy, to the dog-eat-dog world he suddenly realized he was caught in when the critics demolished A Passion Play." I would argue t hat this was not a sudden realization. "Solitaire," a response to a particular critic, dates back to the Chateau D'Isaster sessions. Also from those sessions is "Post Last" with "The editor lies screaming....Questioning \lquote Who is God's favorite rock star this week?'" From "Scenario" : "But the rock star knows his glory is really nothing." This same sentiment is reiterated in "Glory Row," a song from the Warchild sessions but not released until 1978.

In an interview from this time, Anderson says, "We're all animals, competing-aggressive, out to win at the expense of others. And we have our codes, our rules and laws that we've invented which are convenient with the context that we operate. At this point in history the rules are one way. They change throughout the ages. But if aggression and competition is what everybody wants to do then I'll go along with it......The overall theme of Warchild is that all of us have a very aggressive instinct which is something we're occasionally able to use for the betterment of o urselves. At other times, aggression at its worst is used as a very destructive element. When it's not at its worst it remains merely comical. Hence the line from "Bungle in the Jungle," "Let's bungle in the jungle / Well it's all right by me." Besides importing "Solitaire" and the term "bungle" from the aborted 1972 sessions, Anderson also resurrected the song "Skating Away On the Thin Ice of the New Day." It reiterates the ideas of "Scenario." There was a time when competition was not the name of the game.

"You were bred for humanity And sold to society". Again society intervenes to make a change for the worse. People are empty (feeling like you're the only person in the audience) and are searching for something greater ("looking for a sign that the Univer sal Mind has written you into the Passion Play.") Modern society indoctrinates people to see every day as a "new day," that is, not to seek reference points in tradition. This is skating on thin ice. We have quotes from Ian where he expresses his view that human nature has a malleability to it. Individuals'actions are dictated by rules that have some contingency upon environment and have changed in the course of time as the environment has changed. In that same interview he says that the prevailing world- view is that of competition and aggressiveness. His song lyrics reflect this view but show his dissatisfaction with it and perhaps show an alternative route to be followed. Without a doubt, the lyrics up to this point clearly concentrate on the aggressive side of human nature but this is a result of emphasis. The few "love" songs that had appeared until this point show another side to people. Witness the lyrics to "Inside" from Benefit or the line "it 's only the giving that makes you what you are" from "Wondrin'Aloud" on Aqualung. So what we seem to have is Anderson saying that in the early 1970's the prevailing environment (perhaps exemplified for him by New York City) is one that brings out the worst in people. Also of note here is another song from these sessions, "March the Mad Scientist." A song with pagan connotations, it imagines the month of March as the engineer of spring. More on this later.... As a side line, this whole line of thought reminds me of my understanding of Adam Smith's ideas. Smith h ad a similar view of human nature. He wanted to make the world a better place and in order to do this one had to contend with human nature. So his idea was to modify existing or create new social institutions that direct man's nature for public benefit and progress.

At this point in his paper, Judson Caswell describes the historical jester. He describes him as being sly, sardonic, irreverent, plebian-orientated and subversive. This image had not been invoked until the Warchild album with line "Think I 'll sit down and invent some fool--some Grand Court Jester" from "Back-Door Angels." Further on Anderson describes himself throught the eyes of a rock critic as "court-jesting." Even though this song dates back two years or so it doesn't appear until this album. So it would seem that with this album Anderson embraces the idea of the jester (see the picture above), reminding the listener of his role as entertainer and subversive commentator on the status quo. But right away he descibes the limitations of this jes ter. The next time this jester he has invented casts the dice, "he'll throw a six or a two" refering to craps where a first roll of a two is a loss and a six gives you a chance to continue. The worst-case scenario is a loss while the best is merely a chance to continue. Anderson doesn't offer any easy answers or quick fixes. Any change in the environment that he sees as bringing out the worst in us will come about over a long period of time and perhaps only with much effort.

It is then probably no coincidence that he sequenced the album to have "Sealion" come next. Judson Caswell has done a great job in interpreting this song already so I won't go into a lengthy discussion. What he basically says is that the carnival, which is used in the song, is traditionally a place of revelry and, most importantly, where convention and propriety are inverted. A sense of "prestige from below. " He describes how the song uses the imagery of the carnival to suggest possible hegemony by the reversal of the social order only to write this possibility off. So with Warchild Ian Anderson continued to elaborate his ideas on human nature. However with Tull's next album, Minstrel in the Gallery, the wit who had slyly commented upon modern society and human nature turned on itself.
Ian Anderson has remarked that he thought Minstrel in the Gallery became "too instropective." At this time he was going through divorce. The mood of the album is captured quite well by a photo on the album's inner sleeve. It shows Anderson seated with his guitar on a balcony. Because the photo was taken at a low angle the railing looks like prison bars. Anderson himself looks quite drained and somber with bags under his eyes.
In the title track Anderson seems to be refering to himself as a minstrel who plies his trade in recording studios and theaters rather than in the courts of kings. Even if the critics didn't care for him and his music the loyalty of the fans was unswerving:

"Then he called the band down to the stage and he looked at all the friends he'd made". After a brief excursion into Norse mythology with "Cold Wind to Valhalla," come three songs that, however obliquely, express his troubled personal life. "Black Satin Dancer" would seem to be a tribute to his (ex)wife and the better days they shared. In it is a line that seems quite familiar: "In all your giving, given is the answer." Then "Requiem" appears to mourn the loss:

"Well, my lady told me, "Stay." I looked aside and walked away along the Strand Saw her face in the tear-drop black cab window. Fading into the traffic; I watched her go". The next song, "One White Duck/010=Nothing At All," is a personal favorite of mine. It continures the sentiments of the previous song. If Anderson is a minstrel, he's a wandering minstrel. In the first half of the piece he describes his inability to settle down. Indeed the first line sees him leaving: "There's a haze on the skyline, to wish me on my way." He can't settle down because he needs to continue his art which requires him to be away from home: "And the motorway's stretching right out to us all..." His wife is left with a postcard. The second half of the song starts a trend of self-deprecating lyrics which would spill over into the next song, "Baker St. Muse," a 16+ minute mini-epic. In the song at hand, Anderson seems to blame himself for the dissolution of his marriage:

"...and my zero to your power of ten equals nothing at all." At this point it is clear that the lyrics of Minstrel in the Gallery have very little to do with the cynical world-view of the previous albums. He describes his former partner as "giving" when much of the lyrics of the previous albums involve "taking." Here an alternative point of view is given prominence. Not everyone is a hedonistic animal out for their own gain. At least on the personal level, giving and caring can prevail.

To ring in the new year, Jeffery Hammond-Hammond left the band in January 1976. He was replaced by John Glascock formerly of the band Carmen which had opened for Tull on a previous American tour. The band started work on a new album concurrently with Ian and David Palmer writing a stage musical. Anderson and Palmer had English pop star Adam Faith in mind for their leading man. When Faith proved unavailable, the project was scrapped. But the rest of the band took a keen interest in it and the original album was set aside while the musical was transformed into their next album, Too Old to Rock'n'Roll, Too Young to Die.
Most of the press took the title to be autobiographical. It was nothing of the kind, however. The album told the story of Ray Lomas, an old "rocker" that found himself to be unfashionable. At the end of his trials and tribulations, he finds himself to be fashionable once again. Anderson has stated that the album is about the cyclic al nature of trends. Once again we have and album that strays from criticism of modern life and the baser elements of human nature. Perhaps Anderson is making an oblique snub at his critics. A notable aspect of this album is the first recorded contributio n of David Palmer in the form of a short sax solo. Later in the year he would become a full-time member of the band.

Tull would close out the 70's with a trilogy of albums that would most eloquently and cohesively express Anderson's world-view. He would co ntinue with these themes in later albums but these attempts would prove to be expansions or recapitualtions of the ideas stated in these three works. It is in these albums that the urban/rural dichotomy comes to the fore and Celtic/pagan myth and imagery, which had been used sparingly in the past, is used prominently. Before I get to the first album in the trilogy, Songs From the Wood, I want to dispell a common myth. It is often thought that the turn to the more rustic, folky music on Songs From the Wood was the result of Ian Anderson having moved from London to a home in the country. In a documentary made by BBC TV during the 1978 tour, Anderson explicitly states that this musical change was the result of his longing to move out of the city, not because of an actual change of residence.
The first evidence of the turn towards the bucolic came in the form of the "Solstice Bells" EP released in late 1976. The back of the sleeve has a brief anecdote describing how the Church co-opted the pagan winter solstice celebration, Samhain, and replaced it with Christmas. Musically it featured "Ring Out Solstice Bells" from their forthcoming album, the old b-side discussed previously, "Christmas Song" and two tracks from 1974, "Pan Dance" and "March the Mad Scientist."
"Ring Out Solstice Bells" is a celebratory song that welcomes the arrival of winter. "Winter is a glad song that you hear." In it druids dance while the narrator calls for people to gather underneath mistletoe and give praise to the Sun.

I have already discussed "Christmas Song" and "Pan Dance" is an instrumental written for a dance troupe, "Pan's People" that performed with Tull in 1974. The final track, "March the Mad Scientist," is not an imperative but rather a description of the month. March, being the month of the vernal equinox, is portrayed as the formulator of spring. Although the song dates from 1974, it had no place on an album then. Songs From the Wood is ripe with folk instrumentation but it is not folk music. There is electric guitar and rock drums but it is not rock music. It is a complex mixture of both these musics and more. (Regarding the appropriation of English folk music Anderson has said, "It's more than a liking for the instrument. It's a response to the music--that droning quality-Celtic music. It's something special. One can't really pin down what. It has to be some kind of folk memory." ) It is also noteworthy that this musical break with their past involved the inclusion of "additional material" by David Palmer and Martin Barre. This album was more of a group effort than past albums.

In her article "Love From the Fields" Peg Aloi describes three emphases that give the lyrics a distinctively pagan bent: 1) rural settings that often describe magical or sacred sites such as stone circl es, 2) folklore and descriptions of pre-Christian/Celtic traditions and 3) a view of love and sex that is romantic and "earthy." We will see these elements at play briefly. But first I want to say a few things about Songs From the Wood in the larger context of Tull's career up to this point. I should note that my own knowledge of Celtic folklore is quite limited so I will rely on Ms. Aloi's work (and others) in pointing out and decoding Celtic/pagan references in Tull's songs. Previous Tull albums have bee n generally cynical and quite trenchant with regards to modern society. With the album at hand, these elements are inverted. A largely celebratory mood is invoked with the lyrics in praise of nature and of past rural life. Previous albums portrayed modern life as being spirtually hollow and in decay while the current album portrays a way of life that Anderson sees as full of meaning with a sense of community and respect for nature. (This environmental heme will be most prominent in the final album of the t rilogy, Stormwatch.) Songs From the Wood begins with the title track:

"Let me bring you songs from the wood To make you feel much better than you could know". These lines are sung in a madrigal-like acapella chorus. The narrator wants to show us "how the garden grows" and to bring us "love from the field." He urges us to "join the chorus if you can." He calls us to become a part of larger community pursuit of a greater good. Contrast this with the criticisms evident on Thick As a Brick. It would seem that An derson is trying to construct a set of values that would be appropriate for society to pass onto its young. In an interview the following year, he would reveal how he has integrated some of the ideas on the album into his own life: "[rather than spending his money on drugs, parties and cars] I would rather have something tangible at my disposal and also something I can feel a little bit responsible for. That's one thing money buys: the right to acquire responsibility for things or people or animals or whatever." (I have also read that after college, Anderson wanted to become a forester. In a more recent interview, he has stated that he would like to start a wild life preservation trust.)
The next song is "Jack-in-the-Green." In concert he has introduced the song by explaining that Jack is a wood sprite that is charged with taking care of flora during the wintertime. There is no such character in Celtic lore but "Jack-in-the-Green" is one name that St. George is known as. Also known as the "Green Man," St. Ge orge is a principal figure in fertility rites including Beltane which shall be addressed later. Anderson has made up his own character but the message remains untarnished. In the song there is a brief reference to modern times:

"Jack do you never sleep--does the green still run deep in your heart? Or will these changing times, motorways, powerlines, keep us apart? Well I don't think so. I saw some grass growing through the pavements today"
This stanza illustrates two things: 1) that there is hope for modern civilization and 2) this hope lies in reaching back to tradition for a different view of the man's relation to nature. This is a small precursor to the environmental concerns expressed later in the trilogy.
The next song," Cup of Wonder," is a fairly explicit call for the listener to at least reconsider what tradition has to offer. The song calls back "those who ancient lines did ley." A ley line, in Celtic lore, is a line in the ground along which the energy of the earth flows. These lines were to connect sacred sites such as Stonehenge. After more Celtic images (standing stones, the Green Man, et al) the listener is asked to:

"Question all as to their ways, and learn the secrets that they hold".
This line perhaps sums up the message of the entire album better than any other. Other pagan references include the line "Pass the cup of crimson wonder" which refers to Druidic human sacrifice. Peg Aloi interprets the lines "Join in black December's sadness/Lie in August's welcome corn " as refering to the pagan holidays of Yule and Lughnasa.
"Hunting Girl," which follows, is a song about sex. In it a "normal low-born so-and-so" meets a "high-born" young woman who has become separated from the rest of her group while out hunting. She seduces him and our humble nar rator discovers that she has some pretty kinky tastes when it comes to sex. The puerile nature of the lyrics have become something of a trademark of Anderson's. But sex as a topic of song is a traditional facet of English folk song. In his paper Judson Caswell extensively refers to Folk Song in England by A.L. Lloyd.

In agrarian societies fertility of all types is held to be sacred. Caswell quotes Lloyd: "Nowhere does this intimate consonance with nature show clearer than in the erotic folk songs." This relationship to nature could indeed become quite "intimate." One of the most sacred Celtic holidays was Beltane. It was the time of the year when seeds were being sown and so fertility was especially important. Young couples would copulate in the woods and in the furrows of the fields. It was believed that their sexual energy would assist the growth of the crops. In this context sex is not something dirty or to be kept behind closed doors. It is a positive thing. It is life-giving and, to a certain extent, a public concern since the survival of the community depended upon the fertility of the crops and animals. The first side of the album ends with "Ring Out Solstice Bells" which has been discussed already. Instead we move to "Velvet Green." It is an erotic song sung by a man who boasts that he's "young girl's fancy and an old maid's dream." Copulation is described in natural imagery:

"And if we live the lie, let's lie in trust On golden daffodils to catch the silver stram That washes out the wild oat seed on Velvet Green".
Judson Caswell also points out the line "Won't you have my company, yes take it in your hand" as being similar to a line from the English folk song "The Mower" : "I'll strive to sharp your scythe, so set it in my hand." Our seducer, however, has no intention of marriage:

"We'll dream as lovers under the stars Of civilizations raging afar And the ragged dawn breaks on your battle scars As you walk home cold and alone upon Velvet Green". Notice we find only the second brief mention of modern/urban society on the album. It would be the last.
The next song, "The Whistler" , is also a love song. The rural imagery continues. A man, presumably, offers to buy the object of his affection mares and apples. He talks of the sunsets "in mystical places" and t he nights "on summerday sands."
"Pibroch (Cap in Hand)" follows. It is a song of unrequited love. A man is traveling through the woods to his love's home. Perhaps he means to propose to her. "There's a thought in the head of a man/ Who carries his dreams...." While she is at home, there is another man there with her: Catching breath, as he looks through the dining-room window: Candle-lit table for two has been laid. Strange slippers by the fire: Strange boots in the hall-way. Put my cap on my head- I turn and walk away".
The album closes with "Fires at Midnight." It is a beautiful song that describes the joy of coming home from a hard working day and spending time with one's wife. Anderson himself has said that he wrote the song at home after a long day in the studio. To summarize, the first album of the "trilogy" is mostly celebratory. There are love songs, prurient songs and songs that celebrate nature and ancient religions that were "nature/earth based." Modern society makes only the occasional intrusion into the green world painted by the lyrics and music.

Heavy Horses followed in 1978. Many of the songs are about animals and the lyrics continue much of the rustic tradition of its predecessor. The album is a bit darker, however, with more references to modern civilization. The music too reflects this change. The more traditional rock'n'roll sounds of electric guitar and the trap kit are more prominent.
The first song is "...And the Mouse Police Never Sleeps." It is ostensibly about cats: Windowbox towncrier; of purest feline ancestry... Look out little furry folk; it's the all-night working cat Eats but one in ten, leaves the others on the mat... The song doesn't seem to celebrate nature as much as it reminds us that death and killing are parts of nature. It has a darker feel to it than the material on Songs From the Wood. While it may be the case that a pagan or "nature-worshiper " would not view death in the bleak, dreary manner in which most modern, Western people do, Anderson was quite aware that most of his audience were of the latter group.
The next song, "Acres Wild" , takes a very earthy view of sex. The narrator begins by telling his love: "I'll make love to you in all good places under black mountains in open spaces By deep brown river that slither darkly through far marches where the blue hare races". The second verse, however, brings us to the present day: "I'll make love to you in narrow side streets with shuttered windows, crumbling chimneys. By red bricks pointed with cement fingers Flaking damply from sagging shoulders". As Judson Caswell says, "Based on pagan fertility beliefs, the practice of having sex in these places should make them alive and productive again. Is it possible that this song is about a kind of pagan sexual rejuvenation of a crumbling civilization?"
If "Acres Wild" is indeed a call for people to rejuvenate modern society, then the next song, "No Lullaby," is perhaps an admonition to those who would undertake the task: And let no sleep bring false relief from the tension of the fray. Come wake the dead with the scream of life. Do battle with ghosts at play.
The next song with animals in the title is "Moths." It describes how a candle provides not only for the demise of moths attracted to the flame but also light for a couple engaged in the procreative act: Creatures of the candle on a night-light-ride.
Side one of the album (yes, I'm listening to vinyl!) ends with "Journeyman," a portrait of an urban paper-pusher who is returning home after work. Contrasting this song with "Fires at Midnight" gives a good idea of the mood of the entire album. Where the latter was a celebration of returning home to be with a significant other, the former laments the voyage home on a train that travels past "fresh open sores" only to return to a cold supper.

Side two opens with "Rover." In it the narrator compares himself to man's best friend. Just as a loyal dog often wanders off at a distraction so too does the narrator's romantic devotion: "I need the pillow of your hair in which to hide my head. I'm simple in my sadness; resourceful in remorse. Then I'm down strainng at the lead~ holding on a windward course".
"One Brown Mouse" continues in this vein. It is Anderson's take on Scottish poet Robert Burns' "Ode to a Mouse." While the narrator relates his musings about a mouse in a cage, it is possible to see this as an allegory about human relationships.
The penultimate song on the album is also the title track. It eulogizes the working horses of Great Britain who find themselves no longer needed with the advent of mechanized farm machinery: And one day when the oil barons have all dripped dry and the nights are seen to draw colder They'll beg for your strength, your gentle power your noble grace and your bearing. Peg Aloi informs us that horses are the sacred cows of the British Isles. There are many chalk hill figures of horses there as well as several prominant horse goddesses in British mythology. Even in famine conditions during World War I many British refused to eat horse.
The final song, "Weathercock" , is a prelude to Tull's next album Stormwatch. It uses the concept of the weather as an analogy for the state of humanity in general: "Do you simply relfect the changes in the sky, Or is it true the weather heeds the twinkle in your eye? Do you fight the rush of winter; do you hold snowflakes at bay? Do you lift the dawn sun from the fields and help him on his way?... Point the way to better days we can share with you".

This idea of "the rush of winter" would be seized upon later in 1978 as Anderson wrote songs for Tull's next album.

In a documentary about the band produced by the BBC in 1978, the band can be seen rehearsing and performing "Dark Ages," a song from Stormwatch which came out in 1979. He explains how the song is about his idea tha t humanity was in the late 1970's entering something akin to the Dark Ages of several hundred years ago. This is mainly the result of destruction of the environment. So the album title comes from Ian's idea that he is watching a storm coming that will put mankind into a kind of winter in which the environment will be destroyed. The album cover is shows Anderson bundled up in coat and mittens holding a set of binoculars. In the lenses of the binoculars are images of oil rigs and lightning bolts. The green a nd brown imagery of the previous two album covers has been replaced by blue, gray and black. The band logo takes the form of a digital readout like that of an alarm clock. The album presents itself in a very contemporary vein. Nonetheless it's easy to see it as the last in a trilogy. It doesn't look to nature or the past for a better way of life but instead calls for action in the present to save nature lest humanity suffer a terrible fate. This is illustrated on the back of the album cover. It portrays a co astal area with oil refineries on land and oil rigs off in the sea. The whole area is covered with massive amounts of snow while a gigantic polar bear rampages along the coast. In the clear sky are several birds, the constellation of Orion ( the name of o ne of the songs) and an angel, presumably representing Gabriel who's come to blow his horn signalling the Apocolypse. (Unfortunately, the angel's face is obscured by a bar code.)
The album begins with "North Sea Oil" which describes the greed which fuels the petroleum industry:

"Riggers rig and diggers dig their shallow grave but we'll be saved and what we crave is North Sea Oil". There have been many oil spills in the North Sea which have affected the environment of Anderson's homeland, Scotland.
In "Orion" Anderson pleads for help from the heavens: Orion, light your lights: come guard the open spaces from the black horizon to the pillow where I lie. This reminds me of the appeal in "Weathercock." Even though the album is, as Anderson himself described it, "more socially orintated," nature is still used to great effect. "Home" follows in the tradition of "Fires at Midnight" and "Journeyman." In it Anderson extolls the virtues and stability of "homelife" : And "though I've been away left you alone this way why don't you come awake and let your first smile take me home".
The centerpiece of the album, "Dark Ages" , follows. The song laments not only the coming of a metaphorical winter for humanity but also the fact that people seem to be apathetic to their fates: "Come and see bureaucracy make its final heave and let the new disorder through while senses take their leave.... Take their pick and try the trick with loaves and fishesshared and the vicar shouts as the lights go out and no-one really cares"
The first half of the album ends with an instrumental, "Warm Sporran." It would seem that Anderson is seeking shelter from the storm. The second half begins with "Something's On the Move." Here the warnings have been ignored and the "winter" descends upon the world: Driving all before her un-stoppable, un-straining her cold creaking mass follows reindeer down. As the storm unfolds, Anderson still seeks to counter it in "Old Ghosts" : "I'll be coming again like an old dog in pain Blown through the eye of the hurricane Down to the stones where the old ghosts play".

The "stones" here refer to the ring of stones known as Dun Ringill on the northern coast of Scotland. Once again Anderson refers to ancient tradition as a source of inspiration and comfort for modern man. I n the song, he perhaps describes a riual taking place: We'll wait in stone circles "til the force comes through, lines join in faint discord and the stormwatch brews a concert of Kings as the white sea snaps at the heels of a soft prayer whispered". Is Anderson saying that he and a small group of others will take refuge from the oncoming "winter" by taking refuge in more "earth-friendly" ways of living and "ride the storm out" as it were?
The last song with lyrics is "Flying Dutchman." The title refers to a legendary Dutch ship whose captain is doomed to sail the seas until the Day of Judgment. For those who don't follow Anderson's course of action, an unhappy life awaits: "So come all you lovers of the good life on your supermarket run.... look around you, can you see? Staring ghostly in the mirror-- it's the Dutchman you will be ...floating slowly out to sea in a misty misery".
The album ends with a David Palmer instrumental, "Elegy." Here ends our trilogy. The appropriation of images from folklore and na ture, which were present before, come to a climax here. The conflict between urban and rural, past and present is made clear. And Ian Anderson predicts dire consequences if our present course of greed and environmental destruction is continued.

Tull would enter the 80's with a new look, a new sound and a new line-up. During the recording of Stormwatch bassist John Glascock died from heart disease. This had a great impact on the band. The exact details of this period are sketchy but the rift between Ian Ande rson and drummer Barriemore Barlow widened causing the latter to leave the band after the tour in support of the album. Barlow and Glascock were good friends so his death must have hit Barlow the hardest of any in the group. The album was finished with An derson on bass. There is nothing on the album cover to indicate Glascock died. No dedication, no "he'll be missed." His credits are in a smaller type and separate from the rest of the band's. Another supposed bone of contention was that Anderson put his own bass playing more forward in the mix of the album than Glascock's or indeed any previous bass player's work. Whatever really happened, Barlow was soon out the door. Meanwhile, Fairport Convention bassist Dave Pegg was brought into the group.

And further on

As 1980 began, Ian Anderson began work on a solo album. He brought long-time cohort Martin Barre in on guitar as well as Dave Pegg who at the time had only recorded one song with Tull. American drummer Mark Craney was recruited as well as keyboard/violin virtuoso Eddie Jobson who had previously played with Roxy Music and the prog supergroup UK. His use of synthesizers was particularly attractive to Anderson. He wanted to make an album that was very contemporary and allow him to experiment with the rel atively new instrument. The acoustic elements of Tull would be eschewed in favor of modern technology.

After the album was recorded (which Anderson described as being a very enjoyable experience) the record company decided that it should be released as a Je thro Tull album. And so David Palmer and John Evans were effectively booted out. The resulting album, A, shocked most Tull fans. (And would probably have even if were to have been released as an Anderson solo album.)

As I stated earlier in this paper, A marks the beginning of what I label the third period in Tull's history. Musically, synthesizers would play a more prominent role and Tull's lyrics would generally rehash earlier themes or elaborate upon them. This is not to say that Tull has not recorded any important music since 1979. Indeed, they have recorded some of their best music during this period. And as Anderson approached and entered middle age, some new ideas arose in his lyrics and previous themes took on new meanings within this new context. The point is that the lyrics from this period are marked overall by recapitulation and variation of themes that arose in earlier periods.
* John Benninghouse


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