~ Nightcap ~



An introduction to "Nightcap"

In the wake of the '25th Anniversary Box Set' and the double CD 'The Anniversary Collection', Chrysalis came up with yet another but very special release of archive material: the double CD 'Nightcap'.

The first one, called 'My Round' caused great excitement among Tull-fans since it contained the previously unreleased tapes from the Château D'Hérouville sessions of 1972. Only three songs were released earlier on the 20 Years Of Jethro Tull Box Set and two on the War Child album in 1974. These Château-tapes were believed to be missing, but Ian found them back after working his way through a large amount of old studio tapes. Most of the material was (re)mastered, but a few pieces were left out however, since Ian judged them being "simply wretched" (1).

The second CD, titled 'Your Round', contained previously unreleased studio tracks from 1974 to 1988, including material from the 'Rock Island' and 'Catfish Rising' sessions. It contains some of Anderson's finest songs, showing his versatility and craftmanship as both a songwriter and a musician in delightful pieces like 'A Small Cigar', 'Crew Nights', 'Commons Brawl' and 'Broadford Bazaar' and it makes one wonder why they were not released before. The price of this album was kept as low as possible and the songwriting royalties were donated to The Animal Health Trust and Balnair House, Home of Highland Music.

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My Round: The Château D'Isater Tapes

The Château D'Isaster Tapes

  • In August 1972 Jethro Tull went to France to record the follow-up to 'Thick As a Brick' at the Château D'Hérouville studios. The backing tracks plus some overdubs for three sides of a double album were completed before 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 'Château 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. David Rees states, that parts of the Chateau-tapes were unfinished: ".... he (Ian) set to work in the studio to present it almost as it was originally intended. A lot of the flute playing on the tracks is therefore of recent pedigree, but he decided against recording the missing vocal parts" (1). Finally, I m not convinced that the sequencing of the songs in 1993 is the same as it was envisioned in 1972.
  • 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 life in New York.)
    'Animelée' follows. The title (the first 3 songs are instrumentals) suggests a fight between animals or at least a general sense of turmoil. Note that 'animals' and 'melée' are contracted in this title.
    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, " would you like to be one? , would you like to free one" and " 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', a song that was never completed, 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.
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  • 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 that prevail in the next three songs: 'Solitaire', 'Critique Oblique' (and) 'Post Last'. 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 'Left Right' introduces us to the"master playwright". Perhaps this is reference to human nature, perhaps to God, who later reappears in Scenario: "Then God, the director, smells a rat...". He urges you to play right/play wrong. I take this to mean that people can be both good and bad, being urged to make choices all the time. 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. 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. Men is left on his own now as God (or his belief in him) leaves: "Well, that's that, I'm going". In 'Audition' we see how fathers and sons are now at each other's throats. The play is modern life - life in modern, urban city where evryone of us has to sort everything out for himself.
    "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". This 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, as these verselines from 'Scenario' show:
    "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. Compare the cynical contents in the last verse of Scenario to that the last verse of Audition: it seems that God after starting off all these passion plays He now is amused about what He sees and doesn't care at all:
    "But God is laughing up his sleeve
    as he pours himself a cup of tea,
    and He waves good-bye yo you and me, at least for now"
    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? 'No Rehearsal' follows, taking the passion play from a different angle. We come into life with no script or experience and have to play our own passion play in a society that is obsessed with materialism. While we have to improvise and sort things out all by ourselves with all sails set, we are so obsessed with maintaining ourselves on 'life's stage', that we are not aware of the dead end street our society has run into. It will lead to disaster that surprises all of us:
    "When the bomb that's in the dressing room
    blows the windows from their frames"
    The last verse satirizes the quality of this kind of life: it looks great from the outside, but a closer look will reveal its shortcomings, lack of sincerity and limitations:
    "Well, the scenery is colourful, but the paint is so damn thin.
    You see the wall behind is crumbling, and the stage door is bricked in"
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  • The lyrics to the Château D' Isaster tapes are complicated and because the album was never finished and the originally intended sequence is not reconstructable, they 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. This specific theme will reappear and is gradually more worked out on the trilogy 'Songs From The Wood', 'Heavy Horses' and 'Stormwatch'.
  • As I said, the album was never completed and parts of the tapes were never released on record. One of them is a three minute segment of a take that was never finished and is by Tull-fan Sam Therouin called 'Sailor'. It definitely stems from the "Chateau D'isaster" tapes as it is crammed between the ending of Skating Away and the beginning of No Rehearsal. The lyrics as I understand them are:
    "When the (cold, thin actor?) decides to take a look,
    refers to the pages of his holy book,
    sends the warm rain falling from the sky,
    if you've never been a sailor better try
    if you've never been a sailor you better try."
    (The last phrase is repeated over and over again)
    Sam Thirouin sent me his
    MP3 file of Sailor, which does take some time to download.
  • Another snippet of these tapes is 'Hard Hearted English General', that was played during concert from 1972 to 1975 as part of the encore. You'll find a MP3 of an audience recording here. (Thank you, Sam!).

    Some musical ideas and bits of lyrics were recycled for the next album 'A Passion Play', or should we say that the tapes are 'A Passion Play' in its embryonic state? 'Solitaire', a response to a particular critic, dates back to the Château D' Isaster sessions, but was first released on the
    'Warchild' album, as was 'Skating Away On The Thin Ice Of The New Day', that so unfortunately was not included in this album.
    * John Benninghouse: "Songs From The Wood, the music and lyrics of Ian Anderson/Jethro Tull", 1994; additional research and corrections: Jan Voorbij; 1. David Rees: "Minstrels In The Gallery, A History Of Jethro Tull",1998.
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  • I have my own toughts about the sequence Scenario - Audition - No Rehearsal. My picture of this is:
    A) Scenario. This is what God started with as a manuscript and He saw the scenario like it's discribed here, then He tought that why tell man what he shall do, let him improvise.
    "The lines you'll have to improvise".
    B) Audition. Then He has an audition and He let man compete to see who's the fitted to bee in the play. He's sitting and watch it and He sends away all that He don't want in His play: "and He waves goodbye to you and me at least for now."
    C) No Rehearsal. Then the life of man begins and God is watching man ruins his life and turns everything into armageddon.
    And God is back to scratch and begin a new scenario.
    * Lars Fuglesang


Back to "Nightcap - My Round" lyrics page

Forward to "Nightcap - Your Round" annotations page 1


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