Cup Of Wonder
The Annotated Jethro Tull Lyrics Page

Annotations, information, comments, references

~ Nightcap ~




Your Round: Unreleased & Rare Tracks

Silver River Turning

  • What Ian describes here is what has happened in many small towns in 'written off' parts of Scotland and Cornwall e.g. during the seventies and the Thatcher era. Note the double entendre in "the silver river turning blue". 'Blue' might refer to the pollution of the river and to a feeling of sadness about what has been lost.
    * Jan Voorbij

Crew Nights

  • The song depicts the stressful and hazardous life on the road as led by the roadies, who have to make sure that everything works well and the band can make it's gig into a success. I take this song as a kind of tribute to 'the underrated, anonymous men in the background who make it all work'. The ingenuity of this song lies in the tempo and variety of images: both underline the fast lives roadies are living. Ian must have known by experience what he was talking about, for in the 'Production Manual' issued for the Broadsword tour, he describes how life was when the band couldn't afford a professional crew and "trundled up and down the motorways and trunk roads of Britain in a rusting Ford Transit van (...) with one roadie-cum-driver to aid and abet, we did a great deal of the humping ourselves, struggling manfully with 4x12 cabinets upstairs and down cellars and setting up and wiring everything in a blind panic before the doors opened".
    * Jan Voorbij

  • "Tearing down in double quick time to get the "A" truck shifted 'bout midnight."
    The comment in the 'Production Manual': "Six 40-foot trailers were needed to ship the equipment by road and certain items, like the P.A. cradles for 'flying' the system and lighting trusses, were duplicated in order that the riggers and crews could 'leap-frog' each other, playing alternate shows, while the 'A' trucks containing the P.A., lights and stage gear and instruments worked every show, along with the stage crew itself." So, after each show, there was a huge rush to get the key equipment packed into the 'A' truck and off to the next venue, but once that had gone, there was far less urgency, as the rest of the gear wasn't needed until the show after next ('Tomorrow is an off-day, be in Baltimore by Thursday is the only law.'). This meant the crew could relax a bit; they'd done the essential part of their job, and could pack the rest of the equipment (mainly scaffolding) in the morning.
  • "Crew nights, no bar fights or 'Reader's Wives'...". 'Reader's Wives' is a porn magazine, the sort of thing roadies might 'read' on tour, being away from their wives and girlfriends. There is no need for porn magazines on this occcasion, since there are real women around!
    * Neil R. Thomason

The Curse

  • In "The Curse", Ian sings "Went down to the local disco, In what used to be the one-and-nines...". The "one-and-nines" referred to are the cheap front seats in a UK cinema, referred to in pre-decimal UK currency, which was introduced in 1971. They invariably cost one (shilling) and nine (pence). In the 1970's a lot of cinemas in the UK closed down and were turned into discos, bingo halls and the like. Another similar reference is to be found in "Taxi Grab", with the line "Teatime calls, the bingo halls, Open at seven in the old front stalls".
    * March the Mad Scientist

A Small Cigar

Commons Brawl

  • The UK Parliament is split into two 'houses': the House of Commons and the House of Lords.  The House of Commons consists of 540 democratically elected members from constituencies in England and Northern Ireland. The House of Lords is an unelected group of both hereditary peers (those members of the aristocracy who have inherited their title by accident of birth) and lifetime peers (those who have been granted a position in the Lords by the Prime Minister of the day). Legislation is made by the House of Commons. However, before it can become law, it must be passed to the House of Lords. Therefore it is the undemocratic House which has the final powers to either pass or amend or reject UK legislation. At the present moment (1999) the ruling Labour Party are seeking to abolish the House of Lords . . . so this aristocratic anachronism may soon be a thing of the past.
  • "All right and honourable gentlemen, and lady too...". The lady in question would be Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister from 1979 - 1991. Her government was much prone to division, particularly over the matter of Europe. "One member": 'Member' as in MP (Member of Parliament).
    "Let's serve this brief": I'm not sure 'brief' is the word commonly used in Parliament; it's usually a 'bill'. But the idea is the same, i.e.a preliminary draft of proposed legislation to be put before Parliament.
    "... poor Guy went to the wall ..." stands for Guy Fawkes was born in York in 1570. His parents were Protestant, but Guy became a zealous Catholic in his late teens, and went on to serve in the Spanish army in the Netherlands from 1593 to 1604. Along with eight others, Guy was a conspirator in the 'Gunpowder Plot', their intention being to blow up the House of Lords and King James I in one fell swoop at the opening of parliament on 5th Nov 1605. On the 4th November the plot was discovered, and Guy Fawkes was hanged for treason on 31st January 1606.
    *Andy Jackson
  • "… as the party firmly did divide". When there's a formal vote in the Commons, the Division Bell (c.f. Pink Floyd's 1994 album!) is rung, and the MPs file into the division lobbies (i.e. a 'yes' lobby, and a 'no' lobby), where they're counted and the vote decided. The Party authorities try hard to make all their MPs vote the same way on key issues, so when MPs don't enter the division lobby the Party wants them to, it's quite a major issue, certainly newsworthy. There's a key point about all this that particularly reinforces the theme of the song. When an MP 'rebels', and votes the 'wrong' way, the focus of the newspaper reports is that the MP disobeyed his/her leader - the procedures and conventions of the Commons overshadow the actual subject of what the vote was about, which should really be the central issue.
    * Neil Thomason

Broadford Bazaar

  • Broadford is a small town on Skye, with a ferry terminal (presumably the one mentioned in 'Ears Of Tin' ). It's quite a chaotic place, with tourists wandering about, locals getting on with their daily business, and far more traffic than the road system was designed to cope with. Hence the image of a bustling Middle Eastern bazaar. In addition to the usual shops of any Scottish market town, there are plenty of gift shops and opportunities to separate tourists from their money. It's the nearest town to Ian's old estate at Strathaird. The implication of the song is that there's a market in Broadford - not just livestock, groceries and souvenirs, but homes, jobs, heritage and land - everything is for sale.
  • "Dirty white caravans down narrow roads sailing.
    Vivas, Cortinas, weaving in their wake."

    The song begins with the image of holidaymakers driving around Skye, towing caravans. The Vauxhall Viva and Ford Cortina were models of cars common in Britain in 1978. More to the point, they were family-saloon type cars, ill-suited to the narrow rural roads of Skye.
    "With hot, red-faced drivers, horns' flattened fifths wailing,
    Putting trust in blind corners as they overtake"
    The drivers are struggling to manoeuvre their unwieldy vehicles on the narrow, twisting minor roads, complicating matters by their arrogance and poor knowledge of the roads. A situation I've frequently seen in rural Wales is where a queue of traffic builds up behind a tractor or slow-moving car towing a caravan. Invariably, someone gets impatient and attempts to overtake. However, the road is also invariably inappropriate for overtaking - blind corners, the brows of hills, etc. suspect Ian had frequently turned a corner to be confronted by a tourist hurtling towards him on the wrong side of the road!
  • "All kinds of people come down for the opening
    Crofters and cottars, white settlers galore"
    A croft is simply a small farm, the traditional unit of agriculture in the Scottish Highlands. 'Cottier' is the Irish version, with different implications in law. A cottar is a Scottish peasant occupying a cottage in exchange for labour; i.e. an agricultural worker who gets a cottage as part of his employment - his employer owns the cottage, and if the worker leaves his job, he has to vacate the cottage. A cottier is an Irish tenant holding land as the highest bidder. As understand it, residence is for a fixed period, then the bidding process is repeated, for the tenant to renew the lease or for someone else to take over the tenancy. However, I suspect Ian was thinking of cottierism in this case, where rich outsiders are able to outbid the poorer locals, so the Skye locals become displaced from their own homes. "'White settlers" is a term evoking colonialism in Britain's imperialist past, where British people moved to live in foreign countries, particularly India and South Africa, generally taking the best properties and reorganising social life to their preferences. In this case, it's outsiders taking over the small Skye communities.
  • "We'll take pounds, francs and dollars from the well-heeled,
    And stamps from the Green Shield"
    Green Shield stamps: a system whereby people could save money a little at a time, to spend on groceries, etc.; a way of spreading everyday expenses. Also mentioned in Genesis' "Selling England By The Pound" (1973). Note that this was a saving scheme, not US-style Food Stamps. The hypothetical shopkeepers in the song will happily charge premium prices to foreign (including English!) tourists, but will support poorer locals by accepting the trading stamps instead of cash.
    * Neil R. Thomason

Man Of Principle

    This is a song about the Public schools of England who by breeding and money produce Men of Principle who enter into the House of Commons or mostly the House of Lords in Englands Parliament or become captains of Industry
    He leaves school having been on the rugby team ..three cheers..and has had the complete schollong to fill his dads shoes..his dad being also a peer of the realm.
    Even when he has the chance to bed this girl ..he remembers his background and schooling and responsibility...he is a man of principle
    He wants to do all the things he would love to do but his old school tie is dragging him back...he cannot free himself. Out of school now its hard to keep up that dedication.
    * John Taylor

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Modified: July 30 2003

Jan Voorbij (1998-2009)