In the humorous song
Fat Man, Ian is merely saying that he
wouldn't like to be a fat man. He is glad
that he is thin, and doesn' t have to put up
with the ridicule and harassment that
overweight individuals often go through in
life. The verse "Too
much to carry around with you" can
either be interpreted as pertaining to the
"baggage" of repeated verbal abuse
upon an overweight person's consciousness, or
to the literal extra weight that overweight
people have to carry around with them. The
verse "no chance of finding a
woman who will love you in the morning and
all the night time too" means
that, though overweight men can find a woman
of their own, their wives won' t want to make
love to them. They would be married because
of their love of each other' s personalities,
not their physical attributes. Therefore, she
would "love" him in
the morning, but not "all
the night time too." Ian
says that he could not have the patience to
ignore all of the ridicule that overweight
people receive if he were fat: "Hate to admit to
myself half my problems came from being
saying that, as an overweight person, the
ridicule and shame that you are subject to
for looking the way you do is brought upon by
yourself. Your own laziness to exercise, as
well as the lack of control of your own
appetite are the causes of your misfortune.
Jokingly, Ian says that he "won'
t waste his time feeling sorry for him, I've
seen the other side to being thin." The
only advantage to being overweight is that
you would roll down a mountain faster than a
thin person, which isn' t a very good
consolation for the emotional torment that
many overweight individuals go through, hence
it being a joke.
* Ryan Tolnay
This was written as a
way to get back at Mick Abrahams after his
departure from Tull in January 1969. It's
* Julie Hankinson
Real Player video clip of "Fat Man",
performed live at the Pistoia Blues Festival,
Italy, July 18, 1999. By kind permission of Laufi.
We Used To Know
For decades I have
assumed this song to be about looking back at
a relationship that came to an end. It looks
like a "sorry song" in which the
narrator advises his former loved one to
cherish the value of their relationship. And
perhaps it is.
However, since I read
parts of Brian Rabey's yet unpublished book "It's
For You! The Magic And Musical Mayhem Of
Jethro Tull", I
tend to take a different view on this song.
In chapter 2 "Jethro Tull
christened" I found two quotes that
suggest that the song is about the last
months of The John Evan Smash, just before
they became Jethro Tull. It refers to the
period October 1967 - February 1968. Mick
Abrahams had just joined The John Evan Smash,
which in those days was a seven piece soul
band in the process of transforming into a
blues band. They wanted to move to London to
"raid" the clubs and pubs from
there. Since Mick lived in Luton - not far
from London - the band moved to this place.
But within three days Barrie Barlow, John
Evans and the sax players went back to
Blackpool. It became clear to them that they
wouldn't earn enough money to cater for the
needs of 7 people. So the band now consisted
of Anderson, Abrahams and Cornick, and Bunker
took the vacant drummer's seat. (In his book
Rabey describes this process by citing
Cornick, Evans and Anderson).
The John Evan Band changed their
name to The John Evan Smash when they were picked for
the Granada talent show "Firsttimers". This
picture was taken on May 3, 1967, in front of the
Granada Television studio in Manchester. The
television show was broadcasted on May 24 that year.
A few months later, in September, the band would make
their first recordings with Derek Lawrence. After
that, in October the big split took place, and when
Mick Abrahams and Clive Bunker joined the John Evan
Smash turned into a blues band: the embryonic Jethro
Tull. From left to right: Neil Smith (guitar) , Ian
Anderson (vocals, harmonica, no flute yet!), Neil
Valentine (tenor sax), John Evans (hammond organ),
Barrie Barlow (drums), Tony Wilkinson (baritone sax)
and Glen Cornick (bass).
Now here is the first
quote that suggests "We Used To
Know" is about this period in the band's
history and the above mentioned split-up.
Rabey quotes Glenn Cornick who consulted his
diary about those days (I added the
applicable lines from the lyrics to that song
"Luton is also where Clive as well as
Mick came from. Ian and I were living in
apartments that were just too horrendous. I
lived downstairs and he lived upstairs. Luton
and Dunstable are doubled towns - Luton being
the lower class section and Dunstable the
upper class section. Ian and I lived in Luton
probably the worst living conditions I ever
went through in my life, but we had to live
somewhere. I remember we used to share a can
of irish stew everyday. The song "We
Used To Know" from "Stand up"
is about this period. You know the line:
"Every day shilling spent"? In
England, at that time, your gas supply was on
a meter and you used to put coins in it.
You'd be in the middle of heating up your
Irish stew and the gas would go out, because
your money had run out and, hopefully, you
would have another coin to get it going again
or you'd end up with cold Irish stew. We used
shillings and that's "Every day shilling
mornings, shillings spent").
The second quote is
from the same chapter of Rabey's book.
Anderson remembers the Luton period. After
the coins and meters Glen tells us about in
the above quote, he continues: "I ended
up being very cold. ("Nights of winter turn
me cold, fears of dying, getting old" and
possibly "... shillings spent, made no sense to leave the
Interestingly enough that was where I first
put on the prized possession with which my
father had furnished me upon my leaving home
a few weeks before, which was a huge grey
overcoat. I wore that on my first American
tour. The reason I started wearing it was
because I was very very cold. I was living in
an attic room in an old house and I used to
keep a glass of water by my bed at night and
in the morning if I wanted a sip of water I
had to break the ice on the top, it was that
In that case this song
is not by-gone love that is mourned but
splitting up a band of friends that had
worked so hard for a long period together in
the hope to make it, living their harsh life
of touring all over England, playing 6 or 7
days a week without even coming near to
By the time "Stand
Up" was released, the band had finally
arrived in Europe and was making its way
through the USA. In this songs it looks as if
the narrator very well realises what he and
the band went through before their
think about the bad old days we used to
know" and "The bad old
days they came and went giving way to
fruitful years". Their
success emerged from working hard and
consistently on their music for years: "We ran the race and
the race was won by running slowly".
The struggle for
survival, the frequent change in the line-up
of the band resulting in periods of
desintegration and building up again, the
constant search for new musical directions:
it all comes to the fore in the third stanza:
"Could be soon
we'll cease to sound,
slowly upstairs, faster down.
Then to revisit stony grounds,
we used to know."
There is even a possible reference to
this period when the band constantly changed
their name to be able to get re-booked at the
same places again (losing their sax players
on the way):
"Take what we
can before the man says it's time to go".
The last verse is a
farewell and a good luck wish to the old
friends that left. He advises them not to
look back in anger and not to forget the
adventurous time they spent together, for it
will eventually lead to new possibilities:
to his own way, I'll go mine.
Best of luck in what you find.
But for your own sake remember times
we used to know".
* Jan Voorbij
Several songs on the
Stand-Up and Benefit albums reflect the
difficult relation between Anderson and his
parents during his adolescent years, esp.
with his father: "Back To The
Family", "For A Thousand
Mothers", "Son", possibly
"Sossity: You're A Woman", and the
later recorded "Just Trying To Be"
and "Wind Up".
Anderson doesn't like these two albums very
much, considering them to be "too
self-centered". In "For A Thousand
Mothers" this difficult relationship
comes clearly to the fore.
The song is - in the
first stanza - written from the point of view
of a young man who is determined in his
choices for the furure and is starting to
become successful ("saying I'm wrong, but
I know I'm right"). In
spite of the pressure from his parents and
their unsollicited advises, he has chosen his
own way of doing things:
"Did you hear
Calling my name into the night.
Saying I'll never be what I am now.
Telling me I'll never find what I've already
The second stanza
appears to be a conversation between the
parents. Note that the "baby" mentioned
in the first line refers to the "he"-person
in the second. (Note: compare the song
"She's leaving home" from the
Beatles' Sgt. Peppers album; it has a similar
emotional quality). The parents are aware of
the young man's dreams and have to admit that
they came true:
things he's accustomed to do.
Which at one time it seemed like a dream now
it's true". The
closing lines are interesting from a
psychological point of view: here our
narrator is talking again and states that it
was the resistance of his parents, their
opposing to his ambitions and their
disapproval that made him fight even harder
to realise them, thus giving way to
you made it all happen this way".
The title of the song
and the verselines:
"It was they
who were wrong,
and for them here's a song".
suggests that it is dedicated to all
parents, who do not give their children the
"room to move" and the
"finding out for themselves",
needed to develop themselves in the direction
they choose. This theme reoccurs in the first
part of "Thick As A Brick", where
society is criticized for imposing its values
onto the young generation, stiffling them.
Ian experiences at home as well as those at
the Blackpool Grammar School are reflected in
the lyrics to that album.
* Jan Voorbij
I want to conclude this page with a personal note -
the only one I intend to make on this site: I relate
to 'Stand Up' in a special way. It was my first
Tull-album (though I knew the band for almost a year
already from listening to illegal radio stations
where "This Was"was aired). I got it from
my parents on my 17th birthday in October 1969.
In the few weeks that followed the album changed my
taste for music dramatically. It moved me away from
Beatles and Rolling Stones, Animals and Byrds,
Hollies and Move, from the soul music and the
middle-of-the-road music of this era, that I was then
interested in so much. I turned to the blues and the
American and British underground music and everything
that we nowadays would call progressive rock. Beside
Tull, my new favorites became Frank Zappa, Led
Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac, Cream, Soft Machine,
Coliseum, Pink Floyd, Neil Young, Crosby, Stills
& Nash, Jimmy Hendrix - to name a few heroes.
'Stand up' also triggered my interest for jazz,
ethnic and classical music.
It was not only that Tull from that moment on became
a musical love for life: I also discovered music as a
form of art, that like poetry and painting requires
efforts from us, readers, listeners, spectators -
containing a language that give word, image, sound,
representation to personal experiences, feelings,
worries, thoughts or whatever.
I got specially interested in lyrics, assuming like
many of us young students in those days, that every
song 'had something special to say, if one was only
willing to look for it'. This coincided with
literature classes I took for Dutch, English and
French, evoking my love for poetry.
I then of course could not foresee, that this website
eventually would sprout from this interest.......
* Jan Voorbij