~ 20 Years Of Jethro Tull~


This set of this compilation contains songs that were all completed and several were mixed and ready for release. They didn't make it to the albums for various reasons. Ian explains this in the booklet that comes with the compilation: "... probably because they didn't fit in with the rest of the album of which they were supposed to be a part or, perhaps, because there was some aspect of them with which I became disenchanted. The odd bar that made a brief visit to the major third, maybe? Or something a bit wet in the lyrics?" Hence the 'flawed gems'.

Lick Your Fingers Clean

  • The song was recorded during the Aqualung-sessions (1971), but Ian decided that 'Wind Up' was a more appropriate finale for that album. It was reworked in 1974 and included as 'Two Fingers' as finalling song on the WarChild album. The adaptation consists of a different musical phrasing and choice of instruments and a variation of time schemes. The lyrics were changed to fit in with the WarChild context.
    * Jan Voorbij

  • Ian's quote about religious institutions operating as a 'social service' instead of a spiritual one' would perfectly tie-in with those lyrics in 'Lick Your Fingers Clean' you mentioned: "and the hard-headed social worker who bathes his hands in blood . . . . " which were re-written later as "hard-headed miracle worker who bathes his hands in blood . . . .". I think it's clear, from the above quote, that Ian was referring to ministers of the Church as 'hard-headed social workers', as opposed to spiritual guides or whatever. And in re-writing the lyrics for 'Two Fingers', it looks like he decided to make the religious reference a little clearer, by referring to them as 'miracle workers'.
    * Andy Jackson

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  • In this remarkable song, recorded in 1977 during the Heavy Horses sessions, Ian Anderson's capability of evoking sylvan and rural imagery comes to the fore in all self-penned originals. He applies images taken from the old Celtic Beltane festival. Hodgson points out, that against "the background of agrarian dependency and fear of the unknown there eventually developed two separate, yet connected cycles, each of four annual festivals. These were designed both to mirror the changing seasons and to secure the favour of the gods", referred to in this song: "... the phantoms of three thousand years...".
    Beltane was possibly the biggest festival of all eight and took place on May Day itself, between midnight
    ("Have you ever stood in the April wood and called the new year in?") and sunrise ("and the red cloud hanging high").
    The cult spread across Britain, ancient Gaul and as far as northern Italy and is by some believed to be named after the god Belenus (Bašl?). "Winter was proclaimed dead for another year on this day and, aided by the moon, the sun was again declared victorious. Sacred fires were lit upon holy hills and flaming torches were carried around the fields to celebrate his triumph".
    This festival and its rites were meant to ensure fertility for people, livestock and land, but also to bannish infertility, diseases and other evil. "People would dance sunwise around the fires and even jump through the flames so as to purify themselves for the coming year. They would then drive their livestock between the fires for similar reasons". Thus was the masculine, solar, sky-father annually joined with the feminine, lunar, eart-mother in accordance with each other and balance both in human life and nature as well was restored. Such was the belief.

    Apart from dancing and singing, people supported the rejuvination by having sex in field and wood.
    ("Thrust your head between the breasts of the fertile innocent." (and) "while the kisses drop like a fall of shot from soft lips in the rain, come a Beltane.") Stories abound of young men and women running amok in the woods on the eve before the first of May. Church officials condemned such practices, swearing that a full two-thirds of the maidens returned home "defiled" (Lloyd, 106-107). For the pre-Christian peasant, however, these were not defiling acts: The first of May was seed time, and after planting it was believed that the seeds should be assisted in their fertilization. The sexual energy of the most virile members of the community was required to ensure the success of the crops (Lloyd, 106). Young couples copulated in the furrows of the fields to assist the crops along as well (99). As a result of these pagan practices, sexual imagery involving fields and farms is abundant (200)." I included some vivid descriptions of the Beltane festival further down this page.

    Now back to the song itself. As for the darkly and glittering imagery this song has the same atmosphere as the "Heavy Horses" album and the only reason it was left out is in my opinion that the tenor of this song would have made it more appropriate to "Songs From The Wood", where Anderson implicitely pleads for a renewed care and respect for nature, tradition and sense of community as a remedy for the environmental pollution, pursuit of gain, and alienation that is so evident in today's society. I refer here specifically to the last stanza, were the link is made to "us here and now". Our surroundings (society?) for instance are described as
    "your parks and towns so knife-edged orderly". In spite of our striving to control nature, the green man goes his own way and reminds us of that ("... as the thin stick bites"), by rapping our knuckles with his cane. In this context the last "come a Beltane" sounds like a wish, a prayer maybe, for a new era in which people will be more caring for nature and themselves.... March the mad scientist springs to mind here....
    Note the double twist in the imagery here: the
    "cane of sweet hazel" crashes down on the knuckles, but also on the window-sill! As if the boundary ('window') between fantasy/myth and the reality of life is broken by his warning blow.
    * Jan Voorbij ; Source: "The Phantoms of 3000 Years, a look at some of the myths behind the music of Jethro Tull", Alan J. Hodgson, Birstal, UK (1993)

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  • In the Central Highlands of Scotland, bonfires, known as the Beltane fires, were formerly kindled with great ceremony on the first of May, and the traces of human sacrifices at them were particularly clear and unequivocal. The custom of lighting the bonfires lasted in various places far into the eighteenth century, and the descriptions of the ceremony by writers of that period present such a curious and interesting picture of ancient heathendom surviving in our own country that I will reproduce them in the words of their authors.
    The fullest of the descriptions is the one bequeathed to us by John Ramsay, laird of Ochtertyre, near Crieff, the patron of Robert Burns and the friend of Sir Walter Scott. He says:

    "But the most considerable of the Druidical festivals is that of Beltane, or May-day, which was lately observed in some parts of the Highlands with extraordinary ceremonies . . . Like the other public worship of the Druids, the Beltane feast seems to have been performed on hills or eminenc e s. They thought it degrading to him whose temple is the universe, to suppose that he would dwell in any house made with hands. Their sacrifices were therefore offered in the open air, frequently upon the tops of hills, where they were presented with the grandest views of nature, and were nearest the seat of warmth and order. And, according to tradition, such was the manner of celebrating this festival in the Highlands within the last hundred years. But since the decline of superstition, it has been cel e brated by the people of each hamlet on some hill or rising ground around which their cattle were pasturing. Thither the young folks repaired in the morning, and cut a trench, on the summit of which a seat of turf was formed for the company. And in the middle a pile of wood or other fuel was placed, which of old they kindled i.e., forced-fire or need-fire [fire made by friction]. Although, for many years past, they have been contented with common fire, yet we shall now describe the process, because it will hereafter appear that recourse is still had to the "tein-eigin" upon extraordinary emergencies.
    The night before, all the fires in the country were carefully extinguished, and next morning the materials for exciting this sacred fire were prepared. The most primitive method seems to be that which was used in the islands of Skye, Mull, and Tiree. A well-seasoned plank of oak was procured, in the midst of which a hole was bored. A wimble of the same timber was then applied, the end of which they fitted to the hole. But in some parts of the mainland the machinery was different. They used a frame of green wood, of a square form, in the centre of which was an axle-tree. In some places three times three persons, in others three times nine, were required for turning round by turns the axle-tree or wimble. If any of them had been guilty of murder, adultery, theft, or other atrocious crime, it was imagined either that the fire would not kindle, or that it would be devoid of its usual virtue. So soon as any sparks were emitted by means of the violent friction, they applied a species of agaric which grows on old birch-trees, and is very combustible. This fire had the appearance of being immediately derived from heaven, and manifold were the virtues ascribed to it. They esteemed it a preservative against witchcraft, and a sovereign remedy against malignant diseases, both in the human species and in cattle; and by it the strongest poisons were supposed to have their nature changed.
    After kindling the bonfire with the " tein-eigin" the company prepared their victuals. And as soon as they had finished their meal, they amused themselves a while in singing and dancing round the fire. Towards the close of the entertainment, the person who officiated as master of the feast produced a large cake baked with eggs and scalloped round the edge, called "am bonnach beal-tine" i.e., the Beltane cake. It was divided into a number of pieces, and distributed in great form to the company. There was one particular piece which whoever got was called "cailleach beal-tine" i.e., the Beltane "carline", a term of great reproach. Upon his being known, part of the company laid hold of him and made a show of putting him into the fire; but the majority interposing, he was rescued. And in some places they laid him flat on the ground, making as if they would quarter him. Afterwards, he was pelted with egg-shells, and retained the odious appelation during the whole year. And while the feast was fresh in people's memory, they affected to speak of the "cailleach beal-tine" as dead."

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    In the parish of Callender, a beautiful district of western Perthshire, the Beltane custom was still in vogue towards the end of the eighteenth century. It has been described as follows by the parish minister of the time:

    "Upon the first day of May, which is called "Beltan", or "Baltein" day, all the boys in a township or hamlet meet in the moors. They cut a table in the green sod, of a round figure, by casting a trench in the ground, of such circumference as to hold the whole company. They kindle a fire, and dress a repast of eggs and milk in the consistence of a custard. They knead a cake of oatmeal, which is toasted at the embers against a stone. After the custard is eaten up, they divide the cake in to so many portions, as similar as possible to one another in size and shape as there are persons in the company. They daub one of these portions all over with charcoal, until it be perfectly black. They put all the bits of the cake into a bonnet. Every one, blindfold, draws out a portion. He who holds the bonnet is entitled to the last bit. Whoever draws the black bit is the "devoted" person who is to be sacrificed to "Baal", whose favour they mean to implore, in rendering the year productive of the sustenance of man and beast. There is little doubt of these inhuman sacrifices having been once offered in this country, as well as in the east, although they now pass from the act of sacrificing, and only compel the "devoted" person to leap three times through the flames; with which the ceremonies of this festival are closed".

    Thomas Pennant, who travelled in Perthshire in the year 1769, tells us that

    "on the first of May, the herdsmen of every village hold their Bel-tien, a rural sacrifice. They cut a square trench on the ground, leaving the turf in the middle; on that they make a fire of wood, on which they dress a large caudle of eggs, butter, oatmeal and milk; and bring besides the ingredients of the caudle, plenty of beer and whisky; for each of the company must contribute something. The rites begin with spilling some of the caudle on the ground, by way of libation: on that everyone takes a cake of oatmeal, upon which are raised nine square knobs, each dedicated to some particular being, the supposed preserver of their flocks and herds, or to some particular animal, the real destroyer of them: each person then turns his face to the fire, breaks off a knob, and flinging it over his shoulders, says, "This I give to thee, preserve thou my horses; this to thee, preserve thou my sheep; and so on." After that, they use the same ceremony to the noxious animals: "This I give to thee, O fox! spare thou my lambs; this to thee, O hooded crow! this to thee, O eagle!" When the ceremony is over, they dine on the caudle; and after the feast is finished, what is left is hid by two persons deputed for that purpose; but on the next Sunday they reassemble, and finish the reliques of the first entertainment."
    * Andy Jackson. The quotations are taken from: J.G. Frazer: "The Golden Bough", Abridged Version 1987 (cop. 1922), Macmillan (London),  pp. 617-622

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  • Originally recorded in 1979 for the 'Stormwatch' album, but left out. The track was remixed in April 1988 for this compilation.


  • The exact recording date of this song is unknown, but it was probably somewehere in 1974. It has however nothing to do with the 'Warchild', released that year.

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"20 Years Of Jethro Tull: Flawed Gems And The Other Sides Of Tull"


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