As much as I might like to say I was a fan of Jethro Tull from the band’s beginning, I had not heard of them before the hit song Living In The Past began receiving airplay. I dare say others who were my age were a lot like me. The band went through a number of changes in their musical style as well as personnel over the years, Ian Anderson (lead vocals, guitar and flute) being the only member involved in every iteration of the band.
Still, I wasn’t a fan of the group until, while visiting my sister at Wittenberg University, I accompanied her to a coffee house that was featuring a guitar toting folk singer. He played a cover of Cross-eyed Mary, a song that, at the time, I had never heard, and so I believed wrongly that it was an original composition. Afterward, I went up to the singer and complimented him, particularly on that song. He told me he loved doing Jethro Tull songs. And so, I knew I needed to do a little more research into the group’s musical library.
At least I knew the band’s name did not refer to any member of the group. That has always irked me when someone says of Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd or Jethro Tull, “Oh yeah, he’s good.” Anyway, I located the then recently released album containing the song Cross-eyed Mary and purchased it. What I discovered was that I liked the whole album, especially Locomotive Breath and Hymn 43.
Although the album is regarded as a concept album about the distinction between religion and God, Ian Anderson refused that label. In fact, in response to so many calling it a concept album, he wrong and record what he termed the ‘mother of all concept albums ‘Thick As A Brick’, an album which is essentially one song spanning both side of the LP record.
Aqualung was a different listening experience, from the musical style to the controversial views expressed in the lyrics – essentially saying that religion is not a necessary intermediary to have a personal relationship with the Divine aspect in nature. That might seem radical concept to a teen who had been brought up in a conservative Baptist household, except it was very close to what I personally believed.
The album also touched on other themes such a man’s inhumanity featured several characters portraying the human condition and what is commonly called the ‘rat race’.
Jethro Tull released a number of successful albums in the 70’s, several generated hit songs and received airplay as the band defined a unique niche in progressive rock that fused folk and blues with a harder edge rock. In its many different lineups the band received several gold and platinum album awards and even a surprise Grammy in the late 80’s that is often cited by purists as evidence of how out of touch the award had become. Jethro Tull beat out favorite Metallica for the best Heavy Metal album of the year. The band’s management advised members that they had no chance of winning the award and so they were not in attendance for the ceremony.
#70sMusic #JethroTull #IanAnderson #Aqualung #ThickAsABrick