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Aqualung is the forth album by Tull and many people think that it is their best.  I favor Thick as a Brick, but it is still an excellent album.  Rumor has it that critical comments about Aqualung spawned Thick as a Brick, and we shall discuss that in a bit.

It was released on 19710319 on Island Records in the UK and Reprise in the US.  By this time Anderson had completely taken control of the band, and all of the songs are written by him except for the title track which was cowritten by his wife at the time, Jennie.  Anderson, along with Terry Ellis, produced it.

The band lineup was different than that of Benefit, with Jeffrey Hammond replacing replacing Glen Cornick on bass and Barriemore Barlow replacing Clive Bunker on drums.  Remember, Jethro Tull has had more personnel changes than many bands.  Otherwise the lineup was the same as on Benefit.

The album charted at # in the UK and #7 in the US, better in the UK but worse in the US than Benefit.  Rumor has it, but I have no hard figures, that this was their best selling record.

Lots of critics deemed that Aqualung was a concept album, and Anderson vigorously denied that.  To him it was just a collection of songs, and he resented the concept album label.  The story goes that because of his hard feelings, he created Thick as a Brick, sort of the ultimate concept album as their next release.

I am not a Tull expert by any means, so there will be little discussion tonight except by readers in the comments about the deep meanings of the songs.  I will comment on which ones I like, dislike, and why.  Fair enough?

We shall start with the title song.  This is one of my favorite Tull pieces, not only because of the music but also because of the imagery.  Here it is.

Sitting on the park bench
eyeing little girls with bad intent.
Snot is running down his nose
greasy fingers smearing shabby clothes.
Drying in the cold sun
Watching as the frilly panties run.
Feeling like a dead duck
spitting out pieces of his broken luck.
Whoa, Aqualung
Sun streaking cold
an old man wandering lonely.
Taking time
the only way he knows.
Leg hurting bad,
as he bends to pick a dog-end
he goes down to the bog
and warms his feet.

Feeling alone
the army's up the road
salvation a la mode and
a cup of tea.
Aqualung my friend
don't you start away uneasy
you poor old sod, you see, it's only me.
Do you still remember
The December's foggy freeze
when the ice that
clings on to your beard was
screaming agony.
And you snatch your rattling last breaths
with deep sea diver sounds,
and the flowers bloom like
madness in the spring.

This song really rocks!  For those of you who are not familiar with British slang, a dog-end is the butt of a cigarette.  Something that was not immediately obvious to me at first was the line, "Feeling alone the army's up the road salvation a la mode and
a cup of tea.".  That is a reference to The Salvation Army and their charity of taking in and feeding the homeless in return for listening to a minister.

Please do not get me wrong.  I believe that The Salvation Army is one of the best charities, and their people indeed take the vow of near poverty.  If you want to donate to a charity, that is a really good one.

This song begs the question of who is observing and speaking to Aqualung.  Obviously it is someone quite familiar with him, and it is never clear.  And evidently Aqualung is not just down on his luck, but seems to be a despicable person, as evidenced by his proclivities about young girls.

The next song is "Cross-Eyed Mary", quite a piece.  Perhaps Mary was the one who drew Aqualung's attention, since it is made clear that she prefers much older men.  I really like this song not only because of the imagery, but also John Evan on Mellotron.

"Cheap Day Return" is one of those songs that I can not make any sense of at all, but like because is is nicely done.  Can anyone tell me what it means?

On Preston platform
do your soft shoe shuffle dance.
Brush away the cigarette ash that's
falling down your pants.
And you sadly wonder
does the nurse treat your old man
the way she should.
She made you tea,
asked for your autograph --
what a laugh.
"Mother Goose" is next, and it is also beautifully done.  I am not sure what it is about, but is has a psychedelic quality to it.

As I did walk by Hampstead Fair
I came upon Mother Goose -- so I turned her loose --
she was screaming.
And a foreign student said to me --
was it really true there are elephants and lions too
in Piccadilly Circus?

Walked down by the bathing pond
to try and catch some sun.
Saw at least a hundred schoolgirls sobbing
into hankerchiefs as one.
I don't believe they knew
I was a schoolboy.

And a bearded lady said to me --
if you start your raving and your misbehaving --
you'll be sorry.
Then the chicken-fancier came to play --
with his long red beard (and his sister's weird:
she drives a lorry).

Laughed down by the putting green --
I popped `em in their holes.
Four and twenty labourers were labouring --
digging up their gold.
I don't believe they knew
that I was Long John Silver.

Saw Johnny Scarecrow make his rounds
in his jet-black mac (which he won't give back) --
stole it from a snow man.

"Wond'ring Aloud" is a beautiful love ballad, and it still makes me cry.

I had sort of a similar experience last night.  The Girl and I had been planning to bake a Red Velvet cake for some time, and things kept coming up that interfered with us doing so.  She started texting me before her current beau had even left and told me to prepare to cook it as soon as he left.  This was extraordinary because her conk out time is generally around 10:30 to 11:00 PM.  He did not leave until after 10:00, but sure enough, she still wanted to cook it.

I took the cake pan and some other supplies over (she already had the cake mix) and we mixed the batter, cooked, then cooled the cake, and iced it last night.  It was well past midnight when I got back home, and when we spoke today we both agreed that we had a wonderful time last night, just doing something mundane and just spending time together.

Sunday next the plan is to make a cheesecake from scratch for her birthday, which is Tuesday.  That way it will be cool and ready for us to eat Monday without interference from her current beau, who will be there Tuesday.  Life is good!  By the way, I got a second piece of the Red Velvet cake this afternoon when I went to see her.

"Up to Me" completes Side One, and will have to complete this installment.  One of my dear friends in Arkansas lost his father yesterday, and I have been talking to him via the telephone for quite a while tonight.  I know how he feels, having lost my father several years ago.  I am trying to be comforting to him, but he has to find his own way to grieve and put it behind him.  It is a difficult thing to know how far to go to be supportive without being overbearing.  I shall call him later to see how he is doing.  It was not unexpected, but more sudden than anyone had expected.

I am not sure what this song means, but "half a bitter" I believe is a Brit expression for half a glass of beer.  If someone has a better interpretation, please let us know.

I know that this installment is not up to standard, but I have had a lot to do the past couple of days and little time for writing.  I shall try to do better next week when we investigate Side Two.  Please comment freely because I did not contribute very much this time.

Warmest regards,

Doc, aka Dr. David W. Smith

Crossposted at

The Stars Hollow Gazette,

Docudharma, and


Originally posted to Translator on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 05:59 PM PDT.

Also republished by An Ear for Music and Protest Music.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tips and recs for (29+ / 0-)

    a powerful set of songs?

    Warmest regards,


    I would rather die from the acute effects of a broken heart than from the chronic effects of an empty heart. Copyright, Dr. David W. Smith, 2011

    by Translator on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 05:53:59 PM PDT

  •  I heard Aqualung on my way to work (5+ / 0-)

    This morning. I've had the guitar solo in my head all day. This song totally rocks. Thanks for posting the lyrics.

    Do Pavlov's dogs chase Schroedinger's cat?

    by corwin on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 06:33:32 PM PDT

  •  The first time I heard it (8+ / 0-)

    was the second time I'd ever done acid. I was 16 or 17 and a few friends cut school to celebrate a birthday. What impressed me the most (and still does) is just how great this record sounds.

    Whoever engineered it (John Burns) and Terry Ellis really broke some nice new ground in production aesthetics, in my opinion.

    And after all these years, I noticed there is a mellotron in "Cross Eyed Mary"!

    "Societies strain harder and harder to sustain the decadent opulence of the ruling class, even as it destroys the foundations of productivity and wealth." — Chris Hedges

    by Crider on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 06:35:13 PM PDT

  •  I saw Jethro Tull in concert (7+ / 0-)

    It must have been in Seattle in the early 70s. IA had a way of dancing around and hopping on one foot while he played the flute that was most amazing. There was also a stuffed zebra that pooped out some balls that he juggled and alot of other weird effects. Unfortunately, my memories are much fuzzier for that concert that others of that era.

    This Rover crossed over.. Willie Nelson, written by Dorothy Fields

    by Karl Rover on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 06:44:24 PM PDT

  •  a cheap day return... (7+ / 0-)

    was a ticket you could buy on the English train system; you go to and return from a place the same day, and it cost little more than a one way ticket. As a poor student going to school in London in the early 70's, the options were hitchhiking or buying a cheap day return- we'd often go to Brighton for the day to get out of London.  

    I suspect the analogy is used to describe how it feels to visit his father, just for a day, on a cheap day return, and the questions he has, but can't get answers to because the back and forth in a day doesn't give him enough information.

    Maybe he only goes for the day because he simply can't be bothered to give more time.

    "When you're skating on thin ice, you might as well dance." Jesse Winchester

    by The Poet Deploreate on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 06:48:10 PM PDT

  •  This was the LP where I became a fan... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mookins, Translator, lunachickie, nellgwen

    I had heard and liked the previous albums and after hearing this one, for some reason I dug the previous ones even more.

    It's like something became clear to me about their music that I hadn't been able to "get" before.

    Also, rock bands rarely addressed the kind of subject matter on Aqualung, at least not in quite the same depth.

    As has been mentioned, it is also a GREAT sounding album, which clearly didn't hurt! The big Martin Barre guitar tone, Ian's gorgeously captured acoustic tone (great playing on Mother Goose especially), plus the fact that the album is very much "in your face" throughout, makes for a real audio delight.

    A bar band I played in during the 70's used to play Aqualung and Locomotive Breath from this album and some other Tull songs. Our lead singer would don an Aqualung/sleazy/threadbare overcoat (like on the cover) for the songs and bark them out in a pretty good Ian impersonation.

    Aqualung in particular used to bring the house down every time!

    As great as this album is (and these days I rate Benefit as almost as good), I agree with Doc, that Thick As A Brick is my favorite. I think we'll get further into that when the time comes!

    Thanks for this Doc!

    I'm not paranoid, I'm just well informed--SherwoodB

    by SherwoodB on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 06:54:28 PM PDT

    •  That will be an extraordinarily (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SherwoodB, mookins, nellgwen

      difficult subject, both technical and copyright reasons.  As I recall, and correct me if I am wrong, there were only two songs, the first side and the second side.  Brilliant as it was, the album cover was like none other (I have a very worn out original).  Hopefully I can find links to each page of it.  Creeping Downunderum is so fucking funny!

      Warmest regards,


      I would rather die from the acute effects of a broken heart than from the chronic effects of an empty heart. Copyright, Dr. David W. Smith, 2011

      by Translator on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 07:15:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Of course the classic from this album was (6+ / 0-)

    Locomotive Breath, sounding great 40 years later:

    You have exactly 10 seconds to change that look of disgusting pity into one of enormous respect!

    by Cartoon Peril on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 06:59:22 PM PDT

  •  A few memories: (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SherwoodB, Translator, texasmom, nellgwen, kurt

    The keyboard player really was as wild as depicted on the cover of Aqualung- that's what he looked like in concert.

    On Cross-eyed Mary, in concert the energy builds up like you don't get from the record, and at the base note just before the lyrics, the WHOLE audience jumped to their feet, every time I saw them, about five times.

    Tull never hurt your ears like ZZ Top etc did, they always pulled their punches on the crescendos- although they kinda had to, or the audience  would get too nuts for anyone to hear the music.

    And after the show, people leaving weren't riled up or burnt out; rather they were smiling, all filled up with music.

    One time, if the middle of a flute solo some little bastard set of a string of firecrackers- I saw him do it, just lit it, turned and ran. Anderson had to stop, they went on for ten seconds or so.

    He said this, pretty close: You may not think we're a very good band and maybe we're not, but anybody who thinks they can do better can come right down here and try!" Then he mentioned Guy Fawkes and how they still celebrated him getting caught, because "He may have been right, but it was bloody rude!" Lusty cheer from us.

    And once, this was Seattle, the concert let out at the same time as Wagner's Ring, and the operagoers merged with us; many from both dressed to the nines- stovepipe hats, Lincoln-era suits were much in evidence among the Tull folk.

    It was Alternative meets Established, right? And in front of me was a Tull couple, dressed to the nines, very attractive girl, and crossing their path were their forty-year-old counterparts from the opera, and I remember how the young guy and the old regarded each other with a level gaze, both Somebodies in their respective spheres.

    Oh yeah, one last thing: at one concert, there was a guy on a gurney, with the I.V. drip set up and everything, his friends wheeling him inside their protective cordon. Those were the Tullites of the later '70's.

  •  Awesome! (5+ / 0-)

    We live a reasonable driving distance from Daytona Beach, where Bike Week has always been a mainstay of our spring fun season. Every year, in addition to seeing Main Street and hanging out at the Iron Horse, we'd always be sure to walk over to the Jackson Hole Saloon to see the absolutely best tribute band I've ever seen to any band: they called themselves Aqualung, and they were a killer tribute to Jethro Tull (I say were because the Jackson Hole closed a few years ago and we haven't really seen them since). They did a most stunning arrangement of Up To Me and of course did all the "big" songs (Aqualung, Locomotive Breath, Bungle in the Jungle,

    Man, I haven't thought of this music since the last time I saw them (2008, maybe?). I saw the real Tull back in the late 70s, and have always been an admirer/fan of the music, it's so intricate and they were an incredible live band. I was SO pleased to see this tribute band out on YouTube, I hadda share here in this diary--did it too so I could ask if anyone else has ever heard these guys and if so, what the hell happened to them? I hope you don't mind! If it was shit, I wouldn't have posted it, but it's pretty damned good...

    Thanks for brightening up my shitty Friday, Doc, I really needed this :))

    It is time to #Occupy Media.

    by lunachickie on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 07:07:05 PM PDT

  •  TULL (6+ / 0-)

    Teacher, from their 3rd album, Benefit, was my first exposure to Tull. It blew my 8th grade head away. I bought it and every thing before and after up to (and including) Heavy Horses. Amazing live band during the Aqualung/Warchild era. Haven't seen them live since.

    •  Charlie X was (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      the title of one of the very earliest Star Trek episodes.

      Warmest regards,


      I would rather die from the acute effects of a broken heart than from the chronic effects of an empty heart. Copyright, Dr. David W. Smith, 2011

      by Translator on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 09:33:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Who is Jethro Tull (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Translator, nellgwen, Brown Thrasher

    Has anyone heard that Jethro Tull is the person who invented a machine for planting multiple rows of seeds. Before that people sowed seeds. In other words they just threw them on the ground and hoped they sprouted. Saw Tull in Memphis for the "Songs of the Woods" tour.

  •  I do know that they got the idea for (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

       Harry Shearer as Derek Smalls to smoke a pipe from Jethro Tull.
        I love Mother Goose too. It's one of my favorite songs on the album. It always puts me in mind of Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields.
        Maybe Aqualung is Jethro Tull's Sargent Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album.
         I know there was a sort of rivalrous relationship with Jethro Tull and Led Zeppelin. Maybe that kind of competitiveness helped both bands.
         Both bands got really better after a certain tour they were both on. More so with Jethro Tull I think. I couldn't wrap my heart around them until Aqualung.

    You guys can call him what you want, after today he'll forever be known to me as Mitt the Inept., and Lady Ann his wife.

    by nellgwen on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 11:41:16 PM PDT

  •  I remember seeing Tull in concert, musta been... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Translator, kurt

    the "Minstrel in the Gallery" tour with the band in David-Byrne-style big suits.  And Anderson made one of the most astounding entrances I've ever seen.  From a dark stage the players appeared one by one in tight spotlights until finally (he must've had a mini-tramp back there) Ian came bounding OVER THE DRUMMER with flute in hand.  He stuck the landing like Kerri Strug, precisely in front of the microphone, raised the flute to his lips right on the beat and away we went.  Damnedest thing I've ever seen.

    It ain't free speech if it takes cash money.

    by Uncle Igor on Sat Aug 25, 2012 at 12:16:23 AM PDT

    •  First saw Tull in concert 1973 (0+ / 0-)

      .... with opening act Steeleye Span.

      My first rock concert ever....

      ... so lost my virginity to Tull ;)

      #3: ensure network neutrality; #2: ensure electoral integrity; #1: ensure ecosystemic sustainability.

      by ivote2004 on Sat Sep 01, 2012 at 12:09:36 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I suppose I might like Aqualung better (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    if it wasn't the only Jethro Tull album ever played on the radio.

    (Of course, who listens to the radio now?)

    The thing about quotes on the internet is you cannot confirm their validity. ~Abraham Lincoln

    by raboof on Sat Aug 25, 2012 at 07:11:10 AM PDT

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