Jethro Tull – Living in the Past – Classic Music Review

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My dad vividly remembers a period between Aqualung and A Passion Play when it seemed like no one in the United States could get enough of Jethro Tull, so I asked him to put his memories on e-paper:

“Your flutist mother and I had followed Tull since their inception and finally got to see them at the Fillmore in late ’69. The next year they shifted to the Berkeley Community Theatre and came back there for the Aqualung concert in ’71. I remember your mother telling me afterward, ‘I think that’s the last time we’ll see them in an intimate venue,’ and she was right—they packed the Oakland Coliseum for the Thick as a Brick tour. We were lucky and got great seats about 10 rows from the stage because tickets for The Stones at Winterland had gone on sale the day before and all the rockers had camped out all night in front of the ticket sellers in the hope of seeing Jagger. They were probably too tired to come back the next day to get seats for Tull—so even though it was the Coliseum, it was still an intimate experience for us.

“Before all that happened, I remember waiting for the follow-up album to Aqualung, heading over to Tower every week to see if it had come in. One Saturday I went to the store, checked the Tull section—no luck. I browsed around, picked up a couple of other albums and when I was at the register, there was a stack of newspapers that caught my eye—I’d never seen newspapers there before. When I looked at the headlines I couldn’t figure out why Tower Records was selling a local newspaper from some obscure town in the UK. Yeah, I know, I’m not the most observant guy in the world and I completely missed that big red block in the corner that read “JETHRO TULL.” “Holy shit!” I cried out loud, bought the album, brought it home and Nique and I listened to it several times that day.

“And then, out of the blue, Living in the Past comes out about six months later. Nobody in the US had a clue about all the singles they’d released in the UK—Tull was always an album band for us and if they released any singles in the US, we didn’t know about it. And even though I saw the album had a few retreads, I bought it the day I heard it was out. Later I remember hearing ‘Living in the Past’ playing on someone’s AM radio as I was strolling through the neighborhood and that really took me by surprise. Tull was everywhere now.”

I love hearing mom and dad talking about Tull. I never saw them in their prime, but they saw them at least twenty times. They brought me to the Concord Pavilion when I was six years old for the Crest of the Knave show, but I don’t remember much about it because I fell asleep before they came on.

Hey! I was only six! I’m sorry!

It would be years before I grew up enough to have Tull hankerings, but there have been many moments since when the only music that will do is Jethro Tull music.

I wish I’d experienced the delightful surprise of Living in the Past, an album I consider to be one of the best compilation albums ever. With the advent of bonus tracks, it seems that every album becomes a compilation album sooner or later, but most of those albums are weakened by the presence of crappy demos and loads of stuff that wasn’t good enough to make the cut on the original release. Living in the Past is loaded with some amazing work during the period covering Tull’s transformation from a blues-jazz combo to a multi-faceted ensemble capable of excellence in a range of genres. What I love most about Living in the Past is that it’s a showcase for the diversity of Ian Anderson’s songwriting. I’ve always likened Ian to a restless butterfly, constantly searching for new topics to explore and new sounds to savor, and Living in the Past encapsulates that glorious restlessness.

There have been multiple releases of the album over the years; this review covers the original UK release. All the early singles were remastered in stereo for both the UK and US albums.

Side 1

“A Song for Jeffrey”: Covered in my review of This Was. The “retreads” my father mentioned are five songs from Tull’s first four albums (the UK version features two from the US version of Benefit). They help listeners navigate the album by serving as recognizable signposts that tell them where they are in the journey. In this context, they’re hardly “retreads” but pleasurable reminders of Tull’s remarkable development.

While “My Sunday Feeling” might have been a more representative selection from This Was, I think “A Song for Jeffrey” serves as a more appropriate link to the greater diversity of Stand Up due to its sheer quirkiness.

“Love Story”: This is the A-side of a UK single released in November 1968 that managed to squeak into the Top 30. Unbeknownst to my dear old dad, the single was also released in the USA (with “A Song for Jeffrey as the B-side) and went absolutely nowhere.

If you could pick one song that served as the transition song par excellence to Stand Up, it would be this one. The song opens with Ian playing a folkish arpeggio on the mandolin; the band’s entry is heralded by a brief flute run that triggers a rocking 4/4 beat with the electric guitar providing contra-rhythms. The initial lyrical structure is straight out of the blues with its repeated opening line but Tull defies expectations with a triple shift—musical (chord pattern change marked by Mick Abraham’s wah-wah chords), rhythmic (the band backs off the straight drive and introduces new contra-rhythms) and lyrical. Instead of following classic blues structure with a closing line, Ian ends the verse with three closing lines instead of one . . . rather surprising lines at that:

Going back in the morning time to see if my love has come around, yeah
Going back in the morning time to see if my love has come around, yeah
I know what I will find
That she is wasting time
She could be picking roses

In the subsequent verses, Ian’s irritation extends to his love’s reluctance to improve her sight by painting the roof, and he finally concludes she’s not the one for him (“Her head is in the ground/She could be calling for winter”). What I hear in this song most of all is Ian Anderson’s desire to break free from the limitations of classic blues structure while still maintaining that genre’s emphasis on rhythm. “Love Story” may be an odd duck when it comes to structure, but I love the playfulness, the drive and the fresh take on good reasons to dump one’s partner.

“Christmas Song”: This was the B-side for “Love Story” in the UK and the first to reveal Ian Anderson’s interest in the subject of religious hypocrisy. This is a good place to clarify Ian Anderson’s views on religion, and given the numerous biblical references on The Zealot Gene, good timing as well. Here’s a snippet from a 2016 interview for Classic Rock:

Q: Do you believe in God?

A: I’m not a Christian. I don’t ‘do’ Jesus. But Christianity, like most of the world’s great religions, is a good, practical moral code for living. However, there are some very nasty messages in the Bible. That Moses guy – dangerous freak!

One thing I’ve always admired about Ian Anderson is his strong sense of practical morality. As such, I think he’s more “Christian” than most of the Christians I know (to say nothing of the evangelical nutcakes who dominate politics and religion in my country of birth).

The lyrics in the first verse (though not the melody) are lifted from the carol “Once in Royal David’s City,” a nice touch indeed—though I wish Ian would have found a way to work the lines “And His cradle was a stall/With the poor, and mean, and lowly” into his song, as it would have blended well with his underlying theme:

You’d do well to remember the things He later said.
When you’re stuffing yourselves at the Christmas parties,
You’ll just laugh when I tell you to take a running jump.
You’re missing the point I’m sure does not need making
That Christmas spirit is not what you drink.

So how can you laugh when your own mother’s hungry,
And how can you smile when the reasons for smiling are wrong?
And if I just messed up your thoughtless pleasures,
Remember, if you wish, this is just a Christmas song.

The arrangement is dominated by mandolin and strings, and when you look at the timeline, it’s astonishing that this single was released barely a month after This Was. No wonder Mick Abrahams decided it was time to move on.

“Living in the Past”: As my regular readers know, I began my classical music training at the age of eight and continued that training until I went to college and became a full-time slut. Nothing in classical training frustrated me more than time signatures, for while they may be fairly helpful when it comes to classical music, they’re relatively useless in modern jazz and the more fluid forms of rock due to the frequency of syncopation. Yeah, you can approximate what’s going on with the rhythm in a time signature but it’s never quite right. Hence the Wikipedia explanation of “Living in the Past”:

It is one of the band’s best-known songs, and it is notable for being written in the unusual 5/4 time signature, though it is properly felt as a very distinct 6/8 + 2/4 syncopated rhythm.

Since most rock musicians are self-taught (including Ian Anderson), I doubt very much if they give a shit about this stuff. Rhythm in rock is usually about the feel, not the numbers. I refer the reader to my review of A Passion Play, where you will learn that the unclassically trained Mr. Anderson created several sets of extraordinarily complex rhythms. And since Ian wrote this particular song in one hour while staying at a Holiday Inn in Boston, I doubt very much that he had the time to rummage through the drawers to find the goddamn notepad that’s never where it’s supposed to be and leave himself a little reminder of the time signature (not that it would have mattered all that much, since he doesn’t read or write music).

As I have mentioned so many times before, all that matters is “It’s got a great beat, Dick, and you can dance to it.” “Living in the Past” is an ass-shaking extravaganza.

The single was actually released in the UK three years before Living in the Past (where it reached #3); the single release designed to plug the album became Tull’s highest-charting single (#11) in 1972 America. When you think of the late 60s/early 70s history it may trigger an uncontrollable “ugh.” The beginning of The Troubles in Northern Ireland. Nixon and Agnew. The demise of The Beatles. Hendrix dead at 27. Dirty Harry. The My Lai massacre. Kent State. Inflation. It’s no wonder that a song about living in the past caught the public’s fancy—even though Ian Anderson never specified which past he was talking about. The mood was more “anything but here, anything but now,” and “Living in the Past” filled the bill:

We’ll go walking out
While others shout of war’s disaster . . .

Once I used to join in
Every boy and girl was my friend
Now there’s revolution, but they don’t know
What they’re fighting

Let us close our eyes
Outside their lives go on much faster

“But they don’t know what they’re fighting . . . ” I’d ask my dad what he was fighting for back in the day and his first response was always, “The Establishment.” The problem with that response is that The Establishment is an abstraction and you can’t fight an abstraction. When pressed, he defined The Establishment as “the people who have the power to make wars and oppress the disadvantaged.” Okay, that’s a little clearer, but when pressed to name names, his definition collapsed into shards of broken logic because of his obvious omissions. I mean, how were JFK and his brothers not part of The Establishment? If JFK could pick up the phone, call the editor of the New York Times and convince him not to run a story, isn’t that The Establishment in action? I know the protestors wanted to stop the war, but I never got a clear answer to the question, “And then what?” Calls for revolution were equally vague about the ultimate goal, and like John Lennon, I would have wanted to see the plan. I’m proud of the fact that my parents tried to stop a war and worked for social justice, but I can understand how a lot of people could have been confused about the aims and desired outcomes of the various anti-Establishment protest movements and chose to stay the hell away from it all.

This isn’t the only song Ian Anderson wrote on the virtues of leaving all the noise behind and building your own world indoors; you hear the same theme in the complementary pair “Inside” and “Alive and Well and Living In.” In addition to his complete lack of interest in the drug scene, “Living in the Past” made Ian Anderson something of a square in the eyes of the emerging Hip Establishment and likely sparked all the awful reviews of Tull albums that appeared with appalling regularity in Rolling Stone.

Fuck those guys. “Living in the Past” is a great song with great rhythms, and given the history of its recording, it’s a marvel that it turned out so well. Tull was on an American tour when Ian wrote the song and Terry Ellis wanted to record it immediately. The next stop on the tour was New York City but somehow they wound up in West Orange, NJ and recorded the backing track with session musicians (“the cheapest we could find”). Ian recorded his vocal somewhere in California and the other band members added their overdubs who-knows-where. The arrangement alternates between smooth sailing and gradual build in the instrumental passages (where Ian’s flute and Glenn Cornick’s nimble bass runs drive the song) and the punctuated rhythms of the verses, making for a very appealing contrast.

“Driving Song”: The B-side of the “Living in the Past” single could have easily fit on This Was with its blues-jazz overtones, but the guitar is clearly Martin Barre and not Mick Abrahams. The subject matter involves classic complaints about life on the road, a topic covered by the Stones, the Kinks, Traffic and a host of others. Though Ian complains mightily about the need for a break from touring, he did absolutely nothing about it. Here’s the tally of Tull concerts from 1969 to 1972:

  • 1969: 126
  • 1970: 101
  • 1971: 110
  • 1972: 148

My god!

“Bourée”: Covered in my review of Stand Up. There are a lot of great songs on Stand Up, but none highlight Tull’s versatility as well as this one. Good job!

Side 2

“Sweet Dream”: Their second straight Top 10 single in the UK features three separate rhythmic patterns and an orchestral arrangement courtesy of Dee (né David) Palmer. At times I have complained mightily about some of Palmer’s more elaborate efforts, but here he manages to enhance the song without overdoing it. My only gripe is that I wish the orchestra hadn’t made an appearance in the fade and interfered with the music of the chorus.

That chorus is an absolute killer, my favorite Tull chorus ever. I love the way they give it prominence by eliminating the orchestration and electric guitar present in the verses, highlighting the syncopation with a simple arrangement of 12-string guitar, bass and drums. Tull did some pretty sexy stuff in their early years, but the chorus to “Sweet Dream” is positively orgasmic (and yes, the song is featured on several of my infamous fuck playlists).

This may sound weird, but the lyrics remind me of “Redneck Friend” by Jackson Browne: the story behind both songs involves a man doing his very best to seduce the girl into leaving the parental nest.

Anderson:

Get out and get what you can
While your mummy’s at home a-sleeping.
No time to understand
‘Cause they’ve lost what they thought they were keeping.

Browne:

Well, they’ve got a little list
Of all those things of which they don’t approve
Well, they’ve got to keep their eyes on you
Or you might make your move
Little one, I really wish you would
Little one, I think the damage would do you good

Ian’s take came first, but since Jackson Browne doesn’t strike me as a Tull fan, I think the thematic similarity is purely accidental.

“Singing All Day”: This previously unreleased track takes the place of the expected b-side of “Sweet Dream,” but take my word for it that “17” is one of the worst recordings Tull ever made. It sounds like a first-take demo where everyone plays at maximum volume. Even the remastered version failed to clean things up.

I’m good with the substitution. The song has a nice, easy flow pretty much throughout with Glenn Cornick front-and-center in contrast to Clive Bunker’s complementary subtleties on the kit—but this is Tull and it wouldn’t be Tull if they didn’t shake up the rhythm every now and then. The shake-ups in this song include a middle section where the drums disappear and Ian sings the core line through an echo patch supported only by gentle flute, soft bass and guitar; the second comes in the instrumental fade where the boys insert a little hiccup between the bars.

The lyrics describe Ian in a somewhat shaky space as he waits to hear from his love interest. His description of his neurotic behavior reminds me of his mood in “To Cry You a Song,” when he sings “Flying so high, trying to remember/How many cigarettes did I bring along?”

Down in the street tryin’ to remember,
Shuffling my feet outside a men’s wear,
Is that her in the fur coat? No, it’s not December
Yet, my, my, my, oh, my, my, my

I love how Ian extends the line to get that little “yet” in.

“The Witch’s Promise”: Tull’s third consecutive Top 10 UK hit is a very early indication of Ian Anderson’s interest in UK folklore, an interest that likely began when he earned a prize in the form of a book on Scottish folklore in primary school and would reach full flower much later on Songs from the Wood.

I found a few discussions of the song in cyberspace in an attempt to find a valid interpretation of the lyrics and came up empty. I’m going to refer to my recent review of Television’s Marquee Moon and argue that the lyrics are more about establishing an atmosphere than telling a coherent story. The introduction of witches in any song, poem, play or film evokes feelings ranging from wonder to fear and images covering the gamut between burning stakes and boiling newts. All Ian had to do is come up with suitable music for his mysterious tale.

He nails it right from the get-go with doubled flute marked by cascading trills, conjuring images of birds flying above the forest or leaves falling in autumn. A brief transition featuring flute supported by a harmonizing guitar brings us to the 3/4 waltz that forms the main rhythm. Ian’s quickly improving skills on acoustic guitar provide the necessary folkishness, and he is in fine voice as he navigates the tricky melody with confidence. A sudden break in the rhythm precedes the syncopated chorus . . . and there’s no doubt that Ian has been successful in creating a rustic atmosphere colored with superstition.

In the second verse, we hear a complementary piano . . . well, hello John Evan! His appearance gives the song a bit more heft and more is on the way when Glenn Cornick comes in at the start of the chorus. The instrumental passage completes the enrichment of the arrangement, beginning with a nice flute and bass duet followed by the sound of John Evan on mellotron, adding a touch of magic to the mix. The layering also gives Ian a stronger foundation for his vocal on the bridge, which serves as the apex of the arrangement. The fade is positively glorious, with Ian trilling away over the mellotron and Cornick strengthening the forward movement. I may have only an inkling about the song’s meaning but damn, I love the arrangement and the ensemble’s performance.

“Teacher” and “Inside”: Covered in my review of Benefit.

“Just Trying to Be”: This little song recorded in 1970 was previously unreleased, probably due to its brevity. The lyrics echo the struggle in “Sweet Dream,” as Ian tries to convince a love interest that she should come with him while mum and dad believe “that the song I sing will lead you astray.” There are also some echoes of the generational struggle depicted in Thick as a Brick: “And they can’t see that we’re just trying to be and not what we seem/And even now believe that it’s not real and only a dream.”

“Just Trying to Be” is a lovely tune with a simple arrangement combining Ian’s acoustic guitar and John Evan’s celeste . . . a nice little bit of acoustic Tull to wrap up side two.

Side 3:

This is the Carnegie Hall side, where Tull performed in 1970 for the benefit of Phoenix House, a rehab center then located solely in New York, long before the sex-and-abuse scandal in California tarnished the organization’s reputation. Today, you can hear a heavily-edited version of the entire concert on the 2015 release, Live at Carnegie Hall, but I really wouldn’t bother—the recording is pretty much bootleg quality with plenty of mike feedback, random noises and poor mixes.

“By Kind Permission Of”: This highly diverse semi-improv piece features John Evan on piano. I could find no information on his musical training beyond playing in the school band in Blackpool and forming a blues-jazz band called The Blades with Ian and Jeffrey (which later morphed into John Evan’s Smash). You certainly hear blues-jazz influences in several of the riffs but I also hear more than a touch of Lizst at times on some of the runs and certainly in the more forceful passages. In a few places, I can make out the genesis of his fabulous introduction to “Locomotive Breath” and fragments of other Tull numbers. The piece is much too unstructured to call it an “étude with flute accompaniment;” it’s more of a character piece where Evan takes the lead and goes where his mind wanders and his fancy takes him. That’s not a knock at all—I like the way his mind and fingers work together.

“Dharma for One”: My review of the original on This Was wasn’t particularly favorable, but the addition of Martin Barre gives the piece more power and Clive’s centerpiece solos are crisper and more diverse. My favorite part comes at 7:14 when Clive combines an assertive attack on the toms and kick with incredibly subtle cymbal crashes, indicating a total command of the kit. Ian picks up on the band’s energy (Cornick is superb, once again) and comes through with unexpected force on the brief vocal passages.

Side 4

“Wond’ring Again”: Let me be clear: I really like the original “Wond’ring Aloud” on the original release of Aqualung. It’s a lovely, very human slice-of-life portrait similar to its companion “Cheap Day Return” in that it provides warm contrast to the heavier stuff on side one. “Wond’ring Again” takes the song out of the flat and into the coarser world of politics, silliness and greed. It’s an okay song but it doesn’t move me as much as “Wond’ring Aloud.”

The 2016 “40th anniversary adapted edition” of Aqualung features the original recording: a two-part song that combines both “Wond’ring Aloud,” “Wond’ring Again” and then some. Bloody awful. Oil and water. A double-decker peanut butter and tuna sandwich. We can all be thankful that Tull decided to keep things short and simple for Aqualung (and at 7:08, I’m not sure they could have crammed the whole thing into side one anyway). 

“Locomotive Breath”: Covered in my review of Aqualung. I’ll leave a note here to inform my readers that the single version released in many countries eliminated the brilliant John Evan/Martin Barre introduction, a sacrilege if there ever was one. However, I’m delighted to report that the French single contained the full song. Vive la France! 

“Life Is a Long Song”: I have a quibble with this one. Not once does Ian Anderson sing the phrase, “Life is a long song.” No, he sings, “Life’s a long song,” the clear and mellifluous choice. Ergo, the title is an error.

I will not apologize for being anal.

That’s really my only quibble because this is one of my favorite Tull songs and the lead song on the 1971 UK EP of the same erroneous title. The rest of Living in the Past contains the other four songs on the EP.

It’s pretty clear that “Life’s a Long Song” is a precursor to “Skating Away on the Thin Ice of a New Day,” as it bears many similarities. Both songs are life lessons addressed to the general “you.” Both begin with Ian’s acoustic guitar (after Ian has a sip of tea on “Skating Away”) and feature a gradual build towards greater density. And both feature one of Ian’s delightful phrasing quirks: a brief caesura before delivering the last word in a line:

“When you’re falling awake and you take stock of a new . . . day.”

“Meanwhile back in the year . . . one.”

The difference between the two songs (other than melody) is in the imagery. “Skating Away” has you pushing off from the shore, crossing the wilderness and getting silver splinters in your eye—it’s more metaphoric. “Life’s a Long Song” is grounded in daily reality:

As the verses unfold
And your soul suffers the long day
And the twelve o’clock gloom spins the room
You struggle on your way
Well, don’t you sigh, don’t you cry
Lick the dust from your eye

And while “Skating Away” leaves you with a question . . .

Well, do you ever get the feeling
That the story’s too damn real
And in the present tense?
Or that everybody’s on the stage
And it seems like you’re the only
Person sitting in the audience?

. . . “Life’s a Long Song” ends with the blunt truth of human mortality:

Life’s a long song
And the tune ends too soon for us all

I know I’m going to die someday, and like many people I resist that notion with every fiber of my being. I can’t imagine not wanting to be alive—ever. There’s so much to do, so much to see, so many people to meet, so many experiences to share . . . I want to live forever! I suppose you can interpret the closing line as a reminder to “live each day as if it were your last,” but I’ve always despised that philosophy. I want to live each day as if it is my first and constantly view the world through fresh eyes.

Maybe I won’t feel that way when I’m older and the body starts to give out, but when that day comes and I feel my innards shutting down, I think my dying words will be something like, “Well, this sucks!”

Ah, the power of a great songwriter to inspire self-reflection . . . and Ian Anderson certainly qualifies.

“Up the ‘Pool”: Imagine a universe where Ian Anderson’s family hadn’t relocated to Blackpool in 1959. He never would have met John Evans (original last name), Barriemore Barlow, Glenn Cornick, Jeffrey . . . there might never have been a Jethro Tull.

Unthinkable!

According to Songfacts, Ian really didn’t think much of the city: “Anderson is not a big fan of the town, sometimes telling audiences, ‘I would advise you not to go to Blackpool because it’s not a great place, really.'” I don’t hear much in the way of vitriol when I listen to the song . . . but there’s not much in the way of fond memories either. I suppose Ian would have found any beach resort town a bit predictable:

There’ll be buckets, spades and bingo,
Cockles, mussels, rainy days,
Seaweed and sand castles, icy waves,
Deck chairs, rubber dinghies,
Old vests, braces dangling down,
A suntanned stranded starfish in a daze.

Nonetheless, “Up the ‘Pool” is a pleasant listening experience (especially in the last go-round when the boys in the band form a sloppy chorus). For an earthier take on the song, check out Roy Harper’s cover version on To Cry You a Song – A Collection of Tull Tales.

“Dr. Bogenbroom”: This has to be the most obscure piece in Jethro Tull’s entire catalog, and some of the lyrical interpretations I’ve read on the net go beyond idiotic. Here’s one (I’ll spare you the link to avoid embarrassing the lady):

The album also contains a song with “Dharma” in the title which suggests familiarity with a Buddhist context. I see the song being about purpose and meaning in life, a worry about being able to carry on in today’s society, and a sub-theme about drugs, either literally or as a metaphor for the wider empty satisfactions of a materialist society.

Wha-wha-what? “Dr. Bogenbroom” is a piece of Buddhist propaganda because it shared album space with “Dharma for One?” I’d like to tell the lady that the song also shares album space with “The Witch’s Promise” and see what she makes of that. THERE ARE WITCHES ON LONDON TRANSPORT! BOARD AT YOUR PERIL!

Let’s get real. This is 1971. Ian Anderson just completed an album where he spent a whole side of the album talking about god and religious hypocrisy without even a glance at Buddhism (a god-free philosophy). The title character of the album is a downtrodden homeless man, who is depicted as a sympathetic character (thanks in part to Jennie). We know enough about Ian Anderson to know that HE would never say something like “I tried my best to love you all/All you hypocrites and whores,” so Ian must be playing the role of a very bitter man with an unknown medical condition on his way to see the doctor. He has trouble getting on the bus and instead of helping, the people step over him and push him out of the way (nothing personal—“the passengers do trample/each other in the rush”). His last shot at the unruly mob is an attempt to remind them that in the larger scheme of things, we’re all on the same bus headed to the same last stop on the route:

Well, you drowned me in the fountain of life and I hated you
For living while I was dying,
We were all just passing through.
Well, I’m goin’ down to revisit Dr. Bogenbroom.
Well, I’m on my way, three cheers for Dr. Bogenbroom.

Sounds like he’s trapped in an NHS loop, headed to the doctor for some drugs that may alleviate the symptoms but won’t make him better. Yeah, I’d be pretty bitter, too.

“From Later”: This instrumental sounds like a precursor to Thick As a Brick (particularly in the opening passage and in the density of the arrangement). That opus was recorded a few months after this EP was released, so it served as a clue to where the band was headed. I’d sum it up as “two minutes of high-energy Tull that couldn’t find a home anywhere else.”

“Nursie”: I don’t know if “Nursie” describes an experience Ian Anderson had as a child, but the sweet sincerity of the song suggests a genuine life experience, and the acoustic guitar arrangement reinforces that perception through its simple intimacy. In any case, it’s a brief but lovely ending to another marvelous listening experience from Jethro Tull.

*****

You may have noticed I’ve posted fewer videos than usual. I’ve never entirely understood YouTube’s rules on video sharing, but generally, the videos that pass muster are those licensed by the record company (“Provided by [name of record company]). I tried to share several videos provided by UK Parlophone and Universal Music and the result was a big, ugly black horizontal box with VIDEO UNAVAILABLE in white block letters.

The time I spent wasn’t entirely wasted. Under the “Living in the Past” video you see above, there was a discussion thread that had morphed into a discussion of Jethro Tull’s absence from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Most of the comments expressed disgust and outrage, but the most recent comment perfectly encapsulated my feelings about the controversy . . . a “last word on the subject” par excellence:

“People say Jethro Tull are worthy of being in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame . . .

the real question is . . .

Is the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame worthy of having Jethro Tull in it?”

2 responses

  1. Excellent and informative review indeed!

  2. Great review of one of the Tull’s best albums. My only gripe is that this double LP is actually much, much better than you were able to portray it here, but words are limited and music is limitless.

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