The band known as Jethro Tull blew things wide open in 1972 with a single 43 minute song/concept album that hit #1 everywhere from Denmark to Australia to the Americas, even Vietnam. Which suddenly meant that Ian Anderson and the band could do pretty much anything they wanted career wise, including the release of a double album of (mostly) unreleased stuff from the previous four years and four albums of their career (so far). Living in the Past it was called and full of odd gems it was including a live version of Dharma For One which initially showed up as an instrumental on their first album but come the concert trails of 1970 had picked up some lyrics and otherwise expanded and evolved into a longer, wilder, more progressive beast indeed. The word gobsmacking comes to mind, though the drum solo does go on a bit.
“It’s Christmas 1972, a party at family friends. I’m thirteen and barely old enough to be hanging with the big kids. Just shut up and sit in the corner. And then they all go outside to smoke a joint. They even invite me along, but no way, not with my parents barely fifty feet away. Which leaves me alone with the record that’s playing – Aqualung by Jethro Tull, getting to the end of Side Two, a song about all the religious bullshit they push on you when you’re a kid, which I had no problem agreeing with, particularly the part about God not being a simple toy. You didn’t just wind Him up once a week, say few stupid prayers and then get on with your everyday lying, cheating, stealing. Nah, if there was a God worth giving a shit about, He or She or It had to be magnitudes more complex and wise than that. I don’t believe you — you’ve got the whole damned thing all wrong.” (Philip Random)
“From 1969, when Jethro Tull was still the hot new band of the moment, riding the hip edge of the cool underground, here with mandolins, bongos, other things made of wood. The song’s simple enough. A young man expressing his desire to not someday grow old and fat, and just good fun. Easier said than done, of course, but I’m comfortably into my forties now and so far so good. Yes, I’ve failed at pretty much every ambition I ever set for myself but at least I can still see my feet when I look down.” (Philip Random)
“It seems insane to think about it now, but in 1972 Jethro Tull conquered the world with a 43-minute-44-second song called Thick as a Brick, which comprised the entire album of the same name. Adventurous, dense, continuous, it even half made sense, both musically and lyrically. So what did Ian Anderson (Tull main man) and his talented crew do for a follow-up? Another album long song, of course, this one called A Passion Play, which proved even more dense and adventurous than Thick As A Brick. And I’m still trying to figure it out. Actually, that’s a lie. I gave up a long time ago, because as a friend concluded, ‘Man, you’ve gotta be Ian Anderson’s f***ing brain to know what any of that’s supposed to mean.’ Which doesn’t mean I ever stopped listening to it, just thinking about it. I guess I just pretend I’m the guy’s brain for a while.” (Philip Random)
Jethro Tull main man Ian Anderson was nothing if not level-headed in 1978. While many of his fellow formerly cool rock star types were scrambling (often pathetically) in attempts to reinvent themselves as somehow edgy and relevant in the face of punk rock etc, he just told it like it was. He was more concerned about his farm up in Scotland than the state of the zeitgeist, the big horses in particular. The album in question may have seemed a throwback at the time, but over time, its mix of folk and rock elements has come to feel more timeless than anything.