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Music / Jethro Tull

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Ian Anderson delivers a blistering flute solo.
Aqualung my friend, don't you start away uneasy
You poor old sod, you see, it's only me
"Aqualung", Aqualung

Really don't mind if you read this one out.

Progressive rock group formed in 1968 and mostly known for their '70s output, particularly their albums Aqualung and Thick As A Brick. Made up of lead singer/flutist Ian Anderson, guitarist Martin Barre (who joined in 1969), and one of rock's most frequently revolving line-ups.

The band is named after an 18th-century agriculturist, though Ian Anderson hates the name. During their early days, their manager would change the name of the band so that they could be booked at places they had flopped at, and "Jethro Tull" was suggested by one of the manager's staff members who was a history geek; as Anderson put it, "Jethro Tull is the name we were using when we quit sucking."

Ian Anderson laid Jethro Tull to rest in 2014, but the spirit of Tull goes on with him and his solo band, who continue to tour and record...


Until January 2018, that is. Ian Anderson posted an update on the band's website showing him in the studio working on his next solo album, which is currently slated for a 2020 release.

The band's studio album discography is as follows:

  • This Was (1968)
  • Stand Up (1969)
  • Benefit (1970)
  • Aqualung (1971)
  • Thick as a Brick (1972)
  • A Passion Play (1973)
  • War Child (1974)
  • Minstrel in the Gallery (1975)
  • Too Old to Rock And Roll: Too Young to Die! (1976)
  • Songs from the Wood (1977)
  • Heavy Horses (1978)
  • Stormwatch (1979)
  • A (1980)
  • The Broadsword and the Beast (1982)
  • Under Wraps (1984)
  • Crest of a Knave (1987)
  • Rock Island (1989)
  • Catfish Rising (1991)
  • Roots to Branches (1995)
  • J-Tull Dot Com (1999)
  • The Jethro Tull Christmas Album (2003)

Ian Anderson's studio album discography is as follows:

  • Walk into Light (1983)
  • Divinities: Twelve Dances with God (1995)
  • Advertisement:
  • The Secret Language of Birds (2000)
  • Rupi's Dance (2003)
  • Thick as a Brick 2 (2012)
  • Homo Erraticus (2014)
  • TBC (2019)

Martin Barre's studio album discography is as follows:

  • A Summer Band (1992)
  • A Trick of Memory (1994)
  • The Meeting (1996)
  • Stage Left (2003)
  • Away With Words (2013)
  • Order of Play (2014)


  • Added Alliterative Appeal: From A Passion Play: "Here's your ID ideal for identifying one and all."
  • Anti-Christmas Song: "A Christmas Song". Also "Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow." Subverted with "Another Christmas Song."
  • Anti-Love Song:
  • Awesome McCoolname: The main reason Ian would often introduce Martin Barre by his full name: Martin Lancelot Barre.
  • Bawdy Song: A number of songs here and there, particularly on Songs From The Wood, Heavy Horses, and Rock Island.
  • Be Yourself: Many of his songs discouraged conformism and uniformity, even between members of the counterculture. Ian wore long hair and flamboyant clothes, was identified with the counterculture, and held many liberal-ish or free-thinking ideals, but he hated hippies and drug culture. Many of Tull's songs (including, and especially "Thick As A Brick") encouraged others to find their own way and think for themselves. "Nothing to Say" is essentially Ian voicing annoyance over being asked for some kind of guidance now that he's a celebrity.
  • Blues Rock: Much of their earlier material is this.
  • Buffy Speak: Ian Anderson often refers to the accordion as the "squeezey thing."
  • Casual Kink: "Hunting Girl"
    Boot leather flashing and spur necks the size of my thumb
    This high-borne hunter had tastes as strange as they come
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Imagine if, on one regeneration, The Doctor is once again exiled to Earth, but, rather than work for UNIT again, he decides to start a progressive folk-rock band. That's pretty much Ian Anderson in a nutshell. Fittingly, the first song Anderson learned on the flute was Roland Kirk's "Serenade to a Cuckoo" (which Tull recorded for This Was).
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Ian screws up the opening to "Baker St. Muse" and says, "Shit, shit, shit. Take two," before starting again.
  • Compliment Backfire: In an early interview, Ian Anderson once attempted to compliment Led Zeppelin (they toured together in 1969) by saying, "With my lyrics and their music we could have a potent combination." This pissed off Robert Plant since he wrote all of Zeppelin's lyrics.
  • Concept Album:
    • Believe it or not, but A Passion Play is the only straight example (which ironically caused a Vocal Minority of a Hatedom), but there is also Thick as a Brick, which is an over the top parody created because the media kept calling Aqualung a concept album, despite Anderson's constant claims otherwise. And, like Don Quixote, it ends up being better than most of the things he's parodying.
    • Unlike its predecessor, Thick as a Brick 2 is a straight example, as is Homo Erraticus.
  • Cover Version: Very few, all recorded early in the band's career. This Was has "Cat's Squirrel" (a Blues instrumental credited to "Traditional" and also covered by Cream) and the aforementioned "Serenade to a Cuckoo". Stand Up has "Bourée" (an adaptation of Johann Sebastian Bach's "Bourrée in E minor"). That's pretty much it.
  • Darker and Edgier: A Passion Play is this in comparison to Thick as a Brick, both musically (due to the dominating presence of minor key variations) and thematically (dealing with a story of life and death and the afterlife).
  • Deadpan Snarker: Ian onstage, and often during interviews. Blends this with a lot of Self-Deprecation, too.
  • Defector from Paradise: Invoked in A Passion Play.
    "God of ages, Lord of Time, mine is the right, right to be wrong.
    Well I'll go to the foot of our stairs.
    Jack rabbit mister spawn a new breed
    of love-hungry pilgrims (no bodies to feed).
    Show me a good man and I'll show you the door.
    The last hymn is sung and the devil cries 'More.'"
  • Dented Iron: While on the Under Wraps tour, Ian Anderson suffered numerous throat problems, including multiple cases of laryngitis. He returned to recording and touring after a couple years off (his first break since the band began touring regularly), but his voice had lost its trademark fullness. Also, he now sings in a limited range in a higher key then on his older material. Since 2012, he has had singer and actor Ryan O'Donell to sing certain parts for him, resulting in an entertaining Vocal Tag Team (and allows Ian to play flute while Ryan sings). In May of 2020, Anderson revealed had been suffering from COPD for the last couple years, though he had been using medication and physical therapy to reduce its effects.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Bassist Jeffrey Hammond was often credited as "Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond", but justified for humor as his parents coincidentally shared the surname Hammond prior to their marriage.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: In older shows, Ian would often stick his flute on his crotch while dancing around.
  • Driving Song: Defied Trope. The band did a number called "Driving Song" in 1969, but it's not about driving; its subject is how Anderson was being overworked.
  • Drunken Song: Quite a few references to drinking.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Lampshaded with their first album, This Was, which sounds like yet another Cream rip-off. This began to change with their second album, Stand Up, when Ian Anderson started to monopolize the band's song-writing duties, and Martin Barre succeeded original guitarist Mick Abrahams. A lot of it had to do with their manager at the time (as well was singer/guitarist Mick Abrahams) wanting the band to be purely blues-rock. The singles released after This Was, especially A Christmas Song, were the first glimpses of what the band would become.
  • Echoing Acoustics: Very well done by them, particularly in songs such as "Pibroch (Cap In Hand)", "No Lullaby", and "Dark Ages".
    • Also used to unnerving effect on Side 2 of Thick as a Brick; the unearthly pounding noise that gradually fades in at the start is the end of Side 1, slowed down to half speed and drenched in reverb.
  • Epic Rocking:
    • Thick As A Brick and (Depending on your interpretation) A Passion Play are each made up of one long song.
    • To a much lesser extent: "Baker Street Muse" at 16 minutes.
    • An even lesser extent, but a large portion of their songs fall in the 5-10 minute range. Some examples: "Aqualung" (6:34), "To Cry You a Song" (6:09), "Minstrel in the Gallery" (8:13), "Too Old to Rock 'N' Roll: Too Young to Die!" (5:44), "Budapest" (10:05)
  • Excited Show Title!: "Too Old to Rock 'N' Roll: Too Young to Die!" Both the album and the song.
  • Fake-Out Fade-Out: "Roll Yer Own" has one.
  • Filk Song:
    • "Dot Com" is about a relationship over the Internet. Particularly notable in that it was written in 1999, before that sort of thing became common.
    • Many of the songs on Under Wraps are heavily based around Spy Fiction.
    • "Enter the Uninvited" rattles off a bunch of pop culture references.
    • "Broadsword" is about a medieval village facing attack by Viking-like raiders.
    • Several of the "Songs From the Wood" have the Fair Folk or Druids as a theme as well as having a general medieval flavor.
    • "One Brown Mouse" is a tribute to the poetry of Robert Burns.
  • Four More Measures: The opening riff in Aqualung is played twice.
    • It plays three times to close the song.
    • The acoustic riff that opens "Thick as a Brick" plays at least a dozen times throughout the song.
  • The Grand Hunt: In "Hunting Girl" (on the album ''Songs from the Wood"), the narrator encounters a fox-hunting aristocratic young lady whose horse had refused to jump a fence. The young lady turns out to some distinctly kinky tastes.
  • Green Aesop:
    • "Wond'ring Again"; the Stormwatch album.
    • "The Browning of the Green" from Homo Erraticus.
  • Grief Song: "Pibroch (Cap In Hand)", among many others.
  • Heavy Meta: Minstrel In The Gallery, and a number of other songs.
  • Heavy Mithril: Along with Led Zeppelin, pretty much the Trope Maker.
  • I Am the Band: Ian Anderson is the only founding member still in the band. To a lesser extent, Martin Barre has been with the band since Stand Up. Doane Perry's been around since the eighties.
  • Intercourse with You: An awful lot of songs.
    • Nearly all are cases of Double Entendre. "Hunting Girl" and "Kissing Willie" are probably the dirtiest examples, although the "Pig-Me and the Whore" section of "Baker Street Muse" is almost exclusively composed of a two-minute string of Double Entendre, some of which is pretty obscure.
    • Interestingly, this is despite many of their prog contemporaries (Pink Floyd, Camel, Yes, etc) actively avoiding the subject
  • Irrelevant Act Opener: Parodied on A Passion Play with "The Story of the Hare Who Lost His Spectacles".
  • Just for Pun: In response to the criticism the band received after winning the first Grammy for hard rock/heavy metal album, they put out an ad showing Ian's flute on a scale, stating that the flute is a "heavy, metal instrument."
  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All: All the animals (except possibly Hare) in "The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles."
  • Large Ham: Saying that Anderson is one is quite the understatement. On stage, at least. Off stage he's rather quiet and reserved, though he does keep his sense of humor.
  • Lyrical Dissonance
  • Messy Hair: Ian, especially in the early days. Martin Barre's hair was even bushier back in the day.
  • Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Varies all over the place, as is fitting for a band that plays mainly Progressive Rock with heavy influences from Hard Rock and English Folk music. One one hand, they could do acoustic songs that were easily level 1, such as 'Dun Ringill' and 'Requiem'. However, they could also reach level 5 and 6 at times, especially on Benefit, Aqualung, and Crest of a Knave. 'Dark Ages', from 1979's Stormwatch album, even reaches into low level 7 territory at times, thanks to the playing of Martin Barre and Barriemore Barlow.
  • Mundane Made Awesome:
    • Songs like "...And the Mouse Police Never Sleeps" and "Hunt by Numbers" do this for cats.
    • "One Brown Mouse" does the same for a pet mouse.
    • "4.W.D. (Low Ratio)" tells the simple story of a man who buys a car, modifies it and then takes it for a drive.
  • My Girl Is a Slut: "Kissing Willie" is all about this.
    Shows her leg shows it damn well
    She knows how to drive a man right back to being a child
    Nice girl but a bad girl's better
  • Nepotism:
    • A very minor example, but "Enter the Uninvited" ends by mentioning The Walking Dead and specifically mentions "Officer Rick." Rick Grimes is played by Andrew Lincoln, Ian Anderson's son-in-law.
    • James Duncan, Ian's son, often plays drums in his solo bands.
  • New Sound Album: Aqualung marked the full shift away from jazz-blues-rock to Progressive Rock. Songs From The Wood led Tull into a British progressive folk-rock sound, which they sustained for the next two albums. "A" brought synth sounds and '80's technology to their repertoire, while Crest Of A Knave led them into a prog-folk/hard-rock sound with more emphasis on electric guitar. Tull experimented with East Indian and Oriental influences by Roots To Branches.
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: See Concept Album.
  • Oop North: The band is from Blackpool, inspiring their song "Up The Pool".
  • Progressive Rock
  • Protest Song: From about a third to a half of their catalog. The majority of their protests were against conformity and living up to others' expectations. Organized religion (a result of the attempts to raise Anderson Catholic) are another popular subject.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: The lyrics of "Big Riff And Mando" from "Rock Island" were based off an incident where a fan stole Martin Barre's mandolin.
    • The subject matter of the Songs From The Wood album were written during a time when Ian moved from his London apartment to a house in the Scottish countryside, and a road manager sent Ian a reference book about pre-Christian Celtic customs, stories and folklore as a housewarming gift. Heavy Horses evokes Ian's present-day, rustic, rural lifestyle living off the land. Stormwatch evokes Ian's interest in environmental responsibility and relationship to nature, a concern heightened by his new rural lifestyle.
  • Recut: A minor example - Steven Wilson's remix of "The Foot of Our Stairs" features an extra 30 or so seconds of music that he discovered and put back in with Ian's permission.
  • Roguish Poacher: Defied by "The Whaler's Dues"; the whalers see themselves as this, but the song points out they work for an industry that's almost rendered a number species of these majestic creatures almost extinct, if not entirely.
  • Scare Chord: In the "Hare Who Lost His Spectacles" section of A Passion Play. "But Owl had been sitting on the fence, scOWLing..."
  • Self-Deprecation: Despite the popularity of the song, Ian always refers to "Bourée" as a "dreadful piece of lounge jazz."
  • Something Blues: "Rainbow Blues".
  • The Something Song: "A Song For Jeffrey", "Christmas Song", "Another Christmas Song", and "Driving Song".
  • Sophisticated as Hell: God in "A Passion Play."
  • Springtime for Hitler: "Living in the Past"; see above under Genre Adultery (or below under Uncommon Time).
  • Stalker with a Crush: "Watching Me Watching You". However, this is not a completely straight example, as the protagonist has no idea who the stalker is or what he wants.
  • Stealth Parody: "Thick As A Brick" is one of concept albums and the progressive rock genre.
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Guitarist Mick Abrahams sings "Move On Alone" from "This Was". Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond narrates (with a few sung lines towards the end) "The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles" portion of "A Passion Play" and also does a spoken comedy bit on "Sealion II" (available on the Nightcap outtakes album and the remastered Warchild.)
  • Studio Chatter: Egregious on Aqualung, War Child and Minstrel In The Gallery.
  • Take a Third Option: In A Passion Play, the deceased Ronnie Pilgrim decides that neither Heaven or Hell are for him, and so opts to be reincarnated instead.
  • The End Is Nigh: Pretty much the theme of Stormwatch.
  • Title by Number: "17".
  • Title-Only Chorus: "Skating Away on the Thin Ice of the New Day".
  • Uncommon Time: All over the place, which comes with the territory of them being a prog rock band.
    • They wrote "Living in the Past" in 5/4 to try to avert it being a Black Sheep Hit, but the masses took to it anyway.
    • Lampshaded in "Ring Out, Solstice Bells": "Seven maids move in seven time." Guess what meter the song is in for the most part.
  • Unkempt Beauty: A lyric from Fires at Midnight is the page quote.
  • Vocal Tag Team: As of 2012 Ian Anderson and Ryan O'Donnell are this.
  • Watch the World Die: "Dun Ringill", which is about...basically this. The entire album, Stormwatch, is one long "The End Is Nigh" sign, and this is where the narrator decides to just go and wait the end of the world out.
  • Wham Line: "While you're stuffing yourselves at the Christmas parties..."
  • Word Salad Lyrics:
    • Especially on Thick As A Brick.
    • "Mother Goose" is also pretty nonsensical in its description of the inhabitants of Hampstead Heath.
    • Bits of A Passion Play also contain such lyrics.
      And your little sister's immaculate virginity wings away on the bony shoulders of a young horse named George, who stole surreptitiously into her geography revision!
      (The examining body examined her body)

So your ride sails over the fields...
And you make all your animal deals...
And your wise men don't know how it feels... be thick... a brick.


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