Happy Birthday to Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson!
Today, Ian Anderson turns 68 years old! To celebrate the life and career of the man who brought the flute to rock and roll, here is an excerpt from Prog Rock FAQ: All Thats Left to Know About Rock’s Most Progressive Music, published last fall by Backbeat Books, in which author Will Romano writes about Anderson, Jethro Tull, and their album, Aqualung.
We know that the Tull head honcho himself has said that Aqualung is not a concept record; in fact, Ian Anderson has long maintained that it was the public’s interpretation, or misinterpretation, of the origins of this record that inspired him to write the concept album spoof Thick as a Brick. So, why the debate and discussion about whether Aqualung is a concept record? For one thing, there are still lingering doubts as to whether we should be taking Anderson’s word for it, or making up our minds. Anderson has said that the making of Aqualung was the first time he undertook a conscious effort to write material with serious subject matters, a fact that seemingly has offered conspiracy theorists plenty of fodder for the rumor mill.
The character of Aqualung was based on a photograph of a homeless man, taken by Anderson’s first wife, Jenny, who had been studying photography at the time, and her description of the man. These observations were incorporated into the opening song, “Aqualung.” “The mixture of guilt and compassion, embarrassment and sadness, all of these things are slightly more feminine emotions,” Anderson told me. They found their way into this record, anyway; one that’s dirty, heavy, complicated, mean, and, at times, bordering on sexually perverse (i.e., “Cross Eyed Mary,” “Mother Goose,” the latter being a combination of absurd humor and double entendre).
To read more about Jethro Tull and other progressive rock bands, you can buy the book here.