Nearly favorites: Jethro Tull

Songs from the Wood

Jethro TullOne more interruption of my favorite songs by favorite artists assignment. This to laud J. Eric Smith’s choice of Jethro Tull for 1978-1982. Probably another Top 10 group of mine in the 1970s.

As best I recall, I have four Tull LPs, plus the greatest hits CD. Benefit, Aqualung, and Thick as a Brick came out each year from 1970 to 1972. Then Songs from the Wood, from 1977 that I certainly bought in the cutout bin. So the earlier music was from my college years. Songs from the Wood, which was a surprising success, reflected what felt like a very different time in my life.

I’m going to paraphrase one of Eric’s paragraphs. “There’s also a complicating factor with Thick As A Brick… originally being released as a single 45-minute long song split over two sides of a vinyl platter. While subsequent compilations and reissues have broken those big song cycles down into smaller bits, the chunking and labeling have been inconsistent over the years, so it’s hard to meaningfully cull cuts from the great disc, and [he and I] have chosen not to do so in creating my Top Ten.”

But if I were, it’d probably be this.

Songs, roughly 10-1

Aqualung. Eric left this off his Jethro Tull list. I could not if only for my recollection of a late sometimes-friend and I air-guitaring this all over his living room.
Locomotive Breath, #62 when rereleased in 1976.- I love the chugging sound that replicates a train.
The Whistler, #59 in 1977
Hymn 43, #91 in 1971. “Songwriter Ian Anderson described the song as ‘a blues for Jesus, about the gory, glory seekers who use his name as an excuse for a lot of unsavoury things.'”
Mother Goose

Velvet Green. Do I like this because it has “Green” in the title? Of COURSE not.
Bourée. Hey, I’m a sucker for Bach.
Songs from the Wood
Living in the Past, #11 in 1973. I’m also a sucker for 5/4 meter.
Skating Away on the Thin Ice of a New Day – I used to say, WAY too often, the title of this song. Because it feels true, still.

References to Billboard pop charts.

Music, May 1971: Sticky Fingers

What I DO remember is that my mother was DANCING, and I have no other recollection of that.

More random music recollections based on the book Never A Dull Moment.

The odd thing about Binghamton, NY at the time was that some students started school in February and graduated in January. So when I graduated in January 1971, I looked for a job for six weeks before securing a job at IBM, one of the area’s largest employers.

I usually worked 56 hours a week, from 5:12 pm to 4 a.m. on weekdays, with 48 minutes for lunch, and from noon to 6 on Saturday. So I was exhausted on Sunday. It’d only be on Monday that I might go out and buy some music magazines, and, eventually, more albums, even as I saved money for college.

So I was only vaguely aware that the Rolling Stones had moved to France as a tax haven, and would be recording their next album, Exile on Main Street, there. I WAS aware that they were getting their own imprint, under the aegis of Atlantic Records. And it was impossible not to know that Mick was marrying Bianca from Nicaragua.

I know I bought the current album, Sticky Fingers, later that summer, on the same day I bought Carole King’s Tapestry. I learned only later that the songs “straddled two decades,” with some tracks, such as Brown Sugar and Wild Horses, having been recorded as early as late 1969.

The day of the wedding there were other albums released for which I have specific memories, although not necessarily in that time frame. Paul McCartney’s Ram was a guilty pleasure; he was the uncool one, while Lennon was presumably more profound. There are several articles reexamining the Macca oeuvre of that period. I actually did go out once that summer and heard some cover band do Smile Away, which pleased me.

My parents and I were at the house of our family friends, the Pomeroys, in nearby Vestal. Maybe this was Christmas 1971, but I’m not at all sure. What I DO remember is that my mother was DANCING, and I have no other recollection of that. The CSNY Four-Way Street album, specifically Carry On, was playing. It’s a 4- or 5-minute song on Deja Vu, but 14 minutes on the live album, and about 10 minutes in, Mom was ready to quit.

In the early 1980s, an old girlfriend of mine had remarried, and her new husband, who I had known years before, and I were torturing his young stepsons with our air guitar/drum version of the title song on Jethro Tull’s Aqualung.

Listen to:

Wild Horses – Rolling Stones
Smile Away – Paul McCartney
Carry On (live) – Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young
Aqualung – Jethro Tull
Anticipation – Carly Simon
Hey, Mister, That’s Me Up on the Jukebox – James Taylor
Change Partners – Stephen Stills

50 Greatest Prog Rock Albums of All Time

In the Court of the Crimson King I played a great deal in high school AND college, preferably very loudly

fragile.yesYeah, another Rolling Stone list, this time of “progressive rock” albums that I own. I’m not sure what the term “prog rock” means, precisely, but I hope, now that Rush has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013, that Emerson, Lake & Palmer; King Crimson; and especially Yes get in one of these years.

17. Mike Oldfield, ‘Tubular Bells’ (1973): 45 weeks on the charts, getting to #3

I never actually SAW the movie The Exorcist, yet I associate the album with the film’s foreboding theme. There’s so much more to the album.

My favorite part is that weird section “where ‘master of ceremonies’ Vivian Stanshall mock-pretentiously introduces an array of instruments — ‘glockenspiel!’ and ‘two slightly. . .distorted guitars’ — à la the Bonzo Dog Band,” which I think is a hoot. And Oldfield wasn’t even 20 yet!

LISTEN to Tubular Bells intro.

12. Emerson, Lake and Palmer, ‘Brain Salad Surgery’ (1973): 47 weeks on the charts, getting to #11

That first ELP album, the one with Lucky Man, whose synthesizer I could replicate, I listened to A LOT in college. I haven’t heard this album in a while, though, as I have it on vinyl. For years, my secret fantasy was to have ELP play ‘Jerusalem’ at my former church, which has a fine organ.

LISTEN to Jerusalem and
Still You Turn Me On.

10. Yes, ‘Fragile’ (1971): 46 weeks on the charts, getting to #4

I also listened to this album A LOT at college, probably once a week during my freshman year. It was/is hypnotic. I didn’t know, or particularly care, what the lyrics were.

LISTEN to Roundabout and
Long Distance Runaround.

7. Jethro Tull, ‘Thick as a Brick’ (1972), 46 weeks on the charts, getting to #1 for two weeks

This album I didn’t play very often, though I love that introductory narrative. Not nearly my favorite Tull album, as I preferred Aqualung and especially Songs from the Wood.

LISTEN to Thick As A Brick intro.

5. Yes, ‘Close to the Edge’ (1972), 32 weeks on the charts, getting to #3

Actually, I much prefer ‘Fragile’. This album consists of only three very long songs that were so exhausting to record that “when recording for the album finished, drummer Bill Bruford had grown tired of the band’s style and songwriting methods and left to join King Crimson.”

LISTEN to Close To The Edge, which took up all of Side 1 on the LP.

2. King Crimson, ‘In the Court of the Crimson King’ (1969), 25 weeks on the charts, getting to #28

Now, THIS album I played a great deal in high school AND college, preferably very loudly. I especially loved the first song, and the title track, the two songs my friend put on a six-CD set of 1960s music.

I also related to the sentence in another song, “Confusion will be my epitaph.”

A few years ago, around Christmas, I heard Power by Kayne West, which samples the vocal from “Schizoid Man”; I thought was DREADFUL. The original version, incidentally, was dedicated to Spiro Agnew, Vice President of the US under President Richard Nixon.

LISTEN to Side one of the album In the Court of the Crimson King: 21st Century Schizoid Man, I Talk to the Wind and Epitaph (including March for No Reason and Tomorrow and Tomorrow)

1. Pink Floyd, ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’ (1973): 741 weeks on the charts!, only 1 week at #1

The group’s eighth LP was one of the best-selling albums worldwide, ever, with an estimated 50 million copies sold. It was on the Billboard charts from 1973 to 1988. It’s often considered one of the greatest albums of all time.

But I didn’t buy it right away. In fact, I may have purchased The Wall in 1980 or 1981 before finally picking up Dark Side. I liked the single Money (#13 in 1973) but was turned off by the album’s seemingly cultish admiration. But I DO like it.

As Rolling Stone noted:
“From its sync-up with The Wizard of Oz (press play after the lion’s third roar) to the Flaming Lips and friends’ track-for-track covers project to Krusty the Clown’s lost Dark Side of the Moonpie to the endless hawking of the prism-and-rainbow logo, the album has endured as a pop-culture touchstone since its release.”

LISTEN to the whole album HERE or HERE or HERE.

I own albums by FM, Electric Light Orchestra, Kansas, Renaissance, Supertramp, Genesis, and Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, but not the ones listed.