Friday, February 25, 2011

The Jethro Tull Story

Tights + flute =
Rock & roll?


The Jethro Tull Story is a poem by Steven Caratzas, 2005.
See this and other eight word works by the author here: The Blog of Lewd Enlightement.

Once, Ian Anderson made a generation of guitar-worshipping teens respect the flute,
truly. The same kids who might've thought a flautist was someone who just spurned convention. The author of the poem above notes that you'd probably have to be at least 45+ to know who Jethro Tull is. Maybe. (Younger for those who didn't hate their parents or their record collections.)

[Sigh.] Alas, my culture is dying. (Now, the devil doesn't bother with guitars; It's all Auto-Tune.)

As you may remember, Jethro Tull was a band that'd amassed respectable chart and touring success as well as several hit singles. Many of the albums from their early period are considered classic. In 1970, early in the careers of both bands, Jethro Tull toured with The Eagles. At the time "We Used to Know" was a regular feature of their set. According to Anderson, the two bands didn't get on much together, musically or otherwise. Later, The Eagles would write and record the not dissimilar "Hotel California." In the beginning Anderson discounted the resemblance saying there's no such thing as a new chord change and any similarities between the songs were likely coincidental. In later interviews, perhaps after the "Hotel" composers collected their first billion, Anderson was less sanguine.

Scroll the video to 2:05 for the song to begin.

In a 2009 Guitar World interview Anderson implied that though the melodies are different, the verse chord sequence of "Hotel California" and "We Used to Know" is identical. As we know, long before there was electronic sampling, borrowing and outright stealing was a time honored tradition of song composition. (Only recently have lawyers made things more complicated.) But chord changes alone do not a song make. Then again, when you see your chord sequence cruise by in a Bentley while you're still riding the bus of pop chartdom, well, I suppose it's easy to be bitter.

Maybe all Anderson was asking for was a little inspirational gratitude.

"We Used to Know" is a wonderful song in its own right; "Hotel California" clearly took a chunk of it, added a different melody, a chorus, and a bit of florid guitar noodling in the beginning and end. It'd be these changes that would inspire the mainstream hordes to open their macramed wallets and allow a couple of laid back, bell bottom-wearing savants to snatch a vulgar fortune.

Ain't those the breaks?

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