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Tuesday, 14 December 2010

~Winter Wassailing~#8: 'A Christmas Song' by Jethro Tull....Yes, really!!

A Selection Of Seasonal Songs In The ~Streetlamp~ Stylee!

That it should come to this!

First, a James Brown article, and now Jethro Tull! Yes....THAT Jethro Tull! The beardy, flute playing Prog Rockers. In the ~Streetlamp~!!!!

Actually, that's all a little unfair. Jethro Tull have never really been Prog Rock, more Folk Rock. Actually more Folk Pop/Rock with a little Jazz thrown in, if we are being really honest. And....there are a couple of tracks on the Tull's first couple of albums that wouldn't have looked out of place in one of Griff's Blogs! Add to that, recent fanboy patronage from such left-field characters as Nick Cave and John Lydon, and maybe Jethro Tull featuring in our hallowed pages isn't such an odd thing after all.
So why are we featuring the Tull then?
Well, this Christmas song is actually a favourite of Ray and I, which we first discovered back in the Winter of 1984.
You see a couple of things happened within music(and I feel I should point out that I mean chart/Radio-friendly music when I say that) back then that changed the way music was presented to the public forever.
First of all there was Bob Geldof's Band Aid charity record that ensured multimillionaires would never have to feel guilty again as long as they wrung their consciences out in public every now and then, and in doing so hijack major events; Seasonal festivities, disasters etc, and maintain a high profile which could almost never be dented because the song would get dragged out again and again. And again. And again. I mean, here's a point....did you know that terrible cross-dressing one-hit-wonder Marilyn appears on the Band Aid single? How do I know? Because every time they show that wretched video, he's there!! In fifty years time or so, people will be watching that video and saying "Who's that rather masculine looking girl then? Don't remember her. How did she got on this cavalcade-of-stars?".
The second thing was the 'Now That's What I Call Music' series of albums that gave the public ALL the big hits of the day in one easy to digest dosage.
It was inevitable that both franchises would collide and, voila....'Now That's What I Call Christmas' released in the Winter of 1984 with the Band Aid single leading the way. Now, what was interesting about this was that this was the first time that ALL the big Christmas Pop hits(Slade, Mud, Wizzard, Jonah Lewie, even Bing Crosby) had ever been collected in one volume....and it made for quite interesting, if rather uneven listening. Of course, now you can't move for the many, many, MANY compilations of Christmas hits, but this was the first.

Now you may wonder what all this has to do with me, Ray and Jethro Tull? Well, Ray and I used to play this album a lot back then because a)we'd never owned all those songs before, and b)because we're such suckers for the whole Christmas scene, and remember we were still in our teens.
And so we came to listen to Christmas music in the same way that we would listen to conventional music, almost adopting some Post-modernist Ironist stance. And, as I was only just finding my way amongst the music of the past back then(by frequenting second hand vinyl shops and snaffling anything that looked cool from the 60s or 70s), I happened across a copy of Jethro Tull's 'Living In The Past' album. And there, sitting proudly was 'A Christmas Song'. I remember taking the album into Ray's house purely because of this track, because as I've said, we had become partial to listening to any obscure Christmas songs for their novelty and for their P*******n evocation of cherished memories.
'A Christmas Song' begins almost as though it's going to be a straight reading of 'Once In Royal David's City' with Ian Anderson's flute ushering us in amidst sleigh-bells before mandolin and bongos join in. After the first couple of lines from 'Once In Royal David's City' appear verbatim, Ian's lyrics become darker and more pointed and you realise that this is in fact a bit of an attack on the soulless-ness of the modern Christmas as he juxtaposes the simplicity of Christ in the manger with the bacchanalian excesses of yer average Christmas office party. As the song builds and builds upon a rather wonderful string section, Ian rails against how hollow the Christmas experience has become and how spirituality has been replaced by 40% proof spirit.
But in the ironic ending Ian bids that we not take him too seriously as, after all this is merely a Christmas song, and therefore virtually throwaway sentiments, ending with the humorous aside, "Hey Santa....pass us that bottle, will ya?".

This song was part of Ray and I's Christmases for many years, so it's nice to share it with some of you who would probably never think of listening to Jethro Tull.
I guess we could all do with beardy, straggly haired, long-coat wearing flautists standing on one leg in our lives!


Oooh (yawns and stretches), I had the strangest dream last night. I dreamt that Gordon had posted a blog on Jethro Tull, yeah... Jethro Tull, and that somehow he'd manage to work another reference to Proust into it. I mean, as if. That's just crazy. Ha ha..... ha?
What? Nooooooooo!
(only kidding, Gordon. stay unpredictable)

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