Why is Jethro Tull’s Aqualung on my best 1,000 albums ever list?
Without pretension, this album deserves best 1,000 albums ever project retention.
What does Jethro Tull’s Aqualung mean to me? What does it make me feel? Why is it exciting or compelling?
For people who have even heard of Jethro Tull, it’s not uncommon that they’ll put on a little smirk when the band comes up in conversation. It’s partly because Jethro Tull dovetails into progressive rock territory, though bands ranging from Yes to Dream Theater typically won’t get the same reaction.
The origin of the little smirk usually falls into one of two categories:
- 1) Because Jethro Tull is a rock band that often includes the flute (by way of front man Ian Anderson)
- 2) Because Jethro Tull is a rock band that also includes elements of English folk music
Now, I think the second point can most easily be disposed of because hard rocking English bands ranging from Black Sabbath (for example: Master of Reality, #767 of best 1,000 albums ever) to Led Zeppelin also incorporate folk music into their music without getting “dinged” for being a little bit strange or “less serious” than a rock band of this type is perceived it should be or, some such.
So, really, I think it mostly comes down to the “this is that prog band with the flute guy” thing. To just round out the topic, I asked Google, “why do people make fun of jethro tull?” and this was the first result: “Is Jethro Tull a great rock band, utter pretentious crap or something in between?”
I’d make an argument that Jethro Tull is a great band with occasional pretentious tendencies, and that Aqualung is among their finest achievements.
Let’s go right at the flute thing and the English folk rock thing, starting with “Up to Me.” That flute is hot on this song, and with the English folk and hard rock influences with some weirdo artiness for some flavor, this turns into a fascinating song.
And by the way, it’s really hip hop that brought the flute back into popular music a few decades later. Jurassic Five’s “Jayou,” for example, absolutely smokes.
“Locomotive Breath” is Jethro Tull at its best, hard rock that could easily work as part of a rock opera set piece. And: some hot flute work once again. The same can be said of the title track, “Aqualung,” though I’m not quite as high on that number (but I really do enjoy the song’s rollicking second half). It’s probably the band’s best known song though, I’d wager?
“Cheap Day Return” is a great song that shows off Jethro Tull’s gentler side – it’s a great if short acoustic rock tune.
Pop culture stuff that’s somehow related to Jethro Tull’s Aqualung
Stephen King is one of my favorite novelists, and the epic Dark Tower series, which intertwines to some degree with many other of his novels, may be his greatest masterpiece (along with the likes of The Stand, The Shining, On Writing, and several other books, but that’s a top for a different time).
The first novel in The Dark Tower is called The Gunslinger, which refers to Roland of Gilead (no, not The Handmaid’s Tale Gilead, thankfully), the last of an order that’s a mix of sheriff/soldier/knight that no longer exists. It only just occurred to me while writing this entry about Jethro Tull that a Western-like town that Roland has the misfortune to visit in The Gunslinger (while on a grueling journey and quest to catch up to the Man in Black – no, not that Man in Black, music lovers, this ain’t no Johnny Cash tale).
And just to take this strange little diversion and journey home, Roland spends some time in a saloon in Tull, where one of the popular songs played on the piano is none other than The Beatles’ “Hey Jude.” Within the story, this is an indication that while Roland exists in a world different than our own, there are both direct and indirect similarities to our world.
And we as readers learn a lot more about this when a boy named Jake enters the story.
Some stats & info about Jethro Tull’s Aqualung
- What kind of musical stylings does this album represent? Rock, Rock Music, Album Rock, Prog Rock, Art Rock, Hard Rock, Arena Rock
- Rolling Stone’s greatest 500 albums ranking – not ranked!
- All Music’s rating – 4.5 out of 5 stars
- When was Aqualung released? 1971
- My ranking, the one you’re reading right now – #754 out of 1,000
Jethro Tull’s Aqualung on Spotify
What does the “best 1,000 albums ever” mean and why are you doing this?
Yeah, I know it’s audacious, a little crazy (okay, maybe a lot cray cray), bordering on criminal nerdery.
But here’s what it’s NOT: a definitive list of the Greatest Albums of All-Time. This is 100% my own personal super biased, incredibly subjective review of what my top 1,000 albums are, ranked in painstaking order over the course of doing research for nearly a year, Rob from High Fidelity style. Find out more about why I embarked on a best 1,000 albums ever project.