Jethro Tull's Debut 'This Was' Turns 50: A Track-by-Track Retrospective


Jethro Tull are wanting again at This Was. On Friday (Nov. 9), Ian Anderson’s long-running band launched This Was: 50th Anniversary Edition, an expanded model of their debut album, which hit cabinets Oct. 25, 1968.

The Three-CD/DVD set sheds new mild on their earliest sound, which introduced their flute-driven strategy to British rock audiences for the primary time on tunes like “My Sunday Feeling,” “A Song For Jeffrey” and “Dharma For One.”

Years earlier than hit albums like 1971’s Aqualung, Jethro Tull was a blues band on the nightly grind, commonly adopting foolish new names (together with Ian Henderson’s Bag O’Nails) to take care of curiosity from promoters. 

But this acquainted origin story had just a few essential wrinkles early on. In the age of string-popping heroes like Eric Clapton, Anderson noticed that the market might need been saturated in respect to the electrical guitar.

Instead, he picked up an unusual rock instrument. With a flute in his hand moderately than a Stratocaster or Les Paul, he instantly discovered Jethro Tull’s visible identification — and could lead on his hard-rocking combo with feather-light classical trills.

The flute apart, Anderson was disinterested in simply rehashing what had been finished by Cream or John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers; they had been simply as wanting to sort out a jazz customary (“Cat’s Squirrel”) or conceive new devices wholesale (“A Song For Jeffrey” options an invented “claghorn”) as grind out your regular 12-bar blues.

Despite these nods towards the long run, Anderson thought This Was to be too typical. By the top of the periods, Tull’s first guitarist, Mick Abrahams, was out; he’d keep on with the blues in a band known as Blodwyn Pig. 

Even the album title, This Was, was self-reflexive, as to say “out with the previous, in with the brand new,” even proper because the album hit cabinets.

Over a five-decade profession, Jethro Tull would leap additional into the realms of classical, jazz and world music. But their 1968 debut nonetheless holds up as a rawer, extra fast model of their sound. If you like your progressive rock a la carte, This Was will do in a pinch.

In honor of This Was popping out 50 years in the past as we speak, right here’s a track-by-track refresher course on the album.

“My Sunday Feeling”

The tune that launched Tull to the world is a rollin’-and-tumblin’ ode to the morning after. “Won’t someone inform me the place I laid my head final night time? / I actually don’t keep in mind / But with yet one more cigarette, I believe I would.” There’s a bluesman’s favourite topic if anybody’s heard it. But extra importantly, it’s a primary step towards an unheard flute-rock fusion; like harpist Dorothy Ashby cleverly plucking together with jazz on her 1958 album Hip Harp, who knew this historic instrument may very well be set to a contemporary beat?

“Some Day the Sun Won’t Shine for You”

Bassist Glenn Cornick and drummer Clive Bunker take 5 whereas the opposite two dip into a standard 12-bar sound. The flute’s left within the case, too; simply Anderson wailing on harmonica and Abrahams chooglin’ away. In this packing-up blues, the band’s dry humor pokes by for the primary time: “In the morning, I’ll be leaving / I’ll go away your mom, too.”

“Beggar’s Farm”

For a band that may go on to write down quirky, multi-suite songs that appeared to be wound tight like a spring, This Was is an album filled with improvisational interaction. “Beggar’s Farm,” a lover’s spat jam named after a metaphor for being left within the gutter, is a superb instance of Tull’s jazzier, looser sensibility throughout this time. Abrahams’ lead guitar break soars, and Anderson takes a passionate, overblown flute solo within the coda.

“Move On Alone”

Although Abrahams wasn’t lengthy for the band, he nonetheless enjoys a novel distinction: the one member aside from Anderson to write down and sing lead on a Jethro Tull tune. “Move On Alone” isn’t a lot, only a waltz-time rocker about misplaced love that includes Abraham’s sandy drawl. But it additionally marks the primary look of essential Tull keyboardist and arranger Dee Palmer; she shone up this minor observe with strings and horns.

“Serenade to a Cuckoo”

“When Jethro Tull started, I believe I'd been taking part in the flute for about two weeks,” revealed Anderson in a 2002 interview. “Literally, each night time I walked onstage was a flute lesson.” Offstage, Anderson was receiving different indicators. He was influenced by jazzman Roland Kirk’s 1964 album I Talk With The Spirits, which uniquely ditched the trumpet or sax for quite a lot of flutes. “Serenade to a Cuckoo,” a devoted cowl of the Kirk customary, pays homage to Anderson’ flautist inspiration.

"Dharma for One”

This driving, Eastern-themed instrumental is generally constructed round a madman drum solo by Bunker. On dwell renditions, Anderson added a set of lyrics, chanting them like a mantra: “Truth is like freedom, it doesn’t consider / Being true to your self / Never assume that you simply’re free.” “Dharma For One” can also be notable for the debut of a weird home made wind instrument dubbed the “claghorn,” which Anderson would solely describe because the “reluctant bastard offspring” of a bamboo flute, the mouthpiece of a saxophone and the bell of a kid’s trumpet.

“It’s Breaking Me Up”

No particular detions from the components right here: grizzled-bluesman Anderson happening about how his untrue girl has left him scattered like a damaged vessel. “My tears have run dry and also you surprise why,” he frets. “I've discovered a brand new girl who don't do the issues you may.” The band follows alongside in 12-bar type, the electrified Chicago sound British children.

“Cat’s Squirrel”

This customary by the Mississippi bluesman Doctor Ross (or “Doctor Ross The Harmonica Boss”) largely sticks to early Tull’s time and place. Back within the late ‘60s, “Cat’s Squirrel” was British blues’ bread and butter; Cream organized their very own model on 1966’s Fresh Cream. Anderson doesn’t audibly seem, suggesting an alternate universe through which Jethro Tull continued as Abrahams’ juke joint band eternally.

“A Song for Jeffrey”

If any early Tull fan has puzzled the place all the references to “Jeffrey” come from, it’s the band’s future organist, Jeffrey Hammond. Prior to Tull’s breakout success, Anderson took the chance to work his good friend and previous schoolmate into tune titles. On “A Song For Jeffrey,” Anderson paints Hammond as an aimless particular person: “Gonna lose my means tomorrow / Gonna give away my automotive / Don’t see, see, see the place I’m going.” Perhaps it’s much less a tribute than a roast.


From “Wind Up”’s excoriation of organized faith on Aqualung to the show-stopping finish of 1972’s prog-rock suite Thick as a Brick, Anderson would go on to craft albums with momentous beginnings, middles and ends. Not so on Tull’s debut: “Round” is only a one-minute little bit of tentative, shuffling jazz to finish this system. It’s a barely over-reverential transfer: yet one more nod to Roland Kirk, then a wrap.
Although this fitfully revolutionary band had no concept what was in retailer, This Was is a information to how their shape-shifting sound took root. So a lot got here from a little bit blues.