Thursday, March 17, 2011

"Aqualung" lyrics -- Have you ever really listened?

"Do you know the difference between a sod and a sot?"

This is how a lot of conversations start when you live with a certifiable genius with an extremely inquisitive mind.  I'm asked a hundred of these questions a day, usually while I'm intently editing a piece of technical writing, and of course I never know the answer. 

"No idea," I reply.

"A sot is a drunkard.  A sod is British slang for a guy, a chap."


He has another burning question.  "Do you know what a dog-end is?  It's the part of the cigarette that's thrown away."  Notice he doesn't even wait for my reply.

"I did not know that."

Why was Mike asking these burning questions?  Somehow he got on a brain tangent that ended with the lyrics to Jethro Tull's "Aqualung" on his computer screen.  We've all heard that song a million times, right?  Maybe a billion.  It was released in 1971, and 40 years later, if someone asked me what it was about I'd say, "No idea.  A guy with snot running down his nose?" 

Have you ever really listened to the lyrics?  When I took a look and read them I was struck by the poetry.

Sitting on the park bench --
eyeing little girls with bad intent.
Snot is running down his nose --
greasy fingers smearing shabby clothes.
Drying in the cold sun --
Watching as the frilly panties run.
Feeling like a dead duck --
spitting out pieces of his broken luck.
Whoa, aqualung
Sun streaking cold --
an old man wandering lonely.
Taking time
the only way he knows.
Leg hurting bad,
as he bends to pick a dog-end --
he goes down to the bog
and warms his feet.
Feeling alone --
the army's up the road
salvation a la mode and
a cup of tea.
Aqualung my friend --
don't you start away uneasy
you poor old sod, you see, it's only me.
Do you still remember
The December's foggy freeze --
when the ice that
clings on to your beard was
screaming agony.
And you snatch your rattling last breaths
with deep-sea-diver sounds,
and the flowers bloom like
madness in the spring.

"The flowers bloom like madness in the spring..."   Amazing.  It's taken me 40 years to appreciate that song.  And now I know the difference between a sot and a sod, and what a dog-end is.  (Giving credit where credit is due, the song was written by Jethro Tull's flutist and lead singer, Ian Anderson, and his first wife, Jennie.)
Now I'm wondering what else I'm missing.  I want to listen to the whole "Aqualung" album, and every other classic rock gem I knew as a teenager to hear what they sound like from the perspective of a 53-year-old.  The funny thing is, people who were in their 50s back in 1971 probably totally dismissed Jethro Tull as "that racket the kids listen to."  And I'll be honest--I'm one of those old people who complain about rap music.  Maybe I should download some rap lyrics; maybe they're equally poetic.  (I so doubt it, but maybe?)
What do you think?  Is there a old song that you've recently "heard" for the first time?  Should I be more open minded about rap?  (Really, I cannot stand it.)  Do tell!


Julie D said...

The Ballad of John and Yoko.

I don't remember ever hearing this song before, and I heard it on Valentine's Day and loved it! It's now on my iPod in my favorites!

Anonymous said...

I can still remember being in elementary school and listening to American Pie in class and having to write what I thought the song was about. I was so off base!! But I didn't know that until years and years later!

Donna K

Mellodee said...

No, rap is neither music nor poetry. It is a scourge on the music industry. From a species that produced Beethoven, Handel, Mozart, Bach, all the way forward to John Lennon, Elton John, Billy Joel, and sooo many more, it is incomprehensible to me that rap has lasted as long as it has! Between the language, the suggestive videos, and the lack of any musical connection at all....isn't it time for that crap to just go away?? Hardly anyone would miss it!

(Just give me some old time rock 'n roll!!) :)

Stephanie said...

I thought of you:

Anonymous said...

"On and On" by Stephen Bishop -- I just recently gained appreciation for that song and its lyrics(Bishop is also the guy with the guitar in Animal House).

Despite what the song actually says, in "Superfreak" I officially recognize the line as "the kind of girl you read about in Newsweek Magazine."

I'm no rap fan, but there are some gems: try Rapper's Delight, My Mind's Playin Tricks on Me, They Reminisce Over You, Gangsta's Paradise, etc.

It's been a while, LL, so I hope all is peachy with you.

Chris A.