Aqualung. Diseño: Jennifer Ancízar / Magazine AM:PM.
Aqualung. Diseño: Jennifer Ancízar / Magazine AM:PM.

The Scratched Record: Aqualung

7 minutes / Carlos M. Mérida

05.11.2020 / Worn-out record,  Reviews

Just as Deep Purple was the organ band in the '70s, Jethro Tull was the mad wizard of the flute. Ian Anderson is one of the frontmen that gets me the most, with his wise homeless appearance first (very similar to his famous character, who appears on the cover, and which I will refer to later) and Hells Angel later, when already her hair fell out. He is a Gaelic bard, a symphony conductor and a rockstar.

I like Jethro Tull as much as the things I like the most. My closeness, my affinity, is possessive. We all have artists who are more of us than others, as if our love for them were a secret. It is a type of love that the world does not expect from you. Stowaway love, and therefore different. The normal thing is that Pink Floyd is loved, the Beatles. That is why, when you discover something that you like as much as what you are supposed to like the most, you think that you are the only one who loves, that others have not noticed, like the girl who noticed the skinniest of the mangones picket, it's not that he doesn't like those very rich Achilles, it's that the skinny one is his; or like the kid from the Salamanca neighborhood who goes to Atleti despite the pain of his father, a lifelong Madrid partner.

How did those sounds from so far hook me like that? How does garish tropical clarity fit Celtic haze and wasteland? How does the druid outfit serve the babalawo? Earth is too small a planet for one to play the little game of distance.

Jethro Tull's rhythm is at the furthest vertex of dance, like Gerardo Alfonso's o’changas. The bars can only fall behind, but never go in their wake. An example is My God, the seventh track. The discontinuous accentuations that the gentleman Martin Barre makes with his viola —in this and other subjects— do not allow uniform rectilinear movement, nor do one raise one's arms and move one's head to the Rolling Stones concert. It is an eternal coitus interruptus this, constant rectification. When you think you've got the hang of it, then a 90-degree turn occurs, and so on, causing emotional spikes at intervals. The distortion of the guitar seems to also produce a time distortion. These are (time and distortion) the protagonists of My God, along with the silence and the voice of Ian Anderson - apparently (only apparently) divorced from everything else. Put the subject, if not the crooked analogies these are useless.

I'm not really sure that the leader of this band is valued enough for the incredible lyricist that he is. I must be wrong. It must be an impression caused by the fact that he discovered that area of Jethro Tull later. I put two samples for you, taken from the opening and central theme of the album, a portrait of the extreme vital and social condition of a homeless man named Aqualung (by all but —I presume— for his parents). But first, allow me a cross-eyed little dock.

The beggars, crazy, drunk, homeless, who earn a space in the collective memory of a place, are never called by name, which reaffirms their status as "non-person", according to Reinaldo Arenas. Non-persons are worth nothing. If anything they are worth as myths, as anecdotes, but nobody cares about an orange. We fear them, rather. We hold our breath when we pass them. Its plague threatens the comfort of our noses. Our bourgeois liberal instinct will always tend to enclosure, to the preservation of economic stability, but above all moral. Hence, no matter how prominent the beggar has, crazy, drunk, homeless; The one who makes the story will always forget his name, or will say it if he knows it, but as an inconsequential vignette that the tourist will forget, just drop the next historical data. It's safer that way. Everyone loved the Knight of Paris. Until statue has. But nobody knows who José María López Lledín is.

Let's keep going. Ian Anderson, describing the character's circumstance, says: "Drying in the cold sun." There is sun, but there is also a damn cold, and Aqualung, if it gets wet (because we are in London and it rains in London, a lot), it has to dry in that sun, because it is the least cold it will find. De pinga. A verse later, Anderson lets us go: “Spitting out pieces of his broken luck”. The word teeth is not mentioned, because the lords of the verb, hide in order to show. Aqualung despises his luck, spits it out. It is not used to being Aqualung. Of course not! Nobody gets used to living like this. Living like this is not a matter of luck, it is a political matter. High and middle class people are very wrong when they believe (or seem to believe), shaking hands with their morals, that the poor, in some way, are used to being poor. We are very wrong when we say: “I don't know how people can be in a line from seven to 11 in the morning to buy a package of chicken”; or: "I don't know how they can go like this in such a full bus." As if people wanted to be in a line for four hours or to travel crowded, as if it were not easier to order food at home or take a taxi.

One might think that there are no judgments in the lyrics of this song, that what there is is only the description of a state of affairs, a "snapshot of the street", following Fito Páez. But no. All artistic discourse implies a moral, political, and aesthetic decision to take sides; it is in its definition. If you do not find the manifesto, the problem should, a priori, be yours, or that the speech is not artistic. In this piece, Ian Anderson undoubtedly stands on Aqualung's side, against the social structures that reject him, that separate him from the human village. Note if this is the case, that the narrator cares less about the possible pedophilia of his character ("Sitting on a park bench / eyeing little girls with bad intent") than throwing at the morality three percent of the Salvation Army, his charity "a la mode ”(when Anderson refers to this organization, he makes a vocal turn of obvious sarcastic tone). The eyes with which the singer looks at the vagabond are of absolute compassion, of painful empathy ("You poor old sod, you see, it's only me"). The look describes, yes, but it also judges.

The same happens in the next track Cross-Eyed Mary, this time with the protagonist of the story, a teenage prostitute who has high rates for the rich neighborhoods and low for the poor, which makes her the "Robin Hood of Highgate" . Here Anderson is more interested in talking about lasciviousness ("[Mary] Gets no kicks from little boys / Would rather make it with a letching gray"). This lewdness, unlike that of Aqualung, oppresses, is lewd with political content.

If you keep downloading the album you will find other portraits and other stories. Shake well, check, you will always find the poster. This is a must have album; and the band, another of the music that biases me, that clouds my view, so don't listen to me if one day we have to discuss Jethro Tull this or Jethro Tull that. Give me mute and keep up with yours.

Carlos M. Mérida

Oidor. Coleccionista sin espacio. Leguleyo. Temeroso de las abejas y de los vientos huracanados.

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