Wednesday, April 10, 2013

heavy horses

Jethro Tull described modern life in the country with metaphor and menace with the rural poetry of this centerpiece of their progressive folk rock trilogy.  Inspired by the traditional music of contemporaries Steeleye Span and Fairport Convention and by Ian Anderson's move to a farm in the English countryside, the band had found renewed acclaim with the first installment of the trilogy, 'Songs from the Wood'.   Anderson produced 'Heavy Horses' at Maison Rouge Studio in Fulham, London with engineer Robin Black.  The sessions featured Ian Anderson on vocals, flute, mandolin, acoustic guitar, and whistles; Martin Barre on electric guitar; Barriemore Barlow on percussion and drums; John Evan on organ and piano; David Palmer on keyboards, pipe organ, and orchestral arrangements; and John Glascock on bass guitar and backing vocals; with Darryl Way playing violin on 'Acres Wild' and 'Heavy Horses'.  

Anderson would reveal:    "It's a rather more menacing sort of album; not menacing in the sense that it's a 'downer' or negative, but a little more bite. I think the group are playing better on it as well. It's a cross-section of the ways that we record, which is a very important part of making an albums. There are so many different ways you can make a record: you can rehearse a song absolutely note-perfect and then just go in and get it down, all playing, one vocal overdub and finished, or you can go into the studio with a vague idea and slowly build it up and add things and take things away, like an artist working with a painting, and arrive at the product that way ... and it's the product of a lot of imagination, a lot of creativity, which is very spontaneous and which hasn't been rehearsed. Sometimes I go in and do just vocals and a guitar track and then leave the other get on with adding things around it; or they go in and do something and I haven't even written the lyrics yet. Then I have the problem of working around something they've done.  All this is is trying to avoid using any kind of formula in making records — we try to apply all the different ways of making a record. Hopefully the songs have their own individuality and identity as a result of that variety of processes of recording. That is one of the reasons it has taken us a while, because obviously we tend to start work on certain songs in the studio and find out they're not going the right way and have to throw them out. I mean as usual we must have recorded twenty pieces, of which six or seven pieces in some tape lying around will never be dug out again, half-completed things...Some of them have been written in hotels on tours during the last twelve months. I usually try to write at least one song on the train, out from Marylebone station to ... the other end, and I did that again, so there's another train song. One or two I have actually written at home, surrounded by animals and goodness knows what else. The thing is, it's always easier to write songs about your own surroundings and your own real feelings not when you're in the middle of them but when you're sitting in the Holiday Inn or wherever it might be, because then you have a far more objective look at your own life, or the lives of other people for that matter too. The artificiality of the Holiday Inn room existence is an incredible bonus ... I mean just think what works of pure wonder Beethoven would have turned in had he been ensconced in the Holiday Inn, Miami, for the last ten years of his life ... half a dozen more symphonies ... 'Heavy Horses', as you may or may not know, is the term given to the very large working horses indigenous to this country: the Shire and the Suffolk and the Clydesdale, and the borrowed Percheron from France. I have a soft spot for horses. I don't ride them: I don't like sitting on top of them, but I make friends with them and I have a few at home. Not that sort of horse, but ... I suppose ... I suppose it's rather like ... I shouldn't be saying this, it's silly to say ... but it's a bit like an equestrian Aqualung, if you like, where the downtrodden creature that I'm singing about is the poor old heavy horse who used to be in his heyday as the all-round working animal, both in industry and of course in agriculture. And very nearly disappeared altogether but for a few breeders who took a delight in preserving the species, and now it is beginning to come back again as a working animal.  I wrote that one while we were in America, and it's one of the rather long ones. There are two long songs on the album, and that's one of them. It has a mixture of several different styles and a degree of ups and downs and level ... what do they call it, dynamics or something. So that's the title track. One thing looking at the list of songs, now, is that they are all actually about something, which makes me happy, when I can actually see they are about something. The worst thing in the world is to find yourself writing a lyric which isn't really about anything at all; it's just an excuse for opening your mouth while the group make a funky, danceable, exciting, crowd-waving-their-arms sort of sound, which is pointless rock 'n' roll. Maybe some people would say it's not pointless and that it is in fact what rock 'n' roll is all about: unfortunately I do aspire to these higher pretensions and I must insist that it has to be about something. I mean Johnny Rotten sings about something, and in a very different way so do I ... people always have this idea that nature is soft and sloppy and something even worse than hippies going on about love and peace, but it isn't at all.  Nature is ... I mean most people can't face up to it: that's why we all live in towns and live in houses with central heating and want nice warm motor cars, because it's actually too tough for all of us. I'm just keen to point out that some of these things are a bit hairier than people imagine ... the sort of issues that I could be publicly angry about don't readily translate into pop music. I mean it would be silly of me to start putting forward political (or anything like political) views that I might hold, and to be trying seriously to deal with other issues. It's the wrong time, now. If I want to do that I ought to be either a politician or a sleeping politician and write books about it, but not in terms of these songs. I think I'm dealing more with fantasy, and interpretations of things that otherwise might be taken for granted. I really don't want to use rock music as a social or political platform ... I'm not just singing about cats, I'm singing about something that translates into human terms, and in all the animals that I ever sing about there is something of a personification going on. I'm singing about people as well. That's what I think makes them good songs. They're not just literal. As I explain them they might sound a bit banal, and who knows, they may sound a bit like that when you hear them, but for me, if they're worth anything (at least as far as the lyrics are concerned) it's because they do have other shades of meaning, which is what makes them good."

'Heavy Horses' cantered to twenty-seven in Sweden, twenty in the UK, nineteen in the US, eighteen in Austria, and thirteen in Norway.  The final installment of the trilogy would come a year later:  'Stormwatch'.

"Heavy Horses"


'Heavy Horses' 
full album: 

All tracks written by Ian Anderson with additional material by Martin Barre and David Palmer.

Side one
1. "...And the Mouse Police Never Sleeps" 3:11
2. "Acres Wild" 3:22
3. "No Lullaby" 7:55
4. "Moths" 3:24
5. "Journeyman" 3:55
Side two
6. "Rover" 4:17
7. "One Brown Mouse" 3:21
8. "Heavy Horses" 8:58
9. "Weathercock" 4:02
bonus tracks
10. "Living in These Hard Times" 3:10
11. "Broadford Bazaar" 3:38

1 comment:

  1. This incarnation of Jethro Tull was its finest ever. Great article, Ken!