Too Old To Rock’n’Roll… has been perennially regarded as the Cinderella of Jethro Tull’s 1970s output: a selection of short songs that satirise stardom and celebrity via a rather ho-hum comic strip concept featuring an ‘old greaser’, Ray Lomas, who somehow becomes the next big thing.
By late 1975 Anderson was an established star, knocking on a bit for the time (a positively creaking 28), and he had a mixed relationship with the music press, hence the defensive title. Having been unable to finish the mooted film to A Passion Play, he intended to make this album into a theatrical production, but it soon proved impractical.
Jethro Tull did, however, land their own London Weekend TV Special, basically a performance of the album with assorted props, and costume and scenery changes. But due to Musicians’ Union rules they had to re-record the music, which they did over three days at Morgan Studios in spring 1976. Featured here, it’s such a tightly played facsimile that only the sharp eared will notice slight differences.
The superior re-record here feels almost like a new album.
Some of the original album tapes were missing, but this has proved a blessing in disguise as Steven Wilson has used the re-recorded version as the basis for this remix. Reviewing the TV show, Tony Stewart of NME commented that the music sounded better than the album. He was dead right.
There’s a ‘flat’ transfer here of the original LP and it really does sound flat, although the tracks that Wilson has remixed have been improved. But the re-recorded version is so sonically superior it feels almost like a new album, or like hearing again after having your ears syringed. The reverby vocals and the rather drab sound of the 1976 release have been replaced by something altogether more vivid. On Quizz Kid the strings are richer, the drums punchier, the guitars grittier, the keyboards more colourful and the music breathes far more easily. Salamander, with Anderson and Barre duetting on acoustic guitars, sounds positively luminous.
There are a few outtakes too: an early version of One Brown Mouse, Strip Cartoon, Salamander’s Rag Time and A Small Cigar, are well worth a listen, although there’s no lost classic hiding in there.
The TV special itself is a hoot, although Anderson now finds it “excruciating” in places. Seeing him mince around en pointe in platform boots on Crazed Institution is hilarious, as is keyboard player John Evan’s ensemble of leather jacket with chains, military cap, and rather too much make up. Cherry Gillespie from Pan’s People dances on Salamander adding some glamour. By that point, it’s most definitely needed.