Jethro Tull: Too Old To Rock’n’Roll: Too Young To Die!

Box set of the much-misinterpreted flak magnet.

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Sometimes Jethro Tull’s 70s output suggests that Ian Anderson was on a perverse, hell-bent mission to be misunderstood. He’d already responded to being accused of the crime of creating ‘concept albums’ by composing a spoof one (Thick As A Brick), the ironies of which sailed over critics’ heads.

He now reacted to the early sparks of punk by writing a 1976 album about the cyclical nature of fashion. Too Old… is, like most Tull albums of the era, literate art-rock disguised as hairy belligerence. The muddled narrative involves a declining rock star attempting suicide, despite winning money on a quiz show, then waking years later to find greasers are back ‘in’.

If Ray Davies had written it, it’d be eulogised. As it is, even Tull fans tend to find its short songs too restrictive, while punk’s pied pipers took one look at the title and wondered why this guy was so eager for a kicking.

This Steven Wilson remix comes with outtakes, unreleased tracks from a planned TV special and, perhaps most productively, a fat booklet explaining everything. Instead of mocking Anderson, who actively engaged with the music world in a meta-manner, should journalists have encouraged and applauded instead? Perhaps his brain intimidated them.

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has written about music, films, and art for innumerable outlets. His new book The Velvet Underground is out April 4. He has also published books on Lou Reed, Elton John, the Gothic arts, Talk Talk, Kate Moss, Scarlett Johansson, Abba, Tom Jones and others. Among his interviewees over the years have been David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, Bryan Ferry, Al Green, Tom Waits & Lou Reed. Born in North Wales, he lives in London.