Jethro Tull: The Rock Opera Setlist & Lyrics

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JETHRO TULL: THE ROCK OPERA

LYRICS

Character colour codes:
Narrator/Older Jethro Tull
Susannah
Young Jethro Tull/John (Jasper) Tull, Jethro’s son
Jethro Tull Senior, Jethro’s father
Quentin Scrobe/Choirmaster

FIRST SET

Recit.

What do you do when the old man’s gone? Do you want to see him?
What do you do with the old man’s songs? Do you want to hear them?
Sublime in fertile old Thames Valley,
commuters and history, strange bedfellows we
lie in folds of velvety green,
the roots and the branches of the Tull family tree.

HEAVY HORSES

Iron-clad feather-feet pounding the dust;
an October’s day, towards evening.
Sweat-embossed veins standing proud to the plough;
salt on a deep chest seasoning.
Last of the line at an honest day’s toil;
turning the deep sod under.
Flint at the fetlock, chasing the bone;
flies, at the nostrils plunder.
The Suffolk, the Clydesdale, the Percheron vie
with the Shire on his feathers floating.
Hauling soft timber into the dusk
to bed on a warm straw coating.

Heavy Horses, move the land under me.
Behind the plough guiding, slipping and sliding free.
Now you’re down to the few and there’s no work to do;
the tractor’s on its way.

Massey, New Holland, nothing runs like a Deere,
Four-driven fat tyres, heaving.
Soft ride on work seat suspended in air,
Finger-tip touch for steering.
Three hundred horses under the hood,
fed on red diesel fuming.
Hungry as hell while the oil-barons fly,
A bio-fuel era looming.

Bring a song for the evening,
clean brass to flash the dawn
across these acres glistening
like dew on a carpet lawn.
At once the old hands quicken,
bring pick and wisp and curry comb.
Thrill to the sound of all
the heavy horses coming home.

Mighty machine with the big grunt smile,
gentle Goliath tearing
five furrow lines on a brown spent field;
spoils of a deep plough sharing.
Bring me a wheel of oaken wood,
a rein of polished leather.
A heavy horse and a tumbling sky,
brewing heavy weather.

Heavy Horses, move the land under me.
Behind the plough guiding, slipping and sliding free.
Now you’re down to the few and there’s no work to do;
the tractor’s on its way.

Recit.
We’ll make him do the right thing.
Send him to be a bright thing
in the shadow of Oxford spires.
No arty-fart pretensions.
Fully-paid-up intentions
To let Latin, law light curiosity’s fires.

WIND UP

When he was young and we packed him off to school
where they taught him how not to play the game;
He didn’t mind if they groomed him for success,
or if they said that he was just a fool.

So I left there in the morning with their God tucked underneath my arm,
their half-assed smiles and the book of rules.
And I asked this God a question and by way of firm reply,
He said, “I’m not the kind you have to wind up on Sundays.”
Well, they can excommunicate me on my way to Sunday school
and have all the Bishops harmonise these lines.

How do you dare tell me that I’m my Father’s son
when that was just an accident of birth?
I’d rather look around me, compose a better song,
’cause that’s the honest measure of my worth.
In your pomp and all your glory you’re a poorer man than me,
as you lick the boots of death born out of fear.

He doesn’t want to study, your Latin and your Law
your theory and your esoteric ways
He wants to be a real man, practical and strong;
dig honest dirt like he was born to do.
So I’m leaving in the morning, no rueful backward smile.
Following my nose to yonder blue.

You can excommunicate me on my way to Sunday school
and have all the Bishops harmonise these lines.

When I was older and they packed me off to school
I buckled down to Latin and the Law.
I didn’t mind if they groomed me for success,
But let it not be said I was a fool.
So to my old headmaster (and to anyone who cares),
before I’m through I’d like to say my prayers.
You didn’t excommunicate me on my way to Sunday school
while a choir of Bishops harmonised these lines.

But I still don’t believe you; you had the whole damn thing all wrong.
He’s not the kind you have to wind up on Sundays.

Recit.
Not a well man, if truth we tell, man;
chesty cough and infections are his Achilles heel.
I study hard, man. And do what I can
to please my parents, keep an even keel.

AQUALUNG

Sitting on a park bench, eyeing all the world with bad intent.
Snot running down my nose; greasy fingers smearing shabby clothes.
Hey, Aqualung.
Drying in the cold sun, angry at the children having fun.
Hey, Aqualung.
Feeling like a dead duck; spitting out pieces of my broken luck.
Oh, Aqualung.

Sun streaking cold, a young man wandering, lonely.
Taking time the only way he knows.
Chest hurting bad as he bends to pick a dog-end.
He goes down to the bog and warms his feet.
Feeling alone, Oxford college up the road.
Intellectual salvation, a cup of tea.
Aqualung my shadow: don’t you start away uneasy
you poor old sod, you see it’s only me.

Can you still remember December’s foggy freeze?
When the ice that clings on to your beard was screaming agony.
And I snatch my rattling last breaths with deep-sea-diver sounds
and the flowers bloom like madness in the spring.

Sun streaking cold, a young man wandering, lonely.
Taking time the only way he knows.
Chest hurting bad as I bend to pick a dog-end.
I go down to the bog and warm my feet.
Feeling alone, Oxford college up the road.
Intellectual salvation, a cup of tea.
Aqualung my shadow: don’t you start away uneasy
you poor old sod, you see it’s only me. Eeh, eeh, eeh, eeh. Wo, ho, ho, ho-ho.

Dee-dee-dee-dee etc.
Aqualung my friend: don’t you start away uneasy
you poor old sod, you see it’s only me.

Sitting on a park bench, eyeing all the world with bad intent.
Snot running down my nose; greasy fingers smearing shabby clothes.
Hey, Aqualung.
Drying in the cold sun, angry at the children having fun.
Hey, Aqualung.
Feeling like a dead duck; spitting out pieces of my broken luck.
Oh, Aqualung.
Wo, oh, oh, oh-oh – Aqualung.

Recit.
My new husband seeks solace in French mountains and meadows
where balmier breezes calm his chest-heaving.
Picking up hints and practices pastoral,
journeyman journeying, taking and leaving.
It’s been a right wheeze, in jolly good company.
Rows of olives, strains of barley
in quiet tradition, chains linked in memory.
Late to soft bed but hard rising early.
L’homme botanique dreams his new dreams…..

WITH YOU THERE TO HELP ME
(Duet with Susannah)

In days of peace;
sweet smelling summer nights
of wine and song,
dusty pavements, burning feet.

Why am I crying? I want to know.
How can I smile and make it right?
For sixty days and eighty nights
and not give in and lose the fight.

Going back to the ones that I know,
with whom I can be what I want to be.
Just one week for the feeling to go
and with you there to help him
then it probably will.

I won’t go down
acting the same old play.
Give sixty days for just one night.
Don’t think I’d make it: but then I might.

Going back to the ones that I know,
with whom I can be what I want to be.
Just one week for the feeling to go
and with you there to help him
then it probably will.

Recit.
Something stirs back in the homeland,
times are hard, drowning in melting mortgage.
Father T faces tough decisions.
Mulls it over. Interrogates his inner conscience.
Back and forth, to and fro. Consult the family pack?
Share the weight? No, best quietly act before too late.

BACK TO THE FAMILY

My cellphone wakes me in the morning.
Have to get up to answer the call.
Soon to go back to the family
where no one need ring him at all.
This R&R trip was enlightening;
Short nights and long Summer days.
Exploring deep folds of velvet green
in these French and Italian ways.

Father’s in the counting house
counting all his money.
Sister’s sitting by the mirror;
she thinks her hair looks funny.
And there stands he, contemplating,
wondering which way to go.

Wandering through fields of old Europe,
freely breathing, hale, hearty and trim.
So, he’s heading home to the family;
Mere dreams not fulfilling to him.
I’ll get a train back to home counties.
This soft life is getting me down.
Get to grips with the farm and the family.
No return to old Oxford town.

iPhone ringing all day long:
Bad Daddy’s reason crumbling?
Turned our fields from green to silver
into steel rails, freeways rumbling.
Debts all paid, but a life betrayed;
heritage torn away.

Nine miles of two-strand topped with barbed wire,
laid by the father for the son.
Good shelter down there on the valley floor,
down by where the sweet stream run.

Now they might give him compensation.
That’s not what I’m chasing; I was a rich man before yesterday.
Now all that’s left is a cheque and a pickup truck:
and he left his farm on the freeway.

They’re busy building airports on the South side,
silicon chip factory on the East.
And the big road’s pushing through along the valley floor;
Hot machine pouring six lanes at the very least.

They say they gave him compensation.
That’s not what I’m chasing; I was a rich man before yesterday.
Now all he has left is a broken-down pickup truck:
looks like his farm is a freeway.

They forgot they told us what this old land was for.
Grow two tons the acre, boy, between the stones.
This was no Southfork, it was no Ponderosa.
But it was the place that he called home.

They say they gave him compensation.
That’s not what I’m chasing; I was a rich man before yesterday.
And what does he want with a million dollars and a pickup truck
when he left his farm under the freeway?

Recit.
Pick up eight pieces and take a chance.
Sink what’s left on a risk and a gamble.
Stuff they can’t replace and won’t make any more of.
Sod and turf cleared of thicket and bramble.
To plant in meticulous rows.

PROSPEROUS PASTURE

Bought ourselves a heavenly plot in Wiltshire plains of Shalbourne.
Parcel of acres – not a lot – enough to raise a few
cows and sheep and grow some corn, maybe to eke a living
while Daddy works his strange ways as Daddies often do.

Maybe I can learn to help with scientific learning.
What the heck? It’s bio-tech, old tables now for turning.
Experiment, try this, try that; inspired investigation.
No good trying to jump off when the train has left the station.

Here we wallow in prosperous pasture.
Piggies sipping from a shallow trough.
Tired old ways to modify and alter;
greener hands both on and off.

Recit.
From crucible by slim pipette, flask and dropper, petri dish.
Out of wedlock, ill-conceived? Perhaps; might be the Good Lord’s wish…

FRUITS OF FRANKENFIELD

It’s in the DNA. It’s in God’s will.
Mary Shelley’s out to lunch. But now she will eat her fill.
Transgenic, cool mechanic.
Think botanic, still organic.
Busy beaver, lab-rat manic;
to you I might seem quite satanic
Delivering the fruits of Frankenfield.

I breathe the heady air. A deep infusion.
I feel furtive roots a-stirring. No brief illusion.
Shout Eureka, hide and seeker.
Giver, taker, money-maker.
Offered half a decent chance,
this could be a real earth-shaker.
Delivering the fruits of Frankenfield.

Nothing grows like this.
Don’t fall for prejudice.
Turn away from dark suspicion.
No ill wind blows like this.

Transgenic, cool mechanic.
Think botanic, still organic.
Busy beaver, lab-rat manic;
to you I might seem quite satanic
Delivering the fruits of Frankenfield.

I breathe the heady air. A deep infusion.
I feel furtive roots a-stirring. No brief illusion.
Transgenic, cool mechanic.
Think botanic, still organic.
Shout Eureka, hide and seeker.
Giver, taker, money-maker.
Offered half a decent chance,
this could be a real earth-shaker.
Delivering the fruits of Frankenfield.

Recit.
I’m on to something: may be a good thing.
May be a bad thing but let’s give it a whirl.
I hope you know what the blazes you’re doing.
And don’t implicate this innocent girl
in dark fertilisations, your weird shoots and seedlings,
Forbidden oyster, mysterious pearl.

SONGS FROM THE WOOD

Let me bring you songs from the wood:
poppies red and roses filled with summer rain.
To heal the wound and still the pain
that threatens again and again
as you drag down every lover’s lane.
Life’s long celebration’s here.
I’ll toast you all in penny cheer.

Let me bring you all things refined:
Golden wheat and barley bright in palest ale.
Greetings well-met fellow, hail!
I am the wind to fill your sail.
When wet winds blow and harvests fail.
Inventor of new ageless times,
in kitchen prose and gutter rhymes.

Songs from the wood make you feel much better.

Let me bring you love from the field:
germination, growth and yields beyond your dreams.
It is precisely what it seems.
We are the cats who licked the cream;
the engineers who raised the steam.
Glad bringers of these ageless times
with kitchen prose and gutter rhymes.

Songs from the wood make you feel much better.

SECOND SET

Recit.
The luminous light of the darkened laboratory
bathes him, cajoles him, nurtures and raises him
up from obscurity, muddling non-entity
climbs to new pinnacles where the clear view amazes him.

AND THE WORLD FEEDS ME

In strange and wonderful ways,
some things combine to make sweet alchemy.
Through grey and dangerous days,
I walked a line stretching out to the west of me,

Following the sun. Chasing the milky moon.
Investment morning, return in the afternoon.
I make my name and fortune, my name in history.
I feed the world and the world feeds me.

Patents and copyright laws
exist to protect and ensure my destiny.
Lawyers with sharp teeth and claws
further my aims to monetise botany.
Following the sun. Chasing the milky moon.
Investment morning, return in the afternoon.
I make my name and fortune, my name in history.
I feed the world and the world feeds me.

L’homme botanique.
I hide, you seek.
Don’t think to complain;
just ride the food train.

So what if I’m rolling in dough?
I worked my proverbials off to do right by you.
Hi-tech to reap what we sow;
my gift and my legacy there in plain sight of you.
Following the sun. Chasing the milky moon.
Investment morning, return in the afternoon.
I make my name and fortune, my name in history.
I feed the world and the world feeds me.

Recit.
I miss those old days when we simpletons sallied
through woody leaf mould and as new lovers dallied
by trickly streams and tickly nettles
to lie where the whirling seed sycamore settles.

LIVING IN THE PAST

Happy and I’m smiling, walk a mile to drink your water.
You know I’d love to love you and above you there’s no other.
We’ll go walking out while others shout of war’s disaster.
Oh, we won’t give in, let’s go living in the past.

Once, I used to join in; every boy and girl was my friend.
Now there’s revolution, but they don’t know what they’re fighting.
Let us close our eyes; outside their lives go on much faster.
Oh, we won’t give in, we’ll keep living in the past.

Recit.
It’s all magick; smoke, mirrors, words woven, warmed in repetition,
folky lore, dark underscore and plain sedition.

JACK-IN-THE-GREEN

Have you seen Jack-In-The-Green
with his long tail hanging down?
He quietly sits under every tree
in the folds of his velvet gown.
He drinks from the empty acorn cup
the dew that dawn sweetly bestows.
And taps his cane upon the ground,
signals the snowdrops; it’s time to grow.

It’s no fun being Jack-In-The-Green.
No place to dance, no time for song.
He wears the colours of the summer soldier,
carries the green flag all the winter long.

Jack, do you never sleep ?
Does the green still run deep in your heart?
Or will these changing times,
motorways, power lines, keep us apart?
Well, I don’t think so;
I saw some grass growing through the pavements today.

The rowan, the oak and the holly tree
are the charges left for you to groom.
Each blade of grass whispers Jack-In-The-Green.
Oh Jack, please help me through my winter’s night.
And we are the berries on the holly tree.
Oh, the Mistlethrush is coming;
Jack, put out the light.

Recit.
You’ve been seduced, you silly man!
Get out of these clutches; escape while you can.

THE WITCH’S PROMISE

Oh, lend me your ear while I call you a fool.
You were kissed by a witch one night in the wood.
And later insisted your feelings were true.
The witch’s promise was coming.
Believing, you listened while laughing she flew.

Leaves falling, red, yellow, brown, all look the same.
And the love we had found lay outside in the rain.
Washed clean by the water but nursing its pain.
The witch’s promise was coming.
And we’re looking elsewhere for our own selfish gain.
Keep looking, keep looking for somewhere to be.
Well, you’re wasting your time, he’s not stupid like she is.
Meanwhile, leaves are still falling, you’re too blind to see.

You won’t find it easy now, it’s only fair.
I was willing to give to you, you didn’t care.
You’re waiting for more but you’ve already had your share.
The witch’s promise is turning.
So don’t you wait up for me: I’m going to be late.

Recit.
My old man never followed the obvious choice.
My old man stood into the wind and begged it blow harder.
In his way, he became the measure of
where we must go to fill up the larder.
Brave new world of chemical bending
DNA helical twist never-ending

WEATHERCOCK

Good morning Weathercock:
how did you fare last night?
Did the cold wind bite you,
did you face up to the fright
when the leaves spin from October
and whip around your tail?
Did you shake from the blast,
did you shiver through the gale?

Give us direction, the best of goodwill:
put us in touch with fair winds.
Sing to us softly, hum evening’s song.
Tell us what the blacksmith has done for you.

Do you simply reflect changes
in the patterns of the sky,
or is it true to say the weather heeds
the twinkle in your eye?
Do you fight the rush of winter,
do you hold snowflakes at bay?
Do you lift the dawn sun from the fields
and help him on his way?

Good morning Weathercock: make this day bright.
Put us in touch with your fair winds.
Sing to us softly, hum evening’s song.
Point the way to better days we can share with you.

Recit.
He’s caught between ethical circumstance
and moral dilemma; got to clutch at the chance to
figure it out and figure it in
to his messy equation, let the spinning wheel spin.

STICK, TWIST, BUST

Can’t stick the pig in the middle.
No faintly uncomfortable compromise.
Can’t find a fudge to fiddle.
No clear bright spot between the eyes.

Facing up to dilemma;
facing up to the bitter choice.
Still hands with barely a tremor.
Stick, twist, bust in a manly voice.

To reside in sublime rural idyll
or to build upon cities of high-rise hell?
Choose self-sufficient denial
or dig ever-deeper the trickling well.
Facing up to dilemma,
facing up to the bitter choice.
Still hands with barely a tremor.
Stick, twist, bust in a manly voice.

Find bountiful future salvation
or survivalist bubble with larder stocked.
Redemption in brave innovation
or to hide in quiet haven firmly locked?
Facing up to dilemma;
facing up to the bitter choice.
Still hands with barely a tremor.
Declare direction in firmer voice.
Facing up to dilemma,
facing up to the bitter choice.
Still hands with barely a tremor.
Stick, twist, bust. Stick, twist, bust. Stick, twist – bust.

Recit.
The time has come; be a good son, a good man.
Better visit your dad, set things straight now if you can.
Last gasps are the worst gasps to suffer in guilt.
Let him dare to be proud, there’s a bridge to be built.
In a way, I drove him to strive and achieve.
So make it all right, let me take final leave.

CHEAP DAY RETURN

On Preston platform, do your soft shoe shuffle dance.
Brush away the cigarette ash that’s falling down your pants.
And you sadly wonder: does the nurse treat your old man
the way she should?
She made you tea, asked for your autograph.
What a laugh.

Recit.
That was then; this is now. All things change on a dime and how
they change, they change and we must follow. Sweet the pill; bitter to swallow.
Go on my son; finish first at the post.
Dare to shout “Boo” at the Holy Ghost.
All things pass in the blink of an eye.
A tentative teardrop, a sniff and a sigh.

A NEW DAY YESTERDAY

My first and last time with you
and we had some fun.
Went walking through the trees, yeah
and I kissed you once.
Oh, I want to see you soon but I wonder how.
It was a new day yesterday
but it’s an old day now.

Spent a long time looking
for a game to play.
My luck should be so bad now
to turn out this way.
I had to leave today just when I thought I’d found you.
It was a new day yesterday
but it’s an old day now.

Recit.
It’s a generation thing: fathers and sons
caught up in madness and holding the gun
to the heads of each other; I know how it’s done.
For God’s sake get on with it, till game it is won.
Till course it is run.

THE TURNSTILE GATE

One door opens, another one closes;
you buy your ticket to No-Way-Back.
Make Dad proud as you wonder aloud
on the steely rails of the new straight track.
I have to accept these realities;
the changes that urban anthills ring.
Colonies happy as Larry, the plentiful lamb.
in rite of passage, new rite of spring.

I sit and gaze at that far horizon
where on opposite balcony black crows wait
watching the man sit in puzzled reflection
as the ratchet clicks on the turnstile gate.
I have to accept these realities;
the changes that urban anthills ring.
Colonies happy as Larry, the plentiful lamb.
in rite of passage, new rite of spring.

Clock not for turning, lessons for learning
no way down on the up-escalator.
No abort switch, no power-off switch
foot hard down on the accelerator.
Lost your bottle? Forward throttle
through jaws of the turnstile alligator.

Recit.
Platform 9. All aboard! All aboard the gravy train.
Nowt wrong with breaking bread; the price of the ticket will keep you fed.

LOCOMOTIVE BREATH

In the shuffling madness of the locomotive breath,
runs the all-time loser, headlong to his death.
Oh, he feels the piston scraping, steam breaking on his brow.
Old Charlie stole the handle and the train,
it won’t stop going; no way to slow down.

He sees his children jumping off at stations, one by one.
His woman and his best friend in bed and having fun.
He’s crawling down the corridor on his hands and knees.
Old Charlie stole the handle and the train,
it won’t stop going; no way to slow down.

He hears the silence howling: catches angels as they fall.
And the all-time winner has got him by the balls.
He picks up Gideon’s Bible, open at page one.
I think that God, He stole the handle and the train
won’t stop going; no way to slow down.
No way to slow down.
no way to slow down.

Recit.
When all is said and all is done…
the man lies sleeping, we reminiscing…
counting blessings, sheep and shilling…
commended in rest, if God be willing.

REQUIEM AND FUGUE

Well, I saw a bird today, flying from a bush
and the wind blew it away.
And the black-eyed mother sun scorched the butterfly at play,
velvet-veined. I saw it burn.

With a wintry storm-blown sigh,
a silver cloud blew right on by.
And, taking in the morning, I sang O Requiem.

Well, my lady told me, stay. I looked aside and walked away
along the Strand.
But I didn’t say a word as the train timetable blurred
close behind the taxi stand.
Saw her face in the tear-drop black cab window
fading into the traffic. Watched me go.
And taking in the morning, heard myself singing O Requiem.
Here I go again; it’s the same old story.