Song of the Week – Aqualung, Jethro Tull

Ignored            Obscured             Restored

A while ago I read a very interesting article titled “My Dad Painted the Iconic Cover for Jethro Tull’s ‘Aqualung,’ and It’s Haunted Him Ever Since.”

My Dad Painted the Iconic Cover for Jethro Tull’s ‘Aqualung,’ and It’s Haunted Him Ever Since

You can follow the link above and read the full story but I’ll provide a thumbnail summary here.

It turns out Burton Silverman had a long and successful career as a well-respected realist artist.  But all that takes a back seat to what he is most famous for – painting the cover to Aqualung.

To add insult to injury, Silverman was paid a flat fee of $1,500 for the three paintings that made up the front and back covers and the gatefold of the album.  (The artwork was also in the background of the lyric sheet insert.)

Silverman’s paintings were inspired by the lyrics to the title cut, “Aqualung.”

Sitting on a park bench
Eyeing little girls with bad intent
Snot’s running down his nose
Greasy fingers smearing shabby clothes

Silverman “decided to place the figurant of Aqualung in a lonely, dank doorway, gripping his shabby coat for warmth and menacingly warding off all comers like a cornered animal.”

The artwork adds a visual dimension to the song and album that enhances how the music is perceived and can’t be separated from the enduring popularity of the record.

From here the story strays into the details of legal considerations due to Silverman’s resentment that he was paid so little for the artwork he created that is now plastered on all sorts of merchandise, earning money for lots of people, but not him!

I was a big fan of Aqualung when it came out 50 years ago.  I first heard it when my brother brought it back from college in May 1971.  I confiscated his copy, never to be returned.  As I think about it, that’s almost a metaphor for the Silverman story.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – We Used To Know, Jethro Tull


Have you been following the controversy in the news regarding Eagles’ Don Henley’s hissy fit over Frank Ocean and Okkervil River having the nerve to tamper with his classics, “Hotel California” and “The End of the Innocence?” Basically, he doesn’t like that Ocean used the music of “Hotel” for his rap called “American Wedding” and that Will Sheff of Okkervil changed/added lyrics to his cover of “Innocence.”

For a little more color read this Rolling Stone article.

Yeah, I know, Henley’s on solid legal turf… but that doesn’t make him any less of a dick. He should have granted Ocean the rights to do his rap. And god forbid Neff should reinterpret his song with a different lyrical twist! Really! Sinatra was famous for changing the lyrics to some of the most carefully crafted lyrics in the great American songbook. Those lyricists may have been mortified privately, but I doubt any tried to stop him from releasing their songs.

But here’s the issue that really sticks in my craw. In June of 1972, Jethro Tull supported Eagles on a tour through the Northwest and Texas. This would have been well in advance of Henley writing “Hotel California” which was released at the end of 1976. One of the songs Tull played in their set was “We Used To Know” from the album Stand Up. That’s today’s SotW.

Sound familiar? Alright then.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that Henley intentionally plagiarized Tull. In fact, even Ian Anderson won’t go there. The point is that there are only so many chord progressions you can come up with before a song you’ve written starts to sound like something else. Henley shouldn’t be so high and mighty about other artists need “to come up with his own ideas and stop stealing stuff from already established works.”

It’s time for Henley to chill out and get back in touch with that famous southern California mellow vibe.

Enjoy… until next week.