Rock Flashback: Jethro Tull’s “Christmas Song”

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Ian Anderson (R) and Martin Barre of Jethro Tull (Getty Images/Fred Tanneau/AFP)

Ian Anderson (R) and Martin Barre of Jethro Tull (Getty Images/Fred Tanneau/AFP)

In 2003, [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Jethro Tull[/lastfm] released a Christmas album. For some artists, this is a give-up move, a way to get attention and sell product when nothing else does it. For Tull, it made a good deal of sense — and it was one of the band’s best albums since the 1970s. [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Ian Anderson[/lastfm] and his mates brought an English folk feel to their acoustic works, and that style lends itself well to seasonal songs. It wasn’t something they discovered late, however — Tull had first recorded a holiday song over 30 years earlier.

“A Christmas Song” appeared as the B-side of Tull’s first chart single in Britain, “Love Story,” way back in 1968. It would not be released in the States until 1972, when it appeared on Living in the Past, an album compiling unreleased, rare, and live Tull material recorded between 1968 and 1971. It would appear as the B-side of the title song, which rose to #11 on the American charts in early 1973.

“A Christmas Song” is refreshingly blunt, telling listeners of a baby boy born in a cattle shed, and reminding them that “you’d do well to remember the things he later said.” And also: “the Christmas spirit is not what you drink.”

 

Tull returned to the holiday theme in 1977 with “Ring Out Solstice Bells” from the album Songs From the Wood, which gets a wee bit of airplay this time of year. Both songs were re-recorded along with traditional songs and originals for The Jethro Tull Christmas Album.

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