On the album cover a homeless man with shaggy hair in a beggar's coat. Aqualung" got its title from his rattling breathing sounds, which sounded like a diver's lung. With its musical class, which combined hard rock, fine folk, romantic classical motifs and jazzy improvisation, the work was well received worldwide and is considered a milestone in Jethro Tull's band history as well as in rock and prog history in general. We roll up the history and meaning of "Aqualung" with mastermind Ian Anderson and guitarist Martin Barre.
When "Aqualung" came out on March 19, 1971, it was undoubtedly unusual. In addition to relentlessly discussing social ills, the work, which was misconstrued as a homogeneous concept album, took God and religion as its very big theme. No question, "Aqualung" stood alone in this respect as a groundbreaking prog album in 1971. Earlier, but also in the course of the year still following prog albums like "Tarkus", "Fragile" and "Nursery Cryme" all lacked this unsparing realism and designed rather fantasy worlds.
Between hard rock and folk on the way to "the top" - with Led Zeppelin in Island Studios
After the first recordings in the Morgan Studios, they started recording in December in the Island Studios in London. Anderson remembers it with an inner chill: "It was a bit eerie in the then new Island Studios, a converted old church. It was cold in human terms and inhospitable in musical terms. Above all, it didn't sound good at all, not even in the control room. So I was very nervous when it came to the finished product. Because I had the feeling that we had reached a crucial point where it could have gone all the way down. Fortunately, it ended up being the other way around."
On their way to the top they met the already great Led Zeppelin in the studios, who were working on "Led Zeppelin IV". Martin Barre: "When I was recording the solo for 'Aqualung', I saw Jimmy Page waving at me like mad from the control room." (Prog Magazine, February 2021) But Barre remained composed and pulled off his fiery solo as a consummate professional. He was also instrumental in Jethro Tull's move away from folk and blues and towards an increasingly hard rock band. But "Aqualung" additionally offered up a very special mix. As Anderson describes it, "It was a mixture of heavier rock songs and acoustic, very personal singer/songwriter pieces. That made for a great dynamic, from very loud to very soft, from very short to very long. It was meant to be a multi-layered album."