Living in the Past ~ Jethro Tull

Jethro Tull are a Grammy Award winning British rock group that formed in 1967-1968. Their music is marked by the distinctive vocal style and lead flute work of front man Ian Anderson. Initially playing blues rock with an experimental flavour, they have, over the years, incorporated elements of classical, folk and ‘ethnic’ musics, jazz and art rock.

During the early 1970s Jethro Tull went from a progressive blues band to one of the largest concert draws in the world. In concert, the band was known for theatricality and long medleys with brief instrumental interludes. While early Jethro Tull shows featured a manic Anderson with bushy hair and beard dressed in tattered overcoats and ragged clothes, as the band became bigger he moved towards varied costumes. This culminated with the War Child tour’s oversized codpiece and colourful costume.

Other band-members joined in the dress-up and developed stage personae. Bassist Glenn Cornick always appeared in vest and headband, while his successor Jeffrey Hammond eventually adopted a black-and-white diagonally-striped suit (and similarly striped bass guitar, electric guitar, and string bass). It was a ‘zebra look’, and at one point a two-manned zebra came out excreting ping pong balls into the audience while both performers moved forcefully around their stage areas. John Evan dressed in an all-white suit with a neck-scarf of scarlet with white polka-dots; described as a “sad clown” type with extremely oversized shoes, he joined in the theatrics by galumphing back and forth between Hammond Organ and grand piano (placed on opposite sides of the stage in the Thick as a Brick tour) or by such sight-gags as pulling out a flask and pretending to drink from it during a rest in the music. Barriemore Barlow’s stage attire was a crimson tank-top and matching runner’s shorts with rugby footgear, and his solos were marked by smoke-machines and enormous drumsticks. Martin Barre was the island of calm amongst the madmen, with Anderson (and sometimes Evan) crowding him and making faces during his solos.

The band’s stage theatrics peaked during the Thick As A Brick tour, a performance distinguished by stage hands wearing the tan trench-coat/madras cap ensemble from the album art, extras in rabbit suits running across stage and an extended interlude during which Barre and Barlow entered a beach-tent onstage and swapped pants.

A Passion Play was planned to have a full-length film to go with the stage theatrics. However, from this effort, it seems that only a few excerpts have survived to be re-released on recent commemorative videos of the band, including the interlude “The Story of the Hare Who Lost His Spectacles.”

A similar multi-media effort had been planned for Too Old To Rock and Roll… but was not completed. Thereafter, the emphasis on theatrics was reduced but never eliminated. In 1982’s Broadsword and the Beast concerts, the entire stage was transformed into a Viking ship. Anderson often dressed as a country squire on tours in the late 1970s, with the rest of the band adopting the style during their folk phase. The A tour featured the same white jumpsuit uniforms worn by the band on the album cover. Certain routines from the 1970s have recently become ensconced in concerts, such as having a song interrupted by a phone call for an audience member (which Anderson now takes on a cell) and the climactic conclusion of shows including bombastic instrumentals and the giant balloons which Anderson would carry over his head and toss into the crowd.

Living In the Past

The song was originally recorded during sessions for Tull’s 1969 album Stand Up, and released in the same year as a stand-alone single. However, it became even more popular after its 1972 release on Tull’s compilation album, also called Living In The Past.

The song, which was originally released at the peak of the Vietnam War, seems to be about people wishing to live in peaceful times (the “past” mentioned in the song) rather than at a time of war and turmoil (the “present”).


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.

Oh, we won’t give in,
Let’s go living in the past.
Oh no no we won’t give in,
Let’s go living in the past.

Member history

  • Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi played guitar for Jethro Tull briefly in 1968 following the departure of Mick Abrahams. The only recording of him with Jethro Tull is on The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus although his guitar is not heard as all of the music (excepting Ian Anderson’s vocals and flute) was dubbed in afterwards. He had already quit the band before the Rock and Roll Circus and it was his final performance with the band. He was soon replaced by Martin Barre.
  • After his departure from Jethro Tull in 1971, original drummer Clive Bunker played in a short-lived group called Jude with former Procol Harum guitarist Robin Trower.
  • Barriemore Barlow replaced Clive Bunker on drums. His second gig for the band was the infamous outdoor concert at Red Rocks Amphitheatre near Morrison, Colorado on 10 June, 1971 in which gate-crashing fans rioted with police who dropped tear gas from helicopters. The band played on through their tears in what was described as a brilliant gig; but no rock concerts were held at Red Rocks for years thereafter.[15]
  • Genesis’ Phil Collins was Jethro Tull’s drummer for only one gig: the Prince’s Trust Gala on July 7, 1982 at London’s Dominion Theatre. During this time, Jethro Tull had the position of drummer to fill after the departure of temporary drummer Mark Craney. Phil Collins played a three songs set, and two of them (“Jack in the Green” and “Pussy Willow”) are on an official video release of the Prince’s Trust Gala–though it may not have been released in all countries.
  • A significant number of Jethro Tull former supporting players like Dave Pegg, Martin Allcock, Dave Mattacks and Gerry Conway have been in the core of in the influential folk rock band Fairport Convention. Dave Pegg – a core member of Fairport and the bassist with the longest tenure in Tull (1979-1995)  alternated his career between the two. When Jethro Tull toured the USA in 1987, Fairport Convention was the opening act, with Pegg playing in both bands at each concert.
  • Ex-drummer Mark Craney, from the short-lived 1980-81 line-up, died of diabetes and pneumonia on November 26, 2005. He had suffered through a history of health problems including kidney ailments, stroke paralysis, and a heart condition. A number of Jethro Tull members contributed to the 1997 charity album, Something With a Pulse, to help Craney pay medical bills.
  • Bassist Tony Williams filled in for the remainder of the tour when John Glascock’s health failed.
  • Bassist Matthew Pegg Dave’s son  is credited with playing bass on Catfish Rising when his father was “washing hair.”
  • Bassist Steve Bailey appeared on the Roots to Branches recording due to Dave Pegg’s scheduling conflicts.
  • David Palmer, who arranged orchestras and instruments along with being a member of Jethro Tull, became Dee Palmer in 2003 and transitioned from a male to a female in 2004. She is very open about it and plans on releasing a solo album.


About DJ Allyn

DJ Allyn is a burned out radio guy who went on to become a burned out sound engineer for a few Seattle area grunge bands in the 1980s and 1990s. Left the madness of worldwide tours with bands, cleaned up my act and went into the relative sanity of sound engineering for television series. Currently working as the Director of Sound for a television series being filmed in North Vancouver, British Columbia. I am always on the lookout for interesting videos, old music, and fun.

Got a comment?