Thursday, April 2, 2015

Up to Me

Jethro Tull's Aqualung was one of my first non-Beatles life changing albums. Through luck of the draw a vinyl recording of Aqualung was placed down in front of me in the correct way by my neighbor. I was a young boy, he a young married man. He told me of all the albums he was selling in his yard sale, this was the one I should buy.

I plunked down my 50 cents and purchased it. My experiences with the record were vast. I played that album throughout my life always knowing, thanks to my neighbor, that this was a "good" album. 

I'm not sure when the meaning of "Up to Me" solidified in my mind. I am really unconcerned about other interpretations of Jethro Tull music. This album grew up with me. It is as much my work as it is the work of Ian Anderson in a sense. (Even my neighbor should be credited in the liner notes.) I have created my meaning for the song and after all it is up to me. 

I checked on the Internet to find out what interpretations were out there. I was almost hoping no one had seen it my way. I like to feel that the world needs me, that is up to me. So I did not search very well. :) 

I found this interpretation:

I think that, keeping with the overall theme of the album, this song is about blaming your mistakes and problems on God. "me" in the song i think is god. After you got wasted in a bar, punched out your cousin, you would go to god for forgiveness. It could also be about a guy who always comes running to his friend for help. And eventually the friend just gets sick of it and laughs at the guy's mistakes. Pretty good song though.

It is easy to see that this interpretation has some thought in it. But I went ahead and posted this as a comment to my post, which cannot be edited sadly, but it was up to me:
I have listened to Aqualung for 40 years or more. I have my own beliefs as to it's meaning. The general theme of "Aqualung" is not God. Nothing is ever that simple really. The complete theme of "side two" is God. The label on the original vinyl had "Aqualung" as the name of Side One and "My God" as the name of Side Two. Ian Anderson always said that the album was not a concept album. Indeed as even if it is interpreted as a "concept album" it is actually two of them. Ian Anderson later wrote "Thick as a Brick" to parody the concept album. I think his ego was much stronger than wanting to be labeled along with others as a writer of "concept albums." "Up to Me" is on the "Aqualung" side, which is loosely a bunch of Dickensian characters. One cannot listen to this side of the album and believe it is self referential, or references God's voice, because it is a mishmash of unsavory characters. It is fictional. I believe there is only one thing you need to know about "Up to Me" to understand it. This is a mentally unstable person who believes the entire world and it's doings is up to him. It is kind of a take on the ideas that were around in self-help books that you could change the world by just believing. In this sense, there is a subtle reference to God (but remember, this side is about unsavory characters in society, or people that we see and ignore, people who have fallen through the cracks of civilization) in that the insane person sort of believes he is God. But this is an oblique reference and entirely unlike all the direct references to God on the side "My God." The subject of God cannot be ignored on the entire album because in juxtaposing the two sides Ian Anderson has demanded that you think of who God is and what His actions are if there are all these unsavory characters in the world who should be pitied and not thought of as villainous. When listening to "Up to Me" think of the depiction of the insane asylum that is part of the album art. Here are happy crazy people. The rest should easily fall into place as this song is about the ravings of a mad man.
Well, like life, there it is. Done. However, I did have second thoughts almost immediately:
 Oh, I do not mean to take away entirely the idea that this side of the album can be thought of as self referential. Inside of all of us can be parts of this fictional world. It truly can be life changing to believe that the interpretation of the world is up to you. Sadness can become joy, etc. I do not mean to take away the high level of genius Ian Anderson had to put this album together by my silly interpretation. But I am kind of sure I am right about this song as it is almost a carnival mirror image of the song "Inside" which had a lot of meaning to me in some sad times.

All of it is kind of hammer handed but well.... life cannot be undone here.... and it was up to me.

"Up To Me"

Take you to the cinema
and leave you in a Wimpy Bar --
you tell me that we've gone to far --
come running up to me.
Make the scene at Cousin Jack's --
leave him put the bottles back --
mends his glasses that I cracked --
well that one's up to me.
Buy a Silver Cloud to ride --
pack the tennis club inside --
trouser cuffs hung far too wide --
well it was up to me.
Tyres down on your bicycle --
your nose feels like an icicle --
the yellow fingered smoky girl
is looking up to me.
Well I'm a common working man
with a half of bitter -- bread and jam
and if it pleases me I'll put one on you man --
when the copper fades away.
The rainy season comes to pass --
the day-glo pirate sinks at last --
and if I laughed a bit to fast.
Well it was up to me.


All the places I've been make it hard to begin
to enjoy life again on the inside,
but I mean to.
Take a walk around the block
and be glad that I've got me some time
to be in from the outside,
and inside with you.

I'm sitting on the corner feeling glad.
Got no money coming in but I can't be sad.
That was the best cup of coffee I ever had.
And I won't worry about a thing
because we've got it made,
here on the inside, outside so far away.

And we'll laugh and we'll sing
get someone to bring our friends here
for tea in the evening --
Old Jeffrey makes three.
Take a walk in the park,
does the wind in the dark
sound like music to you?
Well I'm thinking it does to me.

Can you cook, can you sew --
well, I don't want to know.
That is not what you need on the inside,
to make the time go.

Counting lambs, counting sheep
we will fall into sleep
and we awake to a new day of living
and loving you so.

Aqualung - original vinyl album innerfold
Original vinyl labels: note on the left side that Side One and Side Two are clearly labeled as distinct