Aqualung – Unveiling the Depths of Society’s Underbelly


You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Jethro Tull's Aqualung at Lyrics.org.
Article Contents:
  1. Music Video
  2. Lyrics
  3. Song Meaning
  4. Beneath the Park Bench: The Story of the Outsider
  5. The Chilling Grip of Poverty and Desolation
  6. Decoding ‘Aqualung’: The Song’s Hidden Meaning
  7. In the Mirror of Metaphor: Madness and Bloom
  8. Memorable Lines That Linger: The Echoes of ‘Aqualung’

Lyrics

Sitting on a park bench
Eying little girls with bad intent
Snots running down his nose
Greasy fingers smearing shabby clothes, hey, Aqualung

Drying in the cold sun
Watching as the frilly panties run, hey, Aqualung
Feeling like a dead duck
Spitting out pieces of his broken luck, oh, Aqualung

Sun streaking cold, an old man wandering lonely
Taking time, the only way he knows
Leg hurting bad as he bends to pick a dog end
He goes down to a bog and warms his feet

Feeling alone, the army’s up the road
Salvation a la mode and a cup of tea
Aqualung, my friend, don’t you start away uneasy
You poor old sod, you see it’s only me

Do you still remember
December’s foggy freeze
When the ice that clings on to your beard
It was screaming agony

Hey and you snatch your rattling last breaths
With deep-sea diver sounds
And the flowers bloom like
Madness in the spring

Sun streaking cold, an old man wandering lonely
Taking time, the only way he knows
Leg hurting bad as he bends to pick a dog end
He goes down to a bog and warms his feet

Feeling alone, the army’s up the road
Salvation a la mode and a cup of tea
Aqualung my friend don’t you start away uneasy
You poor old sod, you see it’s only me

Aqualung my friend don’t you start away uneasy
You poor old sod, you see it’s only me

Sitting on a park bench
Eying up little girls with bad intent
Snots running down his nose
Greasy fingers smearing shabby clothes, hey Aqualung

Drying in the cold sun
Watching as the frilly panties run, hey Aqualung
Feeling like a dead duck
Spitting out pieces of his broken luck, hey Aqualung

Oh Aqualung

Full Lyrics

In the realm of classic rock, few songs have managed to paint as distinct a portrait of society’s fringes as Jethro Tull’s ‘Aqualung.’ Released in 1971, this track isn’t just a cornerstone of the band’s album also named ‘Aqualung’; it is a bold, multifaceted narrative that delves deep into themes of alienation, poverty, and societal disregard.

Much more than a progressive rock anthem, ‘Aqualung’ has stirred the pot of interpretation since its release. Its lyrics, wrought with vivid imagery, provoke a visceral response—a mixture of discomfort, empathy, and reflection. Let’s take a lyrical journey through the song, uncovering the layers and unspoken truths lurking beneath its melodic surface.

Beneath the Park Bench: The Story of the Outsider

The opening lines of ‘Aqualung’ immediately confront the listener with a harsh image: an old man, disheveled and leering, isolated on the fringes of a park space that should symbolize community and openness. But this is no ordinary character study. Through the guise of Aqualung, Ian Anderson, the mastermind behind the lyrics, forces us to confront societal neglect and prejudgment.

The protagonist’s actions, while unsettling, hint at a deep-seated tragedy. The song’s protagonist is castigated not solely for his lewdness but more poignantly for his existence in a space where he’s viewed as anathema—a pariah whose humanity has been stripped away by his circumstances.

The Chilling Grip of Poverty and Desolation

Aqualung’s seemingly perverse gaze and squalid appearance are not presented in a vacuum. As the verses unfold, Jethro Tull highlights the debilitating effects of poverty and loneliness. The character portrayed by Anderson isn’t merely there for shock value; he’s a symbol of what happens when society turns a blind eye to its most vulnerable members.

The biting cold and physical pain of ‘leg hurting bad’ evoke a sense of empathy, perhaps highlighting a contrast between the fleeting judgment of his ‘bad intent’ and the chronic suffering he endures daily. In a society that prides itself on progress and civility, ‘Aqualung’ is a stark reminder of the ones left behind, grappling with the scraps of existence.

Decoding ‘Aqualung’: The Song’s Hidden Meaning

Beyond its narrative about a homeless man, ‘Aqualung’ taps into a more profound narrative. It’s a critique of institutional failure—be it the church, the military, or government—and of how these bodies often fail to assist those like Aqualung. ‘Salvation a la mode and a cup of tea’ isn’t just a line; it’s a stinging indictment of token gestures that fall short of genuine aid.

When the song addresses Aqualung directly, there’s a potent mix of pity and camaraderie. The ‘you poor old sod’ retort feels both dismissive and endearing, revealing the complex emotions that stir when faced with human frailty. Anderson’s portrayal invokes a paradoxical relationship with marginalization—both fear and familiarity.

In the Mirror of Metaphor: Madness and Bloom

The poetics of ‘Aqualung’ offer a striking metaphor with the line, ‘And the flowers bloom like madness in the spring.’ Here, madness is juxtaposed with the natural reawakening of spring, suggesting an inherent beauty and renewal juxtaposed with turmoil. It’s a poetic device that subtly calls into question our interpretations of sanity within society’s constraints.

This metaphor serves as a thematic pivot in the song, offering the idea that within decay and despair, there remains the possibility for beauty and rebirth. Even Aqualung, the decrepit figure, exists alongside nature’s cycles—a reminder that life persists in the face of adversity.

Memorable Lines That Linger: The Echoes of ‘Aqualung’

‘Sitting on a park bench,’ the song’s recurring line, ceases to be a mere observation. It becomes an anthemic echo that reverberates with every mention. Each reiteration of this line reinforces the depth of Aqualung’s character—his solitude becomes more poignant, his plight more entrenched in the listener’s conscience.

The synthesis of music and lyrics in ‘Aqualung’ leaves an indelible imprint. Ian Anderson’s gravelly voice, contrasted with the melodic flute and guitar riffs, encapsulates a musical experience that is as haunting as it is enlightening. These lines aren’t just heard; they’re felt—a true testament to the power of music as a narrative form.

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