Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Jethro Tull - Too Old To Rock 'N' Roll: Too Young To Die!

This one is for all of you concept album fans. You need a good 45 minutes to take in this album in its entirety. I always find headphones help with these concept albums as well (I blame it on my short attention span). While some concept albums tend to get a bit confusing, Too Old To Rock ‘N’ Roll: Too Young to Die keeps the listener right on track. You see, when you open the gatefold cover it reveals a two page comic script literally drawing out the entire album. What’s also cool is that they even highlight the song titles in the text so you can really follow the script along with the songs. I love it when people dumb stuff down for me.

The Story:

It is about an aging rocker named Ray Lomas who no longer fits in with current trends, as mainstream style went to platform shoes and big collars entering the disco era. On a whim, Ray writes in to be on a TV game show, gets the spot and wins (Quizz Kid). While he is waiting to be the returning contestant on the show, he is given full paid accommodations in Kensington where it is filmed. He quickly realizes that the trends left him behind in Kensington as well, again not fitting in.

While Ray is out for a walk, he meets a girl named Salamander who recognizes him from the game show. She invites him over for a party at her place, so Ray steals an empty cab and drives her to her neighbourhood. On the drive over Salamander realizes that Ray is too old school and decides to ditch him. She asks him to wait at a local pub while she gets ready, but instead leaves him. He stays at the pub drinking with an older man who too is a washed up rocker like Ray.

When he makes it back, he continues to keep feeling down on himself, thinking about how great it was in the old days when he was still in style and everybody liked him. Frustrated, he goes for a ride on his motorcycle to cool off. While out for a ride, he crashes his bike and ends up in a hospital.

While in the hospital, a new band hits the mainstream called Spoke Norton and the Wheelies. This band is a super group composed of past musicians from the rock era, and they quickly gain popularity bringing rock and roll back into popularity.

When Ray is released from the hospital, everybody is once again dressed like him as it returned to style. Ray becomes a “Pied Piper” of fashion, with everybody asking where he got all of his cool rock and roll clothes. Now once again popular, all the girls are again attracted to Ray. The comic script ends with Ray lying in bed with a girl realizing that life once again is great.

This album was released in 1976, and while it never gained much popularity, it still holds its own in their back catalogue. Some complain that the songs drift away from the story line, not technically making it a concept album, but it’s close enough for me. My two favorite tracks are the opening the number, Quizz Kid, and the title track, Too Old To Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young To Die. These two tracks would be a great introduction to see if you will like the album. They are great examples of the folky rock sound they achieve. Plus, they each break out into some great flute solos that Jethro Tull is so well known for.

Personally, it’s one of my favorites by Jethro Tull. It was reissued in 2002 with a few bonus tracks which I’m anxious to hear. It’s a great concept album with an entertaining short story. Jethro Tull always reminded me of “wizardly” kind of music when I was a kid, so telling a rock and roll fairy tale like this fits them perfectly.

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