Writer: Ian Anderson
Producer: Terry Ellis and Jethro Tull
Recorded: 1969 at Vantone Studio, West Orange, New Jersey
|Players:||Ian Anderson–vocals, flute
|Album:||Living In The Past (Chrysalis, 1972)|
Jethro Tull‘s breakthrough single, “Living In The Past,” hit Number Three in the U.K. in May 1969, where the group performed it on the Top of the Pops TV show.
Nearly three-and-a-half years later, it was a Number 11 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in the U.S.
It’s one of only two Top 20 hits the group had. The other was “Bungle In The Jungle” in 1974.
Tull leader Ian Anderson says that the song was written in Boston during the group’s first U.S. tour in 1969. “Our manager Terry said, ‘Look, we’re going to be away for three months here trying to make an impact in America, so in order to keep things alive back home in England we should really record a single and put it out.’ He said, ‘Write a hit single.’ I said, ‘Sure, I’ll hand it in by tomorrow lunch time.'”
Anderson says that as a joke, he tried to make the song deliberately uncommercial. “What’s the most uncommercial thing I can do? I thought, ‘Let’s do a weird time signature for a start, let’s do something like 5/4 or 7/8 or something.’ So, it became a piece in 5/4. Also, I thought, ‘What’s the most un-hip title, something that would definitely not be about something contemporary or fashionable?’ I thought ‘Living In The Past’ was a pretty uncommercial title, so I wrote a few very uninspired lyrics, a little flute tune, and we beefed it up a bit with the band, and we recorded it in a studio in New York.”
The group was surprised when the song was a hit in England, but even then its U.S. label, Reprise, didn’t want to release the song. It was only when the group’s new label, Chrysalis, compiled a collection of live tracks and b-sides titled Living In The Past that the song received any sort of promotion in the US.