I’ve pretty much been writing stories for as long as I can remember. It’s the only way you can get away with lying all the time. You know, if that sort of thing appeals to you. I did quite a bit of writing when I was first in college, right out of high school, in the late ‘80s. That was also the same period when I first listened to the music of Jethro Tull. It turns out that even back then, my stories were influenced by the music I was listening to.
When I started listening to Tull, they had already been around for nearly 20 years. In fact, the second time I saw them in concert, in 1988, was for their 20th anniversary tour. I was only 21-years-old at the time, so naturally, they seemed really old: I mean, they’d been performing for basically as long as I’d been alive. (Their first album was released in 1968; their best-known album, then and now, Aqualung, was released in 1971.)
As part of that 20th anniversary, Jethro Tull also released a box set of rarities and live performances. Among those tracks were a few songs from their famous abandoned album (from 1973), known as the “Chateau D’Isaster Tapes.” Due to technical difficulties, illness, and other problems, they scrapped a nearly complete album, but those recordings were still around; this was the first chance to hear a bit of what the band had been planning, warts and all.
You can press play on the following video and listen to those three tracks (“Scenario”/“Audition”/“No Rehearsal”) while you continue reading below to see what this music had to do with my writing.
The three tracks included on the box set were wild, putting God and creation in the form of a stage play—which isn’t going too well. Or at least that was my interpretation:
Simply everyone will be there, but the safety curtain falls when
the bomb that’s in the dressing room
blows the windows from their frames.
And the prompter in his corner is sorry that he came.
These fun ideas inspired a short story . . . that was about gods. On a sort of stage. It was mostly just a happy chance to poke fun at religion. When I review the story today, I can also see how heavily influenced I was by Douglas Adams, who I would have been reading around that time.
I probably wrote this story sometime early in 1990. I submitted it to my college’s annual creative writing journal, Hard Copies, and it won first place. Woo! (It should be noted that I was then attending Cal Poly, Pomona—and, seriously, who goes to a polytechnic school to be an English major?) The best reason for its success at the time, I suppose, is its irreverence: It made people laugh.
Over the years, Jethro Tull has released most of the tracks that would have been on the failed “Chateau D’Isaster” record. However, I read recently that a complete version of those sessions is currently being prepared for release as a bonus disk to accompany a remastered version of A Passion Play (the album they released instead of the Chateau D’Isaster tapes in 1973). Reports are that this version of “Chateau D’Isaster” will remove the flute overdubs that Ian Anderson added to later releases of this material, getting back to the simpler, original sound from those sessions. It ought to be interesting to hear.
In light of the pending return of “Chateau D’Isaster,” I’ve decided to bring back my story that was inspired by these songs. I’m posting the complete short story here on my Creative page, but you can also access it here: The Changing of the Gods. I made a few minor corrections but haven’t actually revised this in over twenty years—you’re getting it warts and all. I hope it gives you a chuckle or two.
Meanwhile, Ian Anderson—who, after all, has always been the voice and creative force behind Jethro Tull—isn’t just living in the past. He has a new solo CD coming next week, Homo Erracticus. It’s a concept album, although I haven’t quite figured out what the concept is. Anyway, here’s the first song from the new CD in case you want to hear what has change and what remains the same:
Follow B. K. Winstead on Twitter at @bkwins