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The Witch’s Promise b/w Teacher
December 16th, 2010 by NumberSix

Picture sleeve for the Jethro Tull single "The Witch's Promise" b/w "Teacher".

Picture sleeve for the Jethro Tull single "The Witch's Promise" b/w "Teacher".

Jethro Tull evolved out of a seven-piece white soul group called the John Evan Band (later called the John Evan Smash), in which Ian Anderson, Glen Cornick and John Evan were all members. Based initially in Blackpool, they moved to London to try to obtain more bookings, but short of money, most of the members moved back to Blackpool, leaving behind Anderson and Cornick. They joined forces with blues guitarist Mick Abrahams and his friend, drummer Clive Bunker. The band had trouble getting repeat bookings, and resorted to changing their names in order to continue playing the London club circuit; a member of the staff of their booking agent supplied the name Jethro Tull and it stuck because that happened to be the name they were using when a club owner liked them enough to book them a second time. Soon they were signed to Chrysalis Records (a subsidiary of Island Records), and their first album “This Was”, was released in 1968. Shortly after the release of this LP, Mick Abrahams left the band. Future Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi briefly filled in for Abrahams, but soon the band had found a more permanent replacement: Martin Barre. The second album, “Stand Up” (1969), became the band’s only number one album in the U.K. and branched out further from the blues than the first album, establishing Jethro Tull as a progressive rock band. The band added John Evan as a keyboardist and recorded their third album, “Benefit” (1970). Today’s featured single, “The Witch’s Promise” b/w “Teacher”, was released as a stand-alone single in 1969, and “The Witch’s Promise” did not initially appear on “Benefit” (although it did later appear on a CD release of the album), but “Teacher” did, although the version on the single is a completely different take, arrangement and mix than the version on the album.
“The Witch’s Promise” continues the band’s move away from the blues, and the track can perhaps best be described as folk music. Ian Anderson’s flute and acoustic guitar open the song, and overall the song has a rather muted feel to it. The percussion is very light, and the keyboards are present, but clearly in the background. The rhythm section is hardly there at all, and the track is clearly driven by the acoustic guitar and the flute (the flute plays an especially prominent role in the beginning and end of the song). The lyrics give the song even more of a pastoral feel: Lend me your ear while I call you a fool/You were kissed by a witch one night in the wood/And later insisted your feelings were true/The witch’s promise was coming/Believing he listened while laughing you flew”. The lyrics seem to refer to three distinct entities: the person addressed in the second person (“You were kissed by a witch”), the witch, and a third person, referred to only as “he” or “him”. The person to which the song is addressed, one assumes, is a woman who falsely told a man (the “he” of the song) that she loved him; the singer warns her that what goes around comes around and he will ultimately leave her (“don’t you wait up for him; he’s going to be late”. At least that’s my interpretation of the song. The rhyme structure of the song seems to be: ABACA, with the first, third and fifth lines rhyming most of the time, but not always.

.”]View of the label of "The Witch's Promise" single [U.K. release].“Teacher” is more standard fare for Jethro Tull, if such a thing exists. It starts off with a simple riff which nonetheless gives the band a solid foundation on which to build their sound. Bunker has much more to do here on the drum track. On the single version, Anderson’s flute is not heard (nor is the organ); instead, the guitar parts are more prominent. The “lesson” of the “teacher” referred to in the lyrics is not a sublime revelation, but I suppose it’s still a useful one: “Jump up, look around/Find yourself some fun/No sense in sitting there hating everyone/No man’s an island and his castle isn’t home/The nest is full of nothing when the bird has flown.” What’s great is that apparently the teacher is hipper than his student: “So I took a journey/Threw my world into the sea/With me went the teacher/Who found fun instead of me” – something to which someone as decidedly un-hip as me can relate. The song is definitely less restrained than “The Witch’s Promise” while still sounding rather folk-like and not at all resembling the proto-metal they would release in their salad days in the 1970’s. It’s still a very solid song – I like the lead guitar work particularly – and at least in the United States, this song is much more recognizable than “The Witch’s Promise”, as it has received much airplay on FM radio. [This might not be true in the U.K., where “The Witch’s Promise” single peaked at #4.] In addition, it can easily be argued that “Teacher” is the better song (it’s more accessible to someone who isn’t a die-hard Jethro Tull fan anyhow, at least in my opinion), and thus this might even qualify as a true double-A side.
This single (catalog #: WIP 6077) did in fact have a picture sleeve. It’s my new default pic, in fact (as of 4-18-2008). And it’s a pretty nice picture sleeve, in my opinion, with the red tint. The label was a green Chrysalis label (with the Chrysalis logo with the butterfly at the bottom and the song title at the top). I’m not sure if this was the standard label for U.K. releases. The single was produced by Terry Ellis and Ian Anderson.

External links:
Jethro Tull performing The Witch’s Promise in 1970

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