Whenever I get to feel this way
Try to find new words to say
I think about the bad old days
We used to know

Nights of winter turn me cold
Fears of dying, getting old
We ran the race, the race was won
By running slowly

Could be soon we'll cease to sound
Slowly upstairs, faster down
Then to revisit stony grounds
We used to know

Remembering mornings, shillings spent
Made no sense to leave the bed
The bad old days they came and went
Giving way to fruitful years

Saving up the birds in hand
While in the bush the others land
Take what we can before the man
Says it's time to go

Each to his own way I'll go mine
Best of luck with what you find
But for your own sake remember times
We used to know

Lyrics submitted by Dominik

"We Used To Know" as written by Ian Anderson

Lyrics © BMG Rights Management

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We Used To Know song meanings
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  • +1
    General CommentWell, it certainly seems to be about the struggles of a group of young musicians, barely able to pay the rent on flea-bitten apartments (or flats to use the British term), who finally achieved success. "Every morning's shilling spent/made no sense to leave the bed" I would guess refers to feeding coins into the slot to keep the radiator heat going, a typical thing in old London apartments (and in other British cities) back in the day, wit penny-pinching landlords doling out heat in a very miserly, Dickensian way to the impoverished tenants.

    I'm also guessing the last verse ("Each to his own way/I'll go mine...") is Anderson addressing band co-founder/guitarist Mick Abrahams. The two men founded Jethro Tull and struggled for success before finally breaking through in 1968 with the release of the band's debut album, "This Was." Then Anderson and Abrahams had a major falling-out: Abrahams wanted to continue in the bluesy, jazz-inflected mode of early JT, while Anderson, the main songwriter/lyricist, wanted to take the band in a more experimental or "prog-rock" direction (result: "Aqualung," "Thick as a Brick," and several albums following). Abrahams quit just as the band was beginning to put together their second album, "Stand Up," which includes this song.

    After quitting Tull, Abrahams founded the blues-rock-with-jazz-overtones band Blodwyn Pig, which released two albums over 1969-70 before splitting up. His replacement on guitar in Jethro Tull initially was Tony Iommi, fall 1968, who appeared with the band when they lip-synched their performance for the Rolling Stones' Rock and Roll Circus in the late autumn. But Iommi was already in the process of forming Black Sabbath and quit after a few weeks to be replaced by Martin Barre, who became the permanent lead guitarist.
    mbrachmanon February 21, 2018   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI'm surprised no one has commented on the idea that We Used to Know may have influenced The Eagles "Hotel California."

    The chord progressions are nearly identical, and the bands (Tull and the Eagles) toured together prior to the release of the song. While recording in Miami, Don Felder phoned home to California to have his maid send him a copy of the "We Used to Know" demo in order to reproduce the introduction and end solos, which may have accounted for the words "copyright in dispute" in the liner notes of the Hotel California album.

    Neat bit of trivia, isn't it?
    Stefan021on January 21, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commentmy fave tull song, martin barre's guitar work is outstanding on this...and yep eagles completely ripped it off for Hotel California
    youknowimrighton August 23, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentTull is a truly under appreciated band. Love the soloing on this one.
    Warron April 06, 2008   Link
  • 0
    Song MeaningI think it has to go along the lines of "If you don't remember the past, you're doomed to repeat it" type of thing.

    My favorite track from Stand Up. I love the flute on it.
    XZYOEon January 30, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentOn just rereading the lyrics, I thought it might be about the band's career arc and the music industry, with the general theme of being grateful for success, but not expecting it to last, how successful they had been so far, and how hard it was to start with.
    It used to make me think of Vikings, reminiscing of old raids, I think because of the penultimate verse.
    Flamencoprofon November 02, 2016   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationI don't think there's much question that this is something of a biographical song about Tull itself, but in a larger sense I see it as a general, slightly wistful nostalgic observation - looking back on how things were when you were young and struggling, just barely getting by, looking desperately for your first break, hoping that things would get better someday -- but not really appreciating that in some ways those times had a happiness that later success would never recapture.

    Thematically, I couple this song with The Chequered Flag and more recently as I am in my "golden years" with At Last, Finally as something of a life trilogy. Yeah, I know I'm weird.
    Hoplophileon September 14, 2019   Link

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