As we here at WMMCM slowly wander along our way from the Earth to the Moon it’s time to bring out an old song that pretty much only die hard listeners of the band in question might be aware of. And the band? Well, they were and still are a pretty big deal all these years later. Going to well before the beginnings of this band however there was a time when people who were not quite right in the head were called lunatics. This all had to do with some pretty far fetched theories about how since the brain was made up mostly of water that the moon’s rise and fall in the sky would have the same effect of certain person’s brain just as it does with the tide of the ocean.
What has all this stuff have to do with Green Cheese you might ask? Well, the song in question never mentions the moon at all and therefore loyal Cheese Metallers, you might think that I was a lunatic for putting this song up here for your perusal. While that’s neither here nor there, this song is about what happened in the summer of 1969. And it certainly has to do with the moon.
From Jethro Tull’s second album, Benefit, “For Michael Collins, Jeffrey and Me” is a pretty strange song even for Ian Anderson and the JT guys. Written by Anderson as most of their material has always been, “FMC,J&me” starts out as a rather slow and actually not terribly exciting or even interesting song. (To me at least.) I’ve always been a Tull fan but this one I’m still not quite sure of all these years later.
I do have to give credit where it’s due however. It’s the only song that I’m aware of that names Micheal Collins. (For you Irish music buffs out there, it’s not the same guy at all.) Nope, this Michael Collins was the Astronaut that was the Command Module pilot for Apollo 11. He got to ride around all by his lonesome in the Command Module while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were gallivanting around the surface of the Moon for the first time in human history.
“And the blind and lusty lovers
Of the great eternal lie
Go on believing nothing
Since something has to die.”
Cheery stuff right? And it’s kind of hard to figure out that it has anything to do with the Moon. That is at least until the chorus such as it is.
“I’m with you L.E.M
Though it’s a shame that it had to be you
The mother ship is just a blip
From your trip made for two.”
In 1970 when Benefit was released, one could be forgiven for not knowing what the heck Anderson was talking about when he sings about being with the L.E.M. OK, even now one could be forgiven for not knowing what the heck a L.E.M. is. (Unless you’ve recently watched Apollo 13 again.) Well, a L.E.M. is the Lunar Excursionary Module. That’s the part of the spacecraft that Armstrong and Aldrin rode down to the surface of the Moon. In other words, the Lunar Module.
Anderson, never known for anything approaching normalcy when writing his songs, takes “For Michael Collins, Jeffrey and Me,” about what Michael Collins may have been feeling or thinking during his time idling away in the command module and makes it nearly indecipherable. All in all, a typical Tull song when you think about it.
“I’m with you boys
So please employ just a little extra care
It’s on my mind I’m left behind when I should have been there
Walking with you.”
The Benefit album was Tull’s first venture into a harder rock sound that they would take on and throw off any number of times over their forty year career. And in the chorus of “For Michael Collins, Jeffrey and Me” it works. You can start to hear all the sounds and ideas that Tull would soon assemble together for practically all of their prime 1970′s material.
Martin Barre’s fluid and quick flowing guitar work, Clive Bunker’s strong yet intricate drumming as Anderson’s flute, keyboards and the occasional guitar riff support Barre. In the background is my old buddy Glenn Cornick on bass. He’s the twisted fretless bass player backing Anderson on the marvelous rock reworking of J.S. Bach’s “Bourrée in E minor.” (Many years ago now I had the pleasure of having Glenn sit in with one of my bands a few times with his signature fretless bass. Great player and a really nice guy!)
So, while “For Michael Collins, Jeffrey and Me” may be bit difficult to understand, (If that’s really possible of course as practically every word of each verse has little or nothing to do with anything related to the Moon, space, or even Michael Collins.) the chorus does a good job of briefly putting you up there in space along for that lonely ride while you’re friends are off having a good time down there on the moon.