After two single-song concept albums, "War
Child" was a return to the traditional format. The album prominently
features David Palmer's string
orchestration across an eclectic musical set. The music is lighter
and more whimsical than the dark "A Passion Play," though
the lyrics still unleash lashing critiques of established society (e.g., "Queen
and Country," "Bungle in the Jungle" ), religion (e.g., "Two
Fingers"), and critics (e.g., "Only Solitaire").
Much of the music was written during the latter half of the "Passion Play" tour. Yet, "War Child" is arguably pre-Passion Play. "Skating Away," "Bungle in the Jungle," and "Only Solitaire" came from the aborted "Chateau D'isaster" tapes preceding "A Passion Play" and "Two Fingers" was a rewrite of a song left off "Aqualung."
Despite the seemingly disconnected themes, "War Child" was planned as a movie soundtrack. The screenplay, loosely based on "A Passion Play," featured the afterlife experiences of a little girl killed during an auto accident. Anderson had gone so far as to enlist John Cleese, Sir Frederick Ashton, and Leonard Rossiter for the project before abandoning it, due mostly to unacceptable Hollywood production demands.
The front cover catalogs Anderson's debut of
his infamous "minstrel" outfit
which, quite arguably, looks much more like a jester
than a strolling musician. Some Tull commentators
argue the vestige represents Anderson's identification with the typical
sarcastic, social commenting fools of Shakespeare's plays and allude
to telling references in songs such as "Only Solitaire" (vi., "Think
I'll sit down and invent some fool...some grand court jester...). All
intellect aside, most fans and critics are more apt to remember the persona's
silver codpiece that it's literary inspirations.
The "War Child" tour featured perhaps Tull's most outlandish costuming: Anderson as minstrel, Hammond with his black-and-white striped suit and coordinating instruments, Evan in his baggy ice cream salesman white suit, Barlow in a lightweight boxer outfit, and Barre's floral, almost Elton John-like, suit.