Cross-Eyed Mary

Songfacts®:

  • This was written by Jethro Tull frontman Ian Anderson, who has described the character Mary a "schoolgirl prostitute type." She lives a wretched existence offering her services to the dregs of humanity. Anderson says that the important issue in this song and the album as a whole is seeing the spirituality in all people, even a prostitute. Said Anderson, "There are these human types that would be thought to be undesirable and unpleasant, but are all God's creations one way or another, and there must be within these people some very essential humanity, even some goodness, some good side to their character or personality which was laudable."
  • The "Mary" in this song is a good person reacting to bad circumstances. Anderson has pointed out that she is kind of a Robin Hood prostitute: she takes as much money as she can from her clients who can afford it, but would give away her services to those who can't.
  • The character "Aqualung" has a cameo in this song, presumably as one of Mary's customers. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Mark - Ottawa, Canada
  • The "jack knife barber" is a man who performs abortions.
  • Iron Maiden did a metal cover of this song that was used as the B-side of their 1983 single "The Trooper." Their rendition has since appeared on various compilations and reissues.

    Regarding metal covers of Jethro Tull songs, Ian Anderson said: "There are a lot of folks in the world of heavy metal and hard rock whose influences include Jethro Tull, but I think we have to put it in perspective that young Bruce Dickinson or other members of Iron Maiden growing up and as children hearing Jethro Tull, it made some impact on them and it made them consider that music amongst many other influences, in terms of what it could do for them. But, we've always got to remember that whenever somebody says, 'I grew up listening to your music,' just because they happen to be very successful in their own right as musicians today, it's a mistake to think you're their prime influence. What they're doing is tipping their hat and citing you but probably amongst 50 other influences that were important to them in their learning process."

Comments: 6

  • Dante from Milwaukee, WiInterperet it however you want, Paul. What it says here is just what Ian's idea was.
  • Paul from Herne, GermanyI really don't know why but I always thought the song was about a little ugly girl that steals money from her rich parents to give it to the poor children.
    But good to know I was wrong, thanks for the entry.
  • Darren from Winnipeg, MbI thought the line with Aqualung in it referred to her realizing her life could go nowhere, ending up homeless like him.
  • Philip from Akron, OhSo what does "People who dig this song..." mean? It's hard to believe "Cross-Eyed Mary" and "Orinoco Flow" play to the same crowd.
  • Carrie from , MiCross-eyed Mary is a young prostitute who has sex with dirty old men (the line "gets no kicks from little boys...would rather make it with a letching grey" attests to the fact that she has to take her money from wherever it comes--most often older men who pay for her services.
    The jack-knife barber is either an abortionist or Mary's pimp. The line "she'll do it for a song" makes is sound like Mary keeps her price low, thus helping the "poor man get along"
  • Jean Paul from Santiago, South AmericaIron Maiden did a cover of this song. It's on their Trooper single.
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