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December 1969

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The aim of Jethro Tull, now an international name group, is to spend half the year in Britain and half in America. Their recent tour of the British Isles proved their consistent drawing-power — full houses everywhere — and in the States they are up there with the biggest.

Guitarist Martin Barre, who has been with the team for a year now, chats about the scene generally.

"The trouble with America is that there is so much disorganisation. For example, the sound system is obviously the most important thing, but so often it's handled by a guy who just doesn't know anything about it. It's almost as if they are trying to kill off live music in the States.

"Some of those festivals, for instance, are terrible. A field filled with 50,000 kids — yet only a couple of thousand can honestly say they can hear or see anything. The distortion is awful ... really you just can't distinguish between the different groups.

"But then I doubt if there is much discipline among American groups even. Be fair, the drugs thing is very big there. In our group, nobody touches them. But there it is the thing. There are very few really together groups — or at least that's my view. It just seems that they don't have the discipline to get together, work really hard and put the music first. One band that is together is Blood, Sweat and Tears. The Grateful Dead and Butterfield's band, too — but they are patchy.

"Jethro Tull does have discipline. Ian Anderson especially. When I joined, I was very sloppy. I thought I was an okay musician but I couldn't prove it. There's discipline in getting down to writing, and I don't seem to have that yet. But in terms of playing, we are together, and we do have discipline.

"Of course, it can be misunderstood. Because Ian has this fantastic concentration for music, people assume that he talks about nothing else all day. That's just not true. Come to that, people assume that the rest of us are like hermits, because Ian doesn't drink and doesn't get about much. In fact, we are just ... well, normal.

"But in the States, it's so much emphasis on drugs. People talk about the violence there, but what frightened me, really frightened me, were the hippies, who after all are preaching peace. We went to one hall, a Fillmore I think, and I was shattered. All those kids and all of them seemed to be dazed, drugged. It was frightening — I know I just pushed myself into a corner.

"To be honest, I didn't see much in the way of violence. True, we had one nasty moment. We were driving a hire car in Los Angeles and got a bit confused on a motorway. In the back was a sealed bottle of whisky, which was mine. But there was an unsealed one — and it's an offence to have an open bottle in a car — and it was left by the previous person who had the car. Anyway, our long hair and so on — we were suspect. And they found some seeds. They assumed it was marijuana. In fact, they came off a hamburger bun. But we were guilty until we could prove our innocence, which is the opposite way round to Britain."

How about the inevitable criticism from local fans that Jethro Tull spends half each year in the States? Said Martin:

"I don't see this criticism at all. There are maybe 40 big dates we can do here and we want to do them. People say why don't we do the blues clubs now, but it's obvious why. We get a hit record and so we get a lot of new fans, maybe younger ones. So the clubs would get crowded out and the old Tull fans, remembering the group from the start, would have to suffer cramped conditions — and it'd be hard for us to work anyway.

"There are a lot more places to work in the States and we obviously can't do them all. I'd have thought we'd get more criticism from the States ...

"We found recording a pretty difficult business in the States. It was very expensive and took us a long time — really we virtually ended up engineering the sessions for ourselves. Still, we did 'Living In The Past' there, in New York, and the flip in Los Angeles.

"Normally we're on eight-track recordings. I think you need all that. The concept of getting a live sound in the studio isn't really relevant. But on the next album, we'll probably try a few in 16-track. It may not work, but it's worth trying. Basically I'd say eight-track is enough. When people talk of 32-track ... well, I just don't see how you'd use it all."

Jethro Tull is sometimes talked of as being the natural successor group to the Beatles and the Stones. Certainly that is a summing-up of their effect on audiences, here and in America. And there's a whole lot more to come ...