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PROFILE — IAN ANDERSON
"Where shall I start?" asked Jethro Tull's singer-man.
"At the beginning," I suggested.
"Well, I went through the usual things, a pretty unspectacular childhood of primary school, grammar school, O-levels and so on. Then I began to be aware of music which represented something immediate, pulsating and lively.
"Early Beatles and Stones was the first pop music I had any sympathy with. From there I went to Jimmy Reed, Howlin' Wolf and so on. I really dug Alexis Corner, and he led me to Mingus and Ornette Coleman. I also enjoyed Zoot Money and Graham Bond, although at the time I didn't realise how profound Bond's music was. But looking back now I can see it was just as important to me as the Stones or the Beatles."
Ian started learning guitar and began singing with a semi-pro group in his native Blackpool. This lasted for about a year before Ian came down to London, Luton to be exact. There he met Mick Abrahams and Clive Bunker, while Glenn Cornick had come down with him from the North. Within a week Jethro Tull was in existence, and they got a few gigs through Chris Wright whom Ian knew vaguely from Lancashire. At this time Clive and Mick both had full-time jobs — Mick was humping meat — and Ian too had to take a temporary job to stay alive.
"I took a job as a professional vacuum cleaner in a cinema in Luton," he revealed. "That's where I wrote the songs that I later put on to the first album. I worked in that cinema for about a month, cleaned it very thoroughly twice, and then didn't clean it any more. I'd start the machine up and sit down in the back stalls in a strategic position where I could see all the doors open before the manager could see me."
Then Ian and the others packed in their jobs as the band started working in the small blues clubs up and down the country, which they found hard going at first.
"We were enthusiastic but not very good," Ian recalled. "It took two or three times in a place before people liked us. I think the Marquee was the first place we got any acclaim, where we could say we had a following."
But through playing the Sunbury Festival in the summer of 1968, Jethro Tull became established. There were all the people who'd seen them in the small clubs and the reception was fantastic.
"At Sunbury we saw that all the little clubs — which seemed to add up to nothing very much — meant something altogether."
From there Jethro Tull went from strength to strength, with Ian, dressed in a huge army greatcoat, adding humour to the act at a time when progressive groups were taking themselves very very seriously so that people would know they were 'underground' and not mohair and frills.
"Then we had problems with Mick," Ian continued. "We started writing very different songs and we couldn't play each other's material. Mick didn't want to travel abroad or work more than four nights a week — which the rest of us did. So we parted, not particularly amicably, but it wasn't too bad. I think it was by far the best decision as far as Mick's concerned. He has a lot of very good ideas of his own and he needs the right people to work with. Having found them, I think he's achieved a lot more personal satisfaction."
And so Jethro Tull continued with new guitarist Martin Barre, and last year found themselves in the Top twenty with 'Living In The Past' and 'Sweet Dream'. As a result of these hits, it became a familiar sight to see Ian leaping around on Top Of The Pops, which inevitably upset some of the group's old fans, who declared that Ian and Co. had sold out to the teeny boppers.
"There is an interest in our music among the younger kids and I'm glad to see it," continued Ian. "But I'm sure the people who come to see us are, for the most part, people who bought the albums and saw us at Sunbury. There are others who wouldn't have bought the Stand Up album because they say we're a pop group. Well of course we're a pop group, but I don't think they'll find any deviation from our attitude of playing music for people who'll listen.
"Doing Top Of The Pops is important because, however plastic and phoney it is, it does give people a chance to see us. I hope people get a kick out of seeing us there miming away. If you can ever switch on your set and see an hour of the Nice or the Family, then I'd like to think that we helped bring that situation about by appearing on Top Of The Pops.
"The fault isn't with the Top Of The Pops people, but the BBC itself, because it won't take any chances. But the situation will never improve until the 'underground' becomes a socially accepted thing. Then it'll find it's place on TV and radio."
But with two hit singles behind him Ian is not worrying how to turn out a string of follow-ups.
"It's difficult to come up with anything that's representative of us that lasts only three minutes. You have to concoct a song for a single rather than coming up with one that means anything to you."
And so they aren't really bothered whether their new single 'The Witch's Promise'/'Teacher' makes the charts or not.
"It's just a couple of tracks," said Ian. "There's no A or B side. There's a lot of pressure to follow up hits and people might say, "Jethro Tull didn't have a hit," but so what? They're just two songs we're putting out to bridge the gap before the next album. It would be nice if people are still playing them in six months' time, like an album."
One consequence of the two hits has been the emergence of Ian Anderson, Pop Star, in the news media. Well-respected gentlemen reportedly feel affronted when they see the hairy Anderson on their goggle-boxes.
"The image thing makes me laugh," is Ian's reaction. "It amuses me when I see headlines like, 'Mr. Entertainment Heads For America' and all that stuff. The image is me on stage, the way I act in front of a lot of people. I read things and it doesn't seem as if they are written about me."
The group are planning to take things easier this year, spending more time on recording, more time for thought about their music.
"In the past we've had to write ten songs in 20 hotel bedrooms in various countries which isn't very good. The songs haven't been what they could have been. We need to record and play live, and it takes a long time to get where you can utilise your time properly and not waste it.
"We want to choose where we can play, not in front of monster crowds, but in good places in front of two to five thousand people, although I suppose there'll be festivals to do this summer. But they're not very satisfying for the musicians or the audience really.
"I think that by midsummer we'll have changed a lot musically. We should get a lot better through having time to rehearse. We just want to take it easy for a bit. We think we've been doing ourselves in rushing around entertaining other people and now we want a bit of time to enjoy ourselves while we still can."
Back cover of this issue, featuring Tull roadie Roy Bailey. The captions are as follows, from left to right:
Dick King Crimson: "I like Hiwatt because of the personal attention - I can always call in for advice from the Guv'nor."
Dave Reeves: "I make it."
Bob The Who: "It's rugged and reliable and we always take it to the States."
Roy Jethro Tull: "It's got to be the best for us — so we use Hiwatt."
Pete Moody Blues: "Fantastic power without any loss of tone or quality (we used it at the Isle of Wight)."
Chapter 3 / Hank Manfred Mann: "This is the only gear versatile enough to handle any instrument - the P.A. has a knock out sound."
Wimpy (Peter Webber) Ex Roadie: "I sell it."
The van in the photo also belonged to Tull. Glenn Cornick explains:
"We were in Finland [January 1969] and got picked up in a Mercedes band bus with airline seats in the front part and room for the equipment in the back, so when we went back to Britain we ordered one just like it. We did a tour of Ireland in it [May 1969], but after that we were getting too big to be travelling in a van and having to wait for the gear to be packed so it just became the gear and roadie bus. We were the first band in Britain to have a Merc, and it was quite a big deal at the time. Roy was so proud of it and kept it spotless!"
Many thanks to Glenn Cornick for this article