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February 1971


Somewhere in London stands a black-painted church building with its innards ripped out and carefully replaced with all that modern interior decorating can offer. Inside this sinister abode lies the womb of Island records — its recording studios. Somewhere inside Studio One the week before Christmas were Jethro Tull and somewhere in their various heads lay an unborn LP.

Just as photographers are awarded gold statuettes for taking pictures of Jackie Onassis in her most intimate moments (or for climbing trees in the gardens of Buckingham Palace to complete a magazine's 'Royal Scrapbook'), I did the equivalent in rock journalism by going to the recording studios with a notebook and pen concealed in my hand, disguised as a reporter.

The security guard at Island is a very nice man who smokes a pipe and combs his hair in the door window when he thinks no-one is watching. He sees all the groups come and go and assured me that Jethro Tull were nice lads. Warmed by this information I went up into the control room of Studio One and met lead guitarist Martin Barre who told me that Ian would be along in a minute and gave me a seat. Then Barre and Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond the renewed bass guitarist went into the studios and hand-patted a ball of paper to each other. It was with this relaxed vision of a row of soundproofing screens and a paper ball rising and falling behind it that Ian Anderson entered.

He came in gripping a small bag and without so much as a hi or hello went straight to the piano, set his bag down, and proceeded to tap out a tune. This to me was an acted-out example of the difference between a musician and a pop star. This is a scene which should be repeated before every top-of-the-popeyed middle-aged father to whom the pop musician is merely juvenile show biz at its worst.

He's the stork in a dressing gown and the tired-eyed face behind the control room dials at midnight. When you've spent ten hours a day in the studios creating music there's every reason to want to leap around when your newborn baby is presented live to the masses. Ian Anderson, superstar-and-bard, is Jethro Tull.


He came to me looking very tired and intense to explain why the group weren't giving any interviews. Only a few weeks before the band had returned from a tour of the States and after each having a short holiday it was back into the recording studios to work on their fourth LP. "Living this life has its problems/ so I think that I'll give it a break/ Oh, I'm going back to the family/ 'cos I've had about all I can take" (Stand Up - Jethro Tull).

A tired face says more than words and visible dedication doesn't need to seek excuses so we each compared our tight schedules and deadlines before apologising goodbyes. "And every day/ has the same old way/ of giving me too much to do" (Stand Up - Jethro Tull).

My return visit the next day — made in the hopes of meeting manager Terry Ellis who arranges their conversations — was again in vain, but about an hour's wait outside the studio provided me with an insight into the corporate personality of J. Tull. I came in as pianist John Evan was working over a catchy intro, which provided my head with continuous piped music for the next two weeks. Anderson remained in the control room and guided them into sets of two takes at a time after which the boys came up to listen to the playback. Then it was back into the studio for a further two takes. Anderson counts them in with a

"One, two, two two, three four . . . ."

He then comments on each take and the band is constantly following his advice as they play. Evan has to go slower. Someone made a boob. Someone admits to making a boob.

"One, two, two two, three four . . . ."

Then its out beneath the red light and into the control room. A tape machine screeches backwards through its four-take history. The second one's better than the third. The fourth one's better than the first. Turn up the bass. Play a little slower John. Out beneath the red light and back to the instruments.

"One, two, two two, three four . . . ."

Anderson sings over a track from his position in the control room. The heavy doors give the sound a sort of singing-in-the-bathroom quality.

"One, two, two two, three four . . . ."

On my third and last attempt to interview the band four days later the same track was spinning through the tape machine watched by critical ears.

"One, two, two two, three four . . . ."

"And every day/ has the same old way/ of giving me too much to do" (Stand Up - Jethro Tull).

The new Jethro Tull is getting back to being the old Jethro Tull in its line-up. When it was a baby, J. Tull was called Blades and featured Ian Anderson on guitar, John Evan on drums and Jeffrey Hammond on bass. This was back in Mersey-sounding schooldays when Blackpool was home and Liverpool wasn't too far away. Evan left his drumstool for an organ seat after a short period of time and Glenn Cornick replaced Hammond who had quit due to external pressures.


Growing to a seven-piece band Blades became the John Evan Blues Band, but a venture into London for TJEBB reduced its numbers to two: Ian Anderson and Glenn Cornick. Anderson rallied a new band together with Mick Abrahams and Clive Bunker and these four gave themselves the name of a gentleman who was responsible for inventing an agricultural instrument, Mr Jethro Tull. The connections between an agricultural inventor and a rock group must be in that both could be described as 'earthy'.

The group of the name were certainly earthy when I was introduced to their music at the very first free Hyde Park concert. They played along with T. Rex (whose first name was then a little longer), Roy Harper and the Pink Floyd. Their music was gutsy and bouncy. A rendering of 'Cat's Squirrel' levitated seated bodies to dancing positions and that sun-filled day pulled the words 'Jethro Tull' from the calendar pages of the music papers and into the forefronts of many musical minds.

It was with this line-up that the first album This Was was recorded. Looking back, the album seems crude. It was blues-boom days and this was a blues LP. Many of the vocals seem to have been recorded through a lavatory door because any attempts at catching the lyrics on, for instance, 'Song For Jeffrey' would require instruments that I'm sure only Russian espionage possess. By the time Stand Up was released, Abrahams had become a Blodwyn Pig and Martin Barre took over on lead guitar.

The production of this album was studios apart from This Was. More time, more thought and more inspiration produced an excellent LP — with a cover designed to punch your nose if you look too close when opening. Four hairy men really do 'Stand Up' at this simple operation ... and it's just like Little Red Riding Hood when I was four and those Jesus story books when I was five and ....

Although the musicianship of Jethro Tull can never be underestimated the lyrics don't seem to likewise progress. 'Fat Man', which musically seems far ahead of anything they'd done up to then and features Anderson on balalaika, grinds against its own lyrics which start off: "Don't want to be a fat man/ people would think that I was just good fun/ would rather be a thin man/ I am so glad to go on being one." The rest of the song reads like the minutes of a Cabinet meeting legislating on waist lines (bearing in mind that the Prime Minister is himself thin).

I think that violent music should have violent lyrics, sentimental music sentimental lyrics; but above all good music should have good lyrics. Noddy set to a score by Benjamin Britten or Robert Graves as sung by Hotlegs would serve to exaggerate the point but the simultaneous qualifying of words by music and vice versa would be a valid point for Jethro Tull to work on.

The third album Benefit featured the return of ex-Blade John Evan. Although Anderson played piano on a couple of the tracks it was Evan who really took over the keyboards. This expansion of the group has also coincided with the exit of bass player Glenn Cornick who diagnosed himself as having musical differences. Cornick has himself formed an as yet unknown, un-named and un-recorded group, but into his bass guitar shoes stepped the second ex-Blade — Jeffrey Hammond ... now to be known as Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond (or so-so I was notified-notified).

Jeffrey has become something of a song-title-mythological-figure in Tull history. We first trace him as being sung to in 'Song For Jeffrey' on album number one. The sleeve notes give a further clue by indicating ... "he is one of us but doesn't really play anything — makes bombs and things." A further clue is contained on Stand Up with its revelation that this same Jeffrey goes for walks in London streets. This song is entitled 'Jeffrey Goes To Leicester Square'.


The next album will be recorded with the present line-up of Anderson, Barre, Bunker, Hammond-Hammond and Evan. As I write this, it is, in fact, being recorded and all my ears-dropping at Island studios will be somehow faintly heard on one track or another.

My last visit to the studios was on the day before Christmas Eve and Ian Anderson was the only group member not holidaying at that time. Alone except for a technician, he mixed tapes of the preceding week's work to send on as a master tape to New York.

My final picture of him was an apologetic farewell served in an ankle-length afghan coat with white fur trimming. He reminded me very much of that fatherly old gent who was rumoured to have invaded our chimney pots on December 25th when we were children.

The New Year was to be started off with the release of a single 'Lick Your Fingers Clean', which is another Ian Anderson composition. A year has passed since 'Witches Promise' hit the parade and a chance of seeing Jethro Tull on Top Of The Pops sure makes you feel happy inside.

Further giving the group "too much to do" will be a long European tour embracing Denmark, Sweden, Norway, West Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy. The tour lasts only a few days short of a month and is their first lengthy tour of this kind for some time.