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A YEAR OF JETHRO TULL — AND NOW ... ?
It's exactly a year now since Jethro Tull started in business, and a pretty good year it's been for them; and, incidentally, for Chrysalis, the management agency that looks after them, Ten Years After, and many other highly groovable bands.
Look at what's happened to Jethro. They started off playing at local clubs, and soon came to the notice of John C. Gee, manager of the Marquee, who promptly gave them a residency. The Tull were off, and in a very short space of time, we at Beat were getting letters from the fans hailing the group as the best ever.
They are an extremely hard-working band, and before long the message had spread right across the club circuit. Promotion had little to do with their snowballing success; they were one of the first of the new wave of groups who came up through the underground, rather than via a good PR man. They didn't have any hit singles; people liked them as an honest, straightforward group who also happened to be amazingly good and original musicians. Ian Anderson was a true character who immediately endeared himself with his uninhibited approach to audiences — a favourite trick being to throw cigarettes at them. The whole band had nothing to do with the famous popstar big-time syndrome and even looked as if they were actually having fun on stage.
Then came the really big jump: the Kempton festival, which confirmed everyone's opinion that the group were something special, followed quickly by the group's album, This Was. Produced by the group and their manager, Terry Ellis, the good old public forked out their pennies and the LP came thumping into the charts. And now Jethro Tull are established as one of the most popular bands we have.
But December has been a month of changes for the group. The lead guitarist, Mick Abrahams — who had us all leaping about with his version of 'Cat Squirrel' — left the group, for a number of reasons.
"We weren't really getting anything new, musically. Mick and I were finding it harder and harder to get anything worked out,"
said Ian Anderson. Apart from that, Ian was a little reticent.
I then spoke to Terry Ellis. He said the change was due to
"major policy differences. The group is definitely going in a certain direction. Not just as musicians, but in every way. They do have an image as entertainers. The group want to put on a show so that people go home feeling as if they've had their money's worth. Mick didn't agree with this as a policy, and he's getting his own band going on a more exclusively musical basis. The break was a sad thing for everybody, especially so as things had gone so well in the past; but it was really inevitable. They had to go their separate ways for everyone's good."
"The first thing we have to do is work out some new numbers. After a year of playing the same stuff, I'm a bit worried of playing our Christmas thing down at the Marquee. They have known us right from the beginning, and they'll be expecting something different. The amount of time we've got to work things out is ridiculously small. From now (the interview took place in mid-December) we've only got three days off before we go to America on January 24th — and that's Christmas. I think I'll go up and see my mum for those days."
Also, there's a new Jethro Tull LP in the works at the moment. Again, it's being produced by the group and Terry, who explained his record-making philosophy.
"It's got to be a different sort of album from This Was. Too many groups try and repeat a successful formula, but it's usually disastrous. At first, underground groups sell records on the strength of their live appearances. People have seen them at the clubs and want to take home 45 minutes of the stage sound they've just heard. But you have to change for the second one, so we're making it more of a studio production record — the single, 'Love Story', was a step in the direction the LP will be taking."
"We're off to America for two and a half months, doing much the same circuit that Ten Years After did the first time they went over — the Fillmores and that sort of thing. The reaction over there has been pretty good up to now. The album has been getting a lot of airtime, along with the Beatles and the Stones, and it should be good for us."
Although I wish the group every success across the water where the bread grows thick, I hope they don't get adopted by our transatlantic cousins. But Jethro Tull would appear to be the sort of group that America is growing to love, and it wouldn't be at all surprising to hear in a couple of months' time that Jethro Tull are breaking attendance records, selling millions of discs, and getting even better recognition than they have had over here. I hope so. And I hope not.