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JETHRO TULL — thinking, learning, getting better
It happens every time. Every year, the National Jazz and Blues Festival throws up one hugely successful group, previously more or less unheard of, except to the devotees down at the Marquee and other hip clubs, and thrusts them into the national limelight.
Last year, Ten Years After were the group who swept all before them. This time it was the turn of Jethro Tull, a four-piece outfit with their roots firmly in the blues, who came out of nowhere to become the stars of the Festival. Their version of 'Cat Squirrel', theoretically the same as the Cream number, had the 20,000-odd congregation on their feet and cheering, while 'Serenade To A Cuckoo' provoked incredulous gasps at the sheer joy and virtuosity of Ian Anderson's exuberant flute playing.
In fact, the whole band — Glenn Cornick, bass; Clive Bunker, drums; Mick Abrahams, guitar and Anderson, flute, mouth organ and vocals, were a powerful tonic to jaded ears, and judging by reactions of the audience and the business, they're well on the way to becoming one of the really big-name groups.
One of the strongest factors behind their success is the intelligence and determination of Ian Anderson, a striking personality with a lot of good sense in his attitude to the pop scene. Unlike a lot of people in new groups, he's thought a lot for himself about one thing of supreme importance — management, and just how valuable it is.
"You get a lot of groups who suddenly find themselves having a bit of success. Everything starts working out fine, and they begin to resent having a manager who they think is milking them of their hard-earned cash, and cramping them artistically. So they try and get rid of him and want to do everything themselves.
"But it seems to me that there's about one group in a thousand who have the right sort of mind to deal with management, getting bookings and this sort of thing. They don't realise that to be a good manager you have to be just as creative, if not more so, but in a totally different way. The two jobs almost never mix.
"We — the group and Terry Ellis, our manager — realise this, and find that it works out beautifully. Sometimes it happens that he'll suggest something on the musical side, and sometimes one of the group will suggest something to do with our management. But we know that we couldn't do each other's jobs, and that's the way it ought to be."
"It was the same when we made our album, which will be coming out soon. Terry produced it with us, with ideas exchanged all along the line, and we're all very pleased with the end result. The most valuable thing about making your record without outside interference — apart from the obvious thing of being able to do it exactly as you want — is that you stand to fall entirely on your own efforts. You can't lump the blame on anyone else, and nobody else can take the credit if it works well.
"Apart from anything else, making your own record means you have to know about the technicalities involved. This is all very valuable knowledge and experience, realising what can and can't be done on record. As far as I'm concerned, the important thing in life is that you should keep on learning as much as you can the whole time.
"Like any other group, Jethro Tull have diabolically bad nights. We all get in a lousy mood and feel bad when it's all over — everything seems to be going wrong. But a lot of the other groups I've met just want to gloss over their failures and try to forget them as soon as possible. I'm not saying you have to brood over the bad nights, but we try and remember what went wrong, work out why it did, and take measures to stop it happening again. You've got to do that."