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7 November 1978
TULL TURNS TEN
Ian Anderson is celebrating 10 years with Jethro Tull this month and, at age 31, he knows he's not getting any younger. But while he says he'd now like to "work an average of five days a week instead of six," the singing Scottish squire apparently has enough in him for another 10 years.
"Performing is not something you grow out of as a musician," says the cordial but emphatic Anderson between puffs on a calabash pipe.
"The press prints all these adverse things about how Mick Jagger is just a parody of the character he used to be, but I personally feel he gets a big kick out of it. So let me substantiate on behalf of Mick Jagger, Pete Townshend, Jimmy Page and all the rest that they still get a big kick out of working a stage. I know I do. That's why we all do it."
That's also why he and the rest of Tull — Martin Barre, John Evans, Barriemore Barlow, David Palmer, and new bassist Tony Williams — are undertaking a gruelling 35-city U.S. tour this fall (including a recent live satellite simulcast from New York) to support the release of Tull's 'birthday album', a live two-record set entitled Bursting Out (Chrysalis). For two hours every night, the wild-eyed, flute-tossing Anderson does his Dionysian dance and sings audience favorites with the same uninhibited spirit that marked Tull's first major British performances in 1968. The only thing that's changed is the crowd. As Ian remarks on Bursting Out at the start of 'Thick As A Brick', "Let's see if we can spot the over-25s with this one."
"It's true," remarks Anderson with a hint of disappointment. "Suddenly we've lost the older age group to their domesticity, their mortgages, their family cars, and half-a-swimming pool average. But it's left a free space for a much younger audience to come in and surprisingly they do. I've queried as to why they come to see Jethro Tull, why they don't want to find their own younger groups to follow. And the only explanation that makes any sense is that, like the Stones or the Who, Jethro Tull has a certain reputation, a mystique that's transcended the generation gap."
Bursting Out bears convincing testimony. Drawing on material from 1969's Stand Up ('A New Day Yesterday') through 1978's Heavy Horses, Tull's first-ever live set is an animated documentary of their stage show, running the stylistic gamut from the quiet classicality of 'Bouree' to the heavy-metal huff and puff of 'Locomotive Breath' and the modal Scottish folk forms of 'No Lullaby' and 'Hunting Girl'. Anderson describes the album as
"a summation, a suitable point for saying 'this is it' to date. And it puts a little bit of pressure on us. It forces us into the next move."
A proud native Scotsman, the Edinburgh-born Anderson made his first move in 1968 when he formed Jethro Tull from the ruins of the John Evans Band in Blackpool, where he did some semi-pro gigging and listened to a lot of Rolling Stones. In London, Jethro Tull slipped easily into the amorphous blues-jazz-rock scene with Anderson garnering the bulk of attention for his Fagin-like dress and one-legged choreography. One producer at the time even had the brainstorm of slotting Anderson into a group called Chocolate Covered Rain alongside Nicky Hopkins and a young, flashy guitarist named Ritchie Blackmore. Ian understandably passed (he snickers at the thought now), but has since seen a number of faces pass through Tull while piling up a fortune in gold and platinum for records like Benefit and Aqualung.
Such enviable wealth does not appear to have spoiled Anderson. One close compatriot, singer-songwriter Roy Harper, explains that
"we don't speak for years on end — I've drifted into writing songs with too many lyrics and he's become a rock multi-millionaire. But that hasn't changed anything. We're still friends, although we're a strange sort."
An open, garrulous fellow, Anderson projects that friendliness in conversation. He particularly enjoys talking about his newly purchased land on the legendary Scottish Isle of Skye. One gentleman traveller of his acquaintance recently told Anderson of a visit to the island and the mountain Blaven, except that he pronounced the latter with an 'a' rather than Scottish 'ah' sound.
"I corrected him," snorts Anderson, "so he asks me haughtily, 'Oh, do you know the mountain?' Know it? I own it."
He also talks about Tull at the same amiable but excited clip as he explains how he recently bought his son James a stuffed Loch Ness monster or how he splurged on a top-of-the-line Japanese-make flute, his first new model in nine years. With his purchase, Anderson had planned to dive head-first with Barre and Palmer into a score for the Scottish Ballet and a television soundtrack, but bass guitarist John Glascock's recent heart operation "threw us into disarray."
First, the band asked former Tull bassist Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond to fill in for the U.S. tour.
"But after a week of rehearsing, he suddenly said 'I can't go through with it, I just can't do it, go back on the road.'"
Tony Williams turned up in Anderson's old haunt of Blackpool, where he played with local club bands. He'd never played in a big group before and, what's more, he didn't know a single Tull song. Recounts Anderson:
"Martin and I had to learn the bass parts ourselves from the live album master tapes, transcribe them, and then teach them to Tony, who could only come down so many days a week because he didn't want to leave his day job until he had the Tull gig. He was not a Jethro Tull fan, but he quite likes the songs now that he's playing them."
The same can be said for a faithful legion of young American bar-bands who, through these same ten years, play Ian Anderson/ Jethro Tull songs to the beer-and-peanuts crowd in teenage hangouts across the country. Anderson, smiling, welcomes the compliment as a justification of Tull's appeal across that generation gap. He's also pleased that musically many of these bands could pass for Tull itself.
"They're that good? Well, if they look anything like us, we could probably come to some arrangement, get them to do the Far Eastern tours and pay them half. Anything else they earn, they can keep."
And that is not an admission of fatigue on his part.
"I just want to enjoy the equivalent of everyone else's weekends."
Ever wonder, when the lights go up, how all that equipment got there? Behind the seven-week Jethro Tull/ Uriah Heep tour, which runs through mid-November, is a logistics effort every bit the equal of the musical performances themselves. The plan calls for trucks (Ryder Rentals) to move from city to city, criss-crossing the country no less than 10 times, for a total mileage of 12,406. Each move is plotted according to a timetable outlined in advance, calculated, for the British group's convenience, in European sequence, where 11 pm is noted as 2300 hours.
For Tull's live television transmission to Europe from Madison Square Garden in new York on October 9, the schedule called for a Tull sound check at 1430 to 1515 hours (2.30 in the afternoon), a Heep setup at 1515 to 1600, doors opening at 1600 (4 pm), a set change at 1730, and Tull on stage at 1800 (6 pm). While some ticket holders will wonder about or gripe at the seemingly long delays waiting for concerts to start, the clock-like precision of the workers behind the scenes makes it possible for tons of equipment and literally hundreds of people to have it all together.