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January 1976

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TANGIER — In the Asian rain forests, charred infant flesh is scattered about the branches of a sapling like grotesque Christmas bulbs on a lethal celebratory icon.

"When you did WarChild, was it a reaction to the monolithic sort of thing you'd already done?"

"The reason we did that," Ian Anderson reports, "was because we'd just done a full-length synopsis for a movie, and I spent a lot of time doing pre-production work for that and most of the stuff on WarChild was already recorded with a symphony orchestra."

A symphony orchestra, indeed! Bloodied homosexuals parade victorious down a newly-liberated Christopher Street. Mexican customs uncovers the peyote. And somewhere in Idaho, an oft-abused potato accidentally falls into a vat of yoghurt, the local brand. And that was all of six years ago!

"How do you feel about going to parties after late concerts?"

"What parties?"

"You don't go to any?"

"No, I don't. Some of the guys in the band do, though."

Beyond Route 9 — out past the Barker place, you know? — the furrowed face of an Appalachian farmer screws itself into knots as the hands belonging to the body that owns the face disembowel the family cat, Herman, in preparation for a late-night communal snack — passed off as chicken — following the Super Bowl telecast.

"Didn't you ever think that what you were doing was funny?"

"Oh, yeah, but I don't think as many people shared in my joke. The humour is not dispersed as part of the music. I think it's basically a private sort of humour, whether you employ it to review the rock 'thing' in your way or whether I employ it in my way."

Switch blades may flash on E Street, but codpieces collide in the rollicking world of sold-out concerts that make up the Tull Tour of 75. Twisted conceptions, reconfigurations of cosmic mung, whirl around the trooper-lit stage of phone booths, dancers and electric umbilical cords.

"Well, rock 'n' roll is a business — you're a product."

"But I think what rock music is first and foremost is music in its most elemental form."

Riots a go go, sweaty platform boots steeped in lion dung. A joining together of mute tortured imbeciles forms long lines, rupturing crusty ventricles sending scumbugger's blood slushing into dripping bedpans, under covers of balled, tattered wool. Over and over and over again until streams of piss-strafed flamingos, their nausea blooming mountains of turd-bed death camps, escape to trailer park lawns.

"'Bungle in the Jungle' is a song with that kind of feel to it. That's one of the ones that you can dance along to. It takes its place beside what you call formula disco music. But I think that's sort of cute in a way."

The streets of the Haight teem with the refuse of a thousand years — or so it might seem — of hippiedom. A white punk is out to score. He sniffles and begs. A black man stops him dead in his tracks because a white man is in a bad mood because an Italian man was in a bad mood earlier that day - something about too much credit out on the streets. Behind the laundromat on Castro Street, more black men celebrate degeneration with Sterno. Aquarius Records blasts the Jefferson Starship's latest hot wax, something called 'Miracles'.

"What kind of music do you like?" counters Ian. "You criticize my music and my lyrics as being pretentious. Well, let's put that beside what your tastes in music are ..."

(Has Ian Anderson ever supped on Sterno?)

"Springsteen, Kraftwerk, Eno ... Lou Reed ... there was a time when I was a Jethro Tull fan. I bought the first album when it came out. Even Thick As A Brick ... I like jazz a lot ..."

"Do you? I never much understood jazz."

"There are jazz elements in your music."

"Well, I've heard that said before. I've never understood what jazz is or what people mean by jazz. Jazz to me is what I was saying earlier about music as celebration. But in terms of self-indulgence, pretentiousness ... I mean, to me, jazz falls into these traps all too easily. John Coltrane — how do I know this man isn't just masturbating for all to see?"

She dropped her pants. Beside her a Chinese watched intensely. Something was in his hand. Fleshy yet hard. A curly mound revealed itself beneath the opaqueness of what passed for her underwear. Elmer's Glue in spastic random explosions splotched onto the ceiling of the bungalow. White women were new to Chiang.

"Do you remember the gorilla who came on and took pictures of them? Well, what was that all about? Why did he come out and take pictures of the audience? That's the same as me gaping at the audience. Who's on display, then? Simple as that. But let's not make out that it's some formula that's been adapted. It's merely a very necessary return to something that doesn't have a lot to do with the music, but it goes on anyway. Of course, I'm aware of that and I don't particularly like it, but I have to accept it. Like I don't personally smoke marijuana, but 50% of the audience are stoned. How do I live with that?"

A drivel-driven loon crouched moaning low in the foliage by the side of the Arapaho footpath. His navel heaved as his breath peristalted in quick short pants of mortification. Squatting behind a tumbleweed, he peered trembling at yonder clearing, where tomcats ten feet high with oysters for eyeballs danced whooping in a circle, stopping their ritualistic cakewalk at arbitrary intervals to inhale deeply from the ends of charred, furiously smoking bones. Eyeless in gaza ...

"Why does it bother you that your audience gets drunk or high?"

"It bothers me because I think that their understanding and appreciation of the music must be quite different from mine."

"So what?"

"Yeah, but isn't it a fact that the drug is going to alter it markedly from the allowable personality differences of everyone sitting in a room not stoned? My only involvement with drugs has been the after-effect of painkillers and being in marijuana smoke filled rooms. The ability to think straight is altered."

He began to screech. White light bolts of pain shot upwards through his body and out to crackle and pop his synapses like so much corn. His rusty eyes looked down through tears of blood to see, unmistakably, a pincer with turquoise and jade rings ripping one end of his prostate out and plugging it into a wall socket.

"The sensation of being on drugs — is it merely different, or do you delude yourself into picking up on a note and thinking, 'Wow, E flat!'"

"But Ian, it may enhance an illusion. It enhances the event!"

"Well then, it's actually to my advantage that as much of my audience as possible is stoned."

"Yeah. You could go out and play shit. Marijuana makes you less discriminating about things."

"So we'll have to make sure that the audience are not stoned for the support group but they'll pass out joints for us ... fantastic. Now I understand the secret of my future success. A whole new drug-induced future looms before me. And to think I was going to take up shooting."



Thanks to Casey Drumm for this article.