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DISC & MUSIC ECHO

23 May 1970

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JETHRO IN AMERICA

Birthday party for Glenn — and Hendrix arrives late

by Judy Sims in Los Angeles

Jethro Tull — with new man John Evan on piano — are in the midst of their fourth tour of this country in less than two years. They came over here early in 1969 with a new band (Martin Barre had just replaced Mick Abrahams), new songs, no album, and an incredible success in Britain. They still haven't had a hit single in America — but that it the least of their worries. They've just drawn about 13,000 to the Long Beach Arena, which ain't bad considering that none of the group has ever been with the Yardbirds or Clapton or Hendrix ...

John Evan, the new man, is naturally attracting a lot of interest. He has known Ian since early school days. They had a trio at one time with Ian on guitar, John on drums, and Jeffrey on bass (the same Jeffrey mentioned in at least three Jethro Tull songs). The trio expanded to seven pieces, John moved to keyboards, and the group toured most of England. It was the John Evan Band. Then the band broke up. John went to university in London to study pharmaceutical chemistry, Jeffrey went to art college, and Ian took up the flute and Jethro Tull.

John hasn't been in music for two years or so. "I don't even have a record player," he told me. But Ian asked him to play on the Benefit album sessions, which was easy, and then Ian asked him to join the band, which wasn't. In Britain, apparently, students don't just drop in and out of college. There's nothing remotely casual about taking a leave of absence. But John did, wooed partly by the money and partly by his long friendship with Ian. Now he's established himself within the group — after a few mishaps. While at Devonshire Downs, California, a security guard refused to believe he was in Jethro Tull, arrested him, and refused to let him backstage.

While in L.A., the group (Ian and John, mostly) endured rounds of interviews, photo sessions, more interviews. With Ian was his tiny dark-haired wife, Jennie. They held hands and had private giggles, she wore pants patterned with Winnie the Pooh and Piglet. Together they seem very young, but when Ian's attention is on music or business, he never betrays his youth. Most people can't believe he's only 22.

"Ian has more music in him than anyone I've ever known," John said, "but he doesn't read a word of music. It all comes from somewhere in the back of his head, and it's all there. He knows just where he wants the flute, here, and this piano bit, there, and it always works out."

And how was the five-man Jethro concert at Long Beach? [19 April]

Well, it was one of those concerts (all too frequent of late) where the music and the stars were just fine, but the environment and the audience got all the reviews — unfavourable. Eric Burdon, backed by a fine group called War, preceded Tull, and exhorted the crowd to rush the stage, which they did, like dutiful lemmings. They never returned to their seats, so most of the main floor audience never saw Jethro Tull except for the occasional glimpse of the top of Ian Anderson's head.

Fortunately the sound and vocals were undistorted, and even the softer things were audible over the audience rumble. The set roared off with 'Nothing Is Easy' and loped through 'With You There To Help Me' (featuring a long piano solo by John Evan which was very good and largely unappreciated), a nice acoustic Ian/Martin rendition of 'Sossity, You're A Woman' with a bit of 'Reasons For Waiting' in the middle, ending with a new arrangement of 'Dharma For One' that had Clive and Martin taking impressively good long solos, and doing more of the same for the encore.

They had deliberately changed a few things since their last performance here. There were fancy sound effects during Ian's first flute solo, created by their sound man somewhere off stage — whirs and sputters and clicks, gasps and blasts. The noises seemed to come from Ian's throat, but he held the flute aloft and bugged his eyes as the sounds continued without him.

Less leaping about this time, but it was still there in essence: the one-legged prance, the Groucho Marx boogie/lope, even a pirouette during John's piano bit. Ian was very much the ringmaster, alternately disdainful and sincere, taking it very seriously and with great good humour. There was more emphasis on the band as soloists. The five of them can create just about any musical mood, from flat-our relentless rock to delicate sweetness.

After the concert, several arrests. Strange paranoia stories of kids handcuffed and dragged away, but it's all part of the concert ritual. The more busts, the more successful and talked about the concert, the larger the concert the more busts ...

CONVENTION

"We're aiming at playing 2000-seat concerts where everyone sits down and listens to the music," Ian said later. "If an audience wants to get up and jump around, then they should, but at least they should be in a situation where getting up and jumping around is a surprise and not something that's a piece of social convention ... I would hate for people to feel that they're obliged to jump around because they think we expect it, we don't ..."

The Santa Barbara Bowl was the next gig [22 April] — outdoors, natural, without the Hollywood Bowl's moat or immensity. It was the coldest night Santa Barbara could remember (according to the promoter). It was the evening of the first quiet day after the Isla Vista student trouble and bank burning, and there were noticeably nervous expressions backstage. The promoter said he had to let a lot of people in free, afraid there might be trouble, you know. "We lost a lot on this one," he smiled tightly.

The audience huddled close together, blanketed, some rubbing hands and arms in a warming ritual. Backstage was no better. Martin wasn't sure his fingers could function on the guitar strings, and while one or two members took solos the rest shivered behind the amplifiers.

Around a hundred people drifted around backstage; one young man stumbled out front, as if to embrace Glenn or Clive, but he was hauled away. Much of the energy generated on stage went up into the night air instead of out to the audience (always a problem with outdoor evening rock concerts). The sound was perfect, a marvel of balance and clarity. Their own PA system travelled with them, also their own sound man. Despite the cold and the night, the audience demanded an encore. "Since you were silly enough to ask for it, it will be a long one," Ian said.

OCCASION

The next day [23 April] was Glenn's birthday, the occasion for a party in Laurel Canyon with Chinese food from Ah Fong's. Two people played chess, a few retreated to the TV, and a succession of men fiddled with the erratic stereo. The cake was decorated with a Union Jack and 'Happy Birthday Glenn'. Hendrix arrived late, after Ian and John had left.

Friday [24 April] the entourage moved on to the Swing Auditorium in San Bernardino, which has a ceiling draped with what must be tons of silver tinsel embellished with occasional swags of gold tinsel. We munched hamburgers (after we climbed the fence to get them because the security guard wouldn't unlock the gate). The piano finally arrived, the group rehearsed and tested the sound system. A soccer game started up in the dressing room with Ian, Martin, Clive, Eric [Brooks] the American tour manager, manager Terry Ellis, and one of the roadies (who is really a writer along for the fun / experience / research), and Derek Sutton, American representative for Chrysalis (and an old school pal of Ellis).

The show was opened by Ballin' Jack, who launched a good uncomplicated set of rock 'n' roll with horns and a lot of jive like "Hold up your hands ... hold up your hands for love ... now ... reach out and touch another hand, touch somebody you love." Sure, brother.

Clouds were second. They appeared with Jethro at every gig (except Hawaii), and they too are managed by Chrysalis. Clouds are three young Scots who attack their songs with wild grins and general ravings. Their choice of material is perhaps their weakest feature, with oldies like 'Sing Sing Sing' and 'Big Noise from Winnetka', but they play with enthusiasm and good cheer and a happy Scottish belligerence.

The crowd stood and cheered when Jethro walked on. But the middle of the number it was chaos down front, some people standing on seats and ones in back yelling for them to sit down. Ian asked them to sit down. A few did.

"Some of you out there might like to see us, since you probably paid a ludicrous amount of money for tickets."

They cheered but remained standing. After the show the shouting, chanting and stomping for more continued. I thought there might be trouble, but there wasn't.

Next stop San Diego [25 April]. (Back in L.A. for the Hendrix concert, who should appear first on stage but Ballin' Jack. Sure enough, "I wanna see everybody raise a hand, raise a hand for love, brother ...") From San Diego Jethro flew to San Jose for a concert [26 April] and then to Hawaii [28 April], where the group got sunburn and tried surfing (John nearly drowning in the process). Onward to San Francisco and three nights at the Fillmore [30 April, 1-2 May]. Crowded, hot, sticky.

Their last California gig was Devonshire Downs in Northridge [3 May] — site of the Newport '69 festival. It was probably the hottest day of the year (so far), dry and dusty. On stage, the show was running two hours late. The sound went bad despite all efforts. The piano was out of tune with the organ, so Martin had to re-tune the guitar after each number to match with the keyboard in use. "The audience was pretty down with all the heat, but they were patient," reported one observer. "Ian saved the thing, really, just by his raps. He knows what to say to a crowd."

Ian is very direct, for one thing: "While you've been sweating out there, we've been sweating backstage," he said, and then the group tore into another song. They worked themselves into a frazzle and the audience to a frenzy. It was one of the more noble examples of the triumph of mind and music over mood and weather.

They had a few days to themselves (except for a few more interviews) after Northridge, so they trekked down to see 'Woodstock'. They liked the film but remained convinced that there's a whole lot of shuckin' going on in rock and roll. Their Englishness makes it difficult for them to get sentimental about 400,000 muddy Americans, I suppose. "What America really needs is a queen," Ian once remarked.


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Many thanks to Glenn Cornick for this article