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DISC & MUSIC ECHO
24 October 1970
IAN ANDERSON — MUSIC'S STRAIGHT FREAK
Ian Anderson met his first "jobsworth" the other day — and it hurt him deeply. It happened at Manchester's Free Trade Hall during Jethro Tull's sell-out British tour, which ended last week, just two days before the group flew back yet again to America.
"My cousin, who I hadn't seen for ten years wanted to come backstage and meet us all — but this uniformed fellow would not let him through the door. When I began to argue with him, he launched off in a great stream of abuse about 'Just because you're a big star there's no need to try and throw your weight around here...' It really hurt me. I'd never come across behaviour like that before and I really could not understand it.
"Maybe he had the impression that long-haired groups are badly behaved — I know people do have that impression but I'm sure it's not the case.
"What would be the point of our smoking pot in dressing-rooms, or tearing the place to bits or filling it with hangers-on? We would be cutting our own throats, ruining our livelihood."
That is genuine, and typical of the anomaly that is Ian Anderson.
In fact there must be many so-called "heads" and "freaks" who would be sorely disappointed if they met Ian offstage in the flesh.
He does not advocate violence, drug-taking, revolution or other "anti-social" habits associated with groups, particularly by the older generation. He is as straight a person as you could wish to meet, and were it not for the wild ginger hair and the pallid musician's face, you could never believe he was one of the most colourful and extroverted characters on the music scene.
But that's something Ian can explain. He's said before that what happens on stage just happens — though he will admit to being aware that the public expects the mad leaping, hopping and eye-rolling.
"I get very embarrassed when some people look on me as a sort of James Brown figure and think that all my falling about on stage is specially planned and faked to please the audience. Mostly, the only times I'm faking is when I'm trying to stand still and be cool. I lose one-and-a-half pints of body fluid every night on stage — that's not faking!
"I'm also aware that I'm taking the mickey out of myself, the music and the other members of the band. But I can also be very very serious on stage — it just depends on my mood. 'My God' for instance, which is my flute solo, is basically a very serious song; but I add some comedy to put it in perspective."
Jethro's British tour, their first for over a year, has pleased Ian immensely.
"It was in such sharp contrast to America in that there people come to concerts with fears of anxiety and foreboding. They almost expect violence to occur, the result simply of the environmental situation of the concert — security men patrolling everywhere, armed police — it's very inflammable.
"But in England everything is much more peaceable, yet the reception has been every bit as good as America. I had a really strong feeling of being back home. The audiences have felt relaxed with us and we've felt very rewarded.
"We did wonder about the tour before it started. It was possible people might have forgotten about us. In the future we definitely want to play more in Britain, not necessarily on tours, but just regular concerts round the country."
With the consistent adulatory acclaim that Jethro Tull seems to get at every concert, I wondered whether Ian ever found success boring.
"Not you can't get bored with that kind of success. To me a concert would be a success even if only one person had said they enjoyed it. And when you're playing to anything between 2,000 and 20,000 people at the time you can't possibly get blase. It's something I can accept but never take for granted."
Musically, Ian feels the band is about to move into a new era.
"At the moment it is the solo showcases that are probably the highlights of our act. We certainly enjoy them — and my solo is the part of the show I always look forward to most.
"But when we get back into the studios next month to start on the next album, I plan to drop all the solos and concentrate on a fully integrated group sound.
"After all, despite our success we're still a relatively new band. We've only been going for two-and-a-half years and have just completed what I'd call our apprenticeship.
"I've had a feeling for some months that there is a change under way in the band, and it will come out on the L.P. Solos are a means of developing each of us — we really have to search hard every night for the improvised passages — and I think everyone feels they can now attain enough freedom of expression. In future I'd like to see the whole band working together, or maybe in twos or threes, but not individually."
Perhaps the time is also right to ask Ian about the future of Jethro Tull. For times have changed. In the good old days of pop, a star or group got so far with personal appearances then moved into TV and eventually became, or tried to become, a film star. But today, music like that of J.T. hardly lends itself to that form of progress!
"And I'm glad that situation no longer exists. Ten years ago it would have been a necessity to have gone into TV and films. Now, it's desirable just to carry on playing the same concert halls to the same people — and simply keep progressing within yourself. I cannot think of a greater compliment to me, than if someone who saw our concert at the Albert Hall last week, will still be coming to see us play in 1975.
"I don't see any end to touring and working on live appearances. I don't want to see any end — that is our whole life."
Hasn't domestically [sic] intervened at all since his marriage?
"The only outward sign of domesticity is that I've bought a house. But that remains simply a house — a place where I live when I have free time — not a home.
"I'm very lucky in that Jenny has the same ideas and outlook on life as I do. She travels everywhere with the group, and Jeffrey stays at the house and stops the creeping plants from taking the place over!
"At present I've absolutely no desire to stop the life I'm leading now. I have no hobbies and only one or two friends, and nowadays I don't have any social obligations or involvements. If I were suddenly cut off from music and forced to become a bricklayer or something I would be a very lonely person indeed.
"Apart from the gentlemen of the press, I don't talk to many people, and my friendship with the other members of the group is purely as a result of our playing together.
"Of course I can talk to Jenny. I wouldn't have married her if I couldn't talk to her. She is an intelligent person with definite views and we have plenty of arguments — that's good. It makes for an active earthy relationship between two people.
"When we first met we were going in a certain parallel direction which forced us together for friendship. She doesn't have many friends either, so whenever we go out to parties or whatever we're to be found in a corner talking to each other.
"I suppose what really brought us together was that the job she was doing was the sort of thing I'd have done had I not formed the group. She was working in an ordinary job at Chrysalis, and I suppose that's what I would have done — joined an agency or a production company or something."
But he hasn't — and as long as there is breath left in his body he is unlikely to do anything other than entertain. Ian Anderson doesn't deserve the Manchester "jobsworth." Let's hope he never meets another.
Thanks to Mike Wain for this article.