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27 February 1971

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David Hughes writes on three aspects of a music giant

Aqualung, Jethro Tull's new album released next Friday, is destined to be by far their most controversial yet. For the first time Ian Anderson has written several songs on a similar theme — religion — and approached the LP in what he calls a 'schematic' way.

"The first thing on any album is to make the songs relate musically," he says, "and it just so happens that on this one, five or six of the songs relate to my ideas about God. It's a very personal thing, not intended to rouse people to riot, although the feelings behind it are a little unhappy."

The whole idea for the album started with 'My God', a highlight of Jethro's stage act for about a year, which Ian describes as

"a blues — a lament for God. Really within myself I'm referring back to the kind of ideas of God and religion with which I was brought up. In the context which I knew it, God is a highly personal thing, a feeling of righteousness and goodness.

"I don't look to God to help me in times of trouble. Luckily my parents let me choose my own way with religion. They sent me to Sunday School when I was young but I rebelled after the first visit and I was never forced back. I think my parents are the exception though, and there is so much religion today forced on to children simply by virtue of their parents' race or creed — and that in itself is inherently wrong."

Ian is totally immersed in the subject, yet it is a strange one for 1971 young society, a society in which one would not imagine religion played any sizeable part.

"Maybe not, it's just this feeling that has come out in me. In some of the songs there are only references to it, but others are more explicit. Like everybody else I see a lot of people with a lot of different religions, and whereas I respect their beliefs, I don't respect the reasons whereby they came to them. There is still this 'bogey-man' aspect about God which is terribly wrong. Religion should still be taught in schools, but for its historical value, not as indoctrination. To hell with morning services and assemblies. What do they mean to school kids?

"I wouldn't want to take people away from God. In fact I don't think you can get any further away from God than we are today. We were at the Vatican in Rome a few weeks back and I just could not believe it. If they only spent money on people who need it, rather than spend it on their own buildings ...

"But the album's a very personal thing — two or three of the songs are just me with an acoustic guitar — and as such it's bound to offend a few people I suppose. Melodically and lyrically the songs are much better than on previous albums. Now we're right back to the basic simple group sounds. Some of the songs are actually quite commercial — not deliberately so. I've even heard the cleaners at the recording studio singing one, so it must be catchy!"

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Something very strange is happening to Jethro Tull — they've suddenly become friendly to each other.

"Jethro Tull could now sit down together and have a party — and that's really weird,"

says Ian Anderson with a rather bewildered look.

Not that J.T. have ever been enemies; it's just that the business of playing together has always been regarded as just that — a business, after which they all go their socially separate ways. But with the arrival of the famous Jeffrey into the limelight, be it coincidental or consequential, friendships have blossomed.

"We never had any reason to get together before, but now — well I suppose it's all a part of getting older. Previously there's always been something wrong with me, mentally. I've been at social gatherings and seen everyone rolling about laughing and joking and it's just made me want to retreat inside myself."

Jeffrey, as all Tull followers will know well, is a lifelong friend of Ian — a man whose name could be heard nightly at Jethro concerts either enshrined in song or simply bandied about. But no one ever thought he was a musician, still less that he might join Jethro as a permanent fixture.

"He's never really played guitar seriously before. He was in a band that John Evan and I formed years ago at school. I played guitar, Jeffrey played bass and John played drums — and we sang blues and pop songs of the day. John was the only real musician among us. Jeffrey knew nothing and couldn't play anything. He had to be taught it line by line to keep up with us, and anyway his parents made him blow it out in the end to go to college."

And it is only a few months since Jeffrey finished his college studies, gaining a Diploma of Education.

"But when Glenn Cornick left we had to find a replacement pretty quickly. Certainly if we had had the time to spend holding auditions we would have found a more accomplished guitarist than Jeffrey — let's face it, he is pretty green — but I wanted to give him a job. I'd bought him a guitar for his birthday last year, simply because I couldn't think of anything else to get him, and then when Glenn left I asked Jeffrey if he could get it together to join us.

"I wanted to give him something to pull himself together. He'd been a bit weird in the past. He went through a long phase of not talking to anyone and just going for long walks and hiding in shop doorways to 'sort it all out'.

"I gave him a job painting the house while Jennie and I were away in America and things like that. But actually, though he's had very little experience, he has a very good feeling for music. His first gig was in the studio where we spent a week and a half on the new album. Then there were four days rehearsal before the European tour. Not only was that the first time he'd ever played a guitar through an amplifier, but it was the first time he'd been to Europe, the first time he'd been on an aeroplane even.

"He was very quiet at first and would wear very dark airman's goggles on stage so that he couldn't see anybody. He'd blush scarlet when I introduced him, but now he's getting much better. He even spoke into a tape recorder for some radio programme the other day which was amazing!"

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Jethro Tull's new British tour kicks off tomorrow at the rather surprising London venue of Kilburn Gaumont State cinema — hardly used for music since the golden days of big band jazz. Although they toured Britain as recently as last October, Jethro Tull thrive on hard work. But throughout their tours, no matter how successful, one thing sticks out — Ian Anderson's almost overwhelming passion for self-derision. He seems somehow incapable of taking himself seriously and could be accused of marring his songs by mickey-taking.

"I've always been paranoid about accepting pop music seriously as an art form. All music is derivative and it's insane to talk about it as art. Let's face it, I've only been playing music for four years and all this lauding of musicians is quite wrong. So I consciously stop any of that happening by putting myself down. We're here to entertain people."


Main picture caption: "Jethro's Ian Anderson with actress Julie Edge — who presented the group with a gold disc for million-dollar U.S. sales of their last album, Benefit."

Many thanks to Glenn Cornick for this article