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DISC & MUSIC ECHO
4 September 1971
"Britain has neglected Jethro. We'd play here more, if I thought we were big enough!"
There's a group over from America at the moment who last appeared in Britain in April. And they won't be seen again on stage until the New Year. They're over here for a holiday, and to record.
They had a five-track maxi-single released last Friday, their last album made the British chart but didn't sell too well — although it sold millions in America.
There are five group members, and they are ... Jethro Tull.
Jethro, along with Ten Years After, are the epitome of the British band who grew big, grew even bigger, and now concentrate most of their energy in America.
They've changed a lot since they first became popular here. Ian Anderson is the only remaining original member. As the musicians have changed, so too has the music, but not that much. It's still Jethro music because Ian Anderson writes it. It may beplayed a little differently but that's all.
Why do Jethro Tull find it necessary to spend most of their time gigging in the States? You might think it's because they can earn more there and that, consequently, they became too big for Britain. But leaping flautist Anderson reckons that a loss of popularity here had a lot to do with it too.
Back in the year of flower-power, 1967 or threreabouts, Ian, drummer Barriemore Barlow, keyboard man John Evans, bassist Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond, a guitarist and two sax players were doing semi-pro gigs in places like Swansea.
"I was just singing then," says Ian. "That was the John Evan Band. We used to do a bit ofthis and a bit of that. We wore kaftans and played soul music because that was what people wanted."
But the John Evan Band weren't successful. They made the pilgrimage to London but only lasted a week. John went to university, Barrie went to work, "because he couldn't get a grant" and Ian persevered and formed Jethro with Mick Abrahams, Glenn Cornick and Clive Bunker.
It was easier to exist as a four-piece than as a seven-piece, and also easier than being a cleaner in the Ritz cinema, Blackpool, as far as Ian was concerned.
Now they are all back together again, with guitarist Martin Barre the odd-one out (he wasn't in the John Evan Band and replaced Mick Abrahams in the original Jethro). And they don't play soul music anymore.
After a holiday they return to the States for their third tour there this year. 'Life Is A Long Song' is the band's first single for over 18 months. But it's hardly a single as there are four other tracks on it — 'Dr. Bogenbroom,' 'Up The Pool,' 'Nursie,' and an instrumental 'From Later.' It's typical Jethro stuff — the sort that used to top the charts a couple of years ago, although they don't expect it to now.
"We were going to do a tour here in October," says Ian, "but we can't make it because we're going to America. After all, our album is still in the top 10 there; it didn't sell that many here.
"It's not a case of us neglecting Britain — Britain has neglected us a lot. We would play here more if I thought we were big enough. We were the group the year before Led Zeppelin — we had a number one album for six or seven weeks. Now Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Yes are the darlings of the industry. That's the way it goes."
"We were the group of 1969, with three top 10 hits. Then we fell by the wayside. Now we've succeeded in America."
They don't expect a hit with the maxi-single, but feel that five tracks for 10 bob is value for money. There's also a double album corning out later in the year, Living In The Past, featuring stereo versions of theirearlier material and also a live slide featuring things not previously on record. It will probably be a cheap one.
And Jethro are planning an extensive British tour in the spring — 30 or even 40 appearances at "small places we haven't played for a long time. We want to do everywhere." And they don't expect to make any money out of that either.
After their holiday, and after their next American tour, they will finish the next new album, which will have a theme running through it. They've already done side one.
"I think the band must be better now because we're all older, and more acquainted with the art of playing music. When I listen to the early Jethro recordings now they really sound dire. But I expect the things we're redoing now will sound pretty grotty in a couple of years time."
You can't blame Jethro for spending so much tone in America — it's the Americans who are spending money on them. After all, Ian has a wife, a small car and a bicycle to support. And as he says, there's bound to be more to be made there than here. American kids can afford to buy a couple of albums and see one or two groups every week.
Maybe the name Jethro Tull will mean more in Britain again after the forthcoming "greatest hits" album, and after they make another pilgrimage — to the little clubs that made them in the first place.
Thanks to Mike Wain for this article.