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(Chrysalis) Produced by Terry Ellis and Ian Anderson
In the early Nineties, as the first wave of Seattle's grunge mania came crashing onto England's shore, Jethro Tull's sound engineer paid a visit to the London concert hall where the legendary progressive rock group would be performing the following night. Pearl Jam was on the bill that evening, and as the engineer poked around backstage, assessing what equipment would be required for Tull's show, a member of the Seattle group's entourage cornered him.
This rather disheveled maniac was waving a copy of Stand Up (says lan Anderson, Jethro Tull's vocalist, flutist and founder). He said, "I'm a big fan of Jethro Tull, and I listen to this record every night before I go on stage!" Then he staggered off down a corridor, leaving our poor sound engineer wondering what kind of odd people might be tagging along with the Pearl Jam party.
The engineer was understandably surprised when, half an hour after their confrontation, the same disheveled maniac took his place center stage at the microphone.
It was Eddie Vedder (says Anderson, chuckling). It's a bit odd to think he would have been motivated by the early music of Jethro Tull, but I suppose Stand Up must have had some effect on quite a few people.
That's putting it rather mildly. While not as well known as Jethro Tull's early Seventies efforts Aqualung and Thick As A Brick, Stand Up is a pivotal work in the Tull canon and, along with King Crimson's In the Court Of The Crimson King, one of the seminal albums of the prog-rock movement. Recorded in late 1968 at London's Morgan Studios, Stand Up was only the quartet's second album, but it marked a profound departure from the British blues-rock they'd been cultivating since their formation in 1967. The album not only defined Jethro Tull's distinctive fusion of rock, jazz and folk; it also cemented their status as an international group, becoming their first Top 10 record in the U.S. and their first No. 1 record in England.
Those achievements would come at the cost of Jethro Tull's original guitarist, Mick Abrahams. An incendiary blues player, Abrahams had given Jethro Tull the edge it needed to rise from Britain's oversaturated R & B scene. Anderson, however, had higher aspirations for the group, and Abrahams' shortcomings quickly became apparent to him.
During the nine or 10 months that Mick was with the band, I barely wrote any music because his style was so — and I don't mean this unkindly — limited (says Anderson). He couldn't grasp musical notions that were outside of the blues style, and he didn't really want to. He was perfectly happy doing what he was doing.
Tull had already recorded an album's worth of blues tracks with Abrahams, and as Chrysalis Records readied them for release, Anderson served the guitarist his walking papers.
I was ready to do something more progressive, and I felt Mick wouldn't be able to make the move,
says Anderson. Anticipating the new style Jethro Tull would forge without Abrahams, Anderson titled the group's debut This Was.
As in 'This was Jethro Tull' (he says). Implicit in that was the idea that our next album would be something quite different.
Indeed it would. With Abrahams out of the band, Anderson picked up a guitar for the first time in months and began writing songs, allowing his fancy to fly where it may. Drawing from the music that had inspired him in his youth, he created a musical crossbreed in which black American blues and jazz, Scottish folk and Indian and Pakistani music were equally evident.
Unfortunately, I wasn't much of a guitarist (says Anderson). As the music progressed, it was pretty obvious we would need to get a replacement for Mick.
Among those who auditioned for the guitarist's spot were a pre-Black Sabbath Tony Iommi (who performed as a member of Tull at the Rolling Stones' Rock and Roll Circus BBC TV show) and Davey O'List from Nice, Keith Emerson's group prior to Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Eventually, Anderson choose Martin Barre, a young, unknown guitarist — and a Tull fan, to boot.
Martin Barre got the job because he seemed less set in his ways (says Anderson), a bit more of a blank canvas upon which I could write.
Open-minded as he was, Barre was unprepared for what Anderson had in mind.
The first week I joined, Ian presented his new songs to Glenn [Cornick, bassist] and Clive [Bunker, drummer] and me (says Barre). And it was quite a shock. They weren't anything like the songs of the Jethro Tull I thought I'd joined.
In fact, the 10 songs Anderson wrote for Stand Up were unlike anything anyone had heard before. His oddball integration of styles resulted in sophisticated rhythms and melodies that simultaneously challenged and engaged the listener. 'Fat Man' and 'Jeffrey Goes to Leicester Square' revealed influences of the Indian ragas Anderson had heard in his local curry restaurant, while 'Bouree', the album's instrumental track, fused classical influences with jazz. Only 'It's An Old Day Now' [sic], Stand Up's opening track, showed any trace of the old Jethro Tull. A progressive blues in 6/8, the song — with its suggestive title — bid farewell to This Was while pointing the way ahead.
With Stand Up, we were doing the kind of music I had wanted to be doing all along (says Anderson). It wasn't that I was looking for some unexplored territory to stake out, in the Neil Armstrong tradition; I just took the things that I felt good about, and let them run. And that was the exciting thing about it.
Completed in just three weeks, Stand Up was a landmark work in every way. While album covers of this period typically featured a band photo, Stand Up's cover art consisted of a crudely sketched caricature of the band members. The gatefold sleeve was cleverly designed so that, when opened, a cutout of the band stood up in its center — hence, the album's title.
It was part of our rebelliousness (says Barre). We thought the rock image was so stupid and that rock musicians took themselves too seriously. Our celebrity was based on being a blues act, and here was lan, sticking two fingers up the band's reputation. It was an amazing risk. I never thought about it — but he must have.
Not surprisingly, fans of the old Jethro Tull were baffled by the group's new direction.
After we finished Stand Up, we went back to the English blues clubs where Mick had played (says Barre). There were a few dates where the audience was very quiet. They didn't know what to make of it all. We did some 10 gigs in England, and it wasn't gelling with the crowd. It was a worrying few weeks.
On January 18, 1969, Jethro Tull rolled into Manchester University, their final stop in England before they would make their U.S. premiere at New York City's Fillmore East, on January 24.
Manchester was the gig that finally cracked it for us (says Barre). The audience went wild for the new songs, and you could hear a huge sigh of relief from the band that the show had gone down so well. It was really the turning point for Jethro Tull — for everything that we were to become and everything we were to inspire in others.
Thanks to Simon Lindholm for this article