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7 May 1970

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A flamboyant flautist makes the Jethro Tull group rock

Pop groups don't need gimmicks to be successful, but they sure help, and a flautist who dresses like the original Pied Piper and plays standing on one leg, sometimes swinging the other to the music, and rolling his eyes at the same time, cannot be considered a liability.

Ian Anderson, the flautist in question, is the leader of Jethro Tull, an English quartet named, logically, after an 18th Century agronomist who invented a mechanical seed drill and was once accused of plagiarism. Anderson's eccentric stage antics had a lot to do with the group's rise to the very top of the English pop charts in the two years since its founding, and with the reception it is getting now on its fourth U.S. tour.

Anderson bought his first flute only months before Jethro Tull came into existence. He is accordingly modest about his technical abilities, which are in fact quite respectable. He writes most of the group's music, a blend of jazz and blues with some classical thrown in, and describes it as "still tentative and searching," although critics say the sound is clean and economical.

And there is nothing tentative about Anderson's exploding hairdo. Back at the start he used to claim he was only giving audiences what they wanted; now he has decided he looks best that way, and maybe he really does. Despite appearances, he is in the conservative camp, as pop stars go: anti-liquor, anti-drugs, anti-groupies. Even his act is not just an act.

"I couldn't play," he maintains "without behaving the way I do. Then, I couldn't behave the way I do without playing at the same time."

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[Top picture caption]
On a pedestal Anderson rehearses for The Switched-On Symphony, a recent crossbred TV special featuring the Los Angeles Philharmonic, a number of young classical virtuosos and a mélange of pop groups.


Click for full picture With Los Angeles Philharmonic conductor Zubin Mehta, Anderson discusses their TV show.


Click for full picture At home in London, looking almost conservative, he shops for African trinkets.


Click for full picture A BBC TV appearance calls for teased hair.

"Dressing rooms," he says "are for making sure everything is working well, including yourself. I don't like people around."


Thanks to Casey Drumm for this article