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24 August 1968
JETHRO TULL — HUMOUR AND BLUES
Most groups who play in the blues idiom present their music pretty seriously but at the recent National Jazz and Blues Festival, at Sunbury, the hit group on the Sunday evening was Jethro Tull who received a tremendous ovation for their set that featured the singing, flute and harmonica playing of Ian Anderson.
In a long overcoat and sporting a wild mop of hair, Ian came over like a cross between Charlie Chaplin and the Wild Man of the Pampas and the audience loved it.
Yet the success of the group at Sunbury overawed them and they hightailed it out of town. It took several phone calls to find Ian Anderson. Finally the group's manager, Terry Ellis, tracked him down to Blackpool and it was from there that Ian spoke to Melody Maker.
"I don't mind people laughing at me but what happened at Sunbury wasn't deliberate although if they hadn't cheered we might not have felt happy at all," he said. "I don't like this thing of standing around and trying to outplay everybody. We don't plan things out. We just go on and see what happens. You just keep it loose.
"If people go away happy, feeling like they've had something for their money then we're happy."
Ian plays Roland Kirk influenced flute on stage, singing and playing at the same time, and his version of 'Serenade To A Cuckoo' is a highlight in the group's show.
"Somebody said to me, 'It's all very well, but it's just like Roland Kirk,' but there are only two ways of playing the flute, you either sing or you don't although what I play doesn't have the musical content of Kirk. But it's still the blues.
"I think it's the blues as much as B.B. King is the blues. Where do you draw the line? Where do you put the label? It's blues basically but we don't end up doing what everybody expects. And we don't need to make excuses for it."
The humour in Jethro Tull's act is a spontaneous reaction to the group's general mood and is not deliberately contrived.
"Some nights nobody laughs at all," continued Ian, "because there is nothing to laugh at. We can go onstage and laugh and be happy but it's not like an act."
The group are currently working on their first album and Ian said of it,
"We don't want people to think we are just a 12-bar blues band. We've tried to get an underlying feel to the tunes to tie them together.
"It's about three months since some of the tracks were recorded. All the time we are trying to catch up, get new ideas across. That's why some groups worry when they are called progressive.
"Two of the tunes, 'Cat Squirrel' and 'Ode To A Cuckoo' [sic], we worried about putting on the album because they were someone else's but we do play them on stage and people like them, they go down well, so we put them on."
Jethro Tull are beginning to happen although they are happy doing there [sic] thing and making other people happy. Their attitude was summed up by Ian when he said,
"It doesn't matter who's best, as long as it's good and as long as people enjoy it."
TW [TONY WILSON]