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19 June 1976
IA: Well, Ian Anderson was born (so they tell me, and I have no reason to disbelieve them since I can't possibly be imagining all this) in a little town called Dunfermline in Scotland, to parents of (without wishing to offend them) middle-class or lower middle-class origins. Strangely enough, they had no involvement with music at all, so it's certainly not a hereditary thing. I got involved because of a basic disenchantment with the system of education that they coerced me into. I think they really wanted me to be a doctor or something, a lawyer, something exciting like that, and I fought that for quite a few years before running away from school at the age of 15.
By that time I had in fact got a little bit involved with music, as a listener; not really with rock 'n' roll, though, because my interest at that time was jazz and blues. I'd been aware (like other people of my age) of the Rolling Stones and the Beatles and sort of enjoyed what they did, but rather than take what they were doing verbatim I went back to their roots — R 'n' B or whatever you want to call it — and in the case of the Rolling Stones to people like Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, and that mob, and re-learned the songs from that standpoint. This was actually more enjoyable, since we found our own arrangements; our way of playing that music was instructive in terms of improvisation as a means of learning to play the instruments we play.
The group of course was not called Jethro Tull: it was called The Blades then, if I remember rightly, after the club which Ian Fleming's James Bond used to go to. The main breakthrough of the period was probably playing a series of rather large concerts as the support group, the warm-up group, for Led Zeppelin, who we were very fond of as being the epitome of heavy rock — as indeed they still are. Amen.
[Taps a cigarette on table-top or packet]
We didn't do badly at that; in fact some of the papers thought we did rather well, and we earned for ourselves the right to go on and do the Led Zeppelin routine — I mean going on last and being the stars of the show. That was about the time that we played 'Aqualung' and all that stuff ... which is still with us today.
After Aqualung we did this amazing thing called Thick As A Brick which, rather like the Passion Play album which followed it, was very much a result of the group becoming really for the first time a very good, solid working unit.
I suppose you've gathered by this time that I'm very interested in songs as songs. We haven't really talked at all about the showmanship side of things. People always see me as a sort of Mick Jagger with tighter trousers [laughter] ... and infinitely thinner lips. He's much older than I am I think. We're not really the same sort of person, because he's ... not just the Stones, but Zeppelin, everybody else ... they're all into a different sort of approach. Ours is one where the songs are uppermost in our minds — certainly in my mind — and the performance is something that seems uppermost in the audience's mind. Goodness knows why, because I'm never aware of all the things they say I do on stage: you're all much luckier than I am because you've seen it and I haven't. Nor do I particularly want to, because they say, believe it or not, that I stand on one leg. By God, I must be talented after all — I've been fooling you all this time. It's a lot more spontaneous than how it looks, is what I'm saying.
But all of that had to stop, along with all the other groups who've come along with the dry ice and the smoke machines and the explosions and people coming down on wires from the stage and that sort of stuff, because that isn't what rock 'n' roll is all about — nor is it what Jethro Tull is all about.
Thanks to Neil Thomason for the source tape.