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NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS
11 April 1970
SUCCESS WITH SINGLES DIDN'T WORK SAY JETHRO — from now on we're finished with them
Jethro Tull are finished with releasing singles. After aiming a nimble boot up the rear at the sagging chart scene, the group has rethought its policy towards the single and in future — apart from the occasional track taken from an album and released as a 45 to boost sales — intends to put itself solely to producing LPs.
"There won't be any more singles in the foreseeable future,"
Ian Anderson told me on Friday, relaxing in his basement flat near Hyde Park Corner — a temporary home for he and his wife Jennie — after a day rehearsing with Jethro at London's Lyceum Ballroom.
Listening to their new Benefit album as Jennie prepared a meal, Ian explained that the original concept of them making singles was to get airplays and Top Of The Pops slots to reach that section of the public that otherwise wouldn't hear them. Surprisingly, Ian feels that
"it didn't really work. We sold a lot of copies of 'Witch's Promise' for instance but not as many as we did of the last album. And we found that most of the singles were going to people who had already bought the albums and not, as we'd hoped, to the Edison Lighthouse buyers. I don't think it did us a lot of good because it wasn't like two different audiences; it overlapped. And we don't want to get caught up into thinking that we have to have hit singles, because it becomes a burden to remain alive in terms of chart success. Singles aren't indicative of your success to album buyers and most people but they are to radio producers."
The group is putting out a single in two weeks' time, but it's a track from Benefit entitled 'Inside' which is primarily for DJs to play to promote interest in the album.
"We would rather it didn't make the chart," said Ian. "It would be a bit embarrassing if it did and just got to No.19 or something. We are definitely not going to release any more singles with a view to having chart success. We have had three top ten records but haven't had a No.1.
"Maybe if we had a song we thought could make No.1 we might release it just for the egotistical feeling of being No.1, but it would have nothing to do with our music. I am all in favour of the swing towards buying albums. I would rather buy an LP than singles. They are too much bother to put on; I never play singles."
I asked Ian if the new policy meant they'd given up trying for a wider audience and he thought for a while before replying:
"Yeah. But it doesn't mean we have turned our backs on the younger people we've gained through hit singles — and I recognise there are some — it means we feel there are now enough people interested and these are now the ones we will make the records for. We don't need to try and get across to any more."
After the meal, we talked in general terms about Benefit.
"I am pleased with my vocals," volunteered Ian. "I enjoyed singing on this album because it was a lot easier. Like most people who sing because they are the only one in the group who can, I now write songs that are within my vocal ability: I know my limitations. I get credit for producing this one myself, and I enjoyed that side of it: the playing about with sounds.
"The guitar on 'To Cry You A Song' is I think a very good sound, and there are no effects on it. It came out the way Martin wanted it, clean and tight, and it pleases me we got it that way for him. That's important to me ... that people are pleased with their own sound ... as well as it fitting into the song.
"I play guitar on all the tracks and initially that was because I was writing songs in terms of guitar, which meant that Martin would have to learn the guitar piece and it became frustrating for him. It was okay when he first started because he wasn't so good then and it gave him the chance to play another person's ideas. On this album I thought it should be left to him what he wanted to play, just as Glenn and Clive are free to do what they like within the framework of a number written by me.
"Martin can do the same now, because I play the guitar part I've written for the song and that leaves him free to play as he wants over and above what I'm doing. He emerges much better than from the last album where he was playing half solos and half stuff I had to show him to play note for note. I think he's a lot happier, although Martin's very hard to please. He doesn't like most of what he plays."
Typically avoiding a "too much ... best we've ever done" raving, Ian would only say that he was "quite pleased" with the result, adding that
"when you are working on an album you are already half way through the next one in your mind and it is very hard to be objective. That comes at the time of writing it."
Half the songs for the next album — it should be around October — are already in his head and in fact they've a recording session next week to cut one song which they are already doing on stage.
"Looking at them as pieces of music there is no doubt that they are better,"
was the most he could be drawn into saying.
* * *
BENEFIT: NEW TULL ALBUM
Track-by-track by Nick Logan & Ian Anderson
JETHRO TULL: 'Benefit'
Chrysalis stereo ILPS 9123
39s 11d; released April 24
Benefit won't startle as Stand Up did viewed in relation to This Was. It is more an affirmation of the leap in a new direction they took on the last ... with what they did then improved upon, fuller, mellower and more mature ... an album that will unfold to growing pleasure with each play.
It comes across simpler on the surface than Stand Up but is in fact more complex once you get past the insistent riffs and phrases to the nub of the song, and that's where the cleverness of the construction comes in. Like peeling away layers. Underlined is Ian Anderson's verve as a songwriter — he wrote all ten tracks; the Englishness of their music; its uniqueness laying bare the dearth of originality among most of their contemporaries; while a pleasant revelation is Martin Barre's lead guitar work.
In every way it's an excellent album and one which will greatly enhance the group's reputation. I listened to it with Ian Anderson and his comments on each track follow mine:
'With You There To Help Me' is medium paced with Ian playing piano and a lunatic flute fading in and out between verses; linking with Martin's guitar for the lengthy fade out.
"The flute was recorded backwards and I've double-tracked the vocals in harmony — it adds a totally new perspective to the voice. We'll be doing this on stage."
'Nothing To Say' is a fairly slow one that builds, with the chorus against a solid, spiralling guitar riff. Through it Martin plays a dreamy underlying guitar.
"This is one for the journalists — written from a growing dislike for American 'rap' sessions where the Underground writers come up and say, 'Well what do you want to talk about man?' I would rather talk about nothing."
'Alive And Well And Living In' is typical JT; verses over an insistent riff. Also a somewhat subdued flute and piano.
"I must apologise for having a bad cold on this. This is a song for Jennie; it's a happy one. There are two things I write about — Jennie, and me, sometimes together."
'Son' is a fascinating, clever construction. More forceful ... gritty, growling guitar then nice graceful lines against the vocal, voice and guitar merging as one. Fades out and changes tempo mid-way through.
"This is a dialogue between father and son, who at the end of the song turns out to be 30 years old. I play acoustic guitar. It's an amusing one that brings back, as it does for me, all the personal experiences one's dad passes on."
'For Michael Collins, Jeffrey And Me' gives Ian's friend Jeffrey his usual album credit. It grows from soft acoustic opening with nice fancy guitar parts and again uses tempo changes. Snatches of rippling piano too. A bit strange, and clever.
"Michael Collins was one of the astronauts, the one who stayed in the ship while the others went down to the Moon. Jeffrey has a bird called Bananas! (Don't ask me what that has to do with it.) I watched the moon shot on TV in America. It was nice watching it; I half wished I was there. It's one of those things ... you think beforehand what a waste of money it is but when they are there and you're watching it is a great thing for mankind. Then when it's over you feel the same as before."
'To Cry You A Song' is a personal favourite; it certainly has the most naggingly, marvellous guitar riff that's lodged itself in my head. A long one at 6 mins 9. Ian and Martin are on guitars which weave in and out of each other to achieve something of a Cream-type liquidity. Praise too for Glenn's bass and Clive's drumming.
"Martin gets a really good, malleable sound here. I think it's his best guitar to date and it's also one of the stage numbers we can reproduce just like the record."
'A Time For Everything' is one of the few where the flute plays a prominent role.
"I wrote this on mandolin. It was some time ago in Malvern — Jennie and I went back there for our honeymoon — we played there and stayed in a hotel on the side of a hill. I went off on the hill to write the song. As luck would have it, it was one of the few occasions when I was pursued by fans. There I was, sitting down trying to take in the Donovan thing ... trees and sunshine and nature ... and there were half a dozen grubby little 13 year olds thrusting fag packets at me for autographs."
'Inside' is also the single and very commercial really too. It's nice and folksy and pleasant yet pushy with something of a Byrds feel, but still very much Jethro Tull.
"You'll like this one: it's a sing-along and another mandolin track. We chose it as the single because while it's not typical of the other tracks ... it's a nice pleasant happy little song ... it doesn't imply any veering away from what we've done before."
'Play In Time' is back to forcefulness again after the prettiness; a hard driving riffy number that they did on stage last time in America. Glenn contributes a gutsy bass, with organ heavily featured too. Has a kind of hunting rhythm and distortion effects.
"This is about songs I like singing ... like I was saying about writing about what I do. The fade out is like a nightmare at a fairground."
'Sossity: You're A Woman' is the last and most fascinating track, opening with acoustic guitar and churchy organ. Basically it's a vehicle for Martin and Ian on acoustics with lots of nice flecks of sounds like brushstrokes. It's very tasteful, very thoughtful, very cleverly bound together and possibly the best track.
"I don't want to talk about the lyrics of this one. It's another stage number. We wanted to do an acoustic thing and Martin and I worked this one out in a hotel room in America."
Thanks to Matthew Korn for this article