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NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS
11 October 1969
THE PIED PIPER OF A NEW ERA IN POP
Nowhere is the pop revolution that began under the title of 'Underground' more in evidence at present than on the current British concert tour of Jethro Tull. With the package format near death and the teenybopper groups sticking to their ballrooms for fear of going out to half-empty auditoriums, Jethro Tull has been packing in capacity houses at almost every stop.
Yet, despite the amount of records they have sold in a relatively short existence, they remain a group at the head of a movement a large section of the press, public and music business thinks it can afford to ignore.
London's Royal Albert Hall on Wednesday was the fourth stop of the tour an once again Jethro devotees were out in force — to such an extent that disappointed latecomers were touting for tickets in the street outside (something I haven't seen since the Cream's farewell concert at the same venue).
Knowing the group, I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised to arrive at their dressing room back stage and be informed by Clive Bunker and Martin Barre that Ian Anderson was being interviewed in the ladies.
"What can you expect from these underground papers,"
joked Clive who, along with Martin, was doing his best to forget his nerves about the coming show.
Manager Terry Ellis made an appearance, affirmed that Jethro's future stage appearances would be limited to similar tours — no more this year — and then herded his group into the ladies for a briefing on the night's concert.
That over, it was my turn in the ladies with Ian. On their last visit to the Hall, Jethro Tull was in B dressing room — either would do credit to a British Railways waiting room — and we were discussing the merits of what was then the group's new single, 'Living In the Past'.
There was a widely held feeling then that the single was not a commercial proposition and the same thing is being said of the new single 'Sweet Dream' which is due for release on Friday.
NOT A HIT
"Chris Blackwell (Island Records boss) didn't think it was going to be a hit," said Ian, jotting down the order of stage numbers on a scrap of paper. "But having taken a lot of trouble over it — having written it for a single over a long period of time — we were determined to put it out.
"It was important this time to do something in a different vein. We had to write something a bit louder, with a more obvious beat, something more aggressive.
"Simply because to release anything else as easy-going as 'Living In the Past' anything more melodic sounding would have been presenting ourselves as something we're not.
"Kids who had only heard the singles might have come along to concerts and got a bit of a shock."
Followers of my reports on the degeneration of Ian's stage trousers — the ones that had been so soaked in sweat they were rotting away — will be sad to hear that the poor things finally gave up the ghost in New York.
"They had something living in them,"
said Ian matter of factly. A patterned pair have taken their place and I shall keep readers informed of their progress. Already there is a very promising tear on the knee.
What has been the reception to the tour so far?
"All right, well more than all right. It's been a sell out so far. It was a bit ropey the first night because we'd been recording. Tonight it ought to be better.
"I know Martin sounds better," Ian went on. "He's learnt more about music in the past few months than he will all his life. I have as well. The group sounds better than the last time you heard us here."
Ian picked up his mandolin and gave a couple of out of tune strums. Martin was summoned, and while Ian talked, he tuned the instrument against the lead guitar.
"I don't think anyone is afraid any more of failing to live up to a certain standard of playing.
"For myself, I feel more at home, more relaxed, than I did on the last British tour. I have got no worries about how we rank with other musicians or how our popularity rating compares with other groups.
"I have never enjoyed playing as much as I have in these past few days on tour."
I went to make a call at the gents, the door opening with a thud as I walked straight into Glen [sic] Cornick, who was tuning his bass guitar to Martin's lead. Time, I decided, to make myself scarce.
I'm sure Albert would be pleased, because they don't seem to scream any more in his hall. Knowledgeable attention to the music, spasmodic head and hair shaking, culminating in a standing ovation seems to be the order of the new day. So it was for Jethro Tull.
Clive, Martin and Glen [sic] came trooping out to a roar of approval which went up again even louder when a green floor-length overcoat came skipping madly across the stage, flute held high, beard bristling and eyes rolling. Ian Anderson, if I may be allowed space to say it again, is a showman supreme.
The German TV producer whose crew were recording the action almost fell off his chair in excitement as his cameraman, a foot away from Ian's face, captured the Anderson contortions — and did much to mar the atmosphere for the rest of us.
A few words from Ian on skinheads — there was actually one in the front row — brought laughter and applause and then Glen [sic] got into the act by a gesture towards the cameraman's rear as the poor fellow zoomed in on Ian's whiskers.
Finally they got down to making music: 'Nothing is Easy', the gentle lilting 'Bouree', 'Sweet Dream', 'Fat Man', 'We Used To Know', Ian feeding out the asides.
There was a tendency for the act to sag a little in the middle, but Clive's 'Dharma For One' drum solo was a treat to watch and hear and restored the excitement level for the finale. Inevitably there was an encore.
Backstage Clive was dripping sweat and enquiring if I'd seen his parents and brothers, which I hadn't.
Ian was in the ladies getting dressed; putting on a tie would you believe, one of those pastel green check things everybody's Grandad used to wear.
"Hang on, must go meet my bank manager,"
said he, rushing out and curtailing further conversation.