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NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS
17 May 1969
NICK LOGAN TALKS TO THE INCREDIBLE ANDERSON
. . . one day he must become a Superstar
If the potential that is so enormous is channelled in the right directions then pop has in Ian Anderson, the exuberant impish leader of Jethro Tull, the makings of an entertainer and personality to join the realms of the so-called Superstars. Unlike some who are electric on stage but a damp squib off, or vice versa, Ian has the capabilities to excite in either medium.
A capacity audience at London's Royal Albert on Thursday last week [8 May] for the group's tour with Ten Years After will vouch for the potential of Ian's incredible stage showmanship, not the least entertaining of which is the deadpan line in blunt humour he employs to link each number.
"This one's by Bach; I couldn't have wrote it. It's just ripe for prostitution on the penny whistle.
"This one's called 'Martin's Tune Again'. I should explain that Martin wrote a tune that was crappy so he had to write another one."
But it is Ian's stage antics that make Jethro Tull such a visually exciting, as well as musically stimulating, group to experience. The old floor-length overcoat had given way to what looked like a doublet and hose for the Albert Hall concert with Ian prancing around like the devil himself on legs as nimble as Rudolf Nureyev's, wild hair flowing behind him. One minute he was there arm arched over flute, foot bent like a ballet dancer on the opposite knee; the next skipping cross stage on one foot, the other raised in the air.
"How was America?" I asked Ian in the corridor backstage before the group went on. "Big," he replied. I suppose I asked for that.
Later, we talked more seriously about the group's U.S. tour in their dressing room after Ian gave lengthy and precise instructions on how he wanted the equipment set up on stage.
"It all went very well,"
said Ian as the sounds of Ten Years After on stage permeated through.
"Most of the places we played we got standing ovations. But giving an English group a standing ovation has become something of a convention over there and it all gets a bit silly going back for an encore, then going back again and again. There are dozens of English groups travelling round America getting standing ovations but it doesn't mean as much as groups would like us to believe."
He explodes the myth that American audiences are more receptive than their British counterparts although they show their acceptance in different ways.
"It is just that they know more words, longer words," argues Ian. Whereas in England they just throw a bottle if they don't like you and clap if they do. There is not really a lot of difference between American and British audiences. If you are British you have got a lot in your favour over there but the flood of English groups going to America is doing a lot of harm.
"English groups have got power mad. They whizz in to a place, take all the drugs and the groupies and whizz off leaving the wrong impression of what English groups are really like."
"The groupie scene? Yeah they are really sad people. I got very frightened and very annoyed because they represent to me all that is bad about the so-called underground."
Groupies apart, Ian found the American youngsters "all right except they talk daft."
After a small hit with 'Love Story,' Jethro Tull is now making a determined effort to repeat in the singles chart their successes through the first album and before live audiences. It is something of a change of policy for the group.
"Two months ago my attitude was that singles were nasty tasteless things and that everything in the singles chart was rubbish," said Ian. "But that is very narrow minded. Why should we decry the tastes of millions and leave others to change it? We ought to be going out to try and change it ourselves."
The way they intend to put over Tull music to the masses is by way of that famous old English solution — compromise.
"It is not a cheap thing," says Ian defensively. "It is not debasing the music because after all it takes as much time and effort to do a 'groovy' single as a 'groovy' LP. All the groovies are in single quotes by the way."
Ian is very conscious to avoid being mis-quoted.
"If it gets people interested in the music then I think the time has come to look at the singles chart for what it is and do something about it."
Leading the Tull's assault on the Chart is their new highly-praised single 'Living In The Past,' which according to Ian is not so much of a compromise.
"It's in 5/4 time which means you can't dance to it unless you've got two and a half feet.
"Perhaps I should explain what I mean by compromise. It is not something distasteful just to earn a buck but something you do thinking that the end result justifies changing ideas and it will be worth it if we can interest a new audience in what John Peel has for breakfast instead of what Engelbert has for breakfast."
One of Ian's big ambitions is to appear on Top Of The Pops and has even promised to shorten his locks if it helps.
"It would be one of the few occasions when anyone other than the silk suits and glossy hair brigade gets a look in. It would be one up for the hairies," said Ian eloquently.
I wondered how the Americans took to his bizarre appearance, to which he replied that he felt a lot safer walking round New York at night than he did in Wardour Street.
"But I should say that I don't wear my hair like this to provoke people. With some it is a sense of pride; with me it is a genuine embarrassment if people get upset by it. I don't like getting laughed at. A number of times I've seen some fellow with a coconut head, steel capped boots, his father's denims on too large for him and a short spiky head and I've wanted to shout out 'Get your hair cut.' But I don't. I hold it back and I expect the same from them."
Good news for Jethro lovers is that the group's second LP is scheduled for early June release.
When they do make it on to Top Of The Pops, which they must, then I'll be there. It's one of my ambitions too — Up with the hairies and let's show the coconut heads and silk suits what for.