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1 November 1969

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Ian Anderson discusses the problems of looking like a weirdo

Ian Anderson, who is currently being embraced as a refreshing and considerable talent by the pop monster he and Jethro Tull auspiciously helped kick up its complacent backside, remains refreshingly and considerably Ian Anderson. Success, as they say in show biz circles, hasn't changed the boy in the least.

Jethro Tull's early following consisted mainly of male fans, didn't it?

"Definitely. It was your sort of long-haired sympathetic kind who were very much into the blues thing. We definitely came in at the right time when there was a big sort of return to the basic concepts of pop music, you know, blues and rock 'n' roll. It was refreshingly new and exciting after that excursion into the complicated, over-arranged so-called progressive pop thing of the Sergeant Pepper era, of which Sergeant Pepper was the only good thing.

"It was okay for us. We were learning to play music and blues is an idiom that is easy to feel rapport with. It is very simple to understand the feelings involved."

But there are girl fans coming in now?

"Well, yes. I swear I detected screams ... well not really screams, but squeals of delight, or foreboding, on the last gig. A definite kind of young feminine exuberant high-pitched noise issuing."

How do girls react to you personally?

"I don't know. I suppose they are sort of vaguely interested. It's not as if we are the accustomed sort of ideal of being good looking. I suppose it's because we are the sort of people they couldn't take home to show their mum. Whether or not they could seriously consider being involved with somebody ... like me for instance ... is beside the point. They know that if their mothers see a picture of us in the papers or on Top Of The Pops they'd say, 'My God look at that. If you ever brought something like that into the house I would never speak to you again.'"

Have you ever been taken home to meet a mum?

"I have actually ... quite recently as it happens. But ..."

It wasn't that frightening for her?

"Well, it was actually, but luckily she was a very intelligent mum and kind of ... getting over it now."

She's recovering?

"Yeah (laughs). I haven't exactly been invited to return. It's the first time I've met her mum since I've been vaguely successful. It's very difficult. Obviously we've got a lot to overcome but that's of a personal nature. In the course of things I would never meet any young girl's mum. But there's the idea that if they did bring anyone like me home all hell would cut loose. That's probably why they come to concerts. Although they have no intention whatsoever of becoming involved with us as individuals they can feel sort of a remote involvement as a minor rebellion against the tastes of their parents."

The national press has a favourite phrase that goes something like 'Hippies and Weirdos' for a section of youth. You would probably be categorised as a 'Weirdo'. Does that amuse, upset or anger you?

"I suppose in some respects I am a weirdo in as much as I don't do things that a lot of ordinary people do. Like going to football matches and watching telly and things like that. I write and produce music. Nothing else at all. Maybe that makes me a weirdo. Maybe the way I look.

"For the people who read the papers those people who look like me are still sufficiently in a minority to be classed as weirdos although from this end it doesn't feel like it. You feel like a young person just like anybody else. Freak is a word I would more associate with it. Freaks are the people who wear really strange clothes or have really strange mannerisms. Or who are very often involved in a big drug thing; been busted for selling obscene Underground magazines or something like that."

The term 'weirdos' is used in a far from complimentary way; a sneering sort of way, on a par with rats and lice.

"Yeah, it annoys me that people think I am representative of all the people who give the young generation a bad name. The sort of annoying drug takers, the people who push it to kids, who print obscenities and are sort of involving themselves into trying to change society. More often than not they are just pulling society down.

"It annoys me that I am taken as representative of that attitude, because I am not of that attitude. In some ways I am worse than that because I have no sort of moral attitudes towards any of these things. I have nothing to say about society or religion because I know nothing about them. The only thing I do concern myself with is music. So it is a little bit annoying to be taken as being on both sides of the fence. On the one hand by Joe Bloggs the public or whatever, or by a Daily Mirror type of newspaper, to be taken as what they think is a freak or a weirdo or a hippie. All I am is a musician; I don't try to offend anybody.

"At the same time, it's annoying on the other side of the fence to be taken as one of them by your actual lout, your actual drug-taking nutter, who comes up and calls you brother and expects you to be on his side and to hate society and pull it down. I am no nearer to that than wearing a pipe and slippers and living in a semi-detached. It's just as painful to be sucked in by either side. On one hand being cast out and the other being embraced. I don't want to anyway. I just want to, and quote me in enormous inverted commas, 'Do My Thing.'

"I do my thing and it's a good thing because it's conscientiously done. I treat it as an important part of my life and possibly other people's lives as well. Of course it hurts to have one side saying, 'You're a bastard, a weirdo, dirty, smelly.' Like in the Blue Boar the other night there were these football match people shouting Arsenal or something. Shouting and making a fantastic noise about us. The most annoying thing was that in their total animal ignorance they were saying things like: 'Oh I bet he can't afford to pay for that. I bet he's paying for that off National Assistance.' I felt like pulling out the wad of fivers I had in my pocket and waving it in his face and saying: 'Look, when you can earn as much as this in a week, try saying that to me again and I will listen.' It's a silly thing to do because you end up saying nothing and hoping they will just shut up and leave you alone.

"That rouses one's feelings against a society that puts you down for being a part of something they're afraid of. Afraid of their children being like that. Of what it represents to them and their rigid code of morals and social values. At the same time they are quite rightly afraid because the menace is apparent like if I'm in the Fillmore West or somewhere and I innocently amble along for a coke and am approached on all sides by drug pushers, groupies, queers who come at you and expect you to be like them. And when I turn round and say I am not interested, I'm what you call a straight, a person who gets up in the morning and does a job, they won't accept it and again you have this feeling of being cast out."