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NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS
21 February 1970
JETHRO GO FOR LIVE FEEL ON THEIR NEXT ALBUM
There can be few more boring occupations known to man than being a spectator in a recording studio. All you can do is sit impotently and marvel as the musicians enthuse their way through the umpteenth playback and devote most of an afternoon to perfecting in the simplest riff a dud note you gave up trying to spot hours ago.
After spending two afternoons in the North London studio where Jethro Tull are working on Benefit, their third album, I began to doubt if anything of remote value could come out of such a slow and turgid process — let alone the five completed tracks played before I left that were sufficient to convince me a further invigorating blast of Jethro goodness is on the way.
A longish beaty piece with the most maniacal flute and instrumental riff, a folksy track, and 'Play In Time,' which they are already performing on stage, left strong impressions.
"It's going to be a lot live-r than the first two," commented bass guitarist Glenn Cornick during a break.
"I felt the last one sounded like a group of session musicians performing various songs. It was pretty cold. This one will have more of a live feel."
In between takes of a shorter version of 'Teacher' for the American market, Ian — The Pop Star Mothers Would Least Like Their Daughters To Marry — was finalising pick-up arrangements with tour manager Eric Brooks for his marriage the following Monday.
He was a little self-conscious about admitting that he's moved from his £3 10s a week Kentish Town bedsitter to a temporary flat in more salubrious Belgravia — "where a tin of beans costs eight bob."
Clive Bunker was unconsciously doing his Frank Zappa impression: newly grown beard and hair tied back. "It's to hide his identity," joked Martin Barre, explaining that while shopping in a supermarket with his mum Clive had been the victim of a female fan attack between the dried fruit and the frozen veg.
When Glenn and I took ourselves aside for a chat he told me that although in the past the group hasn't placed over-much importance on their singles chart placings he personally hoped their current double A-side would make No 1.
He explained that when their record company had first taken the single out to play to radio producers many of them had refused it.
"They just turned round and laughed and didn't even want to keep it,"
says Glenn, who feels that on the evidence of his friends the single isn't getting its fair share of airplay.
"If it got to the top twenty then they'd have to play it."
The group had been to a photo session for a German magazine that morning and Glenn had acquired as his own a bottle of Scotch that started life as a picture prop.
He'd made substantial inroads into the bottle when I arrived, and had finished it when I left.
That's not to say that Glenn is a heavy drinker, but his occasional liking for liquor and for socialising does put him out of line with the rest of the group, who are mainly teetotal and endowed with varying degrees of shyness.
Unlike the others, Glenn also draws his friends from the music business — among them Mick Fleetwood and Faces Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood.
Although he says he doesn't feel out of place, Glenn feels he is more "easy going" than the others.
"But I know them well enough to be able to adapt to the way they are. I don't do things to offend them. Sometimes I get a little drunk but I know when I can drink and when I can't. I have drunk a lot today but I'm not drunk; I can still play my guitar.
"Most of my friends are in music because when I first came down to London I didn't know anybody and the only people I met were people in the music business. I did get. very lonely, and I'm not one of those people who can just sit at home by myself and read, I have to be in contact with other people. You find, anyway, that the only people who understand musicians are other musicians."
Without achieving much, Glenn had played in various groups for five years before finding his way to Jethro Tull. He and Ian came down from Blackpool together to "do the big London thing" along with five others.
Under a name that changed every week they were being booked out by Terry Ellis, now their manager, as a seven piece blues band featuring two saxes and an organ player.
"But," recalls Glenn, "we had so little money that we couldn't afford to employ them all. Three of them went home. We'd get to a gig and say that the saxes and organ hadn't been able to make it but we'd carry on without them."
All this went on without Terry's knowledge, but by the time he came along to a gig the band was getting such good reports that it didn't matter.
So far Glenn's only large acquisition has been a house in Barnes which he and his Chinese-American girl friend Judy Wong — Glenn met her in San Francisco on the group's second US tour — are decorating ready to move into after their wedding in March.
The group's popularity has its drawbacks.
"I am getting sick of going on tours, which I think all of us are, but if you don't play to the public you start losing your audience. So you have to work out a balance.
"The bad aspects, the hotels and continual travelling, are compensated by the good aspects, the playing before an audience."
And the reasons for Jethro's success?
"At the time we started to make it during the blues boom all the groups were going on with long faces making like they really had the blues.
"We went on playing blues but we were sending ourselves up ... well maybe that's a bit too heavy but there was an element of humour about it; like we were laughing at ourselves for doing it.
"When we started we were playing all the standard blues things, 'Dust My Broom,' 'Rock Me Baby,' but we were not trying to prove anything. People were entertained by that."
The warming thing about the group is that, despite the startling progression in their music and paypackets, they haven't lost that sense of humour and have retained an ability to view their success in perspective.
To them, "not believing that it can all be happening" is not an empty cliche and they are genuinely amazed when established groups refer to them favourably in interviews.
Apart from dreads of touring, they're all in a reasonably happy frame of mood nowadays, except the changeable Martin who one week was wreathed in smiles of contentment and the next bathed in female-inflicted waves of depression.
Glenn has his house; Martin has his eye on a mews cottage on Putney Heath; Ian and Jennie are searching for a new home and Clive is torn between moving up the status ladder or keeping to the Kentish Town bedsitter he still has a fondness for.
Of all of them, a house of his own will mean most to Martin who, for the past three years or so, has lived a nomadic life split between dowdy bedsitters and small unfriendly hotels.
Whenever he tried for a flat his hair and appearance would bring out the "Sorry it's gone" excuses among unsympathetic landlords.
Back at work, Clive had finished his day's stint and gone, and Martin was alone in the studio playing a short guitar rift over and over again. Ian was at the control panel.
"Again Martin, you can do better than that," he cajoled the guitarist.
"I think it's the same bad note," put in Glenn. "Listen again."
(Ian, hearing it back): "You're playing a minor when it should be a major."
(Martin, protesting): "Are you sure?"
(Glenn): "Put a 'd' on it."
And on the umpteenth time, plus a dozen, it was finally passed fit for human consumption.
Thanks to Mike Wain for this article