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NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS
28 June 1969
Almost at No.1, but . . . SUCCESS HAS COME HONESTLY — WE'RE NOT A BIT ASHAMED
Nick Logan sees JETHRO TULL off at start of two-month AMERICAN tour.
The hairies are within striking distance of No.1 — a prospect that raises little but a twinkling of eye and a bristling of beard from Jethro's Ian Anderson. It should have been the thought of their two-month US tour that was uppermost in his mind when I met up with half the group for the drive to London Airport on Thursday but Ian, with hairy aplomb, retorted: "It's just a gig."
The chief Jethro was lounging nonchalantly against a wall in reception at the group's management offices Chrysalis when I arrived, having prepared early by whisking his clothes in and out of the launderette that morning, and there was a noise from a nearby office that sounded like a dozen typists at work and turned out to be just co-manager Terry Ellis attempting to cram a week's work into one day.
After spraying a canister of lavender-scented Freshaire over my notebook — "We tried it once to kill the smell of the Living Trousers" (remembered from the previous feature) — Ian asked if I would like to go to America, to which I replied with youthful innocence that I wouldn't mind if I did.
"Quick then, try on my coat," he retorted gleefully as I fell into the trap. "I'll don my Nick Logan NME disguise and be a reporter for two months."
"I think they'd notice in the office," said I.
In the car — a chauffeur-driven Zodiac Executive — Terry reeled off some impressive sales figures to back up his feeling that they might make No.1 the following week which had Ian and Clive, the drummer, making sarcastic quips about kitting themselves out in satin bellbottoms and silk ruffled shirts.
Now the group has achieved its aim of a chart breakthrough for the Underground, what's the next step I asked Ian?
"From our point of view to have more singles and to keep the charts open to the Underground. Our hope is that this single will make more people interested in us and in the music of other Underground groups. It should open the way for a few groups that might be scared of making a single and being labelled commercial. Some may not do it for the same reasons as we did — for the kids. They might do it for commercial reasons and profit."
While Ian winked and pulled faces at a pretty girl in a passing mini, a copy of the cover of the Tull's Stand Up album was passed round to hoots of laughter at the woodcut caricatures of our four hairy heroes.
"There is no question of us selling out," continued Ian. "People should be able to tell that from the LP, nor is there any intention of trying to please people without pleasing ourselves. Our first consideration is to do what we feel is our music. And I think we can retain an identity of being so-called Underground, as much as anyone else can say they are.
"But we never thought that if we made singles it would be something we should be ashamed and embarrassed about. It is pleasing just to entertain people on different levels and still be convinced that you have your own musical integrity. And that I'm sure of."
As we crawled out through a West London more than usually jammed with traffic, apprehension began to set in as to whether we'd make the flight and on how Martin and Glenn, who'd gone by taxi, were faring. Clive remained unruffled, sitting quietly eating an apple, holding the LP sleeve and muttering: "Do I really look like that?"
When Ian referred to him as 'Glenn', Terry jumped to his defence: "His name's Clive. He's getting a complex because everyone keeps calling him Glenn."
Ian, deadpan, corrected himself: "Oh yes that's right, you're Clive. That other one's Glenn," and then for his sins was drawn reluctantly into an inane conversation with the peak-capped driver — "I'm not a square you know" — who wanted to know if they had a record in the Fab Thirty.
"I know from the gigs we have done in the past few weeks that there are new people in the audience, some older and some much younger," said Ian when we resumed our conversation. "They usually go for the first time and laugh and don't know what's going on, but I would probably do the same at first. But it doesn't matter whether they like you or not — they are getting a chance to see you and make up their own minds.
"There's no question of pressure on them. I don't think anyone could accuse us of hyping our record. There was no lavish press reception and only one ad in the music papers. Then it was up to people to buy it if they liked it. I think we have come by our success fairly honestly without any pretensions of being aspiring pop stars. I am looking forward to the people who've bought the record coming along to the concerts when we get back."
"Tell him about Middlesbrough," suggested Terry, and Ian told me of how the group arrived to play at a night club there and thought they'd get none of their crowd turning up because dinner jackets and ties were needed to gain entrance.
"We went out for a meal before the gig and we were staggered to find this great long queue outside," said Ian. "Two thirds of them were hairies and they were all dressed in dinner jackets and bow ties they must have bought second hand or borrowed from their parents. It was a great night."
Despite the success of 'Living In The Past', the group is retaining the priorities it had before.
"Singles are the least important aspect at the moment," said Ian. "Gigs are the most important, then albums and finally singles."
Martin and Glenn were there when we arrived with little time to spare. Ian had previously warned me, somewhat embarrassed, that there would be "big parental scenes" at the airport and Jethro Tull surrounded by loving, ultra-respectable parents was a sight to relish.
Ian's Mum transpired to be a very pleasant lady who said she read the NME from cover to cover and kept all Jethro Tull press cuttings and Mr Anderson did a piece of impromptu publicising, voicing the opinion that 'Living In The Past' was such a good single because unlike 'Dick A Dum Dum' and things of that ilk it was hard to pick up and sing for yourself and so you never tired of hearing it.
"What's he like to interview?" he wanted to know, to which I replied that he was most entertaining and proficient in that department and Mr Anderson's knowing nod left me in no doubt he knew what I meant.
In between the kissing and hugging, Ian and I sat down for a final quick chat. I asked him if he thought pop had any social significance or was it just entertainment?
"I think it has," he replied, "but in an indirect way. You know, the drugs and long hair aspects — it's all a bit dicey and something which fortunately I am not a part of, the drugs thing that is.
"If I did consciously attempt to do anything socially it would be through the songs. But I haven't yet approached that point where (a) I have anything constructive to say and (b) the means of putting it across. I haven't developed mentally enough to be able to do it."
At that point Ian and I disappeared into a nearby Gents to swop disguises. America here I come!
("Get that ?!?£?! beard and hair cut Logan, and stop hopping about like an idiot!" - Ed.)