1967-68 | 1969 | 1970 | 1971 | 1972 | 1973 | 1974 | 1975 | 1976 | 1977 | 1978 | 1979 | 1980-81 | 1982-84 | 1987-89 | 1990-94 | 1995-98 | 1999-2001 | Home


5 June 1976

Click for full picture Click for full picture Click for full picture


A music business tradition is that Rock Superstars don't usually telephone journalists.

"Hello. This is Ian Anderson," said the voice on the line, instantly breaking protocol.

"I believe you've been trying to arrange an interview with me through my record company's press office."

Indeed. But progress had been slow. Following Anderson's appearances on the Old Grey Whistle Test and Supersonic during March, he'd agreed, through his PR, to talk exclusively to New Musical Express. But — furiously busy, working on the Jethro Tull Television Special with Mike Mansfield, rehearsing for Europe, and doing a foreign press and radio promotional trip — he'd been unable to allocate time for the interview.

The waiting game continued, and it was decided he would only be available after the Tull Euro Tour, which began early in May. With 13 concerts in eight countries, that meant he wouldn't return to Britain until the end of the month.

But in Brussels, as Anderson explained during the call, he'd received a copy of Melody Maker which carried an unfavourable review of the new album, Too Old To Rock 'n' Roll: Too Young To Die. Because he believed at least 10,000 people would avoid the set as a result of the criticism, his immediate reaction was to invite an MM staffman over to Europe.

Despite a reluctance to have the British press on the tour at all, he said he believed this tactic would allow him an opportunity to answer the critique, defend the recording, perhaps direct people's interest towards it and so regain lost ground.

He was blowing out our exclusive. But being courteously concerned enough to tell me why.

"Sorry to rob you of a first Jethro Tull," he said. "Whatever that may be worth."

However, he did make it clear that this writer and a photographer would now be welcome to join the tour, if we wished. All the facilities and cooperation we required for an interview would be provided, and his major consolatory gesture would be to let us view the new stage act. A treat which apparently wouldn't be afforded to our competitors.

"It's not good for me to be calling the papers," he admitted. "It's just a silly thing. I get upset when an album comes out and it's given a downer. Anyway," he concluded, "I'll have to get back to my breakfast."

The telephone conversation seemed only to add credence to the general impression of Anderson's paranoia: the Mad Hatter of British Rock. After all, few major artists publicly confess to such acute sensitivity to critical opinion, and you may recall that in '73 Anderson, smarting with indignation, went the whole hog by withdrawing Jethro Tull from the public arena following adverse notices for the A Passion Play album.

In retrospect it could be construed as a publicity gambit, because there was no loss in continuity of their recorded work, an album a year. But at the time the forfeiture only served to exacerbate his relationship with the press. And it was interpreted, in one instance, as "an unprecedented fit of pettiness and paranoia."

And even when the band returned to live work a year later Anderson was once again declaring troubled opinions of the papers, being quoted as saying, "Criticism ought first of all to be beneficial to the artist." He seemed to be the type of man who tore music papers into squares, for use in the lavatory in place of Delsey rolls.

Finding the real Ian Anderson is a difficult task. The search is confounded by the fact that he doesn't socialise in the business, apparently has few close friends with the possible exceptions of Captain Beefheart and Roy Harper, and never turns up at London clubs like Dingwalls, The Speakeasy or The Marquee to busk or booze. Therefore there's little gossip or rumour enshrouding him.

Opinions, nonetheless, are formed, even if of a speculative nature. Some people who claim to have come in close contact with him describe Anderson as a beer-swilling, jovial lecher who surrounds himself with sexy young pretties. Others consider him to be a serious, intelligent, articulate musician, his head screwed on tight, but with an effusive tendency to talk the legs off a centipede.

And a small faction of disrespectful people contemptuously dismiss him as an arrogant pseudo-intellectual, so conceited that he can't differentiate between what's good and bad in his own music.

Also, magazine features on him have lacked consistent — never mind unanimous — character profiles, although various of his pet subjects have emerged: Beefheart and Harper, his musical aspirations, his concern about Jethro Tull intergroup relationships, his cinematic and theatrical ambitions, a fancy to adopt the nickname Jet (a term coined by some misguided fan who believed IA was Mr Jethro Tull) and more recently the British tax laws.

Perhaps the common factor evident in most of these articles is his apparent eloquence and natural ability to express himself succinctly, with various degrees of ornamentation, and an astute awareness of the Good Controversial Quote. Reading between the lines you can often detect the canny manner in which he manipulates the interviewer.

For certain, he isn't a dumbo. But still he remains an enigma.

And that's basically why Pennie Smith and I, accompanied by Chrysalis's PR, have accepted the invitation, and are now wiping our feet in the lobby of Barcelona's Princess Sofia Hotel, and being presented to Ian Anderson. The rest of Tull, who've just registered, having arrived from Switzerland, hover briefly in the background and then disappear quickly without being introduced.

Jethro Tull are back on the road with a new stage act based around material from the new album, Too Old To Rock 'n' Roll: Too Young To Die with a new bass player called John Glascock and a temporary member in David Palmer, the arranger who's worked with the band since their early days, playing keyboards alongside John Evan. Tomorrow's concert will be the last but one of the European tour which closes in Madrid.

First impressions of Anderson are immediate.

He's surprisingly slighter in physique than photographs suggest, to the point of seeming vulnerable. He's politely mild-mannered and softly spoken. And he's incredibly scruffy, wearing a black leather biker's jacket, and soiled black jeans. His hair is a wild frizz, and the early stages of a beard dirtily shades his face. More opinions are formed over the evening while we dine and drink together.

Wary, but not totally intolerant of the press, particularly NME who he feels have been particularly unkind to him over the last three years, it's soon apparent that the social evening is indeed an acceptable method of familiarising ourselves with each other, but also an opportunity for Anderson to discover my attitudes towards him.

Yes, he's sussing me out.

After being grilled by the Spanish press (who ask if he's bisexual or if he's made love to Henry Kissinger — really), we move into the hotel restaurant, and chat idly over the meal. Guardedly, Anderson is polite. He maintains a distance, and his only spontaneous action is to studiously and repeatedly sniff his steak, and then finally jerk a piece from his mouth, declaring loudly that it's dogshit!

Just cutting into her meat, Pennie grimaces, swallows hard and pushes the plate to the side. We all relax more, discussing music, which eventually leads to a fairly heated but good natured argument.

"Am I winning on points?" he turns and asks PR man Briggsy.

In the bar he discloses more about himself. That he has unpleasant memories of Tull's early days, when they all earned £12.50 a week, with the exception of Mick Abrahams who received £15 on the grounds that he had to give money to his mum. He talks about throwing Park Drive ciggies and lollipops to audiences, and realised he'd made it when he could afford to buy a packet of ten Bensons. He relates stories about collapsing on stage at the Fillmore East and arriving on early American tours to find their equipment smashed in transit.

Laughing now (time has dulled the original hardship) he reveals that by 1970 Tull were £90,000 into debt. Although music is his consummate interest, he's also interested in motocross, reads five national dailies, and Spy books, and talks at length about a fascination for fire arms. He hogs the oratory stand and lacks humour.

It seemed natural to crack an amusing question: Did you get into guns from reading Spy books or after seeing the reviews of A Passion Play? But he ignores the comment.

The atmosphere's less formal, with Anderson more at ease. But still fairly detached — cordial without feigning an air of backslapping ribaldry. Obviously he doesn't want to be whitewashed or made to appear as something he isn't. Nor does he wish to be unfairly tarred and feathered by a journalist. The consequence of all this is that he raises a virtually inpenetrable protective shield of assured, calm, professional diffidence. Clearly we're not going to catch him fumbling some Latin honey, picking his nose or bum burping in public.

"I started to enjoy Jethro Tull after I'd made the decision not to quit, which was about 1970. Up until that point it had been financially very dissatisfying because of the huge debt we'd incurred as a band, due to the cost of equipment, and trucking and aeroplane flights to get us tours that didn't make any money."

Anderson and I are seated in the hotel lounge the next day, having in the morning tramped around the Ossa motorbike factory on the outskirts of Barcelona. Our introductory meeting last night had finished around 2 am. I'd gone to bed, while Jet and David Palmer had gone to a room, ostensibly to write an ad jingle for Debenhams.

Because Anderson had voiced surprisingly unpleasant recollections of Tull's early period, it seemed natural to ask when he started to like his role, if at all. He answers instantly, speaking well and fluently.

"On a musical level it was dissatisfying 50 per cent of the time, because we were still living under the shadow of our public origins as a blues group. And everything we did that deviated from that obvious link with the blues felt like an act of alienation towards the people who established the group through their buying of records and attendance of concerts. That's a very simplistic way to say suddenly, at some point, it changed. I don't think it was an overnight thing.

"But I do remember there being a tour of America where I did come back and say: That's it. I've done my bit. I've done my National Service. I probably owe a fortune in tax. Time to knock it on the head and be a record company executive, or manage a group, or whatever retired musos are supposed to do. When you actually have to weigh up the alternatives they're not good.

"I mean, it lurked in the back of my mind probably for a good few years that music was possibly a thing to do for fun, on a sort of amateur. level. But you must remember I'd been brought up to believe that it was absolutely necessary for one's mental and ultimately physical well-being to have a career; a profession.

"For a profession, the door was open as far as the business side of the Business was concerned. I'd always thought, perhaps, that would ultimately be what I would do."

He pauses, collecting his thoughts.

"Strangely enough, I actually think I now have a sufficiently wide-working knowledge of the business to do a better job than most at anything other than the real legal and contractual side of things, which I really don't understand. To an extent, I can probably do a better job than most of the people in the business do, on all the different fronts. Whether it's in terms of PR, management, A & R. Or," he adds cynically, "whatever thing it is they all do."

Self-assured, he's aware of his capabilities, but speaks simply and without arrogance.

"Some of the better record companies have presumably got wise to the fact they have to offer a more comprehensive service to the artist, in terms of providing PR and management advice — you know, arranging for abortions and venereal disease cures.

"I think there is that need for the 24-hour-a-day sort of father figure who doesn't actually get on stage. Somebody who has that small degree of objectivity as to what's going on ... who's just being able to act as a pillar to some kind of reality as far as the group's concerned. Because a bunch of guys who get up on stage and play guitars and wear silly clothes and have the audience wetting their pants, are bound to go a bit crazy. And most of them do.

"Really. I've met very few people in the music business who I didn't think were really dangerously lunatic. Mostly the people who're actually involved in the creative aspect of it strike me as being clearly crackers."

Do you consider yourself crackers?

"No. Not at all. I don't think many people do.

"The only thing people can accuse me of is being a little bit too clever for my own good. Possessing just a little bit too much knowledge and too much awareness of what's going on. And that frightens them. Sometimes it's levelled, not directly but in their own minds, as some sort of accusation that perhaps I can't be a true serious musician or performer, because I'm too aware of what's going on around the business. And that it's not good for the artist to know these things.

"I think that, by and large, it probably isn't good. But I have a mental capacity for holding in and occasionally utilising that information without letting it rule my life. Or, I hope, without letting it get in the way of the music. I would feel distinctly nervous after this number of years if I didn't know anything about the business, and I was still being an active muso. I would be terrified now if I didn't know something about international tax law and internal account procedures within the record company.

"I'd be paranoid. And I'd probably be broke, instead of thankfully having a bit of capital tucked away which is allowing me to further my private musical aims, when and where they occur."

By now it's possible to see Anderson, the interviewee, more accurately. He's an eloquent speaker who is so much at ease that it's hard to imagine he is so sensitive of the press. But you also notice traces of unconscious dogmatism, and his qualifying words of doubt amount to spurious objectivity.

After almost four hours of taped interview over three sessions, as well as off-tape conversations which are invariably concerned with our respective attitudes to music, there will be a clearer portrait of Anderson, the person.

Even now, as he entertainingly talks about the bad old days, and how they're misrepresented by people as being atmospherically healthy periods, he can't resist commentating on Tull now, revealing a view that smacks of his pessimistic vulnerability. For instance when he says he would like to see The Rolling Stones . . .

"I'd be interested," he qualifies, "to see how my reaction towards their current concert performance would vary with your average, jaded journalistic view — because that's what the journalistic view has been on this tour so far. Their reviews have not been terribly good. Just as ours probably won't be terribly good, and Elton John's weren't terribly good last time he was around, when he played with The Beach Boys. He didn't make it, but the Beach Boys were lovely. Because they (the writers) hadn't seen them before."

He is not, it appears, beyond throwing an occasional dart of cynicism too.

Anderson's a sly old fox. You never really know if he's setting you up, again manipulating the interview for his own benefit. At the moment he's being reserved, serious and, rarely excitedly animated. He consciously attempts to be unpredictable, as he'll admit. Which could, of course, be the essence of his protective shield. Now you see me. Now you don't. He talks of his and Tull's popularity being based on reputation. It's the reason why they continue to tour triumphant, as the European dates have so far proved.

"Knowing how it works, the reputation or whatever," he elaborates, "you still want to screw it a little bit as a muso. You want to get up there and do something that is at odds with what people expect of you. You have to do that. There's a small spark of the rebel that continues to exist.

"At this point in time my rebellious nature is brought forth in actually talking a large amount of common sense and telling a large amount of truth about a business which is full of hype and petty sort of stardom trips. From the highest Rock Star right down to the lowliest cub reporter on the New Musical Excess. Haha!

"I'm being glib and sort of rude," he observes, "but you know what I mean. There's a lot of things going on that I find absolutely irrelevent to the music business."

Similarly, naming the album Too Old To Rock 'n' Roll: Too Young To Die was, to an extent, an act of defiance — and one which also serves the dual purpose of again illustrating Anderson's awareness of press animosity, or simply his own recurring nightmare.

"The title," he explains, "openly invites all sort of attack on the music contained therein, and I really don't mind because it was going to happen anyway. The first two or three interviews I did here yesterday in Spain were the first ones I'd done in two weeks, and the second or third, if not the first question, was: Are you too old to rock 'n' roll? Is that what you're saying in this record? It's great (he laughs).

"Everybody in the record company, from the office boy on, must have looked at the proofs for the album cover with dread, and probably thought when they saw the title; 'O Christ. He's really going to get some stick over this one.' Strangely, certainly in the British papers, they haven't done that number on the headline. I thought at least one of them would.

"It said, 'Not A Ray Of Light' instead. Which is very intelligent, very clever,"

he comments sarcastically, the title being an obvious pun on the central character's name Ray Lomas.

Conversation then pivots to his pronouncements on Taxation. He feels the papers have been irresponsible to unquestioningly print exaggerated declarations by Rock Stars about how much they'd pay to the British Government if they weren't Tax exiles. His complaint is that all Major Names are saddled with accusations that they're both greedy and unpatriotic.

"So you can understand," he concludes, "that I get a bit annoyed when the customs man thinks I'm living in the Bahamas and just coming in for the football game. Or can you?"

Back to music:

"There are some of us who, believe it or not, have a basic respect for what being a muso's all about. Like, I'm glad to be working — although we enjoy the hotels and we enjoy travelling first class, and who the hell wouldn't? There is that basic ingrained sort of thing: Glad to be treading the boards, having a dressing room, I'm very grateful for all that."

It figures we're going to enter into a lengthy discussion about the press.

But — at this point you may feel Anderson has been allowed to wriggle off the hook too easily. Why, for instance, permit him to complain about tax misconceptions when he hasn't even announced plans to play Britain? And, if you're particularly astute and conversant with tax law, you may be wondering whether the only reason for his recent decision to live again in England is because he was married in March, and the British system of taxation is now more favourable to him than the American.

But, I must quickly add, I didn't think of this, and it was he who did the explaining: Apparently, getting married means he pays more tax.

"I'm prepared to give away all that kind of bread I could be earning by saying: I don't want to be a slave to the money rules," he says forcefully. "If I want to get married I'll damn well get married. I don't care what it's costing me. You can appreciate that I'm not about to bend music for the same reasons. And I would not be happy to go and live somewhere else and try and conduct a musical life in an environment that I was not at home in.

"So there are many reasons why I stay in England, not the least important being loyalty. Silly as it may sound, trivial as it may sound, that comes up reasonably high on the list for me. I'm British, and for a while now I've been making a good living by playing British music. It's British Music!"

Sure, Ian. But how about putting it on view in Britain if you feel so strongly. Unfortunately I was remiss in not putting that point. I was more concerned about discovering whether or not he's as paranoid about the press as he appears to be. Certainly he admits sensitivity.

"But I've had a very consistent number of bounder kind of reviews and comments. In England it goes back to Benefit and onwards. We started getting good shows and bad reviews. At the time I thought: Well, next time probably everybody'll like it. Whereas in the public mind we're still worth going to see at a gig, and maybe its still worth buying our records but we don't qualify as the much-loved or much-respected Big World Group."

That is the rub, you see.

And he than cites an instance of this when an American periodical published a Group Stature Poll, based on concert ticket returns. Jethro Tull were placed 29th. Anderson claims the poll was compiled at a time unfavourable to the group because they hadn't been touring a lot.

"But if you averaged it out over a few years," he explains, "in terms of actual concert ticket sales, I think we'd be very high ... I think if we weren't number one we'd certainly be in the top three. Nobody's interested in that."

But in the next breath he adds, curiously:

"I'm not really interested in it that much. And I couldn't even tell my mother that was the case. She wouldn't believe me. She'd think I was trying to say: Look Mum, don't worry about what you read in the English papers, coz some people love us, somewhere. Coz, I mean she feels like I'm washed up, I've had it, nobody buys the records anymore, doesn't get to number one ..."

Yeah, Rock Stars' Mums are sensitive too. Jeff Beck's mother once dropped me a note of reprimand following a critical review of mine.

"Well, I mean Christ," he answers. "That's what Mums are for, isn't it?"

But does it really matter that the press don't give you your just deserts?

"It obviously matters on a personal level, because you actually feel there's been a lot of instances where that sort of criticism has been unjust — in my book a little unfair, because it's not explained."

When we break for lunch the subject is still the same. Then hour or so later we resume the interview by linking Anderson's views on the press to his music.

Does it change his approach? On War Child, for instance, there are several references to A Passion Play, and perhaps the album had been structured to fall in with what he considered popular/review taste.

"No, strangely enough. Lyrically Passion Play was about the possibility of what happens to someone who dies. What happens to the spirit, or whatever, and the possibility of an after-life; in terms of being confronted still with a choice between good and evil, rather than the conventional Christian belief: If you're a good guy then you go to heaven as soon as you cross the other side. I was asking: What happens if you still have to make that choice? It's not a question of whatever you do here and now sets the course for which way you go Up There. Suppose when you die you still have to make choices — rather like the Buddhists believe — in different plains of existence. I was pursuing that sort of an idea, rather haphazardly."

Of course that theme was developed into a movie idea — remember, it was listed as one reason why Tull were retiring from live appearances in '73, and Anderson started to write the music. Economically it was a large-scale venture, and caught in a deluge of Rock Star movies like Tommy and Bowie's work on The Man Who Fell To Earth, he thought it better to shelve the project. The music then formed the greater part of War Child. That seems to me to be even more evidence that 'Child' was essentially a more direct approach to the same theme as 'Play'.

"Well yes, I mean it was," acquieses Anderson. "But the references are somewhat oblique because ... the movie was a real black and white. It was a real movie script."

More ammo for the connection — with Anderson smarting under the critical attack received for A Passion Play — was what appeared to be a crystalisation of his thoughts on the press within the context of 'Only Solitaire':

"The critics falling over to tell themselves he's boring and really not an awful lot of fun. Well, who the hell can he be when he's never had V.D., and he doesn't even sit on toilet-seats?"

"O that one!"

He laughs loudly, for the first time really animated.

"I'll tell you about that. Listen! That song and 'Skating Away' were both recorded in the Chateau D'Herouville in the period between Thick As A Brick and Passion Play. I mean, before Passion Play, after ..."

Yes, I've got it.

"... And those two songs were inserted into the War Child album as the two acoustic things, which were otherwise lacking. Coz the rest of the album was fairly electric and arranged more heavy. In fact, those two stemmed," he continues, his Northern accent emerging more strongly than before now the formality is relaxed, "from a different session altogether. A year different. But yes, that was a precocious and very small answer to some criticism that we'd had, up until then."

All I can do is muse that it's amazing what interpretations can be given to songs, especially with the advantage, or hindrance, of hindsight.

For instance, artistically Tull's first three albums were, with the exception of the production for This Was, excellent. Their fourth, Aqualung, cracked them as a world band, but the following two (Thick As A Brick and A Passion Play), because of their depth and lyrical obscurity, almost totally bemused me. Personally they suggested a certain degree of arrogance, where Tull had been successful and were therefore indulging themselves in concept works.

"Mmm. Yeah, I mean ..." Anderson responds, searching for words and exhaling a smoke screen.

"You're absolutely right in as much as it was definitely indulging the group experience of playing together. But one thing which hasn't really been made apparent, although I know I've said this on many occasions, is that Thick As A Brick and Passion Play were very much, out of the whole Jethro Tull saga, the two albums where the group corporately were responsible for the arrangements and a lot of the shape to the music.

"It's certainly an indulgence on the part of the group. But I don't think it was because we'd made it and we thought we could do anything, something really indulgent, and get away with it. It was the fact that, having made it, we thought better try and come up with something to justify, you know, ha, what we're supposed to be. Especially in America, because after Aqualung we were suddenly very, very established there. And we all felt, I think, a great deal of pressure to sort of make some real mark. Make some real positive contribution to the pop music of then."

As he pauses you suddenly realise he's once again sombre, the Northern-ness in his voice quelled.

"Ironic, isn't it? That those two were number one albums in America?"

Perhaps his sneer is only in my imagination.

Quarter of an hour later, another subject broached. Anderson excuses himself. He has to travel to the gig for a soundcheck. We follow later. They play a 5000 seater hall, just outside Barcelona, where the band have been encamped since the late afternoon.

Anderson's alone in the dressing room, tuning his flute, while just next door drummer Barriemore Barlow talks, jokes and laughs with the support act, John Miles and his band. Outside in the corridor, cluttered with transit cases and bits 'n' pieces of sound systems, Martin Barre sits quietly talking with John Glascock. Round the bend, John Evan and his wife huddle cosily together — the missus unexpectedly turning up in the middle of the night. Close to them is a special banquetting room, tables laid out with food by the tour's catering lady. It's empty.

Perhaps they see enough of each other on the road, but the only occasion you witness them all together is on stage. And it's a pretty powerful spectacle. Jet adopts the leery posture of the Madcap Minstrel, dressed in medieval fashion. Wearing a multi-coloured patched Bolero, covering a satin shirt; blue and mauve tights; riding boots with ballet rehearsal sock turned over the top. And of course his credentials are packed neatly in ... The Cod Piece!

Evan wears an Ariel-white pilot's suit, shoulder flashes too. Glascock could have fallen from French aristocracy, ornamented in a wide rimmed hat, and matching trousers. Sombrely Barre displays his natty, but conservative, tan corduroy trousers and waistcoat. While Barlow is content to sit behind a blue perspex double Ludwig, with Palmer, hatted, studiously perched behind a string synthesiser and electric piano to the right of the stage.

Musically the show is considerably more dazzling and entertaining. There's precision, professionalism (yeah, the keyword round Tull), excitement and an emphasis more on the show content than any distracting visual extravaganza.

Before we each catch our respective planes, him to Madrid, me to London, we once again occupy the hotel lounge. He's relaxed, jovial even — perhaps the natural reaction having performed a successful gig, this time before members of the British press.

Lyrical meaning, significance and translation is again the central theme of conversation, discussed at length and even tracing the religious aspect of his writing back to 'Christmas Song', the B-side of Tull's single 'Love Story'. Another instance of completely misunderstanding his work, he asserts, is my interpretation of the new album being a personal statement by Anderson under the superficial guise of the cartoon strip featuring Ray Lomas.

IA claims the album was the result of a theatrical production he wrote, based on an actual person called Ray Lomas, and which he hoped to present on stage with Adam Faith taking the leading role. Faith was unavailable and once again Jethro Tull were presented with the structure for an album, the hand-me-downs of another independent idea of Anderson's. Any pointed lyrical association, he seems to infer, is merely coincidental. But certain songs fit him like a motorcycle jacket.

"Well," he replies rationally, "I suppose they do. But if they fit me, they must also fit pretty well every other rock 'n' roll singer. They must fit everybody who's been going for five or six years. They must look on today's current output of the new generation of pop music with a certain disdain. With a certain kind of, haha, disappointment really. Because I don't see any new Who's, Rolling Stones, or Led Zeppelins on the horizon."

But don't the words of 'The Chequered Flag' have more personal pertinence, I persist.

"The deaf composer completes his final score
He'll never hear his sweet encore ...
Isn't it grand to be playing to the stand, dead or alive"

Is Anderson retiring? That's how it struck me.

"Oooo. definitely not. It's actually the antithesis of 'Too Old To Rock 'N' Roll ...'

"The 'Too Old ...' song, the title, was actually spawned in a moment of depression. At one point on an American tour I'd been really down after a duff gig that was probably my fault, and thought: I'm really passed all this. Why should I be travelling another 500 miles to another town. Let me off at the roundabout. Whereas 'The Chequered Flag' is lyrically more like 'Bungle In The Jungle' (War Child). It's accepting the sort of hardness of life, and saying: Well, it's hell. But it's all worth it, getting out there and doing it."

Three days with him, at work and in play, and you can't help but wonder just how close you are to discovering the real Ian Anderson. He ensures the promised amenities are provided, politically concerns himself with our well being. But still he remains a cool, wary distance. Simply, you're not admitted into the camp and no excuses are given or expected. The atmosphere being, the NME Axeman cometh, fend him off. And even the band keep dutifully out of our way.

"Obviously it's not that they're paranoid," Anderson delights in explaining. "But they think: Well, the bloke from the NME, the Enemy, is here. Hahaha. It could be something good for the group or it might be terrible. We better keep out of the way and let them get on with it."

Has he to been on the defensive?

"Very little. Not while the tape recorder's been on anyway."

Our farewells, significantly, are probably as formal as when we were first introduced.

"I won't say that I look forward to the article," Anderson says as a final gesture, smiling knowingly.

"But ..."