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NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS
6 September 1969
IAN ANDERSON WROTE MUSIC FOR NEXT TULL ALBUM ON U.S. TOUR
Most group members, when they visit America, spend all their spare time looning about clubs and generally having a rare old time. Not so Ian Anderson, who has just returned from Jethro Tull's second U.S. tour with most of the next album written. Stand Up, which is at No.1 in the NME album chart, was half written during the first tour earlier this year when Ian spent a lot of time in his hotel room working.
"I write more easily at home when I am surrounded by objects of personal value,"
he told me during an interview at his manager's Oxford Street offices.
"I'm spending a week at home making the ideas that I got in America into a product. Nothing has been completed for nine weeks due to a continual round of hotels and aeroplanes. I want to spend more time and thought on writing. It's becoming more cerebral, not just spontaneous emotion. People might not notice any difference but I can as a musician."
Ian was completely different to the kind of person I had imagined. Ten Years After's organist Chick Churchill once described him as "that bloke who stands on one leg and blows down a drainpipe" and, having seen the act, I formed the impression of Ian as being a bit of a wild man. On the contrary, I found him softly-spoken, quiet and extremely serious. During the half-hour we spent together, he rarely smiled, but looked straight at me as he answered my questions.
"We had to plan the next album nearly two months ago, in terms of the amount of time we need, the engineer we want and any other people we want to work with," he revealed. "It's like meeting a deadline — it's not ideal but it's a job. I expect you have the same thing when you have to write a certain amount so that your newspaper can come out."
I wondered how seriously Ian took his music and he replied:
"I believe in what I do, it's not a creative sport. I try to be aware of a lot of aspects of what I do. It's very awkward this thing of me talking to people like yourself; people get the idea that the others are just back-up musicians. It's just a question of me pulling my weight and doing what I do. On stage, they play more music than I do. It's an emotional outlet for me — they get their satisfaction from playing and to a certain extent and more so now, recording.
"Nobody regards anything we do as just a form of earning a living. You don't water down your creative sport by pandering to the people who come to see you. None of the success goes to our heads. We don't spend a lot of money or take drugs just to keep up with everybody else. Everybody is just what they want to be.
"We're not changing because of our success and because of flying and living in Hiltons instead of transport cafes. It's a mental game you play with yourself, learning how to relate what you do to other people."
Somehow we got round to talking about supergroups, and on this subject Ian said:
"It's okay for them and okay for people if they can stand one album and a few live appearances before they break up again. To a lot of them it's just a musical sport.
"Blind Faith must be the most unhappy group in the world because of what's been said about them. People regard them as a supergroup that's failed, though they've gone down well, and they know this. The reports have been good, but no one's written very well about them.
"Maybe when I've been playing for five or ten years I'll be forming supergroups galore, but I don't know because I haven't been playing very long and I haven't come through the Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley thing. I can look objectively at the success of the Beatles and John Mayall and see what they've done, but I'm not affected by it."
Now that Jethro Tull has established itself as a top name group, I asked Ian if he could remember any point at which the group's success really began to happen.
"It's difficult to say 'This is the spot where things began to get better',"
he commented after a moment's thought.
"Last year's national jazz festival was important but because we played to ten times more people than we had before in clubs. We knew two months before what we were going to do and that things would go well. After that I started to really think what I was doing and whether I really wanted to do it. It was a self-analytical period. I always know why I do what I do, but I can't always explain it. Basically I enjoy it and I know I'm doing the right thing."
What then, I asked, did Ian regard as the next important step in the group's career?
"It's just gigs now, you can't do any more than gigs," he pointed out. "You can only receive the side bonuses like crowds to meet you at the airport and gold-plated limousines instead of chrome ones. You can't get a better reception than Led Zeppelin got in America.
"The gigs get better all the time because if someone's promoting something on your behalf you have a lot more freedom to do things you've learned. You don't have to rely on a stage hand who doesn't understand pop music, the physical act of playing. You can do things yourself.
"That's why we're promoting the next tour — we know what's going to happen, there will be no major disasters like the curtain coming down when the stage hand thinks it should and things going wrong due to the management's inefficiency. You have to be aware of the effect on Joe Bloggs in the audience if, half way through a number, something goes wrong — the atmosphere's gone. We have to make sure that things don't go wrong."
As I left to return to the office I met Chicken Shack's Stan Webb in the outer office. As a complete contrast to Ian's seriousness, Stan was in a mood of great hilarity and regaled me with various tales of his previous evening's activities. But that is another story — definitely!
JETHRO TULL by Neil Smith
Neil Smith sees Ian Anderson as a pop Pied Piper of Hamelin leading the mesmerised multitude with his hypnotic flute playing and his amazing dancing legs. Clive Bunker, of the bramble bush hair, bangs a drum while Glenn Cornick, the smiling one, smiles on bass. A hatted Martin Barre, lead guitarist, peers enigmatically from the year. (But surely that isn't a corn field behind them. Must be a fertile pasture, at least!)