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November 1969

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Last December Mick Jagger took the gamble of including on the Stones' TV 'Rock and Roll Circus' (please God and ITV we may soon see it) a relatively unknown group called Jethro TulI. My first sight of Ian Anderson left me with the impression that he was stoned out of his bulging eyeballs, and reduced to balancing on one leg while blowing a flute through his moustache, but what he and the group blew was, to coin a phrase, "Very interesting!"

A fusion of jazz and blues presented in an original and entertaining manner was enough to leave me highly impressed.

My first meeting with Anderson convinced me that here was the most interesting new personality to arrive on the musical scene in a decade, and far from being a 'druggy' he was straighter than Mary Whitehouse.

He somehow manages to see right through the pretentions and phoney platitudes of the hip generation, and puts the accent on life as it is, not as it should, would or could be.

Following 'Song for Jeffrey', 'Love Story', and 'Living In the Past', plus a number one album, Stand Up, the Jethro Tull group are the most exciting thing since Workers' Playtime.

Can a hit single be an embarrassment to a group like Jethro Tull?

"It will only be an embarrassment if it seems that you have sold out. I think a lot of people thought that Peter Green had done that when he released 'Albatross' but there is no reason at all why you cannot make good commercial records which retain the musical integrity which you have.

"You just have to be careful not to say the wrong things to the right people. They are the people who up until now were represented by long hair, beards, sandals and art books under their arms. They were the first people to pay us the compliment of some attention.

"To us the three things of making albums, singles and doing live appearances are three very separate entities. You have to alter and change sounds even for those live numbers which you might put on an album. I write songs specifically to play on stage and then later I might re-present them for an album.

"I sat down in a hotel room in New York with the intention of writing a song for a hit single — something which would make the Top Ten. It was specifically written with that in mind and that is just how 'Living In The Past' turned out."

Are we likely to lose you to the American beat drain?

"England is still enormously important to any group in terms of the world market. It is the trigger point from which so many things can be started. It is also a far healthier scene in England than America where almost any group can turn in an 'underground' album. A great many of the completely unknown and very sub-standard British blues groups are flooding on to the American market with what is really just repetitive rubbish. It is becoming a flood in the States which can only really spoil it for better groups like the Nice and the Family."

Do you think there is any danger in young people listening but not participating in music?

"If people are thinking about your music then they are participating. I'm inclined to think of dancers as people who just get excited, hear a noise and leap about. If that's what they want fair enough, but I prefer people to listen and watch."

You recently saw Elvis Presley in action in America. What was your reaction?

"I thought he was very good. He had the good sense to keep a sense of humour over his early rock and roll act and just kept the entertainment going. Listening to songs like 'Heartbreak Hotel' and 'Hound Dog' was a completely new experience for me — so was getting togged up in a tuxedo to go and see him. I looked very good but I think the green riding boots rather spoilt things — I had no black shoes."

What are your views on free concerts?

"I wouldn't play one — not if the public are not to pay to get in. Initially it was a good idea and we played in the first one but now it has become a kind of social thing where you go down to the park to show off your new beads and see whose illegitimate child is whose. It's not a musical function any more, but more a gathering for 'dossers' or beggars. I'd rather an audience paid and came expecting to get their money's worth."

Are you aware of the apparent contradiction in terms you present as an apparently 'drug crazed hippie' on stage and a very straight, intelligent and commonsense-type person off?

"There's no denying that when I am dirty, swearing and scratching on stage, that is one part of me and there is no use pretending it isn't me. But thankfully I don't go about doing that walking down the street or in front of my mum. It's a two-part thing and on stage is an outlet or escape for that other me. Initially it is not an act but there are many sides to a person and you don't have to be the same all the time.

"The stage thing seems to be very important to the public and consequently it is a little worrying when people think I am an extreme 'randy', homosexual or drug addict. It's a bit worrying because I'm not like that."

What kind of parental environment did you come from?

"The kind where they did not want me to do what I am, but to continue with my education. I got as far as my A levels which I knew I was going to fail anyway because I had not done the work, and ran away to sell magazines in a shop in Blackpool.

"For a while I thought I would join the Forestry Commission — I'm not very strong with an axe but the idea of being put in a little wooden hut with your own square mile of trees appealed to me. Then all you have to do is feed them or whatever you do with trees.

"It just seemed like a nice job to do where you could go away and think — I'm very suspicious of those who commune with nature. All those people trying to escape from the false values of the City which aren't false anyway. I experience sun sets and sun rises, birds calling, wolves whistling like any one else but I'm just scared of it getting too intense."

Do you have any yardsticks by which you live your life?

"I do have very stringent moral standards which I apply quite rigorously except on stage — where the devilry and vulgarity get out. I don't need to take drugs to freak out because I can do that quite naturally on stage — the release is there.

"I'm not a Christian but I am a believer — I've not read the Bible but I do know what it is about. If ever I find out the answers that I am looking for I shall want to do something about them, either by going into a pulpit or writing the ideas into music. At present I'm too busy leaping up and down and making records — getting some money together."

Are you ever conscious of wasting time?

"Very, that's why I don't concern myself with recreations. There is always something to do — talking to people, gigging, travelling. The most annoying thing in the world is travelling five hours between gigs — wasting time reading trivial books. The only thing to do is to sit and think which is very uncomfortable in our van with our road managers."

What does money mean to you and where does it fit into the scheme of things?

"It means cigarettes, meals, rent, mandolin strings, plectrums, coffee and that's about it. Earning big money doesn't really concern me — playing to more and more people does. It will be nice to have some big money in a few years time because then I can go away and become a preacher or work in the Forestry Commission or whatever.

"I might even get married and then again I might not. It would be more important to me than most people. I might get married the day after we come back from America!"

What sort of reaction do you have to groupies, sex and censorship?

"Groupies frighten me because they're bonkers — must be screwed-up people to do that. Anyone who gets mixed up in that sex thing to that degree has to be out of their heads — it's not even physical. It's some kind of peculiar ego thing.

"These strange plays like 'Oh Calcutta' just bore me. I'd probably throw bottles. It's very important that they are around and that the underground press should print their silly little four letter words so that the public can profit by their mistakes. I'm learning.

"They're destroying all the good values. Sex is not underground any more which is a shame. It has its dirty and warped aspects which are no longer underground. People expect that it is some kind of physical necessity. Love and romanticism have been killed off to make way for pornography. Sex is not just a schoolboy joke anymore, it has become something much less than that.

"The motives behind a more liberal attitude towards sex are fine but they don't work because of the people who are mouthing them.

"Everyone wants an instant revolution but revolutions are seldom successful and hardly ever successful immediately. It's important that they have their little revolutions and important that they shout because it has a gradual effect upon society but only over a long time. What these students are shouting about now is going to seem very unimportant to them when they are forty with kids."

What kind of humour appeals to you?

"I don't really have a sense of humour which makes me laugh out loud at things. As a kid, things like Norman Wisdom and Charlie Chaplin made me laugh but jokes now generally result in a snigger. Obvious comedy does not appeal to me — comedians are not funny when they are obvious."

Is fear a reality to you?

"Sure, I'm frightened of being killed — not because I'm frightened of death but because I would miss out on doing all the things that I want to and I have always had the feeling I could do something really worthwhile. Being maimed would be worse.

"Mental pain is not something I've ever suffered from although depression gels to me. Depression that I cannot break out of the routine to do whatever I feel I want. Fortunately I have an organisation which is understanding enough to make it possible for me not to do things I really do not want to do. As soon as you have been told that you do not have to do it you can face it."

Do the fine arts interest you?

"I was involved for a while with abstract art. It wasn't a hobby in as much as I knew what I was doing but I liked the total involvement. I like artists who develop a style of their own in much the same way as I like musical artistes who develop a style of their own, in much the same way as I like musical artistes who are naive. Hendrix for example is a naive artiste. He makes noises. He is not a technician but an emotional guitarist. Rousseau is like that as a painter. They are not trained and in that way they are genius. People with flair are rare."

As an evidently equable personality what are the things which unsettle or anger you?

"People who go boo at you in the street — little things — my anger only lasts momentarily. Having a shout sometimes helps.

"If I saw someone kicking a cat I would probably kick him, or someone chasing a fox I would probably attempt to knock him off his horse, I haven't got time to be humanitarian in every respect. There is only barely time for involvement with music.

"I got annoyed at the film I saw recently on the cinema which requested that people join our glorious army to become trained killers. There were all those punky people sitting behind machine guns — lead a man's life!"

In view of the fact you present this strange split personality on stage and off are you reconciled to people misjudging your character?

"It's very easy to dislike people from their outward appearance. There must be a lot of people who share the same attitudes as I who look very different from me. A lot of people must hate me because I present the image of some kind of demented immoral joker, which I'm not, l m just that for an hour on stage."

Do you have any particular future projects for Jethro Tull?

"There is one but it would be silly of me to go on about a new and exciting project because it works people up to the state where they are expecting miracles like they expected from Blind Faith. A lot of people were bitterly disappointed with their free concert because they proved to be just four people who played well. If they had thought about it they would have realised it could not have been anything else but a return to some kind of set pattern. It was inevitable that Clapton would want to put his virtuoso thing into perspective in an arranged thing."

Interviewer: KEITH ALTHAM
Situation: Jethro Tull Office
Photography: KEITH MORRIS


Many thanks to Glenn Cornick for this article