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24 May 1969
"The underground seems to have gotten a little out of hand" says Ian Anderson
By all rights, Jethro Tull must be looked upon as reaching out of the sphere known as underground; or at least being one of the major forces in the move to eliminate such classifications in music today. The reason lies in the fact that their music, no matter if technically it is jazz, pop or urban freak, is sounding more and more like nobody else but Jethro. The Cream were able to shed the underground title by carefully nursing a style very individual and unique.
The solid character rapidly expanding within Jethro Tull is largely to the credit of the band's leader, flautist and personality extraordinaire, Ian Anderson. Anderson's views on the original music trend adopted by Tull are unfortunately not all that common. Others could do well to heed the advice or the outlook he shares. Minus the once well-known, floor-length coat, which he misplaced some time ago, Ian stopped by the RM office to explain why Jethro's image is becoming so strong in itself rather than a general category.
"The songs we do are not cut and dried, forms of jazz and pop, but mixtures developed by the group combination. I think it's too early to hope that all the numbers sound like only us, but a style seems to be emerging. A lot of the things I have in mind for songs either never get written or I go off them very soon because my mood may change and I'll view the idea under a different light. It's good to look at things from several states of mind.
"A lot of bands tend to get so wrapped up in their own thing it puts them out on a limb. They become far too personal and lose much of their appeal. The underground seems to have gotten a little out of hand and that makes me frightened of being too personal. Instead, I remain very cautious. I like to look before I leap with a song. I don't want to stretch the boundaries of validity."
Ian and Jethro are concentrating on a single and an LP right now. The single, titled 'Living In The Past' was written by Ian and easily reflects the sound that can only be Jethro Tull.
"This is a single, not a token single. It is an attempt to get into the charts without blatant commerciality. If people are going to buy singles, we're hoping they'll buy ours. I realise the underground is still about and that underground groups sell LPs and not singles, yet these restrictions will be compromised in time. Classifications, like people, exist. Most people think of the underground as hairy and far out, so some sort of compromise will have to be made. This is not a commercial single for the sake of it. A lot of thought went into it and I think it's a good one. It makes me happy to think we've done it; it's an honest single.
"The underground is considered vulgar. Groups are crying because they can't get nudes on their LP covers. If and when they do get all the nudes they want, nudity will be so prevalent, it won't be noticed. The four-letter words are used so much in the States, they are getting to be commonplace. I think the cycle may have finally revolved completely with all the decency rallies sprouting up. Kids are realising they really don't want all this trouble. As the underground gets further out, it comes closer to change and to eventual compromise. I like watching these forces at work. It's even nice that people have a name like underground, but somehow in print, it looks odd."
Jethro Tull do not consider themselves to be a segment of a mass movement, but admit that they may be placed in one by some of their listeners. Any position, however, can be used as a stepping stone if it is handled properly and in earnest. What goes on around you can always affect you, but if your individuality and appeal work hand in hand to a healthy degree, prominence is assured eventually.
Thanks to Mike Wain for this article.