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30 August 1969
"THEY ALL THINK I TAKE DRUGS ..."
Ian Anderson talks to Ian Middleton
With a band working out of Britain so much, especially in the U.S.A., I asked Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull if there was really any differences working in the two countries.
"There's hardly any difference as far as playing is concerned," he replied. "The only thing that affects you is one misses the security of being at home. You live in hotels all the time and out of a suitcase. There isn't time to keep your instruments out of their cases.
"In the States, it would be easy to get involved with the groupie and the drug scenes. But, as I told you at a previous interview, I'm not interested in that sort of thing. In America, there's hardly a kid who doesn't take drugs or even drink. Yet I can't say this to them point-blank because they wouldn't believe me.
"I don't necessarily condemn drugs, but you simply can't entrust a 13-year-old's mind with something like marijuana or methedrine, I feel an awareness towards the young kids who grow up with this type of environment.
"Pop music influences the kids so much. The trouble is they get a let of false ideas through records and the pop press.
"Of course in the States, the groupie scene is very strong. Much bigger than it is in Britain.
"A lot of the members of groups go with the groupies through sheer boredom. Anyone connected with a group in the States, especially a British one is all right as far as they're concerned."
Jethro Tull is a group which people you would think only like out and out pop music really rate. Probably the main reason for this is the band sets out to entertain and shows enthusiasm when they are playing. Ian told me they were even getting the teeny-boppers coming to see them before they made their last trip to the States.
"But not the silly ones who scream and giggle," he added.
Another factor for their success is the breaking down of musical barriers. Whence you get Jethro Tull playing at a Jazz Festival.
"At the Miami Jazz Festival, we topped the bill over people like Roland Kirk and Gerry Mulligan," Ian said. "At least fifty per cent of the audience were straight and middle-aged and we were a bit worried. The night before, Booker T. and the MG's topped the bill and half the audience walked out. When it came to our spot to close the last night we thought we wouldn't stand a chance.
"But we went on and I made a few jokes about the music and they sat there and lapped it up. We won through because we entertained on a musical level. The programme ran late but when we finished a lot of the middle-aged people were standing up and gave us a great ovation. It gives one a fantastic feeling to know you've done well."
To look at Ian some people would think he is the complete drop-out and some ignorant bum — but nothing could be further from the truth. He admits to being the black sheep of the family (he has two brothers, one is the Theatre Manager in Leicester, "and very straight"). But underneath all that hair is a very keen mind.
"I went to Grammar School but left when I was sixteen — halfway through my 'A' levels," Ian divulged. "I couldn't see any reason for taking them. If I'd gone on. I might have ended up in some suburban house and married!
"Going to school was a good thing. I only left because of the pointless discipline. It's like being in the Army and being told to polish your boots all the time and other silly things. The good thing about it all was one learned discipline. Once this has happened you can apply self-discipline.
"I couldn't sit down and write songs if I hadn't been disciplined as a child — YOU force yourself into doing something.
"It's like playing. On occasions I think 'Oh God, I've got another gig tonight.' But I know I've got to do it. I go through a transitionary stage so by the time it comes for me to go on, I'm looking forward to playing. You get the feeling like the first time you play and I always enjoy actually playing. It's the thoughts I might have before doing so."
This week, Jethro Tull go into the recording studios. The first objective is to make a single. Then they record their third album all in one go. So there won't be any gigs for three weeks by them.
Ian, who's done all the writing. said:
"I'm putting all the ideas which I got in the States into songs and then the songs into records.
"I don't believe what we are doing is a progression. My ideas haven't really changed over the past two years. What has happened is I'm better equipped to put them across. The third album is different to the other two simply because we have different matins at our disposal. It's the technique used in the studio and knowing the guys in the band better through working with them all the time that also makes the band sound different."
Ian Anderson could easily become the Pied Piper of Pop with the steadily increasing acceptance of his music. But not quite the great pop idol. He doesn't believe there will be a return of big pop idols and explained why.
"People through mass media know about things," he said. "They know the person is really like them; they have a head, two arms and legs and can get gonorhoea just like them. The phenomenon of the pop idol in the gold lame jacket has gone. What you get now is the 'boy next doors sort of person who's grown his hair long.
"What can happen is someone is a success, not necessarily as a musician — he could be a politician, and can be looked on as having a knowledge of his craft. He would be judged as a person who's been developed as a sort of 'plus' person. But there wouldn't be any mystical fantasy about it all. You might meet Paul McCartney or the Prince of Wales and you'd get a similar type of emotional thing out of it. The days of hero worship of pop stars are over."
Jethro Tull use the improvising factor a great deal rather similar in approach to jazz musicians. In fact most of their music is based on a jazz concept.
"I like light and shade and tone colours in music," Ian stated. "You don't need to prove you can play fast if you know you can do it. Technique shouldn't be used for technique's sake. We try to make each song have an identity of its own. And that includes any solo which might be played.
"Nobody denies the importance and enjoyment of 12 bar blues, but it isn't an end in itself."
Some of the blues bands around today should make a note of that.