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6 February 1971
JETHRO: THE MUSIC IS THEIR STRENGTH
Royston Eldridge on tour with Jethro Tull in Germany
In the beginning the music seemed almost incidental to the success of Jethro Tull. As a unit they were offering something fresh musically but the music they produced in those early days tended to be swamped by the strength of Ian Anderson's stage personality. He became, unwittingly, pop's pied piper and the music seemed of secondary importance to many.
It would be wrong to say that there has been a complete reversal of emphasis; Anderson is still the focal point of the group but he is more than rock's flute playing prince of jesters now. He leads a far different group from the original Tull and out of this new band comes a far stronger music than ever before.
Jethro is three years old and each year of their existence has seen a change in personnel but far from weakening the group it has strengthened them, both as individuals and as a unit. Guitarist Martin Barre, drummer Clive Bunker and Ian Anderson have matured as musicians in that time and the arrival of pianist Johan Evan and Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond, who took over on bass from Glen [sic] Cornick, has consolidated that development.
Hammond-Hammond is the friend to whom Anderson dedicated his 'A Song For Jeffrey', and as such he was known — by reputation — to the audiences he played in front of for the first time on the group's European tour.
But he was very much a mystery figure to them, hiding on stage in a long black overcoat and wide-brimmed hat. Even the zealous German autograph-hunters were foxed and they often mistook Leo of Tir Na Nog or sound engineer John Burns for the new bass player.
Jethro started their tour in Scandinavia at the beginning of January and when I saw them in Germany they had been on the road for nearly a month. Life on tour for a band like Jethro is a strange existence; they live and work in an insulated, self-contained world that is seldom touched by anything outside of its immediate confine.
Apart from the army, Clive Bunker commented on the way back from a concert in Munster, groups are the most tightly knit units of people. It's easy to understand what he meant after three days on tour with them. Their lives are administered and arranged with an almost military precision which leaves the group only to concern themselves with playing.
In Germany Jethro and Tir Na Nog, who played every concert with them, were accompanied by manager Terry Ellis; English tour manager Eric Brooks; two German tour managers, sound engineer John Burns and three English road managers.
This cocooned environment affects the music: there's more depth and greater sensitivity in the songs — off their forthcoming album — which Jethro now include in their stage act. Ian Anderson is playing less flute and more acoustic guitar and his songs in general are quieter.
There are still heavy parts in the new songs. Clive Bunker does his drum solo in the middle of 'Cross-Eyed Mary', but the music is full of contrast. And instead of finishing with a powerful climactic song, Jethro end their act on a soft note ['Wind-Up'] which baffled some of the audience, expecting a pounding finale.
It's doing the unexpected that makes Jethro such an entertaining and enterprising band though. The changes in their music have kept pace with their rise in stature and that's all you can ask of any musicians. They are progressing at a time when 'progressive' means anything but that.
Jethro now communicate and come across to their audience on two equal levels: there is still the strange visual attraction and humour of Ian Anderson, which was the group's original strength, but this is now balanced by a music that is better than ever.