1967-68 | 1969 | 1970 | 1971 | 1972 | 1973 | 1974 | 1975 | 1976 | 1977 | 1978 | 1979 | 1980-81 | 1982-84 | 1987-89 | 1990-94 | 1995-98 | 1999-2001 | Home
16 June 1970
ANDERSON ON TULL
(and other matters of moment)
If you are one of the people who reads both the articles and the ads in music papers, then you're probably aware of the fact that there has been a bit of a battle going on between Jethro Tull and the writers for the Jethro Tull album ads. When Reprise released Jethro Tull's first album, This Was, they released the "information" that Jethro Tull was "Four Englishmen who often appear in public as old men: shaggy hair, beards powdered with white, age lines on their faces." Reprise also announced to an expectant public that Jethro Tull's namesake was the man who invented the plough three centuries, or so, ago.
No sooner was this dubious line released than lan Anderson, group leader etc., announced that Reprise's line was a load of "Bull" and that in fact Jethro Tull was an eighteenth century musician who had invented the seed drill. Reprise countered in their ad for Jethro Tull's second album, Stand Up, that lan's statements "made us feel pretty shitty".
Perhaps, then, the true identity of the original Jethro Tull will never be known by anyone other that Mrs. Tull. Rather than become involved in the dispute over ploughs and or seed drills, Side One is presenting, in and around this page, some insights into the twentieth century version of Jethro Tull as seen by lan Anderson.
"People often say that Jethro Tull 'suddenly happened' as a new heavy rock group. I have to question that kind of statement because we spent six months in America doing what can only be described, show business jargon, as a promotional tour. I'd have thought it would take two tours before people became aware of us.
"The first time over nobody knew the songs! We were playing songs we hadn't recorded and only a very little of the material that was on the first album — so most of it was very strange.
"But — assuming that our arrival WAS a 'sudden happening' — I don't think we had any concept of ourselves as a heavy rock group. Strange as it may seem, that's exactly what we were trying to get away from. Unfortunately on a concert like this in Montreal, we can't avoid it because we're so remote on the stage, 20 feet above the people.
"Generally speaking, we include one piece of music which is just quiet, musical, and melodic. I'd think that this is the way music is going. We still play loudly, but God knows what the sound out front was like. I mean, we weren't playing that loudly on stage tonight. We only used half the amplifiers we used to use because we don't want to be thought of as another Led Zeppelin type group.
"But when you're up there and you're that remote from the people, you've got to do it all within yourself and I suppose what appears to be a heavy rock thing is, on occasions like this, really simply because we are playing primarily to ourselves and for ourselves — because you're only aware of a lot of people somewhere in the distance. It's very different from playing in a concert hall where you know people are six or seven feet from you. That's the kind of concert we like to play — between 2500 and 5000 people in halls that are built for concert music to be played.
"You know, there isn't a lot of difference between concert goers of today and the concert goers of 20 and a 100 years ago. They still attract a broad cross-section of the public. The music is rather similar as well — I think — it is becoming similar anyway. Maybe it's a bit early to say yet.
"It's difficult to explain, but every three or four months I can come up with about eight or ten new songs. This usually happens when we're on tour! So, every three or four months my ideas seem, at least to me, to have changed. Generally I water them back down again into the style, if you can call it style, of the group. That is, I fit it into the way of playing which we have evolved together, which is not different from a lot of other people.
"It's not as though I'm frustrated to the extent that I'm thinking of weird and wonderful ideas, musically, and failing to actually come up with an end result that I'm satisfied with. It's simply that one has to be aware that the end product has to be played either to an audience or to a microphone in a studio. My ability to translate ideas into final and completed songs are still a bit unformed, a bit naive. That's why I spend a lot of time in the studio learning how to record things. It's also why we play a lot of gigs.
"I suppose, financially, we don't need to play as much as we do but it seems important to push things as far as you can. In this case it's in terms of gaining experience, playing instruments, performing together. So the original idea is usually a little bit further ahead than the way the songs eventually turn out.
"Unfortunately, because of the way that all contemporary pop or rock and roll musicians have of performing music, I don't think we're in a position to play the music we've always wanted to play. I don't think we're in a position to do something different — suddenly — even if we wanted to or were capable of doing. People, including me, tend to be a bit fickle as far as their current 'fave/rave' is concerned. It would probably alienate a certain number of people if we suddenly went off on a tangent doing something else. So, I don't think we would even if we could.
"Thankfully, the whole thing seems just to be a natural kind of thing. I suppose we've found our feet within the rigors of touring, recording and living sparse private lives at home. We've found some kind of level on which to function in terms of coming up with new ideas and new ways of playing things.
"It does seem to go at a comfortable rate — comfortable within a rather hectic life that is! But, things do change slowly and naturally and that I AM thankful for. It's not something which has to be forced so there's none of the frustration in playing something completely different. Things go smoothly and have gone that way since we started playing together. Hopefully, that situation will continue.
"I'm sort of like a foreman. In the studio I'm the one who tells people when it's time for a tea break, who occasionally does a little bit of ordering about. I sometimes shout into microphones and get the sounds together in a vague way, assisted by able engineers.
"I act in the capacity of producer but I don't think of myself as a producer — just as I don't think of Producers as producers. The lot is superfluous! I have control but I don't think that I abuse that control. It's just a matter of getting things done at the right time — hustling people to work if there's a deadline — encouraging people to try new things if there's enough time to spare.
"As far as the creative aspect of writing and arranging and rehearsal and recording is concerned, well, that's mostly done before going into the studio. We don't go in and jam things. We have on occasion but by and large the rule is, because of the nature of the music, to rehearse such things as backing tracks outside the studio, as an initial step, and then to go in and play as involved session men. We go in and play it and at that stage we know how we are going to do it, and I have a pretty good idea of how it's going to sound at the end.
"There are always loop-holes left for the individual to vary his musical contribution — even within the confines of the studio. In reality, I'm just the person who sorts things out and gathers things together and if I didn't do it someone else would! However, as you might have noticed, I am the one who talks the most, and therefore, it seems that I am the one best suited for the job.
"People say, 'You are a visual group' — and I say, 'I don't know, I've never seen us.'
"I really don't set out to DO anything. If leaping about and waving arms and legs can make you become more involved in what you are playing, then it's a 'valid' thing to do — at least, it is as far as I personally am concerned.
"I suppose people think of me as a Leap-About character, but I can only go leaping about for a very few years. Sometimes I fall down — and stay down! I'm always falling over and hurting myself, 'cause I'm not very strong. I'm not Steve McQueen, or anything. It's just something that I'm doing now!
"The music is written in a physical sort of way and performed in a physical sort of way. Obviously some of the songs that I've been working out are not the kind of songs which lend themselves to being performed in that manner.
"So, I wouldn't say that we have an act — if that's what 'visual' means. There are some groups which do have acts. Whatever it is that I do — whatever it is that we do — and whatever it is that we play is something which comes about as naturally as we could possibly hope would come after two and half years of playing.
"To begin with — I suppose we were standing on the stage playing twelve-bar blues songs — and it developed musically — and, I suppose some would say, theatrically — although obviously I'd argue with that. From there, all I know is that there was a slow and natural — I wouldn't say progression — but maybe it was a change.
"As one gets older, involved in different facets of private life, the music changes and one's attitude towards music changes. And, so long as you let it happen at its own pace — and don't change suddenly — I think it'll be alright. I really don't know if we'll remain popular. We may just be going through a phase, now, where as a group we are fairly popular. In the future I suppose it'll come down to, as it always has come down to, LUCK! Being in the right places with the right people — management-wise — playing the right sort of music, having the right kind of ideas at the right time.
"I don't think that I'm particularly gifted musically beyond the ability of a lot of people who probably have no idea of music or an idea of their idea of music. It's really a question of applying yourself and a dedication to something as a means of living. It's a bit crude to call it earning a living but then it's pretentious to call it a life-style. It's just a way of behaviour — a way of passing the time — a way of enjoying yourself and seeking fulfillment from something you can do on a rather low creative level.
"Hopefully, the aim is to make it something of a craft, if not an art, but that's a long way off. I mean, it's even a long way off just being a craft since we make a lot of mistakes musically. I know that it is improving. So, you know, it's a fairly happy situation.
"I'm probably not answering anybody's questions — I'm just talking! It saves embarrassing silences while I try to think of answers to the questions. Left to my own devices I would probably talk forever."