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POP WEEKLY & TEENBEAT ANNUAL
(Published December 1970)
DON'T BE DECEIVED, IAN ANDERSON OF JETHRO TULL IS A DEDICATED MUSICIAN
The Beatles stopped touring altogether. The Rolling Stones left the scene for a long time before returning to make spasmodic, though highly publicized, personal appearances. So, in the absence of the giants, there had to be somebody new.
That 'somebody' was actually a group called Jethro Tull. A band of dedicated musicians fronted by flautist-singer lan Anderson, a sort of Pied Piper figure of grotesque appearance. Wild, flared-out hair ... off-beat clothes that looked as if they'd been picked up in a jumble sale having originally been made for a giant.
lan Anderson has always dominated the Jethro Tull scene. He provided the touch of controversy. Stories appeared of how girls working in the BBC television centre were scared half to death when coming upon him, all unawares, in the corridors.
Yet lan was able to poke fun at his strange image. Because he, and the other Jethro Tull-ites, knew that his on-stage appearance gave a completely wrong impression of his off-stage personality.
For lan doesn't drink, doesn't smoke, rarely chats up the girls. He's a thorough-going dedicated musician who generally slopes off home after a gig and plays a few records and dreams up new musical ideas. A perfectionist is lan. And he figured that perfection didn't come from indulging in the usual rave-up behaviour of the modern crop of pop stars.
He created a tremendous following in the States. Not to mention sell-out tours of Britain. He progressed musically ...
So it came as a bit of a surprise to me to have some of the members of his group come along and plead:
"Do us a favour, will you? Because the fans realized that lan was personally a pretty quiet chap who didn't go in for the looning, he has handed over some of his reputation to us. We don't get invited to the usual parties because people think we are the same type of human beings as lan. We're missing the fun ..."
So herewith a further bit of 'help' for the boys. But lan remains the enigma of pop music, so let's listen in to a few quotes from him.
"A lot of people regard me as a demented immoral joker. It's understandable. I put on an act on stage and people assume that I must be like that all the time. If I walk about in my multi-coloured suits, people stare at me. Then they insult me. That invariably amazes me, even if I'm fast getting used to it. I try to be polite to everybody because that's the way I am. Then people gee me up and talk to me as if I'm some kind of freak. It takes a lot of patience to hold back but I'm naturally a pacifist, or perhaps coward is the better word, so I do not threaten fisticuffs.
"Yes, people do hate me. I'm not the only one in pop to suffer in this way. I suppose we ask for it, in a way — I mean the long hair and the way-out clothes. I suppose we're just a bunch of exhibitionists. But we came out of the underground so most of our early fans were the sandals and beards and long hair variety. They wouldn't have taken to us if we'd looked like a bunch of bank clerks making whoopee."
Then lan admitted:
"Anyway, I wear most of my clothes until they are about to drop off. The question of being properly dressed doesn't worry me. On stage I like to be different — offstage I just don't much care."
Actually lan's views on money are pretty interesting. Mostly because he genuinely doesn't much care about it. He once told me:
"You read how we're making thousands a week and people say we're in the millionaire class, but it isn't like that. We get to keep such a small proportion of it that it's rather like working for 75,000 cigarettes or 75,000 beans.
"Really I just use money to buy food and cigarettes and mandolin strings and that kind of thing. Sometimes I think I'll just pack up the pop business and slope off somewhere and become a missionary or something. Until recently I lived in a £3-a-week bed-sitter near a railway station ... never occurred to me that something grander was expected of a so-called star."
Very much the thinker, lan Anderson is one of the 'gimmick' merchants who surely will stay in the business, do well and make some incredibly important contribution to the world of pop music.
And he pinpoints exactly one of the truths about this whole business of pop. It is easy for fans to get carried away by the on-stage personality of a star. Cliff Richard, for example, came in on a Presley-type imitation, complete with sexy gestures ... yet even then was a practising churchman who resolutely kept himself out of any controversy with the fair sex. Billy Fury, once banned in Ireland for what the locals felt was an over-sexy act, is himself a shy, retiring character much more at home bird-watching on his estate than in the spotlight of a cabaret club.
Trouble is, explained lan Anderson, we go too much on a person's appearance. The man who looks like a tramp could easily turn out to be a university professor. The man who looks like a page out of a fashion magazine could be a mass-murderer.
The moral, then, is: don't go on appearances. And don't in particular make the mistake of thinking lan Anderson, of Jethro Tull, is a demented immoral joker!