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December 1969


Vitamin C tablets are sold in dark glass bottles because exposure to light weakens their effectiveness, oranges with their high vitamin C content are more salutory if enjoyed in the dark.

Does extensive exposure of a group necessarily alter its validity in any way? A lot of the 'hip establishment' (see later article on 'Groovers') refuse to see any value in Jethro Tull's music because they consider that any successful attempt to reach a wider audience constitutes an idealogical compromise, that a singles chart success cannot be reconciled with the true spirit of the underground. We asked Ian Anderson if he was aware of the group's alienation from this kind of person.

"Yes, that's quite possible — I've heard it from various sources, but all I can say is 'Blow them', because out motives for playing music now are the same as they were a year ago — we simply have a better means of getting it across to people now. The people who liked us then, but don't now, were probably labouring under some misapprehension in the first place, or at least, weren't being honest with themselves as to why they liked us ... because we appeared to be underdogs or underground, whereas now we're obviously a pop group because we appeal to so many people

"But our integrity remains intact in our own minds, and in the minds of a lot of others as well. Fleetwood Mac may have lost some followers, but those they've lost aren't nearly as important as those they've gained. That's why they and we do things like Top of the Pops when we can, because it's important for us to get across to new people; to break this vicious circle which exists surrounding the tastes of the young public and what the producers of the programme are prepared to give them. It's a vicious circle because the producers give the kids what they think the kids want, and the kids only want what they want because that's all the producers give them. They have no chance to hear the so-called underground music forms because it isn't given the exposure on any broadcasts for the same reason. They probably can't afford to go into the local record shops, look through and buy albums ... and so the singles market is important for them, as is Top of the Pops, because by playing we give them the option or freedom of choice — if they like it, great, if they don't like it, then forget it.

"I've no objection to Top of the Pops as an entertainment medium because it scores every time; it reaches a very, very wide cross section of the public and for this reason alone it's important for us to be on it — to get across to so many new people, who otherwise wouldn't hear about us. I hope that Family gets on Top of the Pops because a lot of people should be able to listen to them and decide whether they like them or not."

Similarly, a lot of the same people associate Chrysalis, Jethro Tull's management and agency, with 'hype machine tactics'.

"Well that is absolute rubbish because Chrysalis doesn't hype anybody. It's the most unhyping company there is ... they're honest, like most people in the business these days. Most of the dicey managers and agents have disappeared because people realized and didn't want to work with them. The whole thing is now much better than people want to believe — they want to believe that groups are manipulated and are pawns in the games of management executives with cigars and briefcases. That's not true these days ... except maybe in the case of a few old school agencies and the bigger companies.

"When Chrysalis began, it was something like the group was at that stage — more or less a tentative experiment — and we all learnt together, with nobody demanding anything from anybody else. We tried things out, saw how they worked, changed them around and so on, until we arrived at the stage we are now, where Chrysalis is a fairly important business force on the scene and embodies recording, management, agency, publishing, record label ... the whole thing."

We got to talking about the early days and early recordings of the group and how most people thought their first single was 'A Song for Jeffrey'. But in fact their first effort was a single on MGM which was released under the name Jethro Toe.

"Yes, they made a mistake with the label — it was a mis-spelling on someone's part because we were in fact called Jethro Tull at the time. But we had only been together for about a week when we made that — it was one of the first things ever did. We didn't actually have a record contract then, but I knew a producer through somebody else, and he'd asked us to make the record. In fact, it was rather a silly thing for us to have done — it was done as a laugh rather than being representative of our style at the time. We didn't play anything like that afterwards ... it was just one of Mick's (Abrahams) poppy kind of tunes."

Another thing that isn't generally known is the fact that for the first month or so, the group was purporting to be a 9-piece soul band in order to get bookings. They succeeded in secreting this from their agent until they had amassed sufficiently good criticism from promoters to let it be known that they were, in fact, a 4-piece bluesy band. The agent, according to Ian, did his pieces, but continued to give them work because of the good results they'd had playing around the clubs. We wondered if they missed the intimacy of such venues, now that they had priced themselves out of the range of anything but enormous capacity halls.

"No ... those sort of atmospheres frighten the hell out of me. I went to a club the other night to see Roy Harper, and I thought about the time we played there and it was scary ... to think we actually went on in a place so small, so claustrophobic, with people sitting so near. We did that at one point, but if we'd carried on playing in places like that we'd never have become musically what we are now, because it's very limiting in a small place; to play music demanding volume, feedback, sustained notes, and so on would become unmanageable, unbearable in that sort of atmosphere.

"Anyway, the intimacy that seems to be associated with that sort of place doesn't exist in my mind, because I feel a much more intimate atmosphere when we step out onstage at a concert hall holding from 2 to 5 thousand. When there's that many people, I find it much easier and more natural to talk to them.

"And 'pricing' is not the right word really. It isn't a question of we want more money therefor we want bigger places; we want to play bigger places and play to more and more people at once — from their point of view as well as our own. We would never have time to play all the little places, and most people wouldn't see us at all.

"Our prices aren't outrageous — we don't charge anymore than anybody else ... we don't charge as much as we could charge. Really, the money is immaterial, so long as we're making a profit. I hate to owe money, and I'd hate to be in a position five years from now if I end up a schitzophrenic or mentally unstable from doing this sort of thing as hard as we do, when I have no money. I want to have some money if I have nothing else. Money is important undeniably, although all it means to me at the moment is having food and sleep when I want to."

It seems to me that no musician has been interviewed more than Ian Anderson. His recent holiday was curtailed by three days to placate anxious interviewers, and when we spoke to him, at the Top of the Pops studio, we were third in line after some cat from the Melody Maker, and another from Scene and Heard. We still had several questions to ask when he had to shoot on stage, return for his belongings, and leap off to prepare for his flight to New York, which was scheduled for a few hours later. Rather than cut the article short, we continue with extracts from a piece by Pete Senoff, which first appeared in the LA Free Press.

Emulation might, indeed, be the greatest form of flattery, but what if the artist accused of such actions really never had that thought in mind, but had been unjustly "branded" by various elements of the rock press?

Such is the position Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull has found himself in. Virtually every article, every review of the group links the talented Anderson with thoughts of Roland Kirk and "jazz", on which two subjects he has some definite thoughts.

"I was accused in one of the articles Leonard Feather wrote on the Newport Festival as being a second-rate Roland Kirk. It's extraordinary that somebody like Feather, who's known as a critic of some acclaim, anyways, can be so easily duped by sounds to think that I'm trying to be a second-rate Kirk. I mean, there's no comparison between Roland Krik and me. I don't know how old he is, but I'm only 21. I've only been playing flute for 18 months. Technically, there's no comparison whatsoever. Soundwise, there is a similarity. Roland Kirk does it because he's a person who understands the instrument to fantastic degree. I do it because it's the one sound that I can make on a flute which will blend with a guitar; a strident noisy sound. I have to do it; it's a matter of coming across."

One of the hallmarks of the jazz scene, improvisation (now popularly referred to as jamming), is something which Anderson has never really gotten into. And he doesn't want to.

"I'm all for things staying in their native packages. I mean, you don't form a group to jam with other people. I don't want to jam with anybody; it's a waste of time.

"See, the common ground you have in a jam is usually a blues ... a 12-bar sequence. You just play on one chord. I mean, what can you say with those kind of limitations which haven't been said a thousand times before. I don't want to repeat the overworn blues clichés; the BB King sequences or what Eric Clapton does. They've already done them, far better than I could do them or anybody else can do them now.

"Things are changing a bit now. It's getting more cerebral; more thought about. Now the song is the important factor, not the bullshit solos in it. If you're gonna play solos, for God's sake make them relate to the song and not for an excuse for saying 'I'm a virtuoso.' And who is a virtuoso? Not really anybody that's around now. All these guys who play their guitars and freak out for ten minutes aren't that good. It's bullshit. They know all the clichés and al the tricks; and some of them are really good tricks but they're still tricks. And it doesn't demand the same thing as sitting down and ... what the Beatles do, for example. They're musicians, and don't have to prove it by playing their instruments better than anybody else. It doesn't matter if they use other people to play their instruments for them. The songs are theirs, and the songs are the important thing."