“Really don’t mind if you sit this one out”
Actually, people have been sitting Jethro Tull out for decades. Ian Anderson is not a warm character, he kept changing the band’s members and then he stole Metallica’s Grammy through no fault of his own, the Grammy voters erred, but the stink is, unfairly, upon the group.
Jethro Tull emerged in 1968, when singles no longer mattered. Sure, months after the release of “Disraeli Gears,” after tons of FM airplay, “Sunshine of Your Love” crossed over to AM, but Jimi Hendrix never did, most of the acts with cred today never did.
And then Tull changed sounds. I won’t say it was a completely different band, but “This Was,” the debut, definitely derived from what came before, i.e. the blues, whereas the new band with its new album, “Stand Up,” was the Jethro Tull you know today, sui generis.
Not that “Stand Up,” the band’s best album, got a ton of radio play. This was when we listened to the radio to know what to buy, to know what to play at home. Cross that with press and word of mouth and there were tons of bands that had a place in the public consciousness that most people had never heard of, that were not really exposed much on the airwaves. There was a schism in listening, those in the know, the explorers, and those who were being led by the machine, then again, the machine back then was different from the one today. The Beatles had demonstrated that there was much more money in music recordings than ever previously thought, by a multiple. Same deal with concerts. But it took years for ticket prices to reach into the stratosphere, they didn’t really reach market value until the twenty first century and Napster, when acts could no longer depend upon recording income.
Not that there were any scalpers back then, not in most markets, no StubHub to buy and sell tickets right up to the moment the curtain, if there was one, was raised. You lined up, that’s how you got your tickets, and most shows sold out, at least the ones you had to line up for.
But then came 1970’s “Benefit” and the backlash began, finally Tull was getting radio play, just as FM was reaching into the hinterlands, and those who’d been there before were angry that the band’s sound was more commercial, easier to get, more acceptable.
That’s when I got in. With “To Cry You A Song.” A riff on riff rock. You only had to hear it once to get it. With its bass line and spacy vocal. Never forget, the critics, the early adopters, always think they’re better than the audience, they even decried Led Zeppelin and the Doors. If they’re just like the listener, how can they feel good about themselves?
But just like the previous Tull albums, “Benefit” was eminently playable, you didn’t have to lift the needle to skip tracks, you could let a side play through. And I must profess that I liked the second side best, the one that opened with “To Cry You a Song.”
“A Time for Everything” was a jaunt through the hills, you immediately locked on and became animated.
And “Inside” contained the opposite ethos from today:
“I’m sitting on the corner feeling glad
Got no money coming in, but I can’t be sad”
Then again, this was when you could make it on minimum wage, when you could depend on the government for a safety net.
And the side-ender, “Sossity: You’re a Woman”…it was dreamy, it hearkened back to “Stand Up,” but the critics had already decided Jethro Tull had jumped the shark.
And then came “Aqualung.”
Actually, first came “My God,” that’s what radio played first, in advance of the album release if you were in the right market. This fit right into the oeuvre, at the end of the free-format era, a seven minute exploration that was dark and sometimes heavy, both in sound and meaning.
“My God” opened side two.
The title track opened side one. And it was instantly embraced across the land. Now the message was clear, it was FM that counted, that’s what America’s youth was tuning into, and like “To Cry You a Song,” “Aqualung” had a heavy bass line, and had a pseudo-heavy meaning, that was seen as pretentious, but this was back when most of the public was way behind New York and Los Angeles, where the critics lived.
But it didn’t stop with “My God” and “Aqualung.” “Cross-Eyed Mary” was ubiquitous, but even more you heard “Locomotive Breath,” you still hear “Locomotive Breath.” And “Hymn 43” and “Mother Goose” and… Jethro Tull had crossed over. First they were an insiders’ band, now they were everybody’s band.
Then came “Thick as a Brick.”
I needed to hear Jethro Tull. Happens every once in a while, it’s the only thing that will satiate me, it takes me to another place, not one of depression, but of hope, where I’m alone in my identity and it’s just fine.
Whether I start with “Stand Up” or “Benefit” depends on my mood. If I need soothing, I begin with “Stand Up.” If I need to be exuberant, if I need music to ride shotgun against this unfair world, I play “Benefit.”
This time I started with “Benefit.”
And I forgot one other reason I love listening to Tull today, why it calls out to me, it’s the Steven Wilson remixes. Normally I’m against remixing, it’s sacrilegious, you don’t want to change the sound of classic albums, it’d be like some horror movie where someone rearranged your memories, which are set in stone. But somehow Wilson just manages to scrape away all the detritus to allow all the instruments to shine through, the remixes are positively revelatory, no matter what playback and listening system you’re using. They’re astounding. Suddenly, “To Cry You A Song” is not a morass of sound, but two distinct channels, oftentimes with separate guitars in each, you feel like you’re in the studio, you’re closer than you’ve ever been.
And at this point, my favorite track on “Benefit” is the aforementioned “A Time for Everything,” which there certainly no longer is, as I get older in this age of Covid. But that searing, incisive guitar, Martin Barre is never mentioned as one of the great guitarists, but he deserves to be.
But the first side of “Benefit” was not as rewarding as the second. It starts with “With You There to Help Me,” which is the opposite of a blistering Stones opener, rather it’s an invitation as to what is to come.
So I shifted to “Stand Up.” But the truth is “Stand Up” is darker than “Benefit,” it was bringing me down, it was depressing me, so I shifted to “This Was.” And unlike the later albums, “This Was” sounded like a period piece, it sounded like 1968, and that was creepy, I wasn’t nostalgic, I was looking to be propelled to a different dimension.
So I played “Thick as a Brick.”
This is the record that’s denigrated the most. Somehow people have forgotten “A Passion Play,” the opus which followed it, which is inferior. You see it’s easy to criticize those who test limits, who do something new, especially if you’re predisposed to laugh at the act to begin with.
After “A Passion Play,” Jethro Tull changed course. It returned to putting out albums with the traditional ten tunes or so, and radio and the public embraced this work. Tull was all over the radio, I’m sure you remember “Bungle in the Jungle,” and they sold out arenas everywhere, and when this arc finally ran its course, the band had an unsuspected comeback with “Crest of a Knave,” this is the album that won that Grammy back in 1989. And it certainly wasn’t metal, but it truly was a comeback. “Farm on the Freeway” could have been on any of the big hit albums, and radio played it incessantly, along with the four other singles the label released from the album. And that’s another thing, let’s never forget that Tull built Chrysalis, no band, no label.
And the truth is so many acts were jealous, they were done. They’d had their hits, they were already on the oldies circuit, how had the derided Jethro Tull come back? Well, maybe it’s because Ian Anderson had a sense of melody.
But let’s go back to 1972, and “Thick as a Brick.”
There was heavy anticipation, after all “Aqualung” was a smash, and this was back in the era where you bought the album after the hit unheard, without asking any questions, without knowing much about it. And when you dropped the needle, and that’s how we listened to it, this was not only before CDs, but cassettes, although 8-tracks had some penetration, you were immediately invited in. A sweet acoustic guitar from over the hills and then Ian’s vocal and flute being the pied piper that kept you listening. And listen you did. Because you’d bought it, and you didn’t own much, and what you invested your money in you played over and over until you liked it.
Today, on streaming services, they say there are eight songs on the LP, but that’s not how it was back in ’72. There was the first side and the second. Just one continuous groove on each side, you couldn’t drop the needle for a specific track, you had to listen all the way through.
And what an adventure it was. The sound changed. There were movements. Alternately heaviness and sweetness.
Of course FM played an excerpt. Unlike with “A Passion Play.” But really “Thick as a Brick” was made for home listening. Over and over again.
As for the lyrics…they didn’t seem to matter. Sure, someone was thick as a brick, a basic concept, but where was the band going?
One thing was for sure, they didn’t care where anybody else was going. Not only did no one sound like Tull, no one was making albums with one song only. It was a risk, and they pulled it off. This was quite different from the commerce of the late seventies and eighties, where albums were labored over for a year and then singles were dripped out to the public over a period of years, trying to reach the largest audience possible.
“Thick as a Brick” was not made for newbies, but fans. And Tull certainly had them. To the point where “Thick as a Brick” was just seen as another element of the canon.
But then there was the packaging. This was in the era if you didn’t have a gatefold cover you were nobody. But there was more than the gatefold, the album resembled nothing so much as an entire newspaper. All referring to the themes in the album. There was a whole universe, you could listen and read, you could belong. You didn’t purchase “Thick as a Brick” on a whim, but one thing was for sure, if you purchased it you dove deep, there was so much information to be gleaned.
And by this time, 1972, it was the big stereo age, not made fun of until “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” in 1982. You saved your pennies, you worked menial jobs just to save enough money for the best stereo you could buy. People discussed not only speaker and amplifier brands, but cartridges, what stew of ingredients was going to reveal the best sound, so you could literally go inside the music.
That era has never returned. First it was overtaken by cheap all-in-ones, which were inherently crappy. And then boom boxes. And then headphones. To the point where today we’re used to bad sound, and the bass in recordings is turned up because otherwise it would go unheard, no one has a 12″ woofer, and not many have a subwoofer either. Music is not stationary, it’s listened to on the move, and it’s background.
Now since it was only one long song it’s not like you could run around singing the songs in your head, never mind out loud. About all you could reproduce was the above words, “Really don’t mind if you sit this one out…” But every time you listened to the LP, you learned more, more emerged, because it was quite a chunk to digest all at one time. And sometimes the sound washed over you, and then other times it made your ears prick up.
So I’m in front of the computer, listening to “Thick as a Brick.” Working. I can only really concentrate on what’s on the screen if I know the music by heart, which is certainly the case with “Thick as a Brick.” Still, elements still sounded new.
“I’ve come down from the upper class to mend your rotten ways My father was a man of power whom everyone obeyed”
This was a surprise, right there in the first side, when Tull seemed to be in a long instrumental adventure, suddenly there was this lyrical couplet that sounded straight out of a hit song, and then the band went back into its adventure, the verse was almost a wink to the audience, showing that the players were still aware you were there, were you listening?
And let’s never forget the dynamics. The track would go from exceedingly loud and in-your-face to quite quiet, it resembled nothing so much as classical music, which we’d all been exposed to, at home and in school. This was in our wheelhouse.
The second side is darker. Cathedral-like at first. The riff sounding like clarion bells. And then comes the gravitas:
“The poet and the wise man stand
Behind the gun, behind the gun
And signal for the crack of dawn
Light the sun, light the sun”
The band is still breaking ground, long after it’s made its point, it’s still exploring, this is an entire movie, an opera.
And then there’s another movement, there’s a sense of majesty. There’s action taking place.
“So come all ye young men who are building castles Kindly state the time of the year And join your voices in a hellish chorus Mark the precise nature of your fear”
This was light years more interesting than what was happening in class, where aged professors taught us the lessons of history, where it was anathema to live in the now.
So the track is racing along and then it goes into a march.
“So come on ye childhood heroes
Won’t you rise up from the pages
Of your comic books, your super-crooks
And show us all the way
Well make your will and testament
Won’t you join your local government
We’ll have Superman for president
Let Robin save the day”
Comic books? Superman and Robin? How did we go from the moors to the present-day, how did we go from darkness to light?
But then comes the surprises. The string flourishes, sounding closer to a ballet than rock. And some squealing keyboards.
And then that acoustic guitar intro comes back once again, for a final time:
“So you ride yourselves over the fields
As you make your animal deals
And your wise men don’t know how it feels To be thick as a brick”
Whew, how did he do that? How did he bring us back to where we began, when we least expected it. This was an aural thrill ride superior to anything at an amusement park. A ride built for one, that we all took individually, in houses and burgs throughout the planet. This was otherworldly, it fit no norms, the album came on a round platter, but that was about it.
And when the LP quietly ended, when you were set down gently back in your chair, with your feet on the ground, you were left in silence, with only your thoughts, pondering what you’d just been through. You hesitated to flip the album over, you weren’t quite ready for a breaking of the mood.
Chances are many deriding Jethro Tull listened to the band in its heyday. But whatever cool the band had evaporated after the second LP, so these arbiters of cool reject the act, if for no other reason they’re fearful of being judged.
And Chrysalis shifted to Blondie and Pat Benatar and was ultimately sold and today it’s all ancient history.
Unless you were there. You drop the needle, press play, and you’re brought right back. Steven Wilson has restored the sound to pristine brightness and depth. It’s all there on wax, on tape, in the files, essentially the same as it ever was, in an era where almost nothing is, especially yourself.
And it’s not of a time, because Jethro Tull was never part of the scene, being outside it the music is as fresh today as it was yesterday.
Then again, there was context, evolution. If you were alive in the era you knew the band’s roots, you knew where it came from, you were prepared for where it was going. But with no reference points, it’s somewhat hard for the younger generations to understand. The music is more comprehensible than the finally anointed prog rock of Yes and its compatriots, but it still has not been accepted as worthy of comment, of renewal and exploration.
And with no champion it will remain this way. Until one day Ian Anderson dies and then everybody will come out of the woodwork and say how great he was, how majestic and singular the music he created was. Can’t we do this while he’s still alive?
Responses from Bob’s readers. Please note that the comments are unedited for grammar or content.
I’ve grinned as I read each response as I too am a five decade Ian superfan. But I had to write as no one yet has mentioned the single factor that vaults him into rarified air among my favorite artists….his ability to continue generating compelling art decades after his peers settle for milking the most from their glory years.
Pull up track ten from 2012’s TAAB2, A Change of Horses released when Ian was in his mid sixties. Set your stereo to appropriate Tull levels, pull up the lyrics and see if this eight minute odyssey doesn’t speak to you like it does to me.
Resolute, the optimist
I ride fresh horse and carry on
Four hundred thousand hours
Have come and gone.
At 62, I spend my days meeting my insurance clients needs to meet the bills, but increasingly find I invest my remaining time in volunteer work as Treasurer for an underserved kid’s camp vs chasing new clients. Sometimes I feel a tinge of resignation that the “go get ’em” years are behind me, but I’m an optimist at heart so my inclination is to look forward rather than back. And decades after Ian’s art first spoke to me, he’s still speaking to me and putting a bounce in my step at 62 as I look forward!
Long time reader who enjoys every post,
Thanks to this band I had the best line of the night at a NARAS function years ago. We were going around the room introducing ourselves and indicating our area of expertise. I recited my name and mentioned that I was currently producing a gangsta rap tribute to the music of Ian Anderson, entitled “Death Row Tull.” Took a beat or two for people to realize I was kidding.
Stand Up was the first album I ordered by mail order as a teenager in NZ from the then new Virgin Records. Fabulous album, and of course a great cover. Many years later I interviewed Ian Anderson by phone when, for some reason, he was in the US – a tour/new album perhaps – too long ago to recall. But I do remember him being very intelligent and courteous. A great body of work, shamefully underestimated and appreciated. Keep up the good work.
When I was in college outside of Burlington, we drove over to Plattsburgh State to see Jethro Tull. At that point you had to drive north almost into Canada to get from Vermont into New York. ‘Thick as a Brick’ had just been released. John Evan had been hired to play keyboards. Anderson, Barre and Bunker along with Glenn Cornick rounded out the band. In your original article and all the subsequent responses, no mention was made of Mr. Cornick. His bass playing was so critical to Tull’s sound, especially on ’Stand Up’, my favorite. And how cool was that Gibson Explorer?
Tull was the music scene when I was in senior ‘study’ hall on LI high school. Aqualung! I absorbed and later bought earlier stuff in their catalog. TAAB was as a symphony. Incredible. Why they are not appreciated these days is dead wrong! And BTW I love ‘One White Duck’ etc from that one!
Just to add to the memories of Jethro Tull.
I first saw them at the Nottingham Albert Hall in October, 1970. It was the classic ‘Benefit’ line-up. They’d just returned from the Summer US Tour. They played ‘To Cry You A Song’, the re-tooled ‘Dharma for One’ and ‘A Song For Jeffrey, to name but a few. They were a fierce band and the Martin Barre/Glen Cornick axis worked superbly well. John Evan was great too and so musical. He’d yet to develop his zany stage presence.
I saw them again three years later at Wembley Empire Pool playing ‘A Passion Play’. What a contrast to what I had come before. It was a shock to the system. But I stuck with them.
A year later, I was the music correspondent for the University Of Manchester student newspaper. I had tickets for Jethro Tull on the ‘Bungle On The Jungle’ UK tour. I got a tip off on the hotel Ian and the band were staying at. So being an intrepid reporter, I staked out the lobby together with a photographer and waited. Sure enough, Ian walked in and we intercepted him. He wasn’t very happy but said he’d do an interview. He connected us with the Chrysalis PR guy who was on the tour. I think his name was Chris. Chris kept us busy for the rest of the day and we hung out with him at his hotel (The Manchester Piccadilly). I really thought we’d get an interview. But alas, Chris was a Chrysalis decoy. Can’t blame him. He was just doing his job. I still have fond memories of that fleeting meet-up with Ian in the Manchester Central Hotel.
Yes, Jethro Tull should be in the Hall Of Fame.
Damn you Bob!
I thought I was on hiatus from buying any more remastered CDs. But now, with the Wilson remixes, here I go again.
Loved your commentary on the band. I would not have even commented had the accolades stopped coming. But….
I have been a fan of Tull since the 60’s. Saw them several times throughout the late 60′ and 70’s in Chicago. 2x for the THAB tour. That they could create the same ambiance live as the recording is still a mystery to me. One thing I can say, they were even more awesome in concert than they were on vinyl. Sign of the times, I guess.
Loved their music then, still do now. Thanks for bringing focus back to such a seminal group! I’m listening to the MFSL version right now, and would not trade it for the world.
Keep up your good work. We all appreciate it!
492 letters and no love for Broadsword and the Beast??
(Just kidding I didn’t really count but damn) For a 14-yr-old into Tolkien and D&D, this was the perfect album.
“The second time was when they played Stony Brook University on Long Island on 4/25/71”
was at that show too!
I’ll just say that, to me, that “Thick As A Brick” was when Tull jumped the shark. This Was, Stand Up, and Benefit were GREAT. Everything they attempted after that was “meh” – poor imitations of the aforementioned albums. – Mark Towns
Greatest album jacket of all time… STAND UP !!!
My first concert was Tull at Cincinnati Gardens 1972. Fat Mattress opened. Tull played the whole TAB album including some dude hopping on stage in a bunny suit. My favorite band early on!
+1 for “Wond’ring Aloud”.
Wish you had included my favorite line from “Inside” after “sitting on the corner feeling glad, got no money coming in but i can’t be sad”, here it is:
“that was the best cup of coffee I ever had”.
one of my favorite lyrics from any lyricist. it just really captures the essence of freedom and being young, or in my case, retired.
No one mentioned so many brain cells destroyed by all that weed smoked to aqualung.
Thought this might interest you.
I am friends with my brothers old art instructor, Burt Silverman.
His painted was used for the cover of “Aqualung”.
I thought you might enjoy reading this story.
The painter behind Jethro Tull’s Aqualung cover is still haunted by its success: https://theoutline.com/post/4490/jethro-tull-aqualung-cover-artist-burton-silverman?zd=3&zi=gxkb6h42
I was fortunate enough to work for WEA in the 70s in Chicago and you knew that regardless of the FM rock format, the stations played Jethro Tull. No exceptions. And while Ian could be bit prickly at times, you knew that his focus was the music. Why Tull isn’t in the Hall is a travesty.
I receiived the 8 Track ‘A Passion Play’ for Christmas from my cousins.
A quick listen, and I thought it was rubbish…
In all fairness, I was only 12 at the time.
I have not listened to that recording since, but still have the 8 Track around some where and a working
8 Track Player.
I should give a listen. Of course spotify would be a touch more convenient.
I was not surprised to see the number of comments to your post about Jethro Tull. Even 50 years later Ian Anderson’s last concert in Forest Hills, which I attended, was sold out.
I hope you’ll allow me to add one more to the pile:
In 1974 I attended sleepaway camp in upstate New Yrok. For the annual talent show, I recruited my bunk mate to accompany me on acoustic guitar while I belted out a rendition of “Locomotive Breath” onstage in front of the whole camp. (I remember I had to slur the words “got him by the balls” lest I offend the camp administration) It was the first time I had ever sung anything on stage in front of an audience. Happily it was a big hit and I got a rousing ovation. I also heard that as a result of my performance the prettiest girl in camp now wanted to date me, which I proceeded to do for the rest of the summer. It was the first and only time I got to feel what it’s like to be a rock star. Thank you Jethro Tull.
I was a fan at 14 since Aqualung and of course then I bought Benefit, Stand Up and This Was which are three very different recordings.
Thick as a Brick changed my life as much as Close to the Edge and Tarkus did at the time and I was a huge fan. Passion Play was a downer as was Topographic for Yes but I loved Warchild, Songs from the Wood, Minstrel, Heavy Horses, Stormwatch. Broadsword was and is an absolute masterclass.
I met Ian outside the stage door at Manchester Free Trade Hall in the mid 70’s. I forget which tour as I’ve seen them so many times but he was drinking a bottle of Lowenbrau. We spoke briefly and this was when he still had the rich thick northern English accent. I asked him for a beer and he gave me the bottle he was drinking. I had met my hero.
Fast forward to the mid 90’s and several unremarkable JT albums later I was General Manager at Zomba Records in the UK and was invited by John Taylor at Virgin Retail (who knew I was a fan) to attend the party for the opening of their new store in Richmond where Ian would be playing a short acoustic set. John took me meet him after the show. The northern accent was gone, he was sublimely arrogant and talked about fucking gravadlax. I’ll never forget the disappointment but I still love and play the music. A hero – not a nice one – but a hero nonetheless.
I went through at least 2 vinyl copies of TAAB and Passion Play. I was a huge fan. The creativity has remained with our generation as what music should be. My university students once told me about that time, “We don’t have bands like that today.”
But, like many of your readers, I immediately remembered the shows of those albums. BTW, the roadies put on the trench coats one by one. So the crowd slowly noticed. I saw the Passion Play tour before hearing the album, thankfully. Seeing it live first was great.
About 10 minutes before the show, house lights up and the crowd talking, we noticed that “something” was different…a sound. We stopped and listened, but couldn’t discern anything over the room noises. A few minutes later, definitely something now. Later, sounds like a heartbeat? Yes. It got louder, oh so slowly and disturbingly, as more people noticed. Up until the lights suddenly came down and the cover photo appeared on a large screen above the band, heart loudly pounding. This eventually started to move and dance. Very bizzare. Can’t remember the rest of the soundtrack but the whole experience was fantastic in itself. Then the band hit, played the entire album and more. I think their greatest live song was probably “Cross-Eyed Mary.” They killed it each time I saw them.
Tull’s first states date was in the middle slot of a three act night at the Fillmore East in late January, 1969. Blood, Sweat and Tears was the headliner. I Don’t remember what act had originally been booked to open, but they were a late scratch and Bill got the Gay Despardo Steel Band to do the honors and he had them stream in down the aisles, steel drums pounding, to take the stage.
Even though most were there that night for BS&T, WNEW had created a bit of a buzz for this completely original and unique sounding band with a lanky, scraggly, flute playing front man, so there was a decent contingent there that just had to see witness this band live.
Ian and the band’s set that night was riveting. Encores weren’t routine those days – especially for non-headliners , but the level of pandemonium when Tull’s last note sounded was too strong to deny them one. Ditto the second encore, and there would have been a third, but the band begged off, saying someone wasn’t well enough to do another – an excuse that might have been a courtesy to David Clayton Thomas who had made a point of getting them back on the bill after Ian had been unable to perform due to illness at a previously booked date with BS&T at the venue.
Unfathomable that neither group is in the Rock Hall Of Fame.
One more note on Ian. I was at the Byron Bay Bluesfest in 2017 with my management client Jake Shimabukuro and we had dressing rooms in the same area as Ian and the Tull band. He walked outside near the small pond and i figured i would at least try to say hi to see if he would respond as i have heard he is not easy to approach. I said hello and told him i enjoyed the tour at the Ryman he had done showing videos at times during the show that he had recorded at his home and the stories he told. He said he appreciated that I enjoyed that tour as many of his fans did not. He mentioned most fans want the same show they had seen before. He thanked me for my comments, kind of smiled and wished us well. I have to say i was relieved that he did not tell me to f off which i had expected. Then he proceeded to play one hell of a Jethro Tull set! I often go to Apple Music, hit shuffle on Tull and pass the hours away still in awe of the music. Thanks Bob
Our Ian Anderson Story…
My band from Canada called The Tea Party found ourselves in the UK for the first time in 1994. We decided a tour before our debut record was released was a good idea but alas we were a bit ambitious and we were unfortunately off of everyone’s radar. The tour weaved it’s way through the English countryside stopping at all the small pubs on the touring circuit including the small Princess Charlotte in Leicester, which was made famous by hosting Radiohead, Oasis and Coldplay on their first tours. We finished soundcheck and tour manager said someone wanted to say hello in the back room. We entered the small room and we were announced formally, “The Tea Party please meet Ian Anderson” It turned out that Ian had signed a deal with Chrysalis and had got his hands and ears on our debut and wanted to hook up. It was a fruitful exchange of pleasantries. He loved our informed take on retro rock and we gushed over his contributions to the canon of the aforementioned genre. We made plans to record together but nothing came of it. We’d try to hook up on the 8 or 9 subsequent tours but the schedules never aligned.
Cut to twenty years later when we are recording the title track to our Ocean at the End record. Jeff Martin our guitarist and producer suggested I hop on the old mellotron and lay down a sympathetic flute line. After a minute of doodling around I had an epiphany and it struck me that this song was perfect for Ian to join us on. It had been so long since we spoke but we hooked it up and he laid done two incredible tracks for us to include on the song. We were in headphone bliss once we tacked on a bit of reverb and delay. The studio in Toronto, Revolution Studios, had an egg chair with speakers retro fitted into it. It was an ideal place to trip out to the rough mixes. We were blessed to be able to work with him and we’ll never forget his kindness. Looking forward to Ian and the rest of Jethro Tull’s eventual induction into the RRHOF.
All the best,
The Tea Party/composer
Link to our 8m30s song featuring Ian Anderson of flute, The Ocean at the End (about 1/3 of the length as Thick as a Brick (Pt.1)!
Back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, Jethro Tull was the best live band on the road. We’d go see them every time they came through Los Angeles. We saw pretty much all the classic rock bands through the years, and nobody put on a better live show. Between Ian Anderson’s songwriting and showmanship and Martin Barre’s guitar work, there just wasn’t a rock and roll band that did it better. Many times we’d see another concert the same week that we’d see Tull play, and there was never a comparison. As soon as they started, we’d look at each other and just say, “now that’s how it’s supposed to be done!” You could, see, hear, and even feel the difference.
We’ve never worried about whether our friends liked Jethro Tull as a band or whether their music appealed to them. Their sound was unique and everyone has their own taste in music. For us, their music is certainly one of those we go to whenever nothing else seems to hit just right. We doubt Ian Anderson cares whether the politically skewed “R&RHoF” inducts them or not. They have certainly inducted a handful of bands that don’t belong, devaluing the whole institution, while ignoring a number of quality artists who belong. It’s all politics, not rock and roll.
Jethro Tull’s “Songs From The Wood” is probably THE “comfort” album for us… one of the dozen or so albums we go back to that just brings back a special time and feel and that we can listen to all the way through any time, any day. Definitely a top album and right up there with “Stand Up,” “Aqualung,” and “Thick As A Brick”. And we do think that “Heavy Horses,” “The Broadsword and the Beast,” and “Rock Island” are under-appreciated… and probably always will be.
It was great reading your TAAB review, and equally great reading everyone’s comments about one of our favorite bands.
As always, thank you!
Russ & Julie
Russ & Julie’s House Concerts
Long time reader (over a decade), first time responder.
Back in the late ’60s/early mid-70s when I was a total prog rock snob drummer (before I got hip to The Groove in the late 70s), Jethro Tull ruled my world, had their first five albums and wore them out multiple times, though I didn’t really get the first two until acquiring Benefit, and then Aqualung and TAAB, that’s when they all suddenly made sense.
JT first showed up on my radar back in 1969, when I happened to see a PBS TV show featuring them at the Newport Jazz Festival as a trio, Mick Abrahams had just left, their unique flute-based Jazz trio sound turned my head around, had never heard anything like it back then… Ian’s captivating flute stylings also turned me on to the great Rhasaan Roland Kirk years later, but that is another story for another time…. And Clive Bunker…! One of my early drum idols, a true drumming heavyweight.
I was fortunate to see most of the great rock touring acts of the time — Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Argent, Ten Years After, Iron Butterfly, Edgar and Johnny Winter, etc, etc (regrettably missed Jimi, Cream, and King Crimson, I was too young)… The only live show that could top JT at the time imho was the legendary Led Zeppelin, I was one of the 58,600+ people who saw the Tampa stadium show the second night of their HOTH tour, on May 5th 1973.
First saw JT during their TAAB tour in 1971 (took my SAT tests the next day with no sleep, did much better than expected) remember the entire show and encores, also saw their Passion Play tour in 1972 (don’t remember any of it except for the dancer, stage schtick, and the encore reprise of TAAB and Aqualung), and most recently their 25th Anniversary tour in 1994.
Back in ’71-’72, their live sound was best in class, utilizing 16 of those John Meyer designed high fidelity Tychobrahe PA cabinets… JT live was the only act of the era imho that could compete with my dual pair of Advents / Harman-Kardon / Gerard / Ortofon stereo system for sonic quality, carefully bought with odd jobs and gig money, piece by piece, of course.
LZ’s sound was also great though not quite as accurate to me, with their Showco/Clair Bros mega PA system expertly mixed by the legendary late ML Procise, who later famously mixed ZZ Top etc, until he retired from the road.
JT’s live stage act and onstage schtick was memorable, even to this day, there was always something going on to capture your interest, often Ian acting bug-eyed hysterical, punctuated by something crazy going on in the vicinity of the drums and/or keyboards…
JT always put on expertly crafted live shows, well worth the $3.50/$3.75 ticket price at the time (I paid a staggering $6.00 to see Led Zeppelin in ’73…!).
That early 70s JT lineup was superb, though Doane Perry is still my favorite on drums, wish I’d seen Clive live (and regrettably missed the late Mark Craney)…
And Martin Barre? Absolutely essential to the JT sound over the years, just not the same without him, what an amazing guitarist and songwriter… Learned electric guitar by playing Aqualung and Locomotive Breath until I got it right, some of the very best classic riff rock ever, even taught the guitarists in my first cover bands how to play both these songs…
And why on God’s green Earth is JT not in the RRHoF?
How did this travesty occur? Somebody fix this asap, please.
Bob, many thanks for the Steven Wilson remix mentions, I had somehow totally missed these, am rebuilding and completing my JT collection with these as soon as they arrive via Amazon, have my Sennheiser 580 headphones / tube amp at the ready…
Keep up the great writing Bob, always read your missives as they arrive in my Inbox… Stay Safe, Be Well, All the Best…
=BobBB= The DrumBuddha https://DrumBuddha.com
I hope you are well. I should have written this note a few days ago, but I’ve just found a moment to share a vivid memory. It must’ve been around 1982 and I was working briefly washing dishes at a seafood joint in St. Tropez. While outside on a break one evening, I saw a bearded man on the dock wearing what looked like a cape and playing a flute. I walked towards him and sure enough it was Ian. I moved a bit closer and just took in the amazing scene…
I was a massive Tull fan, and chancing upon the mighty Ian Anderson casually playing on a random dock was the greatest experience that I had in St. Tropez, and that’s saying something.