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Jethro Tull were a British rock group. Having more than 20 official members over the years, their music is characterised by the vocals, acoustic guitar, and flute playing of Ian Anderson, who led the band since its founding, and the guitar work of Martin Barre, who had been with the band since 1969, after he replaced original guitarist Mick Abrahams.
Formed in Luton, Bedfordshire, in December 1967, initially playing experimental blues rock, they later incorporated elements of classical music, folk music, jazz, hard rock and art rock into their music.
They achieved success early in 1969 with their Top 1 album in UK Stand Up, touring on both sides of the Atlantic and appearing in most of the festivals of 1969–70. But it was with the world-acclaimed album Aqualung (1971) that Jethro Tull established themselves in rock history. Together with Thick as a Brick (1972), the band conquered the annals of Progressive Rock history, making an album that summarises the notion of concept album in the 70's. Maybe the two works that more define the group sounding and the front-man idiosyncrasies would be the Minstrel in the Gallery (1975) and the Songs from the Wood (1977) albums, both with good selling, acceptance between the fans and classics there are played in concerts of all Jethro Tull carrier. Two decades after their founding, the band earned the Grammy for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance, Vocal or Instrumental for their Crest of a Knave (1987) album – which increased and sustained their fame through the years. In this wave of success, Jethro Tull have sold more than 60 million albums worldwide. They have been described by Rolling Stone as "one of the most commercially successful and eccentric progressive rock bands".
The last works released as a group were in 2003, though the band continued to tour until 2011. In April 2014, Anderson stated that "Jethro Tull" as a band was no more, wanting to leave the legacy of the name as he continued his solo career.
Ian Anderson started his first band, the Blades, in Blackpool, England in 1962. The group featured Anderson on vocals and harmonica, Jeffrey Hammond on bass, John Evans on drums, and a guitarist named either Hipgrave or Michael Stephans. Drummer Barrie Barlow became a member in 1963 after Evans had switched from drums to piano. By 1964 the band had developed into a seven-piece Blue-eyed soul band called the John Evan Band (later the John Evan Smash). By this point Evans had shortened his surname to "Evan" at the insistence of Hammond, who thought it sounded better and more unusual.
In 1967, the band moved to the London area, basing themselves in nearby Luton, where Ian and Cornick lived in the "worst little apartments you ever saw and we were so poor that we would share one can of stew or soup between us each evening", said Glenn, who still aided: "the song 'We Used To Know' from 'Stand Up' as it tells that story". Apart from Luton, they also travelled to Liverpool. However, money remained short and within days of the move most of the band quit and headed back north, leaving Anderson and bassist Glenn Cornick to join forces with blues guitarist Mick Abrahams and his friend, drummer Clive Bunker, both from the Luton-based band McGregor's Engine. At first, the new band had trouble getting repeat bookings and they took to changing their name frequently to continue playing the London club circuit. Band names were often supplied by their booking agents' staff, one of whom, a history enthusiast, eventually christened them "Jethro Tull" after the 18th-century agriculturist. The name stuck because they happened to be using it the first time a club manager liked their show enough to invite them to return. Though Anderson felt "proud" of how the band represented the name, sometimes leading to discussions about Tull's contributions to farming, he felt "a little bit guilty because [he's] ripped something off that wasn't really [his] to do".
They were signed to the blossoming Ellis-Wright agency, and became the third band managed by the soon-to-be Chrysalis empire. It was around this time that Anderson purchased a flute after becoming frustrated with his inability to play guitar like Eric Clapton:
"I didn't want to be just another third-rate guitar player who sounded like a bunch of other third-rate guitar players. I wanted to do something that was a bit more idiosyncratic, hence the switch to another instrument. When Jethro Tull began, I think I'd been playing the flute for about two weeks. It was a quick learning curve...literally every night I walked onstage was a flute lesson."
Released in 1968, their first single, "Sunshine Day", written by Abrahams and produced by Derek Lawrence, was commercially unsuccessful. On the original UK MGM 45 rpm record label, the group's name was misspelled "Jethro Toe", making it a collector's item. Anderson questions the misnomer as a way to avoid paying royalties. The more common version, with the name spelled correctly, is actually a counterfeit made in New York.
They released their first album This Was in 1968, with "no experience with recording and almost no money", as says Glenn Cornick. In addition to music written by Anderson and Abrahams the album included the traditional "Cat's Squirrel", which highlighted Abrahams' blues-rock style. The Rahsaan Roland Kirk –penned jazz piece "Serenade to a Cuckoo" gave Anderson a showcase for his growing talents on the flute, an instrument which he started learning to play only half a year before the release of the album. The overall sound of the group at this time was described in the Record Mirror by Anderson in 1968 as "a sort of progressive blues with a bit of jazz."
Following this album, Abrahams left after a falling out with Anderson and formed his own band, Blodwyn Pig. There were a number of reasons given for Abrahams' departure: he was a blues purist, while Anderson wanted to branch out into other forms of music; Abrahams was unwilling to travel internationally or play more than three nights a week; or there was simply no way a band could exist with two strong-minded heads (Anderson and Abrahams) pulling it in different directions. Abrahams himself described his reasons more succinctly: "I was fed up with all the nonsense, and I wanted to form a band like Blodwyn Pig."
Guitarist Tony Iommi, from the group Earth (later renamed Black Sabbath), took on guitar duties for a short time after the departure of Abrahams, appearing in The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus, in which the group mimed "A Song for Jeffrey" in December 1968. Iommi returned to Earth thereafter. David O'List of The Nice also deputised on guitar with Jethro Tull for a few shows and was briefly considered as a permanent replacement for Abrahams, although these plans never materialised.
Developing their own style (1969–71)
See main article: Stand Up
You don't consciously change the direction of your music. It just happens naturally, so we were all shocked when the album [Stand Up] was released and people said, 'Oh, they're not playing blues anymore'. – Glenn Cornick
After auditions for a replacement guitarist in December 1968, Anderson chose Martin Barre, a former member of Motivation, Penny Peeps, and Gethsemane, who was playing with Noel Redding's Fat Mattress at the time. Barre was so nervous at his first audition that he could hardly play at all, and then showed up for a second audition without an amplifier or a cord to connect his guitar to another amp. Nevertheless, Barre would become Abrahams' permanent replacement on guitar and the second longest-standing member of the band after Anderson. Another contender for the job, Steve Howe, later guitarist with Yes, failed his audition.
This new line-up released Stand Up in 1969, the group's only UK number-one album. The LP unfolded to a photo insert of the band attached to the covers like a pop-up book. Written entirely by Anderson – with the exception of the jazzy rearrangement of J. S. Bach's Bourrée in E minor BWV 996 (fifth movement) – it branched out further from the blues, clearly evidencing a new direction for the group, which would come to be categorised as progressive rock alongside such diverse groups as Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Genesis, Camel, The Nice, Gentle Giant, and Yes. A couple of months prior to the sessions for this album, the band recorded one of their best-known songs, "Living in the Past", which was originally issued only as a single. Despite its unconventional 5/4 time signature, the song reached number three in the UK charts. Although most other progressive groups actively resisted issuing singles at the time, Jethro Tull had further success with their other singles, "Sweet Dream" (1969) and "The Witch's Promise" (1970), which hit the radios and became very popular. Later, the five-track EP, Life Is a Long Song (1971) also sell well – in fact all of this singles and EP made the top twenty.
About the change in the sound and the public reaction, Barre recalls: "The audience went wild for the new songs, and you could hear a huge sigh of relief from the band that the show had gone down so well. It was really the turning point for Jethro Tull — for everything that we were to become and everything we were to inspire in others."
Stand Up allowed the band to explore sounds that interested them, as well being very popular and commercially succesful, characteristics that would come to define Jethro Tull.
Benefit and Isle of Wight
See main articles: Benefit and Isle of Wight
In 1970, they added keyboardist John Evan (initially as a guest musician) and released the album Benefit. This recording had a more hard-rocking sound, transcending from the remaining blues influences of its predecessor, Stand Up. Also, Jethro Tull started to incorporate more advanced studio techniques, such as backward-recorded flute (on "With You There To Help Me") and piano, and sped-up guitar (on "Play in Time"). The "Teacher" single from this album was a hit in both the US and UK, and album sales were also good, hitting No. 3 in the UK and No. 11 in the US. Because of the success of both the singles and the Benefit album (along with the still-selling Stand Up), Jethro Tull began to sell out 20,000-seat arenas, establishing themselves as a premier live act. By March 1970, Jethro Tull got offered to play in a 120,000-seat stadium, which the band refused, since the largest place they played so far had "only" 70,000 seats.
One of the band's finest performances was made with this line up, at the 1970 Isle of Wight festival, which can be seen in their 2004 DVD, Nothing Is Easy: Live at the Isle of Wight 1970. The DVD presents the band, the festival, and includes an Ian Anderson interview, explaning the early sound of Jethro Tull. In the festival itself, the audience were entertained by a rehearsal/sound-check by Jethro Tull on Sunday morning. Their presentation that night was placed between The Moody Blues and Jimi Hendrix.
See main article: Aqualung
In December 1970, bassist Cornick was "invited to leave" by Jethro Tull manager Terry Ellis, as he had become distanced from the other more reclusive band members, and he formed the band Wild Turkey. He was replaced by Jeffrey Hammond, the childhood friend and former Blades bandmate of Anderson's and Evan's whose name appeared in the titles of the songs "A Song for Jeffrey", "Jeffrey Goes to Leicester Square", "For Michael Collins, Jeffrey, and Me", and in the lyrics of the Benefit album track, "Inside". Hammond was often credited on Jethro Tull albums as "Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond", a reference to the fact that Hammond's mother's maiden name was also Hammond, no relation to his father.
This line-up released Jethro Tull's best-known work, Aqualung, in 1971. On this album, Anderson's lyrics included strong opinions about religion. The song "Hymn 43" was released as a single, and the album provided plenty of FM radio fodder with the tracks "Aqualung", "Cross-Eyed Mary" and "Locomotive Breath". The Aqualung album would become the band's first to crack the US top ten, reaching No. 7 in June 1971. It sold over one million copies and was awarded a gold disc by the RIAA in July 1971.
Deep into Progressive Rock (1972–76)
Life's a Long Song and Thick as a Brick
See main article: Thick as a Brick
Because of the heavy touring schedule and his wish to spend more time with his family, drummer Bunker quit the group after the Aqualung album and was replaced by Barrie Barlow (who was rechristened "Barriemore" by Anderson) in early 1971. Barlow first recorded with the band for the EP Life Is a Long Song and made his first appearance on a Jethro Tull album with 1972's Thick as a Brick. Disagreeing with the assessment from some music critics that Aqualung (1971) had been a concept album, Ian Anderson decided to give them "the mother of all concept albums", including the preposterous idea that the lyrics had been written by an eight-year-old boy. The album consisted of a single track running 43:46 (an innovation previously unheard of in rock music) split over the two sides of the LP, with a number of movements melded together and some repeating themes. The first movement with its distinctive acoustic guitar riff received some airplay on rock stations at the time. Thick as a Brick was the first Tull album to reach number one on the (US) Billboard Pop Albums chart (the following year's A Passion Play being the only other). This album's quintet – Anderson, Barre, Evan, Hammond, and Barlow – lasted until the end of 1975, and was, in essence, a reunion of The Blades, with Barre being the only member of Jethro Tull who had not been in The Blades.
In 1972 American music critic Robert Christgau commented:
Tull defies analysis so successfully that it has inspired no imitations while building its following in nine US tours over three-plus years. Any bunch of funky opportunists can come up with a variation on white blues or country rock or Memphis boogie. Tull's concept is much more complex and more difficult to execute.
Because its fans have been known to get involved in riots—not only the modest ticket melee that preceded this appearance but at least one major tear-gas affair, in Denver in 1971—and because it has spawned groups like Blodwyn Pig and Wild Turkey, there is a tendency to lump Tull with the so-called heavy bands. This is like calling the Mothers psychedelic because they entitle an album Freak Out! The analogy is doubly apt because Ian Anderson, Tull's vocalist-flutist-guitarist-composer and conceptmaster, is both an admirer and, it turns out, an imitator of Frank Zappa. If Jethro Tull can be categorised at all, it is as a supercommercial Mothers of Invention.
1972 also saw the release of Living in the Past, a double-album compilation of remixed singles, B-sides and outtakes (including the entirety of the Life Is a Long Song EP, which closes the album), with the third side recorded live in 1970 at New York's Carnegie Hall concert. With this album's release, the "Living in the Past" single gained popularity in the US, becoming the band's first Top 20 hit there (reaching No. 11).
The Chateau D'Isaster and Passion Play
See main article: Passion Play
In 1973, while in tax exile, the band attempted to produce a double album at France's Château d'Hérouville studios (something The Rolling Stones and Elton John among others were doing at the time), but supposedly they were unhappy with the quality of the recording studio and abandoned the effort, subsequently mocking the studio as the "Chateau d'Isaster". (An 11-minute excerpt was released on the 1988 20 Years of Jethro Tull boxed set, and the complete "Chateau d'Isaster Tapes" were finally released on the 1993 compilation Nightcap, with overdubbed flute lines where the vocal parts were missing.) They returned to England and Anderson rewrote, quickly recorded, and released A Passion Play (1973), another single-track concept album, with allegorical lyrics focusing on the afterlife. Just as "Thick as a Brick" had, A Passion Play contained instrumentation rather uncommon in rock music. The album also featured an interlude, "The Story of the Hare Who Lost His Spectacles", which was co-written (along with Anderson and Evan) and narrated by bassist Hammond. A Passion Play sold well but received generally poor reviews, including a particularly damning review of its live performance by Chris Welch of Melody Maker.
War Child and Minstrel in the Gallery
See main articles: War Child and Minstrel in the Gallery
Even as the band's popularity with critics began to wane around this time, their popularity with the public remained strong, as evidenced by high sales of their follow-up album, 1974's War Child. Originally intended to be a companion piece for a film, it reached number two on the US Billboard charts and received some critical acclaim, and produced the radio mainstays "Bungle in the Jungle" and "Skating Away (On the Thin Ice of the New Day)". It also included a short acoustic song, "Only Solitaire", widely thought to be aimed at L.A. Times rock music critic Robert Hilburn, who wrote a harsh review of the Passion Play concerts at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. However, other War Child reviews (and later Anderson interviews) confirm the song came from the aborted 1973 "Chateau d'Isaster" compositions (thus pre-dating Hilburn's review), and is therefore aimed at music critics in general. The War Child tour also featured a female string quartet playing along with the group on the new material.
In 1975, the band released Minstrel in the Gallery, an album which resembled Aqualung (1971) in that it contrasted softer, acoustic-guitar-based pieces with lengthier, more bombastic works headlined by Barre's electric guitar. Written and recorded during Anderson's divorce from his first wife Jennie Franks, the album is characterised by introspective, cynical, and sometimes bitter lyrics. Critics gave it mixed reviews, but the album came to be acknowledged as one of the band's best by longtime Jethro Tull fans, even as it generally fell under the radar to listeners familiar only with Aqualung (1971). By this point Jethro Tull had been awarded six R.I.A.A. gold records for sales of Stand Up (1969), Aqualung (1971), Thick as a Brick (1972), Living in the Past (1972), A Passion Play (1973) and Minstrel in the Gallery (1975).
For the 1975 tour, David Palmer, who had long been the band's orchestra arranger, officially joined the band's stage show on keyboards and synthesisers. In February 1975 Jethro Tull sold out five nights at the 20,000-seat Los Angeles Forum, prompting Melody Maker to run the headline "Jethro – Now The World's Biggest Band?". After the tour, bassist Hammond quit the band to pursue painting – thus ending the Hammond-Hammond era. John Glascock, who earlier was playing with flamenco-rock band Carmen, a support band on the previous Jethro Tull tour, became the band's new bassist.
Too Old to Rock 'n' Roll: Too Young to Die!
See main article: Too Old to Rock 'n' Roll: Too Young to Die!
1976's Too Old to Rock 'n' Roll: Too Young to Die! was another concept album, this time about the life of an ageing rocker (which Anderson insisted was not autobiographical). Anderson, stung by critical reviews (particularly of A Passion Play), responded on Too Old... with more sharply-barbed lyrics. John Glascock made his first appearence on a Jethro Tull album, contributing backing vocals along with strong bass lines, as can be heard in the track "Quizz Kid". David Palmer, becoming more and more integrated with the band and Anderson, recorded two tracks as guest musician, in addition to the already common orchestra arrangements he had provided for Jethro Tull since the first album.
For the 1976 tour, the shows quickly sold out and the venues continued to enlarge, so Jethro Tull became one of the first bands to use giant screens for stadium shows – nicknamed "Tull-A-Vision".
A television special was recorded showing the development of the album's concept in a live show with the band (fully dressed in the most rock-hard-tongue-in-cheek outfits), but the programme was never officially released.
Folk rock trilogy (1977–79)
At the end of the 1970s, Jethro Tull released a trio of folk rock albums, Songs from the Wood (1977), Heavy Horses (1978), and Stormwatch (1979). Songs from the Wood (1977) was the first Tull album to receive generally positive reviews since the release of Living in the Past (1972).
The band had long had ties to folk rockers Steeleye Span (Tull were the backing band on Steeleye Span front woman Maddy Prior's 1978 solo album Woman in the Wings as a way of repaying her for contributing vocals on the Too Old to Rock 'n' Roll: Too Young to Die! album) and with Fairport Convention (Fairport members Dave Pegg, Martin Allcock, Dave Mattacks and Ric Sanders have all played with Tull at one point or another, as well as folk drummer Gerry Conway who became a Fairport member after playing with Tull). Although not formally considered a part of the folk rock movement (which had actually begun nearly a decade earlier with the advent of Fairport Convention), there was clearly an exchange of musical ideas among Tull and the folk rockers. By this time, Anderson had moved to a farm in the countryside, and his new bucolic lifestyle was clearly reflected on these albums, as in the title track of Heavy Horses (1978), a paean to draught horses.
About the albums' style, Ian Anderson said that the "cheerfulness" of Songs from the Wood contrasts with the "drackness" of Heavy Horses in the same way Stand Up contasts with Benefit. In other words, Anderson reflects: "When you're making an album every year, I think you do tend to oscillate between having feelings of cheerfulness followed by feelings of introspection. I think that's true of these two albums, and they do hang together as a pair."
The band continued to tour, and released a live double album in 1978. Recorded during the European leg of the Heavy Horses tour and entitled Bursting Out, it featured dynamic live performances from the line-up that many Jethro Tull fans consider to comprise the golden era of the band. During the US leg of this tour, John Glascock suffered health problems and was replaced by Anderson's friend and former Stealers Wheel bassist, Tony Williams.
Their third folk influenced album, Stormwatch, was released in 1979; this is considered the end of an era for the classic Tull period as Glascock, after having open heart surgery the previous year, died in his home of heart complications. Anderson completed the bass parts for the unfinished songs on the album, and Dave Pegg of Fairport Convention took the bass responsibilities for the Stormwatch tour.
The "Big Split" and electronic rock (1980–84)
Following the Stormwatch tour, Jethro Tull would undergo its largest line-up shuffle to date. Barrie Barlow, depressed and withdrawn after the death of his "closest friend" Glascock, quit the band soon after the tour ended. Moreover, Palmer and Evan found their futures in the band to be murky with Anderson's announcement that he wanted to work on a solo album. The two moved on to other projects, immediately including a collaboration that resulted in a classical-based pop/rock band called Tallis. Jethro Tull was left with Anderson (the only original member) and Barre.
Tull's first album of the 1980s was intended to be Ian Anderson's first solo album. Anderson retained Barre on electric guitar and Dave Pegg on bass, while adding Mark Craney on drums, and special guest keyboardist/violinist Eddie Jobson (ex–Roxy Music, Frank Zappa, Curved Air and UK, the last of which had opened for several shows on Tull's Stormwatch tour). Highlighted by the prominent use of synthesisers, it contrasted sharply with the established "Tull sound". After pressure from Chrysalis Records, Anderson decided to release it as a Jethro Tull album. Entitled A (taken from the labels on the master tapes for his scrapped solo album, marked simply "A" for "Anderson"), it was released in mid-1980.
In keeping with the mood of innovation surrounding the album, Jethro Tull made an early foray into the emerging genre of music video with Slipstream, a film which takes place at London's Hammersmith Odeon (which was used for exterior scenes). However, the main concert footage was actually from an American performance in Los Angeles, at the Los Angeles Sports Arena (as heard on the Magic Piper ROIO), featuring the A line-up, filmed in November 1980. The video was directed by David Mallet, who has directed numerous music videos, including the pioneering "Ashes to Ashes" video for David Bowie. The electronic style of the album was even more pronounced in these live performances and was used to striking effect on some of the older songs, including "Locomotive Breath". The more familiar Jethro Tull sound was brought to the fore in an all-acoustic version of "Skating Away on the Thin Ice of the New Day" featuring Jobson on mandolin, Pegg on mandola and Craney on bass.
Jobson and Craney returned to their own work following the A Tour and Jethro Tull entered a period of revolving drummers: Gerry Conway, who left after deciding he couldn't be the one to replace Barlow, Phil Collins (as a fill-in for the recently departed Gerry Conway, played with the band at the first Prince's Trust concert in 1982), Paul Burgess (for the US leg of the Broadsword and the Beast tour, and who left to settle down with his family) and permanent drummer Doane Perry.
1981 was the first year in their career that the band did not release an album; however some recording sessions took place (Anderson, Barre, Pegg, and Conway, with Anderson playing the keyboards). Some of these tracks were released on the Nightcap compilation in 1993.
In 1982, Peter-John Vettese joined on keyboards, and the band returned to a somewhat folkier sound – albeit with synthesisers – for 1982's The Broadsword and the Beast. The ensuing concert tour for the album was well attended and the shows featured what was to be one of the group's last indulgences in full-dress theatricality: the stage was built to resemble a Viking longship and the band performed in faux-medieval regalia.
An Anderson solo album (which was in fact an Anderson-Vettese effort) appeared in 1983, in the form of the heavily electronic Walk into Light. Although the album featured electronic soundscapes and synthesiser voicings advanced for its time, as well as cerebral lyrics about the alienating effects of technology, the release failed to resonate with long-time fans or with new listeners. However, as with later solo efforts by Anderson and Barre, some of the Walk into Light songs, such as "Fly by Night", "Made in England" and "Different Germany", later made their way into Jethro Tull live sets.
In 1984, Jethro Tull released Under Wraps, a heavily electronic album with no "live" drummer and instead, as on Walk into Light, a drum-machine was used. Although the band were reportedly proud of the sound, the album was not well received, particularly in North America. However, the video for "Lap of Luxury" did manage to earn moderate rotation on the newly influential MTV music video channel. Also, the acoustic version of the title track, "Under Wraps 2", found some favour over the years and a live instrumental version of the song was included on the A Little Light Music concert CD of 1992. Some long-time Jethro Tull fans regard Under Wraps as one of the band's weaker efforts; however, Martin Barre considers it his favourite (the main riff from the song "Paparazzi" also became a regular part of live sets as a part of Barre's solo spots; however, these were the only parts of the album that remained in the live sets after the Under Wraps tour). As a result of the throat problems Anderson developed singing the demanding Under Wraps material on tour, Jethro Tull took a three-year break. Vettese quit the band after the tour, angry at critics for the bad reviews of BSATB, Walk into Light, and Under Wraps. During this hiatus, Anderson continued to oversee the salmon farm he had founded in 1978, although the single "Coronach" was released in the UK in 1986 after it was used as the theme tune for a Channel 4 television program called "Blood of the British".
Ian, Barre, Pegg and Perry: "hard rock" Tull (1987–94)
Jethro Tull returned in 1987 with Crest of a Knave. With Vettese absent (Anderson contributed the synth programming) and the band relying more heavily on Barre's electric guitar than they had since the early 1970s, the album was a critical and commercial success. Shades of their earlier electronic excursions were still present, however, as three of the album's songs again utilised a drum machine, with Doane Perry and Gerry Conway sharing drum duties on the other tracks. Prior to the Crest of a Knave tour, keyboardist Don Airey (ex-Rainbow, Ozzy Osbourne, Michael Schenker Group) joined the band.
The band won the 1988 Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance Vocal or Instrumental, beating the favourite Metallica and their ...And Justice for All album. The award was particularly controversial as many did not consider Jethro Tull hard rock, much less heavy metal. On the advice of their manager, who told them they had no chance of winning, no one from the band attended the award ceremony. In response to the criticism they received over the award, their label, Chrysalis, took out an advertisement in a British music periodical with a picture of a flute lying amid a pile of iron re-bars and the line, "The flute is a heavy metal instrument." In response to an interview question about the controversy, Ian Anderson quipped, "Well, we do sometimes play our mandolins very loudly." In 2007, the win was named one of the ten biggest upsets in Grammy history by Entertainment Weekly In 1992, when Metallica finally won the Grammy in the category, Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich joked, "First thing we're going to do is thank Jethro Tull for not putting out an album this year," a play on a Grammy comment by Paul Simon some years before thanking Stevie Wonder for the same thing.
The style of Crest of a Knave (1987) has been compared to that of Dire Straits, in part because Anderson no longer seemed to have the vocal range he once possessed and preferred to use the lower registers, while Martin Barre's guitar sound apparently drifted towards Mark Knopfler's style. Two songs in particular – "Farm on the Freeway" and "Steel Monkey" – got heavy radio airplay. The album also contained the popular live song "Budapest", which depicts a backstage scene with a shy local female stagehand. Although "Budapest" was the longest song on that album (at just over ten minutes), "Mountain Men" became more famous in Europe, depicting a scene from World War II in Africa. Ian Anderson referred to the battles of El Alamein and the Falkland Islands, drawing historic parallels of the angst that women left behind by their warrior husbands might have felt:
died in the trenches at El Alamein,
died in the Falklands on TV
They toured this album with "The Not Quite the World, More the Here and There Tour". It was also the first time in the band's history, when it, even though rarely, had two electric guitar players on stage (Anderson played rhythm guitar).
1988 was notable for the release of 20 Years of Jethro Tull, a five-LP themed set (also released as a three-CD set, and as a truncated single CD version on 20 Years of Jethro Tull: Highlights) consisting largely of rarities and outtakes from throughout the band's history, as well as a variety of live and remastered tracks. It also included a booklet outlining the band's history in detail. Now out of print, it has become a collector's item, although many (but not all) of the outtakes have been included as bonus tracks on remastered releases of the band's studio albums.
Multi-instrumentalist Martin (Maart) Allcock, who as a member of Fairport Convention, had played as a guest with Tull at the Cropredy festival the previous year, joined the band mainly as keyboard player, starting with the 20th Anniversary tour (this may seem unremarkable, but multi-instrumentalist Allcock – proficient on all manner of stringed instruments with Fairport – had never previously played keyboards professionally with a band), replacing the departed Don Airey. For some numbers Allcock played the second electric guitar (Anderson reverted to playing acoustic), the last time that the band did this live.
In 1989, the band released Rock Island, which met with less commercial and critical success than Crest of a Knave (1987). The lead-off track, "Kissing Willie", featured bawdy double-entendre lyrics and over-the-top heavy metal riffing that seemed to take a satiric view of the group's recent Grammy award win. The song's accompanying video found difficulty in receiving airplay because of its sexual imagery. Although Rock Island was something of a miss for the group, a couple of fan favourites did emerge from the album. "Big Riff and Mando" reflects life on the road for the relentlessly touring musicians, giving a wry account of the theft of Barre's prized mandolin by a starstruck fan. "Another Christmas Song", an upbeat number celebrating the humanitarian spirit of the holiday season, stood out against the brooding and sombre mood of many of the songs on the album and was well received at concerts. It was re-recorded for the 2003 Jethro Tull Christmas Album release.
1991's Catfish Rising was a more solid album than Rock Island (1989). Despite being labelled as a "return to playing the blues", the album actually is marked by the generous use of mandolin and acoustic guitar and much less use of keyboards than any Tull album of the Eighties. Notable tracks included "Rocks on the Road", which highlighted gritty acoustic guitar work and hard-bitten lyrics about urban life and "Still Loving You Tonight", a bluesy, low-key ballad.
Maart Allcock, who had played on the Catfish Rising tour, although not the album itself, quit the band at the end of the year to pursue solo work.
Roots to Branches and J-Tull.com: world music (1995–00)
Following the 1992 tour (which included Fairport drummer Dave Mattacks and was documented with A Little Light Music, band's second official live album), Anderson relearned how to play the flute (after his daughter, who took up the flute classes at school, discovered that her father often used the wrong fingering) and began writing songs that heavily featured world music influences. However, the first Tull releases containing the "relearned" flute were the 25th Anniversary Box which, as well as the remixes of classic songs and unreleased live material, included a whole CD of old songs from the band's entire career recorded by the current line-up, and a "Nightcap" album containing unreleased studio material (mainly from the scrapped pre-Passion Play album), with multiple flute parts re-recorded.
Dave Pegg left the band, wishing to concentrate on Fairport Convention and not being keen on the world-music direction the band chose, and subsequently most of the bass on 1995's Roots to Branches album was performed by Steve Bailey (a widely recognised session bass player and friend of Doane Perry; Ian Anderson gave up being involved in the rhythm section arrangements on that record, leaving them completely to Bailey and Perry), before Pegg was replaced by bassist Jonathan Noyce.
Roots to Branches (1995) and 1999's J-Tull Dot Com were less rock-based than Crest of a Knave (1987) or Catfish Rising (1991). Songs on these albums reflect the musical influences of decades of performing all around the globe. In songs such as "Out of the Noise" and "Hot Mango Flush", Anderson paints vivid pictures of third-world street scenes. These albums reflected Anderson's coming to grips with being an old rocker, with songs such as the pensive "Another Harry's Bar", "Wicked Windows" (a meditation on reading glasses), and the gruff "Wounded, Old and Treacherous".
In 1995, Anderson released his second solo album, Divinities: Twelve Dances with God, an instrumental work composed of twelve flute-heavy pieces pursuing varied themes with an underlying motif. The album was recorded with Jethro Tull keyboard player Andrew Giddings and orchestral musicians. Anderson released two further song-based solo albums, The Secret Language of Birds in 2000 and Rupi's Dance in 2003.
Live albums, World Tours and The Christmas Album (2001–10)
In 2001, Anderson reunited with Cornick, Bunker and Abrahams for small pub dates. It was the first time the original four members had played together since 1968. "Living with the Past" includes a documentary that features the band on tour, in Britain and America, in 2001. It also has footage of the 2001 reunion of Jethro Tull's first line up filmed playing in a pub.
2003 saw the release of The Jethro Tull Christmas Album, a collection of traditional Christmas songs together with old and new Christmas songs written by Jethro Tull. The album became the band's biggest commercial success since the 1987 Crest of a Knave.
An Ian Anderson live double album and DVD was released in 2005 called Ian Anderson Plays the Orchestral Jethro Tull. In addition, a DVD entitled Nothing Is Easy: Live at the Isle of Wight 1970 and a live album Aqualung Live (recorded in 2004) were released in 2005. Included on Nothing is Easy is footage from the 1970 Isle of Wight festival, considered by many Tull fans to be a classic Jethro Tull performance.
Ian Anderson performed a version of the song "The Thin Ice" on the 2005 Pink Floyd tribute album Back Against the Wall.
2006 saw the release of a dual boxed set DVD "Collector's Edition", containing two DVDs – Nothing Is Easy and Living with the Past. Bassist Jon Noyce left the band in March 2006. Keyboardist Giddings quit the band in July 2006, citing constant touring allowing not enough time for family. They were replaced by David Goodier and John O'Hara respectively.
March 2007 saw the release of The Best of Acoustic Jethro Tull, a 24-song set of Tull's and Ian Anderson's acoustic performances taken from various albums. Included are a new live acoustic version of "One Brown Mouse" and a live performance of the traditional song (attributed to Henry VIII), "Pastime with Good Company".
In September 2007, Jethro Tull released CD/DVD Live at Montreux 2003. The concert was recorded on 4 July 2003 and featured, among others, "Fat Man", "With You There to Help Me" and "Hunting Girl".
In February 2010, the band were commemorated with a Heritage Award by PRS for Music. A plaque was erected on a Catholic church in Blackpool, where the band performed their first ever gig.
In 2011, while on the Aqualung 40th Tour, Anderson mentioned in an interview that Jethro Tull would be recording a new album that autumn and winter, with a tentative release date set for Spring 2012. This would be their first new studio album in 12 years. Their last studio album of new material was J-Tull Dot Com in 1999. Anderson (solo) and Jethro Tull have been performing some of the new material on their tours for the past 2–3 years. 2011 also marked the 40th Anniversary of Aqualung (1971). This new re-issue will be a new remix of the album and include a DVD and unreleased songs. Anderson previously felt Aqualung hadn't been mixed properly and always wanted to improve it.
Ian and Martin go solo. The end of Jethro Tull (2011–14)
During interviews in November 2011, Martin Barre stated that there were no current plans for future Jethro Tull work and he does not foresee any Tull concerts through 2013. In 2012, Barre assembled and toured with a group, billed as Martin Barre's New Day, which included Jonathan Noyce that played mostly Tull material.
On 30 January 2012, Anderson announced via the Jethro Tull website that Thick as a Brick 2: Whatever Happened to Gerald Bostock?, a followup to Thick as a Brick would be released on 2 April 2012. It is billed as an Ian Anderson solo album and not a Jethro Tull album. Thick as a Brick 2 had its world premiere on 14 April 2012 at Perth Concert Hall, Scotland, UK, kicking off an expected 18-month tour supporting both the original and new albums.
In November 2013, Anderson announced via the Jethro Tull website that a new album Homo Erraticus would be released in April 2014. This will be followed by tours in the UK and US, during which the album will be played in its entirety. Homo Erraticus will be a prog-rock concept album which, according to Anderson, "chronicles the weird imaginings of one Ernest T Parritt, as recaptured by the now middle-aged Gerald Bostock after a trip to Mathew Bunter's Old Library Bookshop in Linwell village. Bostock and Bunter came across this dusty, unpublished manuscript, written by local amateur historian Ernest T. Parritt, (1873 -1928), and entitled Homo Britanicus Erraticus." Like "Thick as a Brick 2", "Homo Erraticus" is billed as an Ian Anderson solo album.
Meanwhile, Martin Barre released the album "Away with Words", containing re-recordings of Tull songs plus original material. Additionally, a European tour was announced on his website.
In an April 2014 interview following the release of Anderson's solo album Homo Erraticus, Anderson announced that from that point on, he would be releasing all his music under his own name. Anderson stated that Tull "kind of came more or less to an end during the last 10 years or so", and stated his preference "in my twilight years, to use my own name for the most part being composer of virtually all Tull songs and music since 1968".
During the early 1970s, Jethro Tull went from being a progressive blues band to becoming one of the largest concert draws in the world. In concert, the band were known for theatrics and long medleys with brief instrumental interludes. While early Jethro Tull shows featured a manic Anderson with bushy hair and beard dressed in tattered overcoats and ragged clothes, as the band became bigger he moved towards varied costumes. This culminated with the War Child tour's over-sized codpiece and colourful costume.
Other band members joined in the dress-up and developed stage personae. Bassist Glenn Cornick always appeared in waistcoat and headband, while his successor Jeffrey Hammond eventually adopted a black-and-white diagonally-striped suit (and similarly striped bass guitar, electric guitar, and string bass). It was a 'zebra look', and at one point a two-manned zebra came out excreting ping pong balls into the audience while both performers moved forcefully around their stage areas. Former Carmen bassist John Glascock also wore flamboyant clothes on stage, most of which he sewed himself. Keyboard player John Evan dressed in an all-white suit with a neck-scarf of scarlet with white polka-dots; described as a "sad clown" type with extremely over-sized shoes, he joined in the theatrics by galumphing back and forth between Hammond organ and grand piano (placed on opposite sides of the stage in the Thick as a Brick tour) or by such sight-gags as pulling out a flask and pretending to drink from it during a rest in the music. Barriemore Barlow's stage attire was a crimson tank-top and matching runner's shorts with rugby foot gear, and his solos were marked by smoke-machines and enormous drumsticks. He also wore a bucket hat. Martin Barre was the island of calm amongst the madmen, with Anderson (and sometimes Evan) crowding him and making faces during his solos.
A multi-media effort had been planned for Too Old to Rock and Roll... but was not completed. Thereafter, the emphasis on theatrics was reduced but never eliminated. In 1982's Broadsword and the Beast concerts, the entire stage was transformed into a Viking ship. Anderson often dressed as a country squire on tours in the late 1970s, with the rest of the band adopting the style during their folk phase. The A tour (1980) featured the same white jumpsuit uniforms worn by the band on the album cover. Certain routines from the 1970s have become ensconced in concerts, such as having a song interrupted by a phone call for an audience member (which Anderson now takes on a cell) and the climactic conclusion of shows including bombastic instrumentals and the giant balloons, which Anderson would carry over his head and toss into the crowd.
In 1992, Jethro Tull embarked on a tour titled A Little Light Music, with most of the show focusing on acoustic songs, many of which they had not played live for years, if at all. A live CD was recorded on this tour and released under the same title later in that year. This was well received by fans because of its different takes on many past compositions, as well as a rendition of the folk song "John Barleycorn". As documented by these live performances, Ian's voice had clearly improved since his vocal cord injury in the mid-Eighties. After the CD release, the tour continued as a show of two-halves, the Light and Dark Tour.
1993 was the 25th Anniversary of Jethro Tull, a year in which the band released various new products and embarked on an extensive Anniversary Tour which started in May 1993 and lasted nearly a year. In keeping with the anniversary theme, this tour revived a number of older songs.
The 25th Anniversary Box was a four-CD set including new and vintage live recordings, remixed and remastered songs from earlier albums, and re-recordings of old songs by the 1990s band. A two-CD Anniversary Collection compilation was also released, containing original tracks remastered, and a video collection included new interviews, promo videos and archive material. The remixed single, Living in the (Slightly more Recent) Past, reached No. 32 in the UK singles chart. A planned second boxed set of outtakes and rare tracks was scaled down to two discs and released towards the end of the year under the title Nightcap (1993).
In 2006, Jethro Tull performed at Indian Institute of Management Bangalore's (IIM-B) cultural fest Unmaad in India. "In the last 10 years we have seen India blossom in the eyes of the West. We eagerly wait to see the latest offing from Bollywood or the Indian rock bands", Anderson said after the performance.
Jethro Tull's 2008 tour, celebrating 40 years of the band, included many older songs as well as guest appearances from former band members and others. Jethro Tull and sitarist Anoushka Shankar postponed a concert scheduled for 29 November 2008 in Mumbai after the November 2008 Mumbai attacks. They reorganised the performance as A Billion Hands Concert, a benefit concert for victims of the attacks, and held it on 5 December 2008. Ian Anderson commented on this decision stating that: "Some people might consider it disrespectful that we are having a concert but hopefully a majority will realise what this is about and what it says."
Jethro Tull's 2010 concert tour took them to Austria, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Norway and Switzerland in July and August, Armenia and the UK in September and Ian toured an acoustic solo tour in North America during October–November. They announced a tour of North America in June 2011 in honour of the Aqualung album's 40th anniversary. At every show on this tour, the band played the Aqualung album in its entirety, however not in order. They scheduled four concerts in Australia in April 2011, the band's first since 2005. These consisted of two performances at Sydney's State Theatre, one at Melbourne's Palais Theatre, and one at the Byron Bay Bluesfest, alongside headliner Bob Dylan.
Thick as a Brick
The band's stage theatrics peaked during the Thick as a Brick tour, a performance distinguished by stage hands wearing the tan trench-coat/madras cap ensemble from the album art, extras in rabbit suits running across stage and an extended interlude, during which Barre and Barlow entered a beach-tent onstage and swapped pants.
The complexity of the concert today can only be glimpsed by the "Tull Press" page, in which frame by frame (almost skecthes) of the shows can be followed.
A Passion Play was planned to have a full-length film to go with the stage theatrics. However, from this effort, it seems that only a few excerpts have survived to be re-released on recent commemorative videos of the band, including the interlude "The Story of the Hare Who Lost His Spectacles".
Although the criticas did not seem to enjoy the bands performace on the theatrical effort, a huge apparatus were made to complete the complexity of the concept's albuns, with dancers going on stage, for example.
Legacy and recognition
Jethro Tull's music is often referenced in popular culture, appearing in movies, (The Anchorman, Almost Famous, Apollo 18) television series (The Simpsons, Breaking Bad, Supernatural, Life on Mars), commercials, and influencing musicians (like Iron Maiden's Steve Harris and Bruce Dickinson, Joe Bonamassa and folk doom metal band Blood Ceremony).
Rush's Geddy Lee, said about Jethro Tull: "I was a massive Tull fan from very young and they are one of the bands that I saw live in Toronto...yes, we were lucky to see so many incredible concerts when we were very young and, I hope, that too reflects in Rush. I was mesmerised by Ian Anderson. His presentation was simply magical and he delivered it with such a sense of humour and great style. There really wasn't anyone else who looked or sounded quite like them and that holds true to this day. We saw it as a huge challenge to try and create something that can seem so dynamic onstage. They are probably best regarded as a live band although their series of albums around that period were exceptional"
Eddie Vedder said:"I'm a big fan of Jethro Tull, and I listen to this record every night before I go on stage!" – the album was Stand Up.
Many bands covered songs from Jethro Tull. Iron Maiden recorded their own version of "Cross Eyed Mary" for the B-Side of The Trooper. The folk band Turisas recorded "Broadsword". Finnish heavy metal band Northern Kings recorded "Fallen on Hard Times". "Rainbow Blues" was covered by Blackmore's Night, former Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore's band. The song was released on their 2003 album Ghost of a Rose. The Ronnie James Dio band Elf, in 1972 played live versions "Aqualung" and "Cross Eyed Mary". Also in the seventies, the Italian band Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM) played live a version of "My God". In the Stoner Metal compilation Sucking the 70s, there are two covers of Jethro Tull songs: Cross-Eyed Mary and Hymn 43, from the bands Clutch and Alabama Thunderpussy, respectively.
The Psychedelic band Acid Mothers Temple named their album Minstrel in the Galaxy after the Tull album, Minstrel in the Gallery.
In a September 1978 'Guitar Player' interview, Ritchie Blackmore had said "...John Glascock is a brilliant bass player, the best in the business in rock."
The drummer Barriemore Barlow was called "the greatest rock drummer England ever produced" by John Bonham.
The 1988 Grammy Award, according to Ian Anderson, was a way to reward the band for (then) 20 years on the road.
In 1996, it was released a tribute album to Jethro Tull, called "To Cry You a Song: A Collection of Tull Tales" in which participated several artists: Magellan, Roy Harper, John Wetton, Lief Sorbye, Robert Berry, Echolyn, Charlie Musselwhite, Glenn Hughes, Robby Steinhardt, Wolfstone, Keith Emerson and ex-members Glenn Cornick, Clive Bunker, Mick Abrahams and Dave Pegg.
Martin Barre's signature solo on the 1971 Jethro Tull standard "Aqualung" was voted by the readers of Guitar Player magazine as one of the top rock guitar solos of all time. Also, in 2007, this solo was rated one of the 100 Greatest Guitar Solos by Guitar World magazine. Still on Aqualung, Martin earned the 25th best solo ever in the USA and 20th best solo ever in the UK.
Music Style and Lyrics
Probably more associated with the flute style and the guitar playing of Martin Barre, Jethro Tull's style of music is difficult to summarise in only one genre. The band played from blues, to progressive rock, from folk to Asian rhythms. Also, because of the several line-up changes, Jethro Tull music is much characerised by the players along the decades. In the begning, for example, bassist Glenn Cornick imposed a virtuoso and strong line of bass playing that characterised the sounds of music (even with a solo, in Bouree) and in their singles (as in The Witch's Promisse), being essencial to the bands style of the early years. John Evans was another musician strongly present, especially in the albums Thick as a Brick and Passion Play, with long solos and melodies that helped to construct the epics itself. He also used his classical abilities to enlarge the sound of Jethro Tull, composing the introduction of "Locomotive Breath", being one example. The drummers of Jethro Tull – basically Clive Bunker, Barrie Barlow and Doane Perry – stablish their unique sound through the band changing styles.
The lyrics (always Ian Anderson's work), also variate in themes. Relations with parents (Stand Up, Benefit and Aqualung), organised religion (Aqualung and A Passion Play), organised society (Thick as a Brick), or even magical and mythological aspects of a distant world or past (Minstrel in the Gallery, Songs from the Wood, A Passion Play). The confrontation with present situation was also aborded by Anderson (as the 1980' chaotic begning in Stormwatch and the Cold War paranoia, in A).
According to music critic Derek Anderson, the difficulty in categorising Jethro Tull's music may have limited its legacy with critics and listeners:
"Between 1969 and 1979, nine of Jethro Tull's albums were certified gold. Aqualung, Jethro Tull's 1971 Magnus Opus, was certified triple-platinum. Sadly, Jethro Tull never received the recognition they deserved. After the advent of punk, critics and music lovers shied away from prog rock. Confessing to liking prog rock wasn't the done thing. It wasn't fashionable. Critics who previously had championed prog rock referred to groups like Jethro Tull as dinosaurs. Despite that, Jethro Tull gold discs kept coming. The reason for that was their music never stood still. It constantly evolved. Jethro Tull's music was groundbreaking, genre-melting and innovative."
Following the departure of Mick Abrahams in 1968, Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi briefly played guitar for Jethro Tull. The only recording of him with the band is on The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus (1968), although his guitar is not heard as all of the music (except Ian Anderson's vocals and flute) was dubbed in afterwards. It was a one-off performance, and Iommi returned to Black Sabbath (then called Earth) in January 1969.
David O'List briefly played with Jethro Tull in 1968 after the expulsion of Abrahams.
Genesis' Phil Collins was Jethro Tull's drummer for only one gig: the Prince's Trust Gala on 7 July 1982 at London's Dominion Theatre. During this time, Jethro Tull had the position of drummer to fill after the departure of drummer Mark Craney. Collins played on three songs, and two of them ("Jack in the Green" and "Pussy Willow") are on an official video release of the Prince's Trust Gala.
Bassist Tony Williams filled in for part of a tour when John Glascock's health failed. He then returned to session playing.
Bassist Matthew Pegg – Dave's son – is credited with playing bass on Catfish Rising (1991), when his bald father was "washing hair". He also filled in on several dates in the early 1990s. He is currently a session musician, and was also a permanent member of Procol Harum.
Bassist Steve Bailey appeared on the Roots to Branches (1995) recording, due to Dave Pegg's scheduling conflicts and following departure from the band. He was never an official member of the band.
Drummer James Duncan has frequently appeared with the band from 2006 forward, as well as on Anderson's solo tours. Surgery performed on Doan Perry required him to cease playing for some time, and while he has returned to the band, Duncan continues to play some shows. Duncan is Ian Anderson's son.
Florian Opahle, a German guitarist who has played on Anderson's solo tours, as well as with Greg Lake, has recently filled in for Barre on occasion, most notably due to the latter's recuperation from surgery, and in 2009, his playing in "Excalibur: The Celtic Rock Opera".
Mark Mondesir is a British drummer mostly noted for his jazz work. He drummed with Tull and Ian Anderson as a fill-in for James Duncan in 2009, who broke a shoulder whilst skiing.
Guitarist Joe Bonamassa guested with Jethro Tull for the encore of their performance at High Voltage 2011.
Scott Hammond, a British jazz drummer, replaced Mark Mondesir for Ian Anderson's 2011 concerts. Hammond continues to tour with Anderson in 2012, and he played on the new Anderson album, Thick as a Brick 2, which was released in April 2012. Hammond also filled in for Doane Perry during Jethro Tull's concerts in 2011.
Since 2005, subsequently Lucia Micarelli, Ann Marie Calhoun and Anna Phoebe played violin regularly with the band.