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This article by Richard J. Skelly was prepared for the August 28, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Jethro Tull: For Now, Forever
In the biography that accompanies his new album "Living
With The Past," bandleader and flute player Ian Anderson offers
up some answers to some "all too frequently asked questions."
Jethro Tull, the band Anderson formed in 1968 that has been around,
making records and touring in varying forms ever since. Asked how
long he plans to continue touring and recording, he responds: "As
long as it remains a challenge and my health permits. One year, ten
years, who knows? Then there are painting, writing, and other creative
indulgences to consider. Which will go first: the eyes, ears, or hands?
Fear of boredom in old age is my greatest concern."
Anderson, who is 55, was in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1947. He was 20
when the group formed in Blackpool in 1967, and within a year was
trying to bust its way into London’s then-healthy nightclub scene.
Through the mid-1970s and into the early 1980s, Jethro Tull would
regularly sell out large arenas like New York’s Madison Square Garden.
"Back in February, 1968, we had many different names which usually
changed every week, since we were so bad that we had to pretend to
be some new band in order to get re-booked in the clubs where we aspired
to find fame and fortune," says Anderson.
"Our agent, who had studied history at college, came up with the
name Jethro Tull [after an 18th -entury English agricultural pioneer
who invented the seed drill]. That was the band name during the week
in which London’s famous Marquee Club offered us the Thursday night
residency. So it stuck. Was it too late to change? I thought so."
Not surprisingly for the times, Jethro Tull began as a blues-based
band with some bebop jazz influences. Although Anderson also plays
guitar, harmonica, and mandolin in the current lineup, he and others
in the group were heavily influenced by the music of 1960s bebop saxophonist
Rahsaan Roland Kirk. Kirk, who died of a stroke at age 48 in the early
1970s, was famous for playing three saxophones at once and for his
circular breathing technique that allowed him to play continuous three
and four minute solos.
Jethro Tull had its first success at the 1968 Sunbury Jazz and Blues
Festival in England. The band made its first U.S. tour in 1969, based
on the radio airplay the band was getting for "Stand Up,"
their second release in 1969. One of the more popular tunes for airplay
on that album was Anderson’s flute instrumental based on a Bach "Bouree."
The band’s previous release, "This Was," featured Anderson’s
version of Kirk’s tune, "Serenade To A Cuckoo." While there
have been many personnel changes since the early 1970s, Anderson and
guitarist Martin Barre have stayed.
These days, the lineup for Jethro Tull includes Anderson, with longtime
member Martin Barre on electric guitar; Doane Perry on drums, Andrew
Giddings on keyboards, and Jonthan Noyce on bass.
On the current tour, the band is performing classic chestnuts from
the late 1960s and early ’70s, much of which can be heard on the current
release, "Living With The Past," a whopping 78-minute compact
disc that has just been released on Fuel 2000 Records. Anderson and
company will play newer material like "Roots To Branches"
as well as the old classics, "Aqualung," "Living In The
Past," "Locomotive Breath," and "My Sunday Feeling."
Asked if he hates playing the same old songs night after night, Anderson
responds: "If they were not decent songs, then I certainly would,
but I am lucky to have a good collection of material which I still
"There are over 250 songs to choose from. Anyway, much of Tull’s
music contains elements of improvisation, so the songs are never the
same two nights running. There is always some scope for variation
and interpretation in each performance. A Tull concert wouldn’t be
the same without some of `Locomotive Breath.’ Well, for me at any
— Richard J. Skelly
West Lafayette Street, Trenton, 609-984-8400. Opening by Alana Davis.
$38.50 to $68.50. Wednesday, August 28, 7:30 p.m.
$15.25 to $42.75. Suzanne Vega opens the show. Thursday, August
29, 7:30 p.m.
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