Jethro Tull

Jethro Tull was a one of a kind phenomenon in popular music history. Their mix of folk, hard rock, blues licks, surreal,

powerfully dense lyrics, improvisation and overall resonance defied easy analysis, but that didn't stop eager fans from

giving them 11 gold and 5 platinum albums. At the same time, music critics rarely took them seriously, and they were more

part of a undergroung music scene at the end of the 70's. But all this time no record store would ignore the demand for this

sort of sound and got multiple copies of each of their most popular albums (Benefit, Aqualung, Thick as a Brick, Living in

the Past), or their various best-of compilations resealed very early, and few would knowingly ignore their latest releases.

Along the years Jethro Tull remarkably stable and consistent. As co-founded and led

bywildman-flautist-guitarist-singer-songwriter Ian Anderson, the group has won a much deserved place in popular music.

Tull had its roots in the British blues boom of the late '60s. Ian Anderson (b. Aug. 10, 1947, Edinburgh, Scotland) moved

houses to Blackpool when he was 12. He first played in a band called the Blades, named after James Bond's club, with Michael

Stephens on guitar, Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond (b. July 30, 1946) on bass and John Evans (b. Mar. 28, 1948) on drums, playing a

mix of jazzy blues and soulful dance music on the northern club circuit. In 1965 the band changes it's name to John Evan Band

(Evan having dropped the "s" in his name at Hammond's suggestion) and later the on to John Evan Smash. In the late part of

1967, Glenn Cornick (b. Apr. 24, 1947, Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, England) replaces Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond on bass. The

group moved to Luton So they would be closer to London, the center of the British blues boom, and the group began to show

early differences, when Anderson and Cornick met guitarist/singer Mick Abrahams (b. Apr. 7, 1943, Luton, Bedfordshire,

England) and drummer Clive Bunker (b. Dec. 12, 1946), who had previously played together in the Toggery Five and were now

members of a local blues group called McGregor's Engine.

In December of 1967, the 4 lads agree to form a new group. They began playing two shows a week and went around using

different names to get inside a club, such names as Navy Blue and Bag of Blues. One of them stuck. It that was of course

Jethro Tull, and it came from an 18th-century british farmer/inventor. Early in 1968 they release a single called "Sunshine

Day," released by MGM Records (under the misprinted name Jethro Toe) the following month. The single went nowhere, but the

group managed to regularily play at the Marquee Club, where they won some fame.

Even from the beginning they had a problem of image to face. In the late spring of 1968, managers Terry Ellis and Chris

Wright first thought that that Anderson should give up playing the flute and thus allow Mick Abrahams to take the center

stage. At the time, the band was still playing mainly blues tunes but a lot of blues enthusiasts weren't much into wind

instruments at all, especially the flute as the entire sound of the group was just a bit too strange for what there were

looking for. Mick Abrahams was a fanatic of british godfather Alexis Korner and wanted the band to orientate more towards a

traditional blues was brilliant configuration with him playing the guitar on front. As it turned out, both frontmen were

right. Abrahams' blues sensibilities were excellent but one could not deny Anderson's antics on-stage, jumping around in a

ragged overcoat and standing on one leg while playing the flute, and his use of folk sources as well as blues and jazz, gave

the band the potential to grab a bigger audience and some much-needed press attention.

They opened for Pink Floyd on June 29, 1968, at the first free rock festival in London's Hyde Park, and in August they

were the hit of the Sunbury Jazz & Blues Festival in Sunbury-on-Thames. By the end of the summer, they had a recording

contract with Island Records. The resulting album, This Was, was issued in November. By this time, Anderson was the dominant

member of the group on-stage, and at the end of the month Abrahams exited the band. The group went through two hastily

recruited and rejected replacements, future Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi (who was in Tull for a week, just long enough

to show up in their appearance on the Rolling Stones' Rock 'N Roll Circus extravaganza), and Davy O'List, the former

guitarist with the Nice. Finally, Martin Barre (b. Nov. 17, 1946), a former architecture student, was the choice for a

permanent replacement.

It wasn't until April of 1969 that This Was got a U.S. release. Ironically, the first small wave of American Jethro Tull

fans were admiring a group whose sound had already changed radically; in May of 1969, Barre's first recording with the group,

"Living in the Past," reached the British number three spot and the group made its debut on Top of the Pops performing the

song. The group played a number of festivals that summer, including the Newport Jazz Festival. Their next album, Stand Up,

with all of its material (except "Bouree," which was composed by Johann Sebastian Bach) written by Ian Anderson, reached the

number one spot in England the next month. Stand Up also contained the first orchestrated track by Tull, "Reasons for

Waiting," which featured strings arranged by David Palmer, a Royal Academy of Music graduate and theatrical conductor who had

arranged horns on one track from This Was. Palmer would play an increasingly large role in subsequent albums, and finally

join the group officially in 1977.

Meanwhile, "Sweet Dream," issued in November, rose to number seven in England, and was the group's first release on Wright

and Ellis' newly formed Chrysalis label. Their next single, "The Witch's Promise," got to number four in England in January

of 1970. The group's next album, Benefit, marked their last look back at the blues, and also the presence of Anderson's

longtime friend and former bandmate John Evan -- who had long since given up the drums in favor of keyboards -- on piano and

organ. Benefit reached the number three spot in England, but, much more important, it ascended to number 11 in America, and

its songs, including "Teacher" and "Sossity, You're A Woman," formed a key part of Tull's stage repertory. In early July of

1970, the group shared a bill with Jimi Hendrix, B.B. King, and Johnny Winter at the Atlanta Pop Festival in Byron, GA,

before 200,000 people.

By the following December, after another U.S. tour, Cornick had decided to leave the group, and was replaced on bass by

Anderson's childhood friend Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond. Early the following year, they began working on what would prove to be,

for many fans, the group's magnum opus, Aqualung. Anderson's writing had been moving in a more serious direction since the

group's second album, but it was with Aqualung that he found the lyrical voice he'd been seeking. Suddenly, he was singing

about the relationship between man and God, and the manner in which -- in his view -- organized religion separated them. The

blues influences were muted almost to non-existence, but the hard rock passages were searing and the folk influences provided

a refreshing contrast. That the album was a unified whole impressed the more serious critics, while the kids were content to

play air guitar to Martin Barre's high-speed breaks. And everybody, college prog rock mavens and high-school time-servers

alike, seemed to identify with the theme of alienation that lay behind the music.

Aqualung reached number seven in America and number four in England, and was accompanied by a hugely successful American

tour. Bunker quit the band to get married, and was replaced by Anderson's old John Evan Smash bandmate Barriemore Barlow (b.

Sept. 10, 1949). Late in 1971, they began work on their next album, Thick as a Brick. Structurally more ambitious than

Aqualung, and supported by an elaborately designed jacket in the form of a newspaper, this record was essentially one long

song steeped in surreal imagery, social commentary, and Anderson's newly solidified image as a wildman-sage. Released in

England during April of 1972, Thick as a Brick got as high as the number five spot, but when it came out in America a month

later, it hit the number one spot, making it the first Jethro Tull album to achieve greater popularity in American than in

England. In June of 1972, in response to steadily rising demand for the group's work, Chrysalis Records released Living in

the Past, a collection of tracks from their various singles and British EPs, early albums, and a Carnegie Hall show, packaged

like an old-style 78 rpm album in a book that opened up.

At this point, it seemed as though Jethro Tull could do no wrong, and for the fans that was true. For the critics,

however, the group's string ran out in July of 1973 with the release of A Passion Play. The piece was another extended song,

running the length of the album, this time steeped in fantasy and religious imagery far denser than Aqualung; it was divided

at the end of one side of the album and the beginning of the other by an A.A. Milne-style story called "The Hare That Lost

His Spectacles." This time, the critics were hostile toward Anderson and the group, attacking the album for its obscure

lyrical references and excessive length. Despite these criticisms, the album reached number one in America (yielding a number

eight single edited from the extended piece) and number 13 in England. The real venom, however, didn't start to flow until

the group went on tour that summer. By this time, their sets ran to two-and-a-half hours, and included not only the new album

done in its entirety ("The Hare That Lost His Spectacles" being a film presentation in the middle of the show), but Thick As

a Brick and the most popular of the group's songs off of Aqualung and their earlier albums. Anderson was apparently

unprepared for the searing reviews that started appearing, and also took the American rock press too seriously. In the midst

of a sell-out U.S. tour, he threatened to cancel all upcoming concerts and return to England. Fortunately, cooler heads

prevailed, especially once he recognized that the shows were completely sold out and audiences were ecstatic, and the tour

continued without interruption.

It was 16 months until the group's next album, War Child -- conceived as part of a film project that never materialized --

was released, in November of 1974. The expectations surrounding the album gave it pre-order sales sufficient to get it

certified gold upon release, and it was also Tull's last platinum album, reaching number two in America and number 14 in

England. The dominant theme of War Child seemed to be violence, though the music's trappings heavily featured Palmer's

orchestrations, rivaling Barre's electric guitar breaks for attention. In any case, the public seemed to respond well to the

group's return to conventional length songs, with "Bungle in the Jungle" reaching number 11 in America. Tull's successful

concert tour behind this album had them augmented by a string quartet.

During this period, Anderson became involved with producing an album by Steeleye Span, a folk-rock group that was also

signed to Chrysalis, and who had opened for Tull on one of their American tours. Their music slowly begun influencing

Anderson's songwriting over the next several years, as the folk influence grew in prominence, a process that was redoubled

when he took up a rural residence during the mid-'70s. The next Tull album, Minstrel in the Gallery, showed up ten months

later, in September of 1975, reaching number seven in the United States. This time, the dominant theme was Elizabethan

minstrelsy, within an electric rock and English folk context. The tracks included a 17-minute suite that recalled the group's

earlier album-length epic songs, but the album's success was rather more limited.

The Jethro Tull lineup had been remarkably stable ever since Clive Bunker's exit after Aqualung, remaining constant across

four albums in as many years. In January of 1976, however, Hammond-Hammond left the band to pursue a career in art. His

replacement, John Glascock (b. 1953), joined in time for the recording of Too Old to Rock 'n Roll, Too Young to Die, an album

made up partly of songs from an un-produced play proposed by Anderson and Palmer, released in May of 1976. The group later

did an ITV special built around the album's songs. The title track, however (on which Steeleye Span's Maddy Prior appeared as

a guest backing vocalist), became a subject of controversy in England, as critics took it to be a personal statement on

Anderson's part.

In late 1976, a Christmas EP entitled Ring Out Solstice Bells got to number 28. This song later turned up on their next

album, Songs From the Wood, the group's most artistically unified and successful album in some time (and the first not

derived from an unfinished film or play since A Passion Play). This was Tull's folk album, reflecting Anderson's passion for

English folk songs. Its release also accompanied the band's first British tour in nearly three years. In May of 1977, David

Palmer joined Tull as an official member, playing keyboards on-stage to augment the richness of the group's concert


Having lasted into the late '70s, Jethro Tull now found itself competing in a new musical environment, as journalists and,

to an increasing degree, fans became fixated on the growing punk rock phenomenon. In October 1977, Repeat (The Best of Jethro

Tull, Vol. 2), intended to fill an anticipated 11 month gap between Tull albums, was released on both sides of the Atlantic.

Unfortunately, it contained only a single new track and never made the British charts, while barely scraping into the

American Top 100 albums. The group's next new album, Heavy Horses, issued in April of 1978, was Anderson's most personal work

in several years, the title track expressing his regret over the disappearance of England's huge shire horses as casualties

of modernization. In the fall of 1978, the group's first full-length concert album, the double-LP Live-Bursting Out, was

released to modest success, accompanied by a tour of the United States and an international television broadcast from Madison

Square Garden.

1979 was a pivotal and tragic year for the group. John Glascock died from complications of heart surgery on November 17,

five weeks after the release of Stormwatch. Tull was lucky enough to acquire the services of Dave Pegg, the longtime bassist

for Fairport Convention, which had announced its formal (though, as it turned out, temporary) breakup. The Stormwatch tour

with the new lineup was a success, although the album was the first original release by Jethro Tull since This Was not to

reach the U.S. Top 20. Partly thanks to Pegg's involvement with the Tull lineup, future tours by Jethro Tull, especially in

America, would provide a basis for performances by re-formed incarnations of Fairport Convention.

The lineup change caused by Glascock's death led to Anderson's decision to record a solo album during the summer of 1980,

backed by Barre, Pegg, and Mark Craney on drums, with ex-Roxy Music/King Crimson multi-instrumentalist Eddie Jobson on

violin. The record, A, was eventually released as a Jethro Tull album in September of 1980, but even the Tull name didn't do

much for its success. Barlow, Evan, and Palmer, however, were dropped from the group's lineup with the recording of A, and

the new version of Jethro Tull toured in support of the album. Jobson left once the tour was over, and it was with yet

another new lineup -- including Barre, Pegg, and Fairport Convention alumnus Gerry Conway (drums) and Peter-John Vettesse

(keyboards) -- that The Broadsword and the Beast was recorded in 1982. Although this album had many songs based on folk

melodies, its harder rocking passages also had a heavier, more thumping beat than earlier versions of the band had produced,

and the use of the synthesizer was more pronounced than on previous Tull albums.

In 1983, Anderson confined his activities to his first official solo album, Walk Into Light, which had a very different,

synthesizer-dominated sound. Following its lackluster performance, Anderson revived Jethro Tull for the album Under Wraps,

released in September of 1984. At number 76 in the U.S., it became the group's poorest selling album, partly a consequence of

Anderson's developing a throat infection that forced the postponement of much of their planned tour. No further Tull albums

were to be released until Crest of a Knave in 1987, as a result of Anderson's intermittent throat problems. In the meantime,

the group appeared on a German television special in March of 1985, and participated in a presentation of the group's work by

the London Symphony Orchestra. To make up for the shortfall of new releases, Chrysalis released another compilation, Original

Masters, a collection of highlights of the group's work, in October of 1985. In 1986, A Classic Case: The London Symphony

Orchestra Plays the Music of Jethro Tull was released on record; and Crest of a Knave performed surprisingly well when it was

issued in September of 1987, reaching number 19 in England and number 32 in America with the support of a world tour.

Crest of a Knave was something of a watershed in Tull's later history, though nobody would have guessed it at the time of

its release. Although some of its songs displayed the group's usual folk/hard rock mix, the group was playing louder than

usual, and tracks like "Steel Monkey," had a harder sound than any previous record by the group. In 1988, Tull toured the

United States as part of the celebration of the band's 20th anniversary. In July, Chrysalis issued 20 Years of Jethro Tull, a

65-song boxed-set collection covering the group's history up to that time, containing most of their major songs and augmented

with outtakes and radio performances. In February of 1989, the band won the Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance

for Crest of a Knave. Suddenly, they were stars again, and being declared as relevant by one of the top music awards in the

industry; a fact that kept critics buzzing for months over whether the group deserved it before finally attacking the voting

for the Grammy Awards and the membership of its parent organization, the National Association of Recording Arts and


Rock Island, another hard rocking album, reached a very healthy number 18 in England during September of the same year,

while peaking only at 56 in America, despite a six-week U.S. tour to support the album. In 1990, the album Catfish Rising did

less well, reaching only 27 in England and 88 in America after its release in September. And A Little Light Music, their own

"unplugged" release, taped on their summer 1992 European tour, only got to number 34 in England and 150 in the United


Despite declining numbers, the group continued performing to good-sized houses when they toured, and the group's catalog

performed extremely well. In April of 1993, Chrysalis released a four-CD 25th Anniversary Box Set -- evidently hoping that

most fans had forgotten the 20th anniversary set issued five years earlier -- consisting of remixed versions of their hits,

live shows from across their history, and a handful of new tracks. Meanwhile, Anderson continued to write and record music

separate from the group on occasion, most notably Divinities: Twelve Dances with God, a classically-oriented solo album (and

a distinctly non-Tull one) on EMI's classical Angel Records. J-Tull.Com followed in 1999.