More Thick As A Brick

Hi Bob,

Still, Jethro Tull have never even been nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Go Figure!

Best,

Terry Ellis

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I remember having lunch with Ian when I was running the Chrysalis Music Group USA.
He was not the easiest of men to get on with, and didn’t like sycophants.
I felt rather an idiot when I asked him about the Jazz Flute Solos Book produced by the Hal Leonard/Almo Irving Group, as he responded he didn’t play jazz. Which of course he didn’t.
Jethro Tull’s performances were always great shows and his manager, Joe Lustig – a charming man.
I enjoy your daily postings. Thank you.
Ann P Munday

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My uncle owned a record store so I got to hear Thick as a Brick right when the album came out. How was I to know that Jethro Tull wasn’t the guy leading the band? In my memory, even the FM radio jocks would talk about Jethro Tull as if they were talking about a person. (Am I crazy?)

Anyway, that young boy thought this was the greatest song ever written about a brick. But, five years later the Commodores released Brick House. After that, I always thought that Thick as a Brick was the second greatest song about a brick ever written. (Now you know I am crazy).

Marc McLaughlin

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I owned Minstrel in the Gallery on 8-track. It eventually got stuck in the player in my 1972 Mercury Marquis becoming forever etched in my mind. After an uncountable number of plays, the first and third as well as the second and fourth track started playing over one another. Fun times.

Andrew Paciocco

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I was fortunate to interact with the ‘early’ Jethro Tull Band on two occasions. First, I was a high school senior “interning”at The Fillmore East when JT opened for BS&T on 1/25/69. I was assigned the task of ‘roadie’ help and basically lugged gear. It looked like the JT uys were happy to be playing in the U.S.A. for sure. The second time was when they played Stony Brook University on Long Island on 4/25/71. They were a well oiled machine for that gig (I was a member of the student hospitality crew though I cannot recall what food they ate backstage).
And, yes, Martin Barre has always been awesome

Norm Prusslin
Long Island, N.Y.

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Just to chime in, I first saw Tull on the Stand Up tour at Fillmore West. People were shouting out tunes from the first album, to which Anderson replied “Thank you for requesting these obsolete tunes, but we won’t be playing them!”. That made a lasting impression on me.

They were also masters of stage schtick: on the Passion Play tour at Oakland Coliseum Arena they had a mass of roadies in floppy hats and trenchcoats doing setup, who left one by one only to leave the band remaining when they removed the disguises.
Midway through a song, a white phone began to ring on John Evan’s piano. Anderson stopped the song, walked over and answered, returned to his mic and announced “Mike Nelson – white courtesy telephone please!”. The band started back up on a dime as a man in wetsuit and scuba gear padded over to the phone.

A great, great band.

Joseph

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I still have every Tull album (both vinyl and CD) up until mid-80’s… If I had to go to a desert island, and could bring only one, it would be Songs From the Wood. A truly beautiful masterpiece from start to finish.

Gary Fritz

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I have always felt that “Wond’ring Aloud” was one of the most beautiful songs ever made.

Bob Jameson

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I was 17 when we performed “A New Day Yesterday” and “Cats Squirrel” at a battle of the Bands in my Brooklyn high school gym. Came in second.
Btw – I think guitarist Mick Abrahams (Tull guitarist at the time, went on to form Blodwyn Pig) performance on Cats Squirrel is the best version out there.

Jim Faith

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Bob, lifelong Tull fan. They’ve never received true credit for their contribution in the spectrum of rock. And thank you for recognizing Martin Barre. You never here him even mentioned. Ever. His riffs and playing forever resonate.

And your last line is spot on. Let’s celebrate these guys (and ladies) while they’re still here.

Best,
Larry Blackwell

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Bob, enjoyed your bit about tull, been a fan since ’68
Something I think all Jethro Tull fans would enjoy; Jethro Tull the String Quartets. Reworked tull gems by Ian and a quartet. Recorded in a crypt no less !
Ric
Ric’s Recollections

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Loved this, Bob. I saw the first TAAB tour and have always been a fan. Martin Barre keeps me coming back.
Tom Lehr

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Great one Bob! My Mom actually turned me onto the band after she read an article on them in 69. I became an instant fan. Martin Barre and Clive Bunker were monsters!!

B Chapin

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When JEFF The Brotherhood went into Blackbird Studios with Joe Chicarelli, they asked me if I knew anyone in Nashville who played like Ian Anderson.
No, I said. No one plays like Ian Anderson.

A few months later Jake and Jamin asked me to hear the mix of the first single “Black Cherry Pie” and I was stunned by the flute solo. “Who did you find that played like Ian Anderson?” I asked.
“Ian Anderson”, they replied.

Long story short: They sent him the track, he sent it back in 48 hours with a message: No charge. Thanks for keeping rock alive.

“Black Cherry Pie” is on YouTube and all the streamers. Ian Anderson plays like it’s 1972.

youtu.be/cEMYOAGa6aQ

Best,
Robert Ellis Orrall

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I was a big fan. Never missed them when they played Chicago, which was pretty often in the day.
There was nobody like them, and don’t get me started on Ian Anderson. He was IT for me. When he would play that flute while balancing on one leg, I was mesmerized.
I actually named my son Ian!
I was fortunate enough to get to meet him once and told him. He looked at me like I was crazy, but I didn’t care.
I think it’s time to revisit some of the old tunes.
Thanks for the memories Bob.

Bonnie Feinerma

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Was This Spinal Tap related to Tull? You forgot to mention Ring out These Solstice Bells and the album Broadsword. Haha. Kidding. Tull is one of my FOATs. Ian Anderson is an underrated great on the acoustic guitar. A true rocker, thinker, and businessman. “ We used to know” may be the best tune. The flute has never been so cool. Oz

Joshua Osswald

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It’s the Fall of 1980, I’m working my first job out of college for the Real Paper in Cambridge.

At the end of one day as I go to my car in the underground garage of our building, I notice a brown paper bag leaning up against my front left wheel.

It’s full of albums someone clearly didn’t want.

The only one I kept was ‘Thick As A Brick.’

I read the newspaper every time I played the album.

Regards,

Raymond B. Levin

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This little diddy from TAAB resonates for our times:

“The doer and the thinker, no allowance for the other
As the failing light illuminates the mercenary’s creed“

Peter Duray-Bito

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I know I’m very late to the party in responding to this post (the blessing of an internet free weekend spent primarily watching the leaves turn in upstate New York) but I had to add mine to the chorus of “thank yous” for writing this piece. I was lucky enough to see the band perform TAAB twice, both times at Madison Square Garden, once with Roxy Music as an opener and the other time with Gentle Giant (great interview with Derek Shulman by the way). Anyway, and I’m not sure if this was mentioned in any of the dozens of responses you posted, but the band that toured TAAB was absolutely amazing live. This was, for me anyway, the best of all the post blues band lineups. Much has been written about Martin Barre (and deservedly so), but the supporting cast of characters called on to perform the piece live – John Evan on keyboards, Barriemore Barlow on drums and Jeffrey Hammond Hammond on bass were perfect complements to Ian’s on stage antics. Again, TAAB was a piece of music that was meant to be performed, not just played, and these guys pulled it off. Reminds me of how much I miss live music…and great albums. Thanks again.

Tom Ennis

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Cheers on good Tull prose.

I had the privilege of interview Ian Anderson around 2000 and I had the audacity to ask him, “If I was auditioning for the guitarist position in your band and my name was Jethro, would that help our deter me?”

He chuckled and softly said, “I don’t think that would enhance your chances.”
Sent from my phone
Doug Van Pelt

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Went to see JT while coming home from the Marines on leave, they were playing The Felt Forum.

My previous concert to this was 78 Stormwatch Tour when my babysitter took me while in 3rd grade – she didn’t wanna miss it at Nassau Coliseum..

So I get to the Felt Forum, Fire Up A Joint and everyone’s like Put That Out..and I’m looking around like this is a fucking Tull Show right??? So I hit it like 3 Snoop Puffs and clipped it..

Best,

Matt Gaines

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I loved your piece on JT. I promoted two shows with them in Ireland last year. Both sell outs and both went down a storm. I found everyone fantastic to deal with and Ian was such a gent. I forwarded your blogpost to James Anderson, Ian’s son, who looks after the business side of things. I am already trying to book them again to come back when we get to the other side of Covid.

Keep on doing what you do Bob! It’s keeping me sane.

Best to you & Felice.

Cheers,

Brian Hand

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The dude who claimed he listened to ‘Thick As A Brick’ on a Sony Walkman in 1976 was some kinda “futurist”, as in my universe it tells me the wondrous game changer only hit the market in 1979!
For mine ‘Stand Up’ was just amazing on release and remains so. But for singular best use of a Tull song in film or TV… ‘Locomotive Breath’ deployed in a episode of ‘Fargo’ was an astonishing placement.
And Steven Wilson in all his musical guises is the greatest musician on the planet for at least the last two decades. His King Crimson 5.1 remixing of their early albums is stunning, let alone as the linchpin of the greatest post Pink Floyd legacy with Porcupine Tree.

Ross

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So great to see some love for Tull!! As a kid, there was never any contradiction in loving punk rock and loving Tull. It was just music for odd balls, and to young ears it all felt the same.

Nothing evokes the weird and vanished England of eccentric dialects and standing stones quite like them. It might be magical realism, but their version of this country resonates with me just as much as any of the movements that existed alongside – and usually at odds – with them.

Ross Allmark

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Wonderful letter.
Tull stands alone.

Frederick Lyle

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Bob

Aqualung was better.

Best,

Michael McCarty

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I bought the Aqualung remix a couple years ago on vinyl hoping it would be an improvement on the awful original mix. I wasn’t disappointed. It came with details from Wilson about what he’d done. So anyway…..Thick as a Brick. But you did the review. And it fairly accurately matched my own experience. Anderson tied the whole thing together like the rug in Lebowski’s room. Benefit is my favorite, the US release with Teacher. Heavy Horses is a great song. He was a master at blending melody and lyric to create a mood. Budapest is a fave. Still, it ain’t Tull without Martin. His musical vision is woven deep throughout all of their recordings. What a great massive creative burst of music the 60s and early 70s were! Glad I was there! Thanks for the piece.

Bill Nelson

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June 3rd 1972, Ottawa Civic Center

Did not disappoint -a great show, well played.

$3.75

lawn mowing money

for those who say “Tull ain’t ‘eavy Met’l” show them Jethro Tull with Tony Iommi on guitar.

TourSwag

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Thanks Bob. You have unlocked the way back machine once again. I am now going to set aside a day to listen to all of my seven Tull LPs – in order. Luckily, there are a few rainy days on the horizon. I can’t wait!

I then drop further into the time machine and think of their live performances. I saw them at least several times in arenas- with 15,000 of my closest friends. They always pulled it off, with perfectly balanced sound and excellent lighting.

But– they almost stole the show at the best concert I ever saw. July 7, 1970, with It’s a Beautiful Day, Tull and The Who- playing Tommy for the last time. All three were favorites of mine, and I didn’t miss a note. Tull’s sets stole the show.

Bill Capps

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Bob in 1979 I was living in Toronto with friends, I had just got out of the army. We went to see The Who in Buffalo at the old Aud, yes this was the show after the infamous Cincinatti concert. Daltrey apologized for the Cincinnati show.
Next week we went to see Tull in Toronto Maple Leaf Gardens. We only got in because at the last moment they released seats behind the stage. We were so close to Ian from there, we saw all his stage antics up close and personal. That’s why I miss the Toronto concert scene The Who one week Tull the next, can’t beat that.
I know it’s heresy but War Child is my favourite Tull album, listening to Thick as a Brick right now, it’s growing on me.

Doug Gillis

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Thank you for even mentioning Jethro Tull! Pretty daring move!
I think Ian Anderson and Tull are quite underappreciated, and in certain circles, are treated as a joke. It’s unfair.
I am a lifelong fan, particularly all their albums up to Stormwatch. I have enjoyed seeing their tours over a dozen times. No matter who is in the lineup, they ALWAYS deliver a tight, entertaining, disciplined show, with stellar musicianship.
Their reissue program of their albums with the remixes by Steven Wilson are setting the standard for how a catalog can be expanded and improved. Both the the stereo and surround mixes are beautifully done. The albums sound better than ever.
Critics, both professional and otherwise, love to dismiss them, but he/they have given me years of great entertainment. I appreciate you coming to their defense. Somebody had to say it!
Kyle Peterson/Seattle

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As a 13-year-old flute-playing boy in 1968, I was a fan. Thick As a Brick was the first LP I bought.

Later, as a young news guy at WXRT in Chicago in the’80s, I brought my flute into the station so Ian Anderson would have something to play for promos like this: www.meyersonstrategy.com/2012/09/ian-anderson-played-my-flute.html

Charlie Meyerson

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Ian’s become a master salmon smoker….did you know that? BTW: “This Was” was more than anything a Rahsaan Roland Kirk tribute…Ian’s clear flute mentor.

Michael Fremer

P.S. My friend Mike Hobson released “Aqualung” on Classic Records cut from the original tape. Ian had it under some stuff in his garage. It never was a particularly good recording. Analogue Productions just released it as a double 45 on UHQR 200 gram hand pressed vinyl cut from tape in a deluxe box for $125 and is close to selling out the 5000 copy run.

Even I don’t get that…

Michael Fremer

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Hey Bob,
Holy Shit!!!
Look at these responses!
I have never seen anything like this from a band or an album you’ve written about.
Let’s do some more Tull,
let’s talk about some more albums,
these guys deserve it,
all day long!

Jeffrey Scott,
Minneapolis

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I used to love this one when I was discovering the classics in my teams. Gonna cue up the new mix and listen.

Well done on championing this record while Ian is alive, as you say.

Todd Carey

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When I was 9 I took “Heavy Horses” (1978) out of the library. I fell in love with it so hard I made my dad buy it for me. It is still one of my favorite records of all time.
From there I went backwards through their catalog. One of the most distinctive and accomplished bands of all time. Thanks for championing their music! Feels good to know I’m not alone.

Peter Cole

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Thank you for the inclusion Bob.
Sent me back to discogs to rebuild the vinyl library
when you bust open those cobwebs of greatness.

btw, I taught myself how to play guitar to the tunes of Locomotive breath and Aqualung.

Can’t wait til your next pic from he past..they are loved.
sincerest regards from us all
plen

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Thanks for writing about “Thick as a Brick,” Bob. Like hearing the music itself, your essay didn’t just make me think about Jethro Tull or the time I saw the band in a packed midwestern hockey arena. It also reminded me of the last time I saw an old friend — someone I’d known since we were 12, someone I now haven’t seen for over 40 years.

He and I first formed our friendship in grade school based on our mutual love of the Beatles. We saw “Let It Be” and “The Concert for Bangladesh” together in old movie theaters when the films were new. And we played in a band together that almost never got out of his garage but gave us a reason to sing Beatle songs.

We fell out of touch after high school, when my folks moved away from my hometown.

But a couple years later, I was back for a visit, and some mutual friends and I went over to my old friend’s house for a small party. At one point during the festivities, my old friend motioned me to an adjoining room. He got a really old guitar case out of a closet and pulled out a very cool antique Martin acoustic, a small parlor-sized guitar. My friend sat down opposite me, started playing, and sang, “Really don’t mind if you sit this one out.”

From there, my old friend sang and played the whole damn thing. The funny thing is, my old friend wasn’t a guitarist — he was a drummer. But he sure knew how to play “Thick as a Brick” on the guitar.

We must have sat there for over a half hour as he sang that long song, but it seemed like five minutes — a tribute to the beauty of the original composition and to the feeling in my friend’s performance — very different from the original recording, of course, but with the same spirit.

Thanks for reminding me of that unexpected and most memorable performance of “Thick as a Brick,” Bob.

Kurt Schroeder

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Nice to see Tull get their due. Thanks.

When I interviewed Ian Anderson in 1990 for the San Diego Union (now Union-Tribune) , here’s what he had to say about Tull beating out Metallica for that controversial Grammy:

“It seemed strange to me at the time, being nominated, because that category did not reflect what the band is about in my eyes,” said Anderson, who co-founded Jethro Tull in 1968. “The new category was meant to reflect the alternative and harder end of the spectrum, which it did. But, to the consternation of the Grammy organizers, it was not a good move, retrospectively, to embrace metal and hard rock. Because it became a catchall for anybody not in the pop categories.

“However, I’m pleased we won since it’s an accolade given to us by our peer group of 6,000-plus members in the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, and that’s something you can’t influence.”

Critics charged that Jethro Tull’s victory was attributable to two factors: The veteran English band was more familiar to Grammy voters than the other nominees; and its victory was more for a 20-year body of work than for “Crest of a Knave,” the album for which the band had been nominated. Anderson agrees.

“That was what I felt uncomfortable with,” he said. “It was not just an album or a category people were recognizing, but 20 years of Jethro Tull. The only casualties were Metallica, who were convinced they would win when everyone told them they would. Well, tough luck. If they’re that good they ought to last another 19 years.”

Anderson chuckled. “Metallica now has the honor of being among the many influential, successful and creative groups of all time who have not won, because there are a lot of them.”

Metallica was considered such a likely winner that Jethro Tull’s record label, Chrysalis, not only discouraged the European-based Anderson from attending, but also refused to provide tickets to Tull’s Los Angeles-based drummer, Doane Perry.

“I don’t think Chrysalis wanted to shell out the air fare,” Anderson said. “And maybe it’s all for the best. Given the booing and the disgruntled behavior from the press backstage, I would have found it difficult to walk away clutching a Grammy Award.”

George Varga

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I was with Alice at that Grammy Awards when he had to announce the winner. At the afterparty, he reached into his pocket and handed the Metallica guys the actual envelope with the Jethro Tull wording inside. Now that’s a memento.

Toby Mamis

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I don’t share your enthusiasm for exactly this (I’ll bet it’s great, never heard it) but it’s great to see onetime critics ease up and dig things.

Art Fein

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I was in a band on Chrysalis in 86 called “The City”, but I knew about as much about labels and the biz as I know about building a rocket ship…I don’t think I even knew Tull was on that label…

Wade Biery

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I remain un-moved. (It’s why we started punk rock).

Hugo Burnham

Yearly Number Ones-1960-1970-SiriusXM This Week

Spotify: spoti.fi/2Td8eqs

Pandora: bit.ly/2TbCRN8

Tune in today, October 20th, to Volume 106, 7 PM East, 4 PM West.

Hear the episode live on SiriusXM VOLUME: siriusxm.us/HearLefsetzLive

If you miss the episode, you can hear it on demand on the SiriusXM app: siriusxm.us/LefsetzLive

Re-Thick As A Brick

A quick note: In my 51 years, just never have been into Tull. But after your “Thick As A Brick” email, I listened to a bunch of the catalog. And now totally dig the music. Thanks for smacking me on the forehead…

Todd Schnick

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As a dj at WSUA (carrier current SUNY Albany 1970-1974), Bouree was my closing song….teed up to end at the exact second the next show started (ok…sometimes I used The Beatles “Flying”). Ian Anderson will remain in that group of band leaders from that generation who mattered. Tull toured the college circuit regularly and they always delivered.
Wayne Halper, Esq.

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“Can’t we do this while he’s still alive?” – Yes, please! Thank you, Bob, for the great trip down memory lane with Jethro Tull/Ian Anderson. We have lost so many greats in recent years, it would be amazing if we did much more to celebrate and cherish those that are still with us.

-Marcus Ryle

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Hi Bob, just love your TAAB story, I was fortunate my older brother was a big fan so growing up in the 70’s I was exposed and it has never left me.

My only funeral song will be Thick As A Brick, only pausing to flip to side 2.

Lots of love Chris L!

Chris Lewis

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Anybody who saw Anderson on his most recent tour (last summer? two summers ago?) will not come out of the woodwork when he dies. His self-absorption on stage, complete with pseudo PowerPoint presentation, made Trump seem like Mr. Genial by comparison. Martin Barre played a month or two later, and was exponentially better…

Tom Zito

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Amen, Bob

aamills82

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Side 1 is a regular go to. Right up there with any “side” in prog rock history. Almost as good as side 2 of Foxtrot. Supper’s Ready, greatest prog rock track of all time.

Jake Gold

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Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, June 4, 1972: Jethro Tull, in what I remember to be a day- time concert, plays Thick As A Brick in its entirety. And blows my mind in the process.

Regards, Steven

Steven Ehrlick

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One of those albums that I will never forget the first time listening to.
Middle of the afternoon in a friends room, a great joint, and when it was over,
our silence for a minute as we absorbed what we just heard and collectively went “whew”

Van Easton

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I feel exactly the same way you do about Tull. I remember 1972-73 and having parties where we sat around drinking and listening to Thick along with other similar concept albums like Tommy, JCSuperstar, Days of Future Passes and others for hours. No one does that anymore I am sure. Thanks for giving props to Ian Anderson. I listen to those Wilson mixes and he did a great job as you say especially with the earlier albums.

Van Fletcher

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Amen, Bob! Thank you for this. Nice to know I’m not the only fan – esp of Thick as a Brick, the only CD in my car.

Chris Beytes

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Thanks for the Tull blog Bob-

Just wanted to put in a plug for Minstrel in the Gallery. The second side is just gorgeous. I’ve listened countless times.

I sat with my date in the very back row of the Forum, as high as you can get, to see them in 1975 around the Bungle in the Jungle time.

Good memories.

Jim Reeder

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And “One White Duck” is one of the saddest songs ever…

Stuart Gunter

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Bob, was surprised to see that you didn’t cite “Teacher” when touting tracks on “Benefit”. It has always been my go to track on that album.

Scott Clare

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truly still one of my favorite albums ever. listening was almost like reading a story, one that the more times you listened, the deeper and more rewarding the story became.

saw that band every time they came through denver; 9th grade through college! terrific live experience too!

Robey Gibson

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Thanks Bob for this. Very few in my generation or younger seem to “get” Tull. But I fell in love from the moment I heard the acoustic breakdown in Aqualung when I was just a little kid in the 70’s. Agree also about Martin Barre and his guitar work. Ian was a storyteller, a performer, his lyrics could be funny, philosophical, sarcastic and sentimental. So many great songs, so many great albums, I cherish them….

Tom Dumont

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You can’t talk about Tull unless you mention the master of Martin Barre. He was the glue. Him and Dave Cousins from Strawbs……..I knew you knew this

Chris Apostle

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The song on Aqualung that remains my fave is Windup. Interesting to me is your no mention.

Corey B. Bearak, Esq.

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Nailed it.
Thank you.

Paul Habert
Toronto

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Thank you for this.
Jethro Tull was not only my definitive teenage band to LOVE, I must have bought Thick As A Brick at least 5 times
from burning it out to the point of endless play. Truly an epic album and band!

michael plen

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Well said Bob,
Who else sang about get my kicks from being thin ?Tull .,,
Such a part of my life and my 1970’s stereos . Advents , marantz Technics, audio dynamics , pioneer, Yamaha , klipsch, JBL, AR, phase linear and more …,cozy , friendly names of my youth
Gerry
Boston , MA

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Thanks for this tribute to Ian Anderson and Jethro Tull. I remember watching the Beatles land in the US and it was a memory I will never forget and when an uncle turned me on to Jethro Tull some 50 + years

ago,I was instantly hooked.They were my band and I still play their music on a daily basis when I am driving . Minstrel in the Gallery, Songs from the Wood, Heavy Horses are albums that I would add to your list.

Ian has received some great recognition from the Prog Rock folks but his body work is so much more that ! The band has sold over 60 million albums and I hope that someday they will make into the Rock Hall of Fame .

I enjoy receiving your newsletters.

Best ,

Rick Froio

(45 years, Warner Music Group,Gibson Guitars,Black River Entertainment)

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That they aren’t in R&R HOF is a travesty.

Sidney Cooke

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Perfecto!!!!!!

Thank-you…
Michael K. Clifford

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Check out 1980’s “A”, a hidden Tull gem.
I boought it because I was going through a New Age whim, and Eddie Jobson played violin on it…
A great disc!

All the best,

Tom “Smitty” Smith

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Thanks for this one, Bob. A great reminder of why Jethro Tull was so great back in the day, and still is. Your deep dive on their music is most appreciated.
Burke Long

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It is wonderful when you write about the bands of our youth and the melodies just float in to back the printed lyric.

Anderson was a mad, Scots, musician with a huge gift for fusion. Bach meets, well, the modern world.

I have very much the same need, once in a while, to listen to Tull. Maybe a couple of songs, maybe make a night of it. And, if I want the hard stuff, I go to Blodwyn Pig www.youtube.com/watch?v=lli5TN4Q_w0

Cheers,

Jay Currie

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Wow! You are so right. An amazing remix!

Don Bartenstein

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Thanks. 1971 – As a junior in high school, hormones raging, son against father – the draft hanging over you and Aqualung made you stop and think (and like all good music) it it reflected and put words and melody to your exact thoughts. My God, He’s not the kind you wind up on Sunday. Benefit honed the next chapter Tull audio hemisphere especially with Martin Barre’s identifiable signature playing and tone. Thick As Brick was genius from nowhere. The outlandish stage show (Oakland Coliseum with support by The Eagles) It all made sense. Tull playing in tandem with Sticky Fingers, Who’s Next, Hunky Dory, Allman Brothers Fillmore East…. it was a move from Laurel Canyon to somewhere else. FM Radio and the music was all we had.

Steve Lee

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Why no mention of “War Child” with “Skating Away”? Just curious.

Greg Stricklin

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Yes! I loved Tull. Still do. Thanks for reminding me.

Carole A.

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Agreed! Accurate on all levels. I grew up with that LP and learned to play that difficult guitar lick jamming with friends. Tull were great in concert back then too. Codpiece and all…
-Uncle Jeff Holland

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I usually agree with most of what you write but this time I agree 100%.
Spot on about Benefit, the Steven Wilson remixes, and Martin Barre being underrated (second only to Terry Kath in that regard).
Paul Ruta, Hong Kong

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When I was at UCLA in the early 70s, a couple of my friends and would drop acid and listen to Jethro Tull for eight hours straight! Thanks for bringing back those wonderful memories.

Paul C.

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Their best track will always be Dharma for One.

Rob Braide
Stay Positive,Test Negative.

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Amen Bob

Bob Carey

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The Tull line up with John Glascock was equal to any rock band on the planet. Past, present, and future.

Dennis Pelowski

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Bravo!

Tom Abts

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Never could come close to sitting that one out.

Kevin Gillespie

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This is amusing. classical flutist reacts to ‘Yetro Tool’. www.youtube.com/watch?v=gKSrq_qjB_Y

Stickylabel

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Excellent Bob, thank you. I listened to Thick as a Brick on a Walkman at Macchu Picchu in 1976 with all these monstrous carved stones everywhere you looked. It was amazing. Bungle in the Jungle bubblegum music in comparison to the early stuff.
Pat Mallahan Seattle/ Guatemala

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i loved the christmas album that was only released to the FM channels – somehow I have the LP – it was small format

“and remember the christmas spirit is not what you drink”

David Kuller

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It’s funny that you send this while a Pitcher named Ian Anderson is Pitching the 7th game of the NLCS against the Dodgers

Back in the early 70’s Tull sold out 3 shows every year at the Forum. I couldn’t get tickets for the Thick as a Brick tour but I did see the Passion Play tour the next year and it was an incredible show

And it is totally wrong that this band is NOT in the R&R HOF. (And they shouldn’t get blamed for the Grammys giving them a best Hard Rock Band)

A great band which as you say deserves recognition before Ian is gone

Randy Schaaf

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Martin Barre – a fabulous and underrated melodic guitarist. Appreciate your mention.

Michael Gregory

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brilliant piece about a forgotten hero.

made me cue up the vinyl. listening on 70’s JBL’s in laurel canyon.

Anthony J. Resta

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1. Not sure if replying is the thing
2. Loved the article (and the band)
3. Totally agree Ian Anderson is cruelly overlooked, a master
craftsman

Thanks for another brilliant meditation Mr Lefsetz!

Andy Halsey

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I love Tull. Incredible stuff. Check out the Xmas CD.

Steve Monk

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Whew Bob, great writing. I’m a huge JT fan…you nailed it when you talked about how the critics and IA couldn’t stand each other. He and Lester Bangs were arch enemies, and “Only Solitaire” is said to be poking fun at Steve Peacock (www.ministry-of-information.co.uk/app/steve.htm).

I think what so many people miss is what an extraordinary lyricist (poet?) IA was in his prime, and in his early 20’s, at that. He’s not the only one, of course, but he is certainly among the best in the biz, over the years.

And, JT remains out of the HoF farce, like many others due to Lester’s legacy, as well Jan Wenner.

Chris Wraight

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Great story. Thanks for the part about cartridges, I forgot about that, but you’re right, we did talk about that and buy the best one you could afford (Shure). And the ending, like what the rrhof did, only inducting Yes, after Squire had passed, sad

Ken Deslippe

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When the Minstrel is in the Gallery, one must abide.

Doug Boehm

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I’m with you on Jethro Tull in that occasionally I just gotta hear me some. I pulled out Aqualung only last week to scratch the itch and play it for my 12 year old son who is an aspiring musician and a big Charlie Puth fan. He had to agree that the music was a journey of sorts that we just don’t hear being made these days.

Long live Ian Anderson and his works.

Sean Dillon

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+1,000
Saw it LIVE…
Production was fantastic

Best Regards
Toby Davis

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Finally a brilliant appraisal and re- appraisal of Jethro Tull. You nailed it. Only one thing I would add having seen them over those years in their hey day probably more than any other band – which is that they were absolutely brilliant live – sadly until later years when Ian lost his voice.

I shall return to that Jethro Tull listening story again now prompted by your piece. Oh yes one other thing – they have never put together a Jethro Tull compilation that really made sense of their music – one day I shall!!

Keep fighting the good fight!

Best wishes

John Benedict

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I wholeheartedly agree. I’ve been a fan of this album since I first heard it. Back in the 70s, it was probably the only album that I could sing and hum all the way through. The melodic inventiveness and the sheer scope of the music is without equal for its time.

Ian Anderson long downplayed the record, saying it was a spoof, but he finally had to admit that he had created a masterpiece when he saw how popular it was. Unfortunately, he had to make a sequel…

Best,

Kirk McElhearn

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Credit for he sonics on some of Tull’s Records must go the Robin Black.

From an online review of “Commoner’s Crown” by Steeleye Span:

“The engineering for both records was done by none other than Robin Black at Morgan Studios. Robin co-produced Commoner’s, takes the main engineering credit, and is solely credited with the mix. He is the sole engineer on TAAB (along with lots of other Tull albums, including Benefit and Aqualung).
Apparently he has no problem putting the dynamic contrasts and powerful energy of the live performance into his recordings and preserving them all the way through to the final mix. God bless him for it.”

I recorded parts of Procol Harums’s “The Prodigal Stranger” at his residential studio in Ripley and he dialed up the drum sound on that record in about 7 minutes. And both Robin and his wife were lovely people.

Matt Noble
www.matthewnoble.com

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I was Artist Relations in Europe for Shure mics back in the ‘90s, living in Hamburg. Jethro Tull were among a hundful of “original” Shure endorsers, along with The Who, Stones, Tom Jones, and a few other artists.

I was wandering at a music trade show in Frankfurt and ran into their tour manager Kenny Wylie — a gem of a human and a big part of their family. A minute or two into the conversation I was jokingly suggesting he bring Ian to the booth to hold court, just as Mr Anderson was placing a firm hand on my shoulder from behind. Oops…invitation overheard and accepted. Ten minutes later I found myself moderating an impromptu presentation on microphones with Ian Anderson at Frankfurt Musikmesse.

That evening a large dinner at a sushi bar where I ended up sitting next to Ian. Even in a gig with no shortage of interesting people, he was one of the more memorable. No surprise the man is erudite and whip smart, but he’s also hilarious, quick-witted, and totally down to earth. He’s a singular artist, as you’ve observed, but he’s also a brilliant businessman (not just in music — he also built a major salmon farming business) and a sincerely nice guy. It’s always great to be able to say that about someone in our crazy industry.

David Keller

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I consider myself one of the few real Tull fans out there. A small gang of people who bared countless mediocre tours with Ian’s voice slowly diminishing in hopes of a rare gem of Jack in the Green, My God, etc. The holy trinity for me though was Songs From The Woods, Heavy Horses, and Minstrel In the Gallery. Steven Wilson breathed new life into those classics, and lit that magical flame for me once again. Saddens me that we will never see anything like Ian again once he is gone. He didn’t give two tosses what everyone else was doing, or what was commercially viable. Some of the rabbit holes he lead us weren’t particularly enjoyable(Passion Play), but none could be confused for another band. Tull will probably never get the respect or admiration they deserve. My wife will also continue to make fun of me for blasting “that D and D music” in the basement.
I am one of the proud and lucky few that appreciates the brilliance both lyrically and musically of Ian and his roving band of minstrels. I am more than happy that most sat this one out..

Chriss4198

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Sorry to beat a dead horse about its cliche, but: Jethro Tull not being in the Rock Hall of Fame is its #1 Glaring Travesty by Omission (there are a few by Induction).

If you were a white American kid in the 70s it was: Beatles, Stones, Zeppelin, Who. Then right on the next tier: Skynyrd, Floyd, Tull, Queen. Am I missing a few? Maybe, but point is, Tull was there.

Not Ian Anderson’s fault they gave him the first Heavy Metal Grammy over Metallica (obviously another travesty). Never even nominated? Must be some Jann Wenner shit going on there.

Hate on the flute and the medieval shtik now, but it all worked damn well all up and down the 70s when it mattered.

We need a campaign to get that band in.

(Relevance of that particular organization left to another debate.)

Then we can work on their Chrysalis label mate Pat Benatar.

Eric Chaikin
LA, CA

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Amen!! The only 8 track(s) that were played through my home stereo (marantz amp & tuner / venture formula four speakers / technics turntable / some basic 8 tract player ) from my freshman year in high school 1972 .. through my senior year 1975 … was Jethro Tull albums .. first concert in 8th grade was Aqualung at the LA Forum!! Ian Anderson left a HUGE musical impression on me for many years to come.

I may make you feel
But a can’t make you think
Your sperm’s in the gutter
Your love’s in the sink

Ian – belongs as one of the great lead singers / front men.. right there with Mick / Bruce / Plant … 4 years all I listen to through my 8 track player was Tull..!!!

Scott Palazzo

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Great piece on Tull. It is just astounding that they are not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It says a lot more about the Hall than it does about Tull. There are so few artists that have actually invented their own unmistakable sound and took it through so many changes, all while staying true to themselves; Ian and Jethro Tull have done this.

Thick As A Brick is a total masterpiece. There has never been anything like it in rock and roll. It’s been on my all time top ten forever. (I suspect they cut it into eight tracks on Spotify for royalty purposes, not that Ian needs the cash!) How Rolling Stone could leave TAAB and Aqualung off of their new “Top 500” is a total joke. Britney Spears makes it but no Tull? WTF????

Is it because Ian is, and always has been, a bit cantankerous? Well, if that’s the case, then Van Morrison and John Lennon should be left off as well. But for some reason the posers think it is uncool to like Tull. Their loss.

I love the line you quoted:

“I’m sitting on the corner feeling glad
Got no money coming in, but I can’t be sad”

But the line that follows is my favorite: “That was the best cup of coffee that I ever had…..” So simple, yet it says so much……

Maybe next year. But probably not….

Rich Madow

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Beautiful, Bob! My first-ever concert — 1971 — was Tull and Gentle Giant. The warm smells of pot everywhere, Ian on one leg playing the flute like a percussion instrument, Martin’s scorching riffs; hard rock and British folk, living side-by-side. After 2+ hours, lighters lit in a sea of darkness brought 3 encores, back when encores weren’t obligatory, the crowd needed to prove they WANTED YOU back.

I still have my poster!

Early in my high school years, I went to bed every night with one of three short-stacks of vinyl on my Soundesign junker record player (before my first real stereo, bought from Warehouse Sound in San Luis Obispo and Shipped to my house in northern Maine).

The stacks:
1) Dead, LIVE/DEAD “Dark Star”
2) Deep Purple, In Rock, “Child In Time” side
3) Nick Drake, Five Leaves … — either side!

1) Tull, Benefit
2) Pink Floyd, Atom Heart, “Alan’s Psychedic …” side
3) Tull, Stand Up

Worlds created in the darkness of listening. A beautiful era; glad I was alive then.

Thank you so much for your writing, over the years.

Kevin Ritchie

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I’m so glad you brought up “Thick As A Brick.”

No album I can think of can surpass the mixture of musicianship, composition, concept, orchestration and yes, deeply witty HUMOR that TAAB did. Yes that includes all the greats-yes, Sgt. Pepper, Dark Side, etc….

At one point I wanted to form a band to just play THICK AS A BRICK (I was 19). I must have listened to it over 200 times. The DYNAMICS alone! Kids: you can learn from this. That’s not to mention the reiteration of themes and sub-themes. Classical in depth.

Glad you mentioned the packaging-I recently bought a fresh copy (as opposed to my frayed from cleaning pot seeds) album on Ebay just to read all of the witty “news” again about “Little Milton.,” AKA “Gerald Bostock,” What great days those were to marvel over the genius of artists like this…Zappa comes to mind of course. But there was something extra to this album………..

These were days when music was completely and utterly immersive. These guys were just smarter and better than most of the rest, it was something to experience. Jaw-dropping, really. A “Concept” album. Isn’t art all supposed to be about a “concept?”

Thanks for bringing this stunning masterpiece to the forefront for a second

Oh-and let’s not forget-45 minutes, ONE SONG.

Incredible album.

CJ Vanston

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Enjoyed your blog on Ian and the long-standing glory of the TAAB album.

Do yourself and the rest of your readers a favour by checking out and shouting out about the under-appreciated TAAB2 album that Ian Anderson did to celebrate the 40th anniversary of TAAB back in 2012. Ian cleverly aged the young Gerald Bostock, the fictional kid who composed the lyrics the first time around back in 1972, and then he had him re-do another take, complete with all life’s choices that one tackles as they age and pursue a career, happiness, gestalt, etc.

As a Tull fan, it was the album I was waiting for for decades, and I was lucky enough to get to catch it on tour in 2013 in a modest venue. Even though it wasn’t an official Tull project and Martin Barre wasn’t part of it, Ian used top-rate musicians to make the album and then tour it. Like the initial TAAB, this one too is a concept album through and through and should be listened to attentively from start to finish.

Totally agree that Ian should be getting some love beyond his whittled-down core while he still walks amongst us.

Cheers – Mark Abbott from T.O.

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Thank you for delving into the man and the myth of Jethro Tull.

Of all the interviews, podcasts, conversations and hangs I’ve been blessed to have over the past 40 years—from jazz legends to rock stars—Ian Anderson was one of the most inspiring. Not so much for Anderson’s capacity to articulate his place the music world, the prog rock scene and debriefs of his seminal albums (including Thick as a Brick), but his views on politics, religion, health and things that don’t typically come to mind when you think of ‘Tull. Unless, as you pointed out, you’ve immersed yourself in his lyrics.

In preparation for a recent podcast with Anderson, I went back and listened to all his music on Spotify (as all my Jethro Tull LPs, 8-tracks, cassettes and CDs are in storage) and I began to make a “Best of Jethro Tull” playlist. When I realized that I was selecting almost every song from some of the albums you mentioned, I scrapped the playlist and just listened to those albums from start to finish—like those recordings were intended.

Though not a household name, in many circles, Ian Anderson has been accepted as worthy of comment, of renewal and exploration. I hope that with your audience (and mine), more people will enter the circle.

Michael Fagien
JAZZIZ
P.S. You can listen to my conversation with Ian Anderson at www.jazziz.com/ian-anderson-of/

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Loved your deep dive into TAAB! Tull was my first favorite band (although it took until 1974 when I was 11 yes old hearing Bungle on the jukebox in our suburban Phila deli). Saw them 4X in the 70s, many times later, learned to play flute, and ended up working at Chrysalis Music from 1990-93. Only thing you missed about TAAB was….the HUMOR! It was a joke (done seriously) in response to the critics labeling Aqualung a “concept album.” (which it wasn’t). So, Ian went over the top mocking the concept of the concept album! The “one song” album created by putting music to the child poet “Little Milton!” So much British Pythonesque humor that I still don’t get!

One of the coolest things about being a Tull fan in the 70s was not caring if your friends liked them, because you already knew that most of them didn’t. You could just love it on your own, and then show up at the shows with the tens of thousands of fans like yourself. Of course, that was an illusion since they sold millions of albums. The most popular band that never seemed popular in your own sphere. Tull sounds even better and better to me now. Real musicians, not caring about being current or cool, just playing the hell out of their instruments. And Bob, A Passion Play is the biggest sleeper in the catalog. Maybe it didn’t work commercially then because THAT was their serious concept album, but it continues to reveal secrets on every listen (especially the SW remix with the “lost” verses)

Anyway, great review. I just love the seeming continuing fan growth of the band that started it all for me. Thanks!

Gary

PS did you see how the second season of the amazing Fargo TV series used “Locomotive Breath” UNCUT for the first 6 minutes of the opening to one of the episodes? Genius!

Gary Helsinger
SVP, Licensing and Creative
Spirit Production Music

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Bob,

Too often in life we do not get an opportunity to share a relevant story related to an event of yesteryear. So, your informative article brings back a memory that I feel compelled to share.

The year was 1991. I was working as a producer for Charles Laquidara at WBCN/Boston. I had worked my way up from answering the request line. One morning, I walked to the area where the request lines were and was greeted by my former partner Mark, who shared with me that Crazy Mary from Revere, MA was on hold. Crazy Mary was no stranger to Mark and I. She called pretty much daily and screamed at us to play some of the most obscure Jethro Tull songs that she craved that day — as if she didn’t have every record or cassette they produced. We generally humored Mary and just let her ramble and curse at us.

I went to speak with Mark because we were not finding a contestant for Charles’ daily game from 9:45-10:00 AM, which was called Mishegas and while I have long loved this word, its brand is owned in my mind by the WBCN show. Charles was looking for someone to join him on-air. He always looked for someone who met a certain criterion (i.e., a woman in her 30s who lives north of Boston). Well, on this day, we could not find a guest for Charles, who was mostly a great guy, but he was a self-described insane Sicilian nut case with a Type-A personality who used to keep a mason jar on the console that contained a particular powder. So, when he was pissed, it was hard to miss.

Charles saw Mark and I laughing in his hysterics about Crazy Mary or something else through the plate glass window that separated the studio from the request line area. He pressed the speaker button and proceeded to tell Mark and I that we were useless and if he wanted to get something done, he would need to do it himself. We continued to laugh directly at him, which ticked him off even more. So, he decided that it was now time to take matters into his own hands and find the Mishegas guest himself. He started furiously pressing buttons and screaming at people, who were calling in to request songs by Iggy Pop, R.E.M. or J. Geils Band. “Hello, ‘BCN, do you want to be on Mishegas?” “‘BCN, where you calling from?” He swung the bat about 6-7 times and never found his contestant. That’s when he picked up the caller on line 3. When he realized that Crazy Mary actually lived in a neighborhood and met today’s Mishegas criterion, he asked if she wanted to be on Mishegas with him that morning. She ate it up like a bowl of oatmeal on a cold day. He instructed her to continue holding the line and he would be back in five minutes.

Mark and I ran into the studio and told Charles in no uncertain terms that he could not put Mary from Revere on-the-air. Charles proceeded to tell us that we were idiots, who couldn’t find the easiest of criteria and that a dog could do our jobs better (of course his rottweilers had just eaten his pork-belly pig the week before). We told him that Crazy Mary curses like a sailor and mutters things about John F. Kennedy, Son of Sam and the Boston Tea Party, while at the same time, making semi-cogent cases for playing, “A Time for Everything” and “Benefit.” He said he would handle Mary and we shouldn’t call her ‘crazy’ because that wasn’t very nice.

Jump ahead to Mishegas and he has Mary on-the-air for 7-8 minutes. She hasn’t said anything in the category of hair-brained nuts. At the end of each Mishegas, Charles would address the contestant and, in this case, say, “Mary from Revere, thank you for playing Mishegas with us this morning, we have a whole bunch of great prizes for you, but first, is there anyone you’d like to say hello to?” That’s when Mary responded: “Oh I would, Charles. Thank you for having me on Mishegas today and, by the way, WHEN THE FUCK ARE YOU GOING TO START PLAYING MORE FUCKIN’ JETHRO TULL, YOU FUCKIN’ COW-SHIT ASSHOLE. WHY WON’Y YOU PLAY ‘LOCOMOTIVE BREATH’ OR ‘TO CRY YOU A SONG’ OR ‘AQUALUNG’ YOU PIECE OF SHIT….”

Charles, who had gotten complacent because HIS contestant had behaved and hadn’t said anything inappropriate, took close to seven seconds to get to the phone and hang up on Crazy Mary. Needless to say, Charles had a lot of explaining to do to the PD Oedipus and GM. Fines from the FCC were levied. Mark and I innocently asked Charles if he was having a good morning.

I’ve never forgotten this awesome story.

P.S. Mary continued to call daily and tried to convince Mark that she deserved another shot at Mishegas and she would be polite, but only if we played some more goddamn Jethro Tull.

Hope you enjoyed this little ditty.

Brian Kaplan
NYC

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Here, here.
What a great stroll down memory lane.

Thick as a Brick and Passion Play are, IMO, epic masterpieces.

The timing of your article was erie – my Google Pixel phone will periodically give me a ‘here’s what happened x number of years ago via an alert. We…as it happens, my alert yesterday indicated that 7 years ago, yesterday, I saw JT at Massey Hall in Toronto.

During this tour, he played Thick as a Brick in its entirety and between ‘sides’ he did a Public Service Announcement to bring awareness to Prostate Cancer. I was fortunate enough to have scored front row seats – he came down and invited me onto the stage and put me into a doctor outfit and placed disposable gloves on my hands. Turns out I was the brunt of the joke as he escorted me backstage and while I was there with him for about 90 seconds, a video played to the audience showing how the procedure works…when we emerged from backstage he went to shake my hand to thank me for participating but then abruptly stepped back, not wanting to touch my soiled hand.

I also saw JT at the Montreal Forum in the mid 1970s. Quebec fans were always into acts that were just a little (or a lot) off the beaten path. Just as the show was about to start, an announcer came onto the PA and informed the audience that Ian Anderson would be unable to make it to the show. The fans went ape shit yet the ‘band’ started to play. Two minutes into the show, Ian Anderson slithered down a long rope from the ceiling and the show went on. God, I miss the 70s but even more so, I miss live shows.

Cheers.

Doug Collitz

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Hi Mr. Lefsetz,

Is it age, location, or life experiences, it seems we all get a different take on music.

Mine is from a lowly hand-me-down 8-track of “Stand up” played on a Montgomery Wards portable 8-track player hidden under my bed with a cheap pair
of white Koss headphones scotched taped to the speaker output. You had to turn a knob to change the track and I could do this in the dark.

You see, playing rock music was not allowed in my parents house. Today, kids would have their parents arrested for this kind of stuff, they have never had to fight for their music.
If my parents would have found that I was playing it, my dad would have beat my ass to a pulp and destroyed my music system! I lived with this fear
until I technically move out at 16 to a friends house!

Stand Up got me through this and I stayed with Ian my whole life. I like “A Passion Play” too, I thought it is Ian’s experimentation into new sounds and modern instruments and production,
trying to make a biggie art happening! Ian leaned on the farce side because everyone else was taking it too seriously, trying to matter and be eastern religion.
Ian was not this, so he took us down the minstrel road, placing his stamp on synthesized music, trying to move the needle forward and most people didn’t get it.

The bootleg album of the L.A show during this tour is amazing also! It was the Bass players last and after that, the rhythm section lost a certain flavor to it that never came back, but the songwriting remained.
I also love how Ian gets it, that he is old now and cannot hit the high notes, so he has someone there who can, right next to him!

We owe a lot to Ian really, calling out the hippies for their bullshit and yes it was there. Just ask the people who got to eat steaks with Bill Graham at Woodstock, we are all in it together, RIGHT!
Kudos on the Steve Wilson remixes, they are a blessing!

P.S. Mr. Lefsetz, please interview Ian for your podcast, that would be amazing!

John Payne

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As I’ve told you, I am always happy when you mention good audio gear and sound. Back when Stand Up came out I had just built myself a Dynaco Stereo 70 Amp and a PAS-3X Preamp. I bought an AR Turntable and a pair of AR3s. These were astronomic in cost at that time, but really cheap in retrospect. I had to talk my parents into letting me buy them, though I had the money. The result was the best stereo in town, and a lot of friends and others who came over to listen.

Great sound makes a big difference as you have written. Albums like Disraeli Gears and Stand Up had very different sounds and a good system let you hear them in immersive glory. It was fantastic to hear all the experimentation of that era as bands and musicians tried different things all the time both to stand out and to explore. Again, as you write the business aspect of things led to much more regimentation in sound overall, but perhaps the streaming age can once more allow unique sounds to come out. It seems possible.

Portable audio is not a bad thing, letting people listen anywhere and anytime is good, but the price paid for mp3 was high. The lossy formats throws away 75-95% of the data and can often leave a lot of sound on the cutting board as it were. Fortunately, this no longer needs to be the case as Amazon HD or Qobuz you also write about solve this from a file point of view. There is also a healthy market in high quality music players and headphones, headphone amps and DACS to support this, and I expect over time this to bleed into the mainstream of smartphones too. There is hope and movement toward better sound, but people need to be exposed.

So, when you write about it I am grateful. You are right about Ian Anderson. I saw him last time he came to Montclair NJ. He was still writing and performing new material and obviously did not care if you liked it or not, though he played the hits as well. He showed film from the late sixties. Wow, it really marked how long he has been at it, and the diversity of his opus. Perhaps that is why he is overlooked. He has not been a consistent sound or approach like many of the other “old” bands. Too bad, you are right he should be lionized for all the work, like it or not.

all the best
Robert Heiblim

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Good piece Bob!

I’m Ian’s PR in the UK and fair to say I think that the Steven Wilson reissues have shone a spotlight on Tull once again.

Ian is still active and engaged – 50th Anniversary Tour a couple of years ago, the Ballad of Jethro Tull book, his popular ‘cathedral concerts’ raising money for beautiful churches across the UK.

He will be interested to read your piece, I am sure.

All best,
Pete Flatt

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Now you’re talkin’.. Since high school Tull were my fave band. I almost saw them in concert as often as I saw The Dead..I had all their albums…In concert there was no elaborate light show etc.etc..Ian Anderson was a mystical character… He looked like he was busking on the streets in London..

When Kevin Sutter and Daniel Glass hired me to do Rock Promo here in L.A… “Crest of a Knave” came out and it was like a dream come true. I was kvelling.

The Sutterman put together a game plan that was infallible…From having listening parties at every major market that.. And as a special treat, everybody who attended the parties gave their names and on the record sleeve they were thanked…When was the last time you had your name on a Tull record?
I got as close to Ian as much as I could..At a bar in a hotel I told him that “Thick As A Brick” was never intended to be listened to on a C.D. all the way through in one sitting.. Rather, on vinyl you were suppose to turn the record over… and play side 2.. Its like intermission to a play… And let’s be honest, Tull albums were like plays. When “Passion Play” came out, the L.A. Times music writer, Robert Hilburn wrote in his review.. “Tull Rhymes With Dull!

I probably shouldn’t say this but Ian is a germaphobe. He will not shake your hand! He will hold his beer in his right hand.. and he would do the “elbow touch”..

The success of Jethro Tull’s, “Crest” was the best selling album for Chrysalis for a few months..It twas like the old days! Selling out arenas.. getting Top-10 rock airplay.. Life was good!

In San Francisco, Bill Graham said to Ian I want to do shows in arenas next year.. I was mesmerized by all that..
I had Ian over for dinner at my house and he was most gracious..
I’ve said enough…

Jeff Laufer

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I just hope I live to see Jethro Tull added into The Rock N Roll Hall of
Fame Which he deserves to be Fuck the Grammys They’re the one who fucked up

I remember calling him that night after they announced that Tull won the
Grammy I woke him up His 1st questions was “Were You there to accept it for
Me” I got to admit I shed a tear when I told him I wasn’t

Kevin F. Sutter

Thick As A Brick

1

“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.”

2

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.

3

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?