Beginning in 1979 and continuing all the way until 1987 with Crest of a Knave, Jethro Tull’s fate and fortunes would be quite unlike their first decade of success, when the unique amalgam of blues rock, Scottish Highlands folk, and hard rock, led by Ian Anderson and exemplified by Aqualung and the worldwide #1-seller Thick As a Brick, packed arenas. Bass player John Glasscock died from heart surgery just five weeks after Stormwatch‘s 1979 album release, a tough blow, and to add insult to injury, the album was the first since the 1968 debut not to reach the US Top 20 in sales. The Broadsword and the Beast in 1982 easily could have been the theme for the HBO hit series Game of Thrones, albeit written thirty years too soon. Jethro Tull certainly were not alone, as many of their Seventies peers struggled as they did then amidst Pop Metal hair bands that were selling millions of records and hair mousse by the gallon.
But after an eight year sales drought, Jethro Tull had all of the tumblers click on the 1987 album Crest of a Knave containing”Farm on the Freeway“,”Steel Monkey”, and the epic cinematic “Budapest“. A Top 20 seller in the UK and #3 in the States, Crest of a Knave eventually won a Grammy Award and reignited concert ticket and further album sales for Rock Island in 1989, with “Kissing Willie”; and Catfish Rising in 1991 which included “Rocks on the Road” and “This is Not Love“.
In this wide-ranging exclusive classic rock interview, Ian Anderson discusses getting teargassed by Italian riot police; the benefits of a revolving cast of talented band members over the many decades, anchored by a nearly half century working relationship with under-rated guitarist Martin Barre; how he pioneered working from home thirty-five years ago; Anderson’s concerns are far back as 1989 for the encroachment of corporate sponsorship into rock tours and subsequent ticket prices; and why he doesn’t hang out at the local pub down the lane from his farmhouse west of London, where “Old Dylan” will gladly put a coin in the jukebox and punch up “She Said She Was a Dancer” when some American deejay pops in looking for directions. –Redbeard