Even though I lived through it, still I must admit that it is hard to fully realize that the evolution in sound and success between Jethro Tull’s second album, Stand Up, and their mass appeal Top 40 breakthrough War Child, took a mere five years. In between those two afore-mentioned landmarks, Jethro Tull had also released the #1-seller in the world, Thick as a Brick. By 1969’s Stand Up, band co-founder Mick Abrahams had already left Ian Anderson to guide Jethro Tull’s sound, a role Anderson relished and never relinquished for half a century. “We were billed originally, around Blackpool and later London, as a blues band,” Anderson told me,”except we were a terrible blues band. I certainly couldn’t sing it.” Never mind. In the years 1969-74 there was no band in the world more exciting, more unconventional, and more successful than Jethro Tull. With back-to-back albums Aqualung in May 1971 and then the almost accidental #1 seller Thick As a Brick in 1972, Jethro Tull combined pastoral acoustic guitar, progressive rock arrangements, Martin Barre’s hard rock guitar bursts, and Ian Anderson’s dense thought-provoking lyrics into a heady brew that had no comparison. Originating in the northern English town of Blackpool, Jethro Tull was a name borrowed from the actual inventor of the seed drill. By 1968 they were as talked about as any of the new bands on the London club scene, primarily because of the stage presence of lead singer Anderson, whose leaping, scowling, bug-eyed mad hatter theatrics made for a great show. And then there was Ian’s choice of rock and roll “axe”: not a six-string six shooter like so many other bandleaders, but a 20th century Pan with a flute!
The box set of Jethro Tull‘s Songs from the Wood received the knees up full Monty treatment from Porcupine Tree remixer/surround sound savant Steven Wilson, a perfect present for any long time Jethro Tull fan (is there any other kind?). In my opinion, the results from remixing Songs from the Wood to surround sound are the most satisfying to date of all of the reissues so far including Benefit , the 1970 Jethro Tull under-appreciated missing link between the eclectic folksy Stand Up and the breakthrough million sellers Aqualung and Thick as a Brick. Then there was the odds’n’sods collection Living in the Past which was rushed out in the U.S. in Fall 1972 to capitalize after Thick As a Brick became Jethro Tull’s stunning #1 seller earlier that year.
Revisit the UK hit “Sweet Dream”, the band’s interpretation of Johan Sebastian Bach’s jaunty “Bouree”; “Teacher”; “Bungle in the Jungle” and “Skating Away…”, both from War Child ; and the title song to “Living in the Past”. And as you find yourself humming & singing all of these familiar melodies, either here in this classic rock interview or in concert, remind yourself that Ian Anderson nor Jethro Tull still are not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. – Redbeard