Anderson, Ian (Jethro Tull) (January 2000)

The story of the man with the dirty trousers

Ian Anderson circa late 60's-early 70's; 'dirty trousers' not shown Maybe it's time I explained this rather strange title now. In the beginning of the seventies one of the most important music magazines in Holland was called Muziek Express. In one of their issues there was an article on Jethro Tull. Right then it was Ian Anderson's trademark to play the most outrageous flute solos standing on one leg! The then longhaired Anderson (where are the days Ian?) always wore a pair of pants that were made out of different parts of velvet. That's why Muziek Express placed the following text underneath one of the photographs: "Ian Anderson in his dirty trousers." It is something I have always remembered!

Although I had asked the record company to talk to Ian personally, the big man had only agreed to do an interview if all of the press would be present. So for the second time in my life (the first time was three years ago in Paris with Supertramp), I would have to share my well thought out questions with the rest of the press! Knowing that the new album is called Dot Com, of course as a journalist you had to visit the site first before confronting Ian. If every journalist in the house had done his homework, then everyone would have read the FAQ's (Frequently Asked Questions) on the site and could concentrate on the lesser-known facts of the life of "Mister Flute." Alas, most of the journalists present were French and you can imagine how they have to sweat over a question in order to put it forward in understandable English. For some of them it took nearly ten minutes before Anderson understood what they were on about. Of course this enabled me to ask not one but nearly four questions in a row to a clearly amused Ian Anderson.

It has been a long time since a band as big as Jethro Tull would take the trouble to confront the press in its entirety, even if they enjoined us one by one. After minstrel Anderson had answered us "solo," guitarist Martin Barre and keyboard player Andrew Giddings entered the little room, whilst playing their instruments - Barre on acoustic guitar and Giddings on accordion. Once Anderson saw what was happening, he quickly took the flute that lay in front of him in order to treat us to a short acoustic version of "Bourée." "We hadn't talked about this," smiled Anderson. "Really this is the very first time something spontaneous like this has happened!" That spontaneous attitude would also be present during the band's concert where the group would show a very relaxed attitude and loads of typical British humor. But what I would like to know is whether at all Jethro Tull today is a band or a project? "In the 31 years we've been busy, a mere 22 people have been a member of Jethro Tull," calculates Anderson in a hurry. "Whenever we should call it a day, then my little mathematical knowledge teaches me we have sufficient people to play a game of football, on a large pitch! When I look at the boys around this table, then I can't say it concerns a project. Jonathan Noyce, our bass player [born whenAqualung was released], has been the last member to join the band and that's been five years ago. Doane [Perry] has been with us for 16 years, Andrew 10 years and Martin more than thirty years."

Some people use 'music' to extra underline a statement. Has Anderson ever done this? "I have always found that I'm a musician and not a preacher. I can't allow myself to go on stage and tell people what is good and what is wrong. My songs tell stories about everyday life and here and there I will twist the reality a little bit so that the listener might not exactly know how it all fits together. Certain songs are about my wife, yet I have to write about it in a mysterious way because when I write too explicit then I'll have my wife against me. Let's say that I mainly write about the husband-wife relationship anyway. Also the man-man relationship might be possible, although I have no experience with it, but who knows, it might still happen!" The thought alone makes Anderson laugh like a bad schoolboy who has just succeeded in another prank.

But there's the new CD, and the title Dot Com has, of course, been chosen because of the link with the band's brand new website which, of course, delivers to you all you ever wanted to know about the band and more. "Andrew Giddings is our webmaster and the nice thing is that we started this site around the same time when we began writing the material for our latest album. It's as if both things were connected in one way or another. The record company thought it was a splendid idea to call the album after the website but not so long ago I found out that some old friends of ours, Marillion, have just released as their new album. This is not the first time that such a 'coincidence' occurred. The same thing sort of happened when John Lennon released his Some Time In New York City album. Thick As A Brick (1972) Three months before we had released Thick As A Brick in the now legendary newspaper mock up sleeve, and now Lennon releases his album also wrapped in a newspaper! I might add that I'm not such a computer addict myself, even if we have about four computers at home. My wife is constantly using them to keep our accountancy in order and three notebooks are always used from one side of the world to the other. Personally I love the Internet as a wealth of information, yet I only use it when I really need to. I'm not one of those Internet freaks who, from the moment he walks into his home, puts on his slippers, switches on the PC and starts 'surfing' until late at night. I have other things to do! The Internet is still expanding and within five to ten years it will look completely different than it is right now.

"At the moment Jethro Tull is number five in the Billboard 100 where CD-sales through the Internet is concerned. The number five band in the world next to big selling artists like Garth Brooks and Shania Twain! Out of personal interest I wanted to know how many sales this meant and we have to thank this fifth place thanks to the sale of ... 2000 CDs! Someone like David Bowie swears by Internet and I'm convinced that things will get better within a couple of years, but the way Bowie moves into this new world probably will mean selling ... 3000 CDs! Look, record stores will always be there because people simply like to get their hands dirty looking through piles and piles of albums and CDs. Rare Sunshine Day single miscredited to 'Jethro Toe' They want to hold something in their hands before they decide they want to buy it. It might well be that sales through Internet will grow from 5% to 30% yet I see both 'instruments' still existing next to each other. The Internet will also be [an] interesting [way] to offer new music and to enable people to download music as well. I am not talking MP3 here, as this is already something 'old'. No, very soon people will invent new compression techniques and new ways to carry that information with you and that might change the face of music sooner than we think. In 5 to 10 years I see a big role for satellites in the transaction of music through Internet. In the meantime you'll be able to buy merchandise through our site, albums and lots, lots more." I want to ask Ian if we'll also be able to buy some smoked salmon through the website, but I feel this question will only be understood by a handful of people present so I quietly wait for the chance to fire another question.

If you take a look at the sleeve for the new album up close, you will see the genitals from the figure on the sleeve. Anderson was very surprised that he got a phone call from the States about this. Had he thought about removing these genitals or placing a sticker over them? It makes me think about the first copies of Bowie's Diamond Dogs on which you could see the penis of the dog. That 'piece of meat' was later removed by means of airbrush technique. Anderson nods his head: "Europe has so much more culture than America! Thousands of years ago artists would paint and sculpture their subjects in all of their nude beauty. I was sixteen when, at art school, I had to draw nudes. Sixteen years old and I had to draw vaginas! Today, half of the Internet is filled with porn and probably half of that or even more is coming from the States and now they ask me to remove a 'dick' from a cartoon!"

When you are so overwhelmed by the sound of the flute like Anderson is, you probably will look for native flutes all over the world in order to include these sounds onto forthcoming albums and compositions. "That's what I have always done. I bought my very first flute in 1970 when I was about 20 years old. I bought a flute, a mouth organ and an Irish 'tin whistle,' all on the very same day. I have always loved acoustic instruments. On the first Jethro Tull album I played mandolin and on the second I used a balalaika. I am 'Mister Unplugged' in Jethro Tull. It is nice to include more ethnic sounds within the concept of a rock band. It's OK as long as the rest of the band doesn't play too loud. A while ago we thought of putting a big fence around Doane Perry's drumkit in order to save our ears from damage. If you think about what we went through over all these years then it's a miracle that we're still alive, let alone can still hear. Sadly, the latter can't be said of Pete Townshend and Jack Bruce."

Roots To Branches (1995)If we can believe the true fans, then every Jethro Tull album isn't necessarily a good album. A lot of those fans dare to say that Roots To Branches is an unnecessary album, others might think the same about Under Wraps or even some other album. Is there an album or a period in time of which Martin Barre would not like to be reminded of? "Not really, no. You can't be happy 365 days a year so there's always a couple of days you don't feel too well, but in general, I might say I'm happy about everything I've done and achieved. I don't really see any highlights being that important that I will carry them with me for the rest of my life. We did Shea Stadium [in New York], but that was a 'crap' concert. We did four consecutive nights at Madison Square Gardens [in New York], and even if you would like yourself to be reminded that this was something unforgettable, in the end it was just another concert."

"A few weeks ago we played in front of around 10,000 people, but I can't remember where it was," continues Anderson. "Yet I can remember very well a gig we did in Missoula, a tiny village in Montana, where only about 2.000 people showed up. It's rather those tiny things which make it all worthwhile and fun to do, like the wallpaper in the dressing room, a beautiful girl in the audience, or the girl who gave Martin her bra."

"Unfortunately that was my wife,' says Martin in typical British style!

When we look at contemporary bands such as Yes, Genesis, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, we see that all of these bands did at one time in their career release a double studio album during the vinyl age. If CD would have existed then, could it be that albums like Aqualung or Thick As A Brick might have included more music or has the band edited certain tracks or deleted songs altogether in order to fit all the material onto one vinyl disc? "It was more an economical reason more than anything why we never released a double studio album," says Ian, bemused. "We had enough material but the record company just looked at the extra cost like a more expensive sleeve, booklet, etc... so it never happened."

Jethro Tull -  Italian 'Sweet Dream' / '17' in rare picture sleeveWhen you compare the music from the very beginning with what can be found on Dot Com then one can certainly speak about a big difference. "I grew up during the sixties in London, and when I was eighteen I had a pretty good idea about India and Bangladesh. Our drummer was Indian so all of those influences were already there. In that period, London was a melting pot of all kinds of culture. At home, as a young lad, I used to listen to my father's jazz big bands, and when I was a teenager I started listening to blues a lot. All of those elements together ended up in the Jethro Tull music. The diversity grows because every town I visit holds an enormous collection of culture and if you live too far from a big city you can always find a huge collection on"

Just before the concert was about to start, someone asked the audience to not smoke in the concert hall because Ian Anderson had some trouble with his throat. The guy next to me kept on smoking his joint and at times I could hardly see the stage. Talk of "Locomotive Breath"! Luckily, the band gave us a well-balanced selection of new and old material including favourites such as "A New Day Yesterday," "Locomotive Breath," "Aqualung" and some vintage stuff from This Was. It was a wonderful concert, not too loud and in perfect balance. Jethro Tull: from beaujolais primeur'* to grand cru classé'* in thirty years.


Jethro Tull live, circa the 60's
Jethro Tull live, circa the 60's

* see your wine encyclopedia for explanation.

[Should be noted that Bobo's opinion of the French music press is his own and doesn't reflect the opinion of -ed.]

This Was (1968)
Stand Up (1969)
Benefit (1970)
Aqualung (1971)
Thick As A Brick (1972)
Living In The Past (1972)
A Passion Play (1973)
War Child (1974)
Minstrel In The Gallery (1975)
M.U. The Best Of (1976)
Too Old To Rock ''N'' Roll: Too Young To Die (1976)
Songs From The Wood (1977)
Repeat - The Best Of Jethro Tull Vol 2 (1977)
Heavy Horses (1978)
Bursting Out - Live (1978)
Stormwatch (1979/2004)
''A'' (1980)
The Broadsword And The Beast (1982/2005)
Under Wraps (1984)
Original Masters (1985)
Crest Of A Knave (1987/2005)
20 Years Of Jethro Tull (1988)
Rock Island (1988)
Catfish Rising (1991)
A Little Light Music (1992)
The Anniversary Collection (1993)
25th Anniversary Box Set (1993)
Nightcap (1995)
Roots To Branches (1995)
J-Tull Dot Com (1999)
The Very Best Of (2001)
Living With The Past (2002)
The Jethro Tull Christmas Album (2003)
Classic Masters (2003)
Stand Up/This Was (2003)
Essential (2003)
Nothing Is Easy: Live At The Isle Of Wight 1970 (2004)
Aqualung Live (2005)
Jethro Tull/Ian Anderson (2005)
Extended Versions (2006)
Live At Montreux 2003 (2007)
The Best Of Acoustic Jethro Tull (2007)
Living With The Past/Nothing Is Easy (2008)
This Was (expanded) (2008)
Nothing Is Easy - Live At The Isle Of Wight 1970 (2004/2008)
The Anniversary Collection/A New Day Yesterday (2008)
Live At Montreux 2003 (2008)
Live At Madison Square Garden (2009)
Christmas Album (2009)
Live In Switzerland 2003 (LP) (2014)
A Passion Play - An Extended Performance (2014)
War Child - 40th Anniversary Theatre Edition (2014)
Minstrel In The Gallery - 40th Anniversary La Grande Edition (2015)

Living With The Past (DVD) (2002)
A New Day Yesterday: 1969-1994 - The 25th Anniversary Collection (VID/DVD) (1994/2003/4)
Nothing Is Easy - Live At The Isle Of Wight 1970 (DVD) (2005) Live At Montreux 2003 (DVD) (2008)
Jack In The Green - Live In Germany (DVD) (2008)
Live In Bethlehem, PA, 2003 (DVD) (2008)
Their Full Authorized Story (DVD) (2009)
Live At AVO Session 2008 (DVD) (2009)
Live At Madison Square Garden (DVD) (rec 1978, rel 2009)

Added: January 24th 2000
Interviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

Artist website:
Hits: 1745
Language: english

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