30 December 2010
Jethro Tull are a British rock group formed in 1967 that is distinctive for the lyrics, vocals and flute playing of Ian Anderson who has led the band since its founding.
The early incarnation of the band was blues rock, but throughout they have experimented with elements of classical music, folk music, jazz and art rock into their music.
They are one of world's best-selling music artists. They have sold more than 60 million albums worldwide and are still playing into their fifth decade.
The band is named after a real historical figure. Jethro Tull (1674 – 1741) was an English agricultural pioneer who helped bring about the British Agricultural Revolution. He perfected a horse-drawn seed drill in 1701 that economically sowed the seeds in neat rows, and later a horse-drawn hoe. Tull's methods were adopted by many large landowners, and they helped form the basis of modern agriculture.
Ian Anderson's first band, started in 1962 in Blackpool, was known as The Blades, and featured Anderson on vocals and harmonica, Jeffrey Hammond on bass, John Evans (later shortened to Evan)on drums, and a guitarist, Michael Stephans. Drummer Barrie Barlow became a member in 1963 after Evans had switched from drums to piano. By 1964 the band had developed into a seven-piece Blue-eyed soul band called The John Evan Band (later The John Evan Smash).
In 1967, the band moved to the London area in search of fame, but the plan fizzled and most of the band quit and headed home. Anderson and bassist Glenn Cornick (who had replaced Hammond) connected with blues guitarist Mick Abrahams and his friend, drummer Clive Bunker to gve it another try.
Anderson, frustrated with his guitar playing, made the unusual switch to flute - a move that would serve the band well in the future.
They released an unsuccessful single in 1968 called "Sunshine Day." It was mislabeled "Jethro Toe" and copies have become collector's items.
Their first album is This Was from 1968. It includes original tunes by Anderson and Abrahams, "Cat's Squirrel" with Abrahams' blues-rock, and a Rahsaan Roland Kirk-penned jazz piece called "Serenade to a Cuckoo" which features Anderson's still-developing flute stylings.
Abrahams left because the band was moving away from a pure blues-rock style and he formed his own band,the much-underrated Blodwyn Pig.
Jethro Tull's best-known album is the 1971 Aqualung. The album has a lyrical theme about religion and society and though not a "rock opera" (as with The Who's Tommy and other albums of the period), it is considered to be a concept album. . Though consisting of distinct tracks, there is a consistent theme leading some rock critics and connoisseurs to label it as a concept album.
The character of Aqualung is a Dickensian, disreputable homeless tramp, who wanders the streets "eyeing little girls with bad intent". The song was inspired by Anderson's wife at the time and amateur photographer, Jennie. A series of photos she had done of homeless men sparked the idea. Other songs, like "Cross-Eyed Mary" about a young prostitute, fit thematically. The album also included quieter acoustic tracks such as "Wond'ring Aloud," but is best remembered for the "Aqualung" title track and rockers like "Locomotive Breath."
The band has gone through many lineups with Anderson being the consistent factor. Their 2008 tour celebrated 40 years of the band,and included many older songs as well as guest appearances from former band members and others.
Jethro Tull's 2010 world concert tour took them to Austria, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Norway, Switzerland, Armenia, the UK and North America.
The band has devoted followers and there are many fan sites online. Their official site is at JethroTull.com.
Amazon.com listings for Jethro Tull
The Best of Jethro Tull
Thick As a Brick
Minstrel in the Gallery
Best of Acoustic
A Passion Play
Minstrel in the Gallery
Jethro Tull: Live at Madison Square Garden 1978 (DVD/CD)