Article 21

Rock On

Living in the Past -Jethro Tull

(Published in Times of India, Pune on 27th October, 2001)

A s kids, we had always been exposed to a rich array of music. Those were the glorious days of Woodstock and the so-called hippie culture had invaded the youth of the universe. It was time for experimentation and exploration and no project was far-fetched or too difficult to imagine. At that time, the new music, coming from the British Isles, was greatly influenced by the black music of USA and the blend was hard-edged blues with British meticulousness. The effect was breathtaking! The challenge for the bands of those days was to sound different from each other, as American Blues had become the standard starting point for all of them. And yes, there was one British band that seemed to meet this challenge head on. This was the wild and strange band fronted by the bearded, 'one-legged' flautist, singer, guitarist and composer, Ian Anderson that went under the mysterious name of "Jethro Tull".

When I first heard the music of this Scottish band, I rejected it totally as it seemed strange and totally incomprehensible. The crazy voice, the strange lyrics, the frantic flute playing weaving itself through convoluted guitar licks, the busy drumming and the bizarre song writing made this band unpalatable to this young kid. Yet I always seemed to be coming back to check them out again and again! Later, I realized that it was these very same qualities that attracted me back. The flute had acquired a hypnotic quality and Martin Barre's innovative rock guitar playing gave the songs the raw edge that complemented the complicated song writing style perfectly. Above all, the quaint folkish acoustic quality of their music made them stand out from the rest of the British bands and made me join the millions of fans they had managed to amass by then.

People have always wondered about the origins of the name "Jethro Tull" and its connection with the band. People assumed that this was Ian Anderson's name and it was amusing to hear them talk about Jethro Tull as if he was a member of the band. Unfortunately the truth is not as exciting as most people would like it to be. It is said that in the early days, the band used to change its name every week! They were so bad that they had to pretend to be new in order to get re-booked in clubs. Their agent who was a student of history came up with the name Jethro Tull and this was the name they went under when London's famous Marquee Club offered them the Thursday night residency. The band suddenly took off and the name has stuck since then. It made Jethro Tull, a hitherto little known eighteenth century English agricultural pioneer, who invented the seed drill, a household name and yet another story was added to Rock n' Roll folk lore!

Jethro Tull went on to sell over 60 million albums worldwide and performed over 2,500 concerts in 40 countries. They have recorded almost 30 albums and their career spans over 30 years. Albums like "Benefit", "Aqualung", "Living in the Past", "Thick As A Brick" are on the 'must have' list of all classic rock buffs in the world. They truly went on to become one of the most successful and enduring acts in British rock history. They surely must be, as no record company would release over 16 "The best of" collections by the same artiste!

Jethro Tull performed in Bombay some years back but I missed them in concert as I was out of town. However I was fortunate to meet Ian Anderson at a private dinner a year before that. He was on a press junket to South East Asia and had stopped over in Mumbai to do some interviews. Ian is an avid fan of Indian food and we were dining at this excellent Indian restaurant that served him some of his favorite dishes. It was great watching one of Classic Rock biggest icon enjoying himself as we talked about the Bombay Rock scene between huge mugs of Indian beer and masala papadums. My wife, Usha captured us on camera at this meeting and these pictures have adorned my living room sideboard since then! "Too Old To Rock N' Roll, Too Young To Die," is the name of one of Ian's best songs and yet, at over fifty years of age, Ian Anderson performs hundreds of shows a year throughout the world. A source of great inspiration to me, I guess there can be nothing else that I can say to this veteran rocker but Rock onů

Nandu Bhende











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