The Sunday Dozen: Jethro Tull

I had never heard of Jethro Tull until I saw a 1971 issue of Rolling Stone with Ian Anderson on the cover. I was intrigued enough to buy Tull’s then current album, Aqualung. I was blown away: I’d never heard anything like it before.

Tull were serious road warriors during their Seventies commercial and artistic heyday. I saw them many times during the decade, and they always put on a good show. The onstage antics of Ian Anderson, Martin Barre, and John Evan put a smile on my face. When it came to snappy stage patter, Ian was way ahead of his time. Back then, stage banter was minimal and usually unedifying. Ian Anderson was among those who changed that.

As much as I love the band’s music, I’ve never cared for their full band name. It was the idea of a record company exec or manager; the story is muddled and has been told differently by different people over the years. The name stuck. As I’m not a fan of old-timey agriculturists, I tend to call them by Jethro’s last name, Tull.

One thing I enjoy about being a Tull fan is that they were never cool. It was a way to let my music geek flag fly while enjoying some of the most complex and eclectic music I’ve ever encountered. Plus, Ian’s lyrics are witty and wise.

If I cared about the rock and roll hall of fame, I’d be pissed over their omission, but I don’t so I’m not; neither does Ian Anderson. The RRHOF is Jann Wenner’s thing and the critics at his former publication never got Tull. They confused musical sophistication with pretentiousness. It was their loss.

There many personnel changes in the band over the years. The featured image features my favorite iteration of Tull: John Glascock, Barriemore Barlow, Ian Anderson, David (now Dee) Palmer, John Evan, and Martin Barre. It’s hard, however, to complain about the addition of Dave Pegg, Andrew Giddings, Eddie Jobson, Maartin Allcock and other worthy musicians. In the end, it’s Ian’s band.

On to the list itself, I’ve omitted many of the hits and concert war horses. Everybody knows Aqualung and Locomotive Breath, after all, Great songs but I prefer to mine some lesser-known nuggets from their back catalog.

As always, the list is in chronological order and reflects my own personal taste. “And your wise men don’t know how it feels, to be thick as a brick.”

And away we go.

Wind Up is the final track of my first Tull album.  I recall them opening with the acoustic part of the song at one early show, then closing the set with the hard rock ending. I think that started my fascination with set lists.

This is NOT a cheat. Thick As A Brick is my favorite Tull composition. I still love every minute of it.

The Minstrel In The Gallery album came out when I spent six months experiencing the sights and sounds of London Town to quote Richard Thompson.

I was lucky enough to have family in the city. They lived near Baker Street, which I first explored out of Sherlock Holmes fandom. I was disappointed in the real street but not in Baker Street Muse, which I like almost as much as Thick As A Brick.

I’m one of the few people who digs the Too Old To Rock ‘N’ Roll: Too Young To Die album. It’s not a typical Tull album but it’s typically creative. It begins with what I call my Jeopardy earworm: “Be a quizz kid, be a whiz kid.”

Songs From The Wood is one of Ian Anderson’s catchiest tunes. Most of the songs on the album of that name were written after Ian moved his family to the country. I’ve always respected the way Ian has kept his private life, well, private.

Acres Wild is one of the unmined nuggets I mentioned at the top of the post. The mandolin and electric guitar interplay is to die for.

I featured the cover of Stormwatch on Wednesday. Dark Ages is the most powerful song on the album. It packs a hard rock punch after the folk-rock sunniness of the previous two albums.

A was supposed to be an Ian Anderson solo album but the record company wanted more Tull product, so Ian changed the band’s lineup to feature the musicians who played on A. That’s how Martin Barre survived the purge.

It was not Ian’s finest hour. But it was the beginning of Dave Pegg’s 16 year run with the band. I’ve met Peggy. Lovely chap, eh wot.

Tull went semi-electronica on The Broadsword and the Beast. The Clasp is a song I used to sing under my breath as I roamed the streets of our nation’s capitol as a young congressional aide.

Ian had problems with his voice during the Eighties but soldiered on. Farm On The Freeway is a polemic against the urbanization and genrtification of the British countryside.

Roots To Branches is Tull’s most underrated album. I wasn’t crazy about it at first listen, but it grew on me. I now consider it one of their finest albums.

J-Tull Com ended the 20th Century on a 21st Century note. It’s a bit patchy in spots but it has some of Ian’s finest songs including the album opener, Spiral.

Tull has released 22 studio albums. Let’s boil it down to a half-dozen. This time rated in order of preference. I’m sure many will disagree but it’s my list: neener, neener, neener.

  1. Thick As A Brick
  2. Minstrel In The Gallery
  3. Songs From The Wood
  4. Heavy Horses
  5. Roots To Branches
  6. Crest Of A Knave

Aqualung remains a sentimental favorite but I wanted to plug two underrated albums. It was harder to omit Stormwatch.

It’s lagniappe time. Like your humble blogger, Ian Anderson is a major cat person. Here are two feline tunes.

Finally, a song that didn’t make the Tull dozen, but may well be my current theme song:

The last word goes to Ian Anderson and Dave Pegg:

3 thoughts on “The Sunday Dozen: Jethro Tull

  1. The “Thick as a Brick” tour was my first big concert, held at Cornell in spring 1972. Acoustics at Barton Hall sucked, but the show was great. And yes, I still really like that album too.

  2. Well thought out and presented. Although I have my own favorites that don’t match yours, I appreciate your contribution . Thank you. Stuart W.

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