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Jethro Tull's 50th anniversary, 5 Things To Know
It’s perhaps not surprising that Jethro Tull is among the rock bands to reach a 50-year anniversary.
The group, led these days by co-founder and frontman Ian Anderson, was inspired by blues, R&B, folk and jazz -- musics that by 1968 had already established career players who had decades of experience behind them. Tull, of course, put its own spin on those forms, creating epic concepts such as “Aqualung,” “Thick as a Brick,” “A Passion Play” and more and, notoriously, winning the first Grammy Award for heavy metal in 1989.
After 21 albums and nearly two dozen musicians, Tull continues as Anderson sees fit, more as a showcase of a glorious past than a present-day concern. But five decades later he’s still happy to be a minstrel in the gallery -- or whatever venue will have him...
• Anderson, 70, takes a characteristically wry view of Jethro Tull turning 50. “If I think about my hair loss or my flabby bottom or man boobs, then it seems like 50 years,” he says by phone. If I think about the music, on the other hand, most of it is a repertoire I’m familiar with, so it’s as old as the last time I played so it’s only a few days or a few hours old. So you don’t get nostalgic or start feeling those rather romantic feelings about something that is very current to you in terms of occupying your mind, your level of concentration, your expertise. In that sense, it doesn’t feel like 50 years.
• Anderson’s own taste in music gave him a sense that his music could also last for a considerable amount of time. “The music I was listening to as a teenager was the old men of jazz or blues or the old men of folk music or classical music, I always felt -- took it for granted really -- that what I liked was music that had that authority of maturity in performance, and in terms of writing. So whilst I wasn’t realistically expecting to have a long career as a musician...after two or three years I began to think, ‘Well, there’s a living in this, like Muddy Waters or Howling Wolf or John Lee Hooker or -- I was going to say Beethoven, but he died when he was 56, 57 years old, so he didn’t last that long, and a few others lasted even less time. I think I began to have the idea that my appraisal of musical worth; Whilst I might never reach anything like that lofty standard in terms of performance and quality, as I say, there’s a living in it. I could be a professional musician.”
• Jethro Tull has accompanied its 50th anniversary with a new compilation, “50 For 50,” spanning music from throughout the group’s career. “Essentially the record company came up with stuff they thought was perhaps appropriate and I came up with my list of 50 songs), and apart from really maybe four or five pieces we were in general agreement on what should be there. I changed a few things primarily because there was a lot to choose from, but I wanted to make it balanced in terms of tempos, the keys the songs were in and to some extent stylistically and emotionally I wanted to keep it varied.... to give a little bit more light and shade for the listener in that experience of taking a broad look at the Jethro Tull repertoire. A lot of consideration and thought went into it but it wasn’t so difficult”
• As a performer, Anderson says he tries to “get myself into character” to sing the Jethro Tull songs he performed decades ago. “I try and put myself into the mindset of the younger me, so I’m not just imitating something or doing it with no thought or emotion. I have to get myself back into the state when I wrote the song. I have to think about the words -- Why did I write that? Why did I phrase it that way? Why did I choose that particular melody? All these things are part of relearning and re-performing a piece of music you’ve done many times before.”
• Anderson says what’s changed most about him during the past 50 years is the mechanics of making music. “I think probably my lyric writing vocabulary, my ability to construct something, is perhaps a little more refined, a little more elegant these days than it was at the time. But philosophically, intellectually I don’t see there being a busting amount of difference between the old me and the me that is today -- that is the seriously old me. But I feel like I’m the same guy. I just look back and wince a little bit about certain things to do with my personality or my way of communicating.
If You Go:
• Ian Anderson presents 50 Years of Jethro Tull
• 7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 1.
• Michigan Lottery Amphitheatre at Freedom Hill, 14900 Metropolitan Parkway, Sterling Heights.
• Tickets are $30-$99.50.
• Call 313-471-6611 or visit 313Presents.com.
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