During 1967 Anderson, Evan, Barlow, with Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond and Glenn Cornick, were all involved at various times with Blackpool-based John Evan Band. At that time a seven-strong band, travelled south to London winter 1967 to record and join London gig circuit, though all but two returned North.
Anderson, a Scottish born ex-art student, and Cornick (bs) stuck it out in London, met guitarist Mick Abrahams and drummer Clive Bunker from Luton area and formed Jethto Tull early 1968. Took name from eighteenth-century English agriculturalist.
On receiving e.d of unexpected ovation at National Jazz and Blues Festival 1968 and in September same year released first Island single, Song For Jeffrey. By time (I) came along, band had already accrued a sizeable following on ‘progressive’ gig circuit.
Consequently album was runaway success that took music business completely by surprise. Uneasy alliance between personalities of Anderson and Abrahams came to head at end of 1968, and the guitarist left to form own band Blodwyn Pig. Tony Iommi, later of Black Sabbath, recruited for brief period (with band during shooting of Rolling Stones Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus TV special) until Martin Barre merged out of auditions as Abrahams’ replacement.
Anderson now took over as unchallenged leader of group – a role he’s maintained and strengthened through years – and pulled Jethto into one of their most productive phases. In 1969, they produced the top five hit single Living In The Past and the brilliant (2), which many regard as Tull’s finest album. This showed Anderson moving well away from Abrahams’ excursions into blues; instead producing a series of tight, riffy little songs, strong on melody and ripe with wit.
A series of sell-out concerts followed, Anderson extending his early stage eccentricities into a whole gallery of postures and poses, coming like some sort of demented bug-eyed tramp… the very antithesis of the later glitter movement but no less a showman for it.
Sweet Dream and The Witch’s Promise kept group in singles chart, while success in the U.S.A. was equally fast in coming. (3), however, failed somewhat to match commercial success of its chart-topping predecessor and was early sign that Jethto’s increasing concentration on breaking in States might prove to be at cost of U .K. following. Artistically, however, (3) was not far short of (2), presenting as it did some of Ian Anderson’s finest melodic compositions with augmentation on keyboard from John Even.
By (4) Even ghad joined Jethro Tulø as full-fledged member and Glen Cornick had left to form own band, Wild Turkey. Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond (bs) brought in as replacement. This was Jethro’s first concept album, one whole side devoted to Anderson’s views on organized religion.
Later that year, Clive Bunker also quit band and was replaced by Barrie Barlow whose first studio gig with Jethro was on Life Is A Long Song maxi single. Through 1971-72, extensive overseas touring continued unabated – Jethro by now learning to live with barrage of criticism about ignoring U .K. audiences.
(5) was totally concept album – one continuous piece of music elaborately constructed and flawlessly played, yet critically received as obscure and lacking in feel. (6) was ditto, only more so, and received a unanimous thumbs down from critics. 1973 concerts also met hostile press reaction, backed up with relatively poor British sales for album. A few months later, in August 1973, citing ‘press abuse’ as major factor, Jethro announced ‘retirement’ from gigging.
It was fatuous, misguided gesture because after (7), originally conceived as sound-track for abortive group movie and a retreat from concept formulea, Jethro went on tour again in U.K. and U.S. late 1974/early 1975.
(8) was similarly a ‘song’ collection, following which Hammond- Hammond replaced by John Glascock. (9) meets concept-theme halfway.
As noted, Jethro since (I) have been essentially Ian Anderson’s band, though contribution of manager Terry Ellis (co-founder Chrysalis Records) has been equally influential.
(I) This Was (Island 1968)
(2) Stand Up (Island 1969)
(3) Benefit (Chrysalis 1970)
(4) Aqualung (Chrysalis 1971)
(5) Thick As A Brick (Chrysalis 1972)
/(6) A Passion Play (Chrysalis 1973)
(7) War Child (Chrysalis 1974)
(8) Minstrel In The Gallery (chrysalis 1975)
(9) Too Old To Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young To Die
(10) Living In The Past (Chrysalis 1972)
(11) M.U.- The Best Of Jethro Tu11 (Chrysalis 1976)