Jethro Tull
Home Musical Notes
Last updated: 15 August 1997

  1. Ian Anderson: Lead Vocals, Flute, Acoustic Guitar, et. al.
  2. Mick Abrahams: Electric Guitar (1967-1968)
  3. Martin Barre: Electric Guitar (1969-present)
  4. John Evan: Piano & Organ (1970-1979)
  5. David Palmer: Keyboards, et. al. (1976-1979)
  6. Eddie Jobson: Keyboards (1980-1981)
  7. Peter Vettese: Keyboards (1982-1984, 1989)
  8. Andrew Giddings: Keyboards (1988-present)
  9. Martin Allcock: Keyboards & Guitar (1989)
  10. Glenn Cornick: Bass (1967-1970)
  11. John Hammond-Hammond: Bass (1971-1975)
  12. John Glascock: Bass (1976-1979)
  13. Dave Pegg: Bass (1980-present)
  14. Steve Bailey: Bass (1995)
  15. Clive Bunker: Drums (1967-1971)
  16. Barriemore Barlow: Drums (1972-1979)
  17. Mark Craney: Drums (1980-1981)
  18. Gerry Conway: Drums (1981-1988)
  19. Doane Perry: Drums (1983-present)
  20. Dave Mattacks: Drums (1992)


I discovered Jethro Tull sometime in college, probably around late 1988 or early 1989. Of course, I'd heard "Aqualung", "Locomotive Breath", "Living In The Past" and "Bungle In The Jungle" on the radio, but I'd never been terribly impressed. Pretty unremarkable stuff, I'd thought.

A friend in an APA suggested I try their album Songs From The Wood, so I figured, what the heck. Well, I tried it and quite enjoyed it! As it turned out, this album helped reveal my interest in Celtic-style folk music, but I soon immersed myself in more Tull, and was hooked once I'd heard their superb boxed set, 20 Years of Jethro Tull.

Unfortunately, I missed their heyday by about 12 years, and was a bit disappointed when I saw them in concert in New Orleans in 1989, but they've left one of the more impressive legacies of recorded rock music. In the 1970s, they were nearly as prolific as David Bowie and Elton John, releasing more than an album a year from 1968 to 1980, and their output was stylistically far more diverse. At the core of this diversity, Tull has always embraced some sort of British eccentricity which has marked them as unutterably unique.


This Was (1968)

Tull originally emerged from the blues-rock scene in England, and were famously bad for several years. Legend has it that they kept changing their name to get repeat gigs, and that "Jethro Tull" was the name they happened to have when they were signed. Their first single was accidentally released as "Jethro Toe".

This Was, their first album, shows that blues influence. Guitarist Mick Abrahams was mainly interested in doing blues music, while vocalist/flautist Ian Anderson had his own interests. These two wrote most tracks on the album, separately or together. This Was displays the barest germs of the Tull style; Glenn Cornick's bass is very understated, and Clive Bunker's drumming is reminiscent of that of the contemporary Jimi Hendrix Experience. Anderson's flute style was sharply influenced by the jazzy sound of Roland Kirk, and the band covers a Kirk piece, "Serenade to a Cuckoo", here. "My Sunday Feeling" is one of several straightforward blues songs, while "Dharma For One" is the closest thing to a rocker on the album. The most famous song on the album, "Song For Jeffrey" (one of three pieces Anderson would write about his friend Jeffrey Hammond), doesn't neatly fall into any particular category.

Stand Up (1969)

Mick Abrahams left the group following This Was and Anderson took over full songwriting duties. The band interviewed dozens of people to fill Abrahams' boots (apparently future Black Sabbath member Tommy Iommi filled the role for a few weeks), and eventually decided on an unknown named Martin Barre. Barre proved quite versatile, capable of thundering solos, or bluesy, Claptonesque melodies.

Stand Up (which originally featured a clever pop-up album sleeve) kicked off with "A New Day Yesterday", based on a fairly simple blues riff, and included a cover of a JS Bach piece entitled "Bouree" (which was Anderson's signature piece for many years), but the rest of the album was unique, as Anderson was forging new, progressive rock sounds, much as groups like King Crimson and Yes were doing around the same time. The songs included the gentle "Look Into The Sun", the rhythmic "Fat Man", and the loud "For A Thousand Mothers".

Stand Up has never been my favorite Tull album; I've always felt it was not terribly focused, and still very raw. Anderson co-produced the album, and he would eventually become known for crisp, clear production work, but the band's sound was still evolving, and still tightening up.

Benefit (1970)

Benefit was Tull's breakthrough album, artistically speaking, and keyboardist John Evan joined the band with this album. It began with the psychadelic flute-driven "With You There To Help Me", which signalled a radical evolution in Anderson's songwriting ability. Anderson began using flutes and whistles for rhythm as well as melody on tracks such as "Inside", allowed Glenn Cornick to drive the music on the single "Teacher" (one of Tull's best songs ever), and Bunker to bash away on "To Cry You A Song".

Anderson was becoming a better vocalist, too, as he pushed his voice farther on "Nothing To Say", and worked with more delicate material on "For Michael Collins, Jeffrey and Me" and "Sossity, You're A Woman". Anderson had a rich, deep voice, and the early 70s were when he exercised it to its fullest extent.

Although it's sometimes rather cryptic (Anderson's lyrics are sometimes rather bizarre), Benefit is one of my favorite Tull albums.

Aqualung (1971)

This, of course, is Tull's most famous work; the guitar riff from "Aqualung" is among the most famous in rock music, and "Locomotive Breath" was used in a beer commercial in the 1990s. The album is alternately praised and reviled, but it clearly indicates a coming-of-age for the band, a new level of confidence and achievement, in a year when many other bands were making similar breakthroughs. (1971 was the year of The Who's Who's Next, Led Zeppelin's Led Zeppelin IV, Traffic's The Lone Spark of High-Heeled Boys, and several other rock classics.)

For myself, I don't think it's fundamentally as innovative as Benefit, and it's generally a much darker and less subtle album. It is notable as the first album in which Anderson started writing major acoustic songs, as "Cheap Day Return", "Wond'ring Aloud" and "Slipstream" are all very nice - if short - acoustic pieces.

But neither "Aqualung" nor "Locomotive Breath" is really a remarkable song (save perhaps for Barre's guitar). "Mother Goose" is musically almost a dark redux of "Inside" from Benefit. "Cross-Eyed Mary" and "Hymn 43", though solid songs, are basically straight-ahead rockers. And overall Anderson's commentary on God and Man seems a bit naive today.

Glenn Cornick left Tull prior to this album, and Jeffrey Hammond - for whom Anderson had previous written several Tull songs (why he wrote them is unknown to me) - joined as Tull's bassist.

Living In The Past (1972)

Tull fans of the day were in for a real treat with this double album: Rather than containing new material, Living contained many singles previously not available on album, such as "Sweet Dream", "Witches Promise", "Life Is A Long Song", and of course the title track. It also contained two extended live pieces, and many odds-and-ends from the past five years.

The Rolling Stone Record Guide gave only this album five stars, out of all of Tull's repertoire, and it's easy to see why. Anderson's acoustic leanings are well in evidence here, and his facility for arranging intricate melodies comes to light on tracks such as "Wond'ring Again" (sort of an extended version of "Wond'ring Aloud"). Although there are a few duds, like the one-note "Christmas Song" and pointless "Driving Song", there's a lot of great stuff here.

Sadly, the master tapes for Living In The Past deteriorated significantly in the 70s and 80s, and the CD issue of this album contains a terrible background hiss. It's badly in need of digital remastering and cleanup.

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