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Jethro Tull (band)

Jethro Tull is a progressive rock band that was formed in the 1960s. Their music is marked by the quirky vocal style and unique lead flute work of frontman Ian Anderson, and by unusual and often complex (for rock music) song construction. Their music has incorporated elements of classical and celtic folk music, as well as the art rock and alternative rock phases of rock music. Despite this, it is difficult to point to specific artists who have directly influenced or been influenced by Jethro Tull. More than many other rock bands, their music stands apart from the rest of rock music.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Discography
3 External Links


The Early Days

Jethro Tull "paid their dues" in clubs in the mid-to-late 1960s with a revolving line-up which eventually crystallized into Ian Anderson (vocals, flute, acoustic guitar, and later many other instruments), Mick Abrahams (electric guitar), Glenn Cornick (bass) and Clive Bunker (drums). The story goes that the band went through a variety of name changes to get repeat bookings, and that Jethro Tull was the name they happened to sport when they scored a record deal (the name comes from the inventor of the seed drill). After a couple of minor singles (including their first on which the band's name was misspelled "Jethro Toe"), they released the bluesy album This Was in 1968. The music was written partly by Anderson and partly by Abrahams.

Following this album, Abrahams left and after a series of auditions, Martin Barre became the new guitarist. Barre would become the longest-standing member of the band other than Anderson.

Progressive Rock

This new line-up released Stand Up in 1969. Written entirely by Anderson, it largely abandoned the blues in favor of the up-and-coming style of progressive rock being developed at the time by groups such as Yes, although Stand Up feels not entirely unlike early Led Zeppelin albums in its heavy and slightly dark sound. In 1970 they added keyboardist John Evan and released the album Benefit.

Bassist Cornick left following Benefit, replaced by Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond, and this line-up released Tull's best-known work, Aqualung in 1971. A combination of heavy rock music focusing on the relationship between God and man and some lighter acoustic fare about the mundanity of everyday life, the album is loved by many and reviled by many others. This notwithstanding, the title track and "Locomotive Breath" have become staples of classic rock radio.

Drummer Bunker departed next, replaced by Barriemore Barlow, and the band's 1972 album was Thick as a Brick. This was a concept album consisting of a single very long track split by the two sides of the LP, with a number of movements melded together and some repeating themes. This album's quintet - Anderson, Barre, Evan, Hammond-Hammond and Barlow - would be Tull's longest-standing line-up, lasting until 1975.

1972 also saw the release of Living in the Past, a double-album compilation of singles, B-sides and outtakes, regarded by some as their best overall release. The title track is one of their more enduring singles.

In 1973, the band attempted to record a double album, but supposedly they were unhappy with the quality of the recording studio and abandoned the effort. Instead they quickly recorded and released A Passion Play, another single-track album with very allegorical lyrics. After several years of increasing popularity, A Passion Play was widely reviled and marked a turning point for the band. Arguably they had passed the peak of their popularity. 1974's War Child received some critical acclaim, though, and produced the radio mainstay "Bungle in the Jungle".

Folk Rock

In 1975 the band released Minstrel in the Gallery, which revolved largely around Anderson's acoustic guitar with some of the feel of classical guitar (though the title track also spotlighter Barre's electric guitar). Following this album, bassis Hammond-Hammond left the band, replaced by John Glascock.

1976's Too Old to Rock 'n' Roll: Too Young to Die was another concept album about the life of an aging rocker. It was perceived by some as autobiographical, a charge Anderson denied.

The band closed the decade with a trio of folk rock albums, Songs from the Wood, Heavy Horses and Stormwatch, and the band had some ties to the folk-rockers Steeleye Span. Although not formally considered a part of the folk-rock movement (which had actually begun nearly a decade earlier with the advent of Fairport Convention), there was clearly a lot of exchanging of musical ideas between Tull and the folk-rockers. During this time, David Palmer, who had orchestrated some strings for earlier Tull albums, formally joined the band, mainly on keyboards.

Bassist Glascock died in 1979 following heart surgery, and Stormwatch was actually completed without him (Anderson contributed bass on a few tracks). Anderson decided to record his first solo album, and in the process disbanded Jethro Tull.

Electronic Rock

For whatever reason, though, Anderson released his solo album as a Tull album in 1980. Entitled A, it featured Barre on electric guitar, Dave Pegg on bass, and Mark Craney on drums. But the album had a heavy electronic feel, contributed by keyboardist Eddie Jobson. It had a sound and feel completely unlike anything Tull had exhibited before.

Jobson and Craney departed following the A tour and Tull entered a period of revolving drummers (primarily Gerry Conway and Doane Perry). Peter-John Vettese replaced Jobson on keyboards, and the band returned to a folkier sound - albeit with synthesizers - for 1982's The Broadsword and the Beast. 1981 marked the first year in their album career that the band did not release an album.

In 1984 Tull released Under Wraps, a heavily electronic album. Although the band was reportedly proud of the sound, the album was not well-received, and as a result of either that or Anderson's reported vocal problems (or both), Tull went on a three-year hiatus.

The Modern Era

Tull returned stronger than anyone might have expected with 1987's Crest of a Knave. Absent Vettese (Anderson contributed the synth programming) and relying more heavily on Barre's electric guitar than the band had since early 70s, the album was a critical and commercial success, and even won the 1988 Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock or Heavy Metal Album. (They beat an album by Metallica, and reportedly took out an ad in a British music periodical with the line, "The flute is a heavy metal instrument!") The style of Crest has been compared to that of Dire Straits. Anderson seemed to no longer have the vocal range he once possessed, but it hardly mattered.

1988 was also notable for the release of 20 Years of Jethro Tull, a 3-disc album (also release in a truncated single-disc version) consisting largely of outtakes of the band's rich history as well as a variety of live and digitally remastered tracks. It also included a booklet outlining the band's history in great detail, perhaps the first time many Tull fans had the opportunity to hear music of this music or learn so much about the group.

Since then the band has released a variety of albums in a style evocative of Crest but also incorporating more folky influences. Of particular note is 1992's A Little Light Music, a mostly-acoustic live album containing new versions of many well-known and nearly-unknown songs from the band.

Anderson recorded a solo album in 1983, but has recorded more such albums in the 1990s and 2000s. Barre has also released some solo albums. Anderson and Barre have remained the core of the band (Pegg finally leaving in the late 90s). In 1996, an assemblage of progressive rock artists released a tribute to Tull, To Cry You a Song, which included contributions from several former Tull members, as well as artists like Keith Emerson, Tempest, and Wolfstone.

The band has endured into the 21st century and continues to release new albums every few years.


External Links