It started with three Jethro Tull LPs… Aqualung, Thick As A Brick and Warchild. Those LPs were part of my father’s record collection. Around the time I was in high school (late 80s, early 90s), I began to be heavily influenced by those albums and wore them out. I recall a moment when analyzing Aqualung when my parents asked me if there was something else I could listen to!
I soon bought all of those three albums on cassette, and acquired the rest of the Tull discography on cassette tape as well (many at Boscov’s in Hazleton, PA). This was long before the Internet. Finding recorded material was difficult, even for popular bands.
My father – who played guitar – never really played any Jethro Tull songs, but I took to those three albums intensely and soon learned every nuance of them, mostly as a bass player and then as vocalist. Moving from bass to acoustic guitar, I also added a few Tull covers to my repertoire.
Around 1992 and 1993, I attended a few Jethro Tull conventions with a friend in NY state (organized by Benjamin Vaccaro). I performed, met other enthusiasts and met early Tull bassist Glenn Cornick. By then I had also taken up flute… poorly… using the same overblown 3rd octave method that Ian had made famous during his early Tull career – before he learned to play “properly” by the time his solo album Divinities rolled around. Divinities was a huge hit with the New Age scene, and is still one of my favorite albums.
By 1998-1999, I was releasing my own original music. I often got the Jethro Tull / Ian Anderson comparison, which was nice in some ways, but also a bit odd because I was trying to establish my own voice. Still, I think all of my albums from 1999 to 2010 still hold a lot of Tull influence, until I “went electro”.
Ian’s Secret Language of Birds and Rupi’s Dance are other gems. Though neither really captures the splendor of Divinities.
Looking back, I can’t regret anything. The way Ian orchestrated his music had a tremendous impact on me musically and otherwise. His no-drugs work ethic certainly shaped my own path, and at times I even faced push back from collaborators because of that. But I always pushed forward and made music the way I wanted to make it in the spirit of that drug-free work ethic.
Fast forward to 2020 and beyond… Truth be told, Ian Anderson has kind of lost me with his recent solo work on Homo Erraticus and the “Tull” album The Zealot Gene. But Ian’s impact on my musical journey can not be overlooked. You can’t please all the people all of the time. I’ve been at Tull concerts where people complained that Ian didn’t sound like he used to sound… that’s not really fair because music has to evolve. I’ve seen him perform in a wheelchair for Christ sakes… so I don’t know many people who can do that.
So here’s to a band – and a band leader – that contributed to my formative years! May they continue to inspire!