Jethro Tull was an English rock band that was active from the late 1960s to the early 2010s. During the 20th century, the band released 20 studio albums.
The band was most prolific between 1968 and 1984, evolving from their roots in folk-rock and blues-rock to embrace symphonic and electronic elements. Throughout its existence, the mainstays of Jethro Tull were founder/frontman Ian Anderson and guitarist Martin Barre, who played with the band from the second album onward.
Members: Ian Anderson (vocals, flute, acoustic guitar, harmonica, mandolin), Mick Abrahams (electric guitar, 1967-68), Glenn Cornick (bass, 1967-70), Clive Bunker (drums, 1967-71), Tony Iommi (electric guitar, 1968), Martin Barre (electric guitar, acoustic guitar, recorder, 1968-2011), John Evan (piano, organ, synthesizer, 1971-80), Jeffrey Hammond (bass, alto recorder, 1971-75), Barriemore Barlow (drums, 1971-80), John Glascock (bass, 1975-79), David Palmer (saxophone, keyboards, orchestral arrangements, 1977-79), Dave Pegg (bass, mandolin, 1979-95), Mark Craney (drums, 1980-81), Eddie Jobson (violin, 1980-81), Peter-John Vettese (keyboards, 1982-89), Gerry Conway (drums, 1981-83), Doane Perry (drums, 1984-91, 1994-2014)
The roots of Jethro Tull trace to a mid-’60s R&B/beat sextet called the John Evan Smash, which featured drummer Barrie Barlow, bassist Jeffrey Hammond, guitarist Ian Anderson, and keyboardist John Evan. The latter three had been schoolmates in Blackpool. After playing the club circuit for several years with a set comprised of Motown covers, Hammond was replaced by bassist Glenn Cornick in early 1967. The band, now based in Luton, were soon joined by guitarist Mick Abrahams.
At year’s end, the group folded. Anderson, Abrahams, and Cornick decided to form a new band. They initially had trouble getting rebooked at the same venues, so they gigged incognito under assorted monikers (Navy Blue, Ian Henderson’s Bag o’ Nails, Candy Coloured Rain). On the first concert where they actually impressed the club manager, they were billed as Jethro Tull. The name, selected by their booking agent (an avid history buff), was taken from an 18th century agriculturalist.
Tull issued their first single, “Sunshine Day” (b/w “Aeroplane”), on MGM in February 1968. Their name was misspelled Jethro Toe on this release, purportedly so the label wouldn’t have to pay the band royalties. Soon thereafter, Anderson — inhibited by his average guitar skills and not wanting to yield frontman status to Abrahams — took up flute because few other rock bands at the time used the instrument. That summer, Tull drew a standing ovation at the National Jazz and Blues Festival and recorded their first album with producer/manager Terry Ellis.
This Was appeared in October 1968 on Island (UK) and Reprise (US). The 10-song set contains five Anderson originals: “My Sunday Feeling,” “Some Day the Sun Won’t Shine for You,” “Move on Alone,” “It’s Breaking Me Up,” and “A Song for Jeffrey.” The last of those is the first of three songs on as many albums named in honor of Jeffrey Hammond (who would later join Tull). The album also features the Anderson/Abrahams co-write “Beggar’s Farm,” plus four instrumentals: “Serenade to a Cuckoo” (Roland Kirk), “Dharma for One” (Anderson/Bunker), “Cat’s Squirrel” (trad.), and the group-composed “Round.”
“A Song for Jeffrey” was released as Tull’s second single, backed with “One for John Gee.” Their third single, the non-album “Love Story” (b/w “A Christmas Song”) followed in December 1968. That same month, Abrahams left Jethro Tull to form Blodwyn Pig. Tull auditioned several guitarists, including ex-Nice/future-Jet Davy O’List and soon-to-be Sabbath axeman Tony Iommi, who appeared with the band in The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus. Just before Christmas, the band hired ex-Penny Peeps guitarist Martin Barre, who would stay with Tull for the remaining 43 years of its existence.
In May 1969, Jethro Tull issued the non-album single “Living In the Past” (b/w “Driving Song”), both written and recorded during their US tour that spring. The a-side, with its stately 5/4 precision and angular vocal melody, was a transatlantic hit (UK #3, US #11) and remains one of their most well-known songs. Its lyrics concern Anderson’s detachment from the radical ethos of the hippy movement. (Midge Ure covered the song on his 1985 solo album The Gift.)
Jethro Tull’s second album, Stand Up, was first issued in the UK on July 25, 1969, with Island’s orange bullseye pink label. In the US and other parts of the world, it appeared that September on Reprise. Original vinyl copies are housed in a gatefold sleeve with a standup-cutout of the band on the innerfold. The woodcut artwork was done by carver/sculptor James Grashow, who did similar covers for Catfish (Get Down), Ramsey Lewis (Golden Hits), and Tom Rush (Ladies Love Outlaws).
Stand Up contains nine Anderson originals, including “Nothing Is Easy,” “For a Thousand Mothers,” and “Back to the Family.” Track 2, “Jeffrey Goes to Leicester Square,” is Tull’s second titular reference to Jeffrey Hammond. The instrumental “Bourée” is an adaptation of Bourree in E minor by Johann Sebastian Bach, transposed here to Dm. On assorted tracks, Anderson plays Hammond organ, piano, mandolin, balalaika, and mouth organ, in addition to flute and acoustic guitar. Barre, credited here by his full name Martin Lancelot Barre, adds flute on “Jeffrey” and “Reasons for Waiting,” which features string arrangements by Dee Palmer, who would later join the band.
Stand Up was co-produced by Anderson and Ellis at London’s Morgan Studios with engineer Andy Johns, who also worked on 1969 albums by Spooky Tooth (Spooky Two), Renaissance (Renaissance), and Jack Bruce (Songs for a Tailor). “Bourée” was issued as a single (b/w “Fat Man”).
On October 3, 1969, Jethro Tull issued the non-album single “Sweet Dreams” (b/w “17”). It was their first release on Chrysalis Records, formed by Ellis and Chris Wright, partners in the Ellis Wright Agency. In France, the single appeared on Island (as in most European territories) in a sleeve with a concert shot of Anderson smoking. The a-side, recorded that August with string and brass arrangements by Palmer, reached #7 on the UK chart. “17” was the first product of their September–February sessions at Morgan that would account for their next album.
Tull’s next product from the fall/winter sessions was their January 1970 single “The Witch’s Promise” (b/w “Teacher”). In the UK, where both tracks remained unique to this release, the single hit #4 (and #6 in Ireland).
Jethro Tull’s third album, Benefit, appeared on April 20, 1970, on Chrysalis, their UK label for all albums henceforth. It features 10 Anderson originals, including “Nothing to Say,” “For Michael Collins, Jeffrey and Me,” “Play in Time,” and “Sossity; You’re a Woman.” The tracks “Inside” and “Alive and Well and Living In” were paired on a single. Though housed in a single sleeve, the cover references the prior album’s artwork with a picture of standup cutouts of each member. They were photographed by Ruan O’Lochlainn, who later did album visuals for Man (Back Into the Future), The Stranglers (Black and White), and the Andy Fraser Band.
In the US, Benefit was issued by Reprise on May 1, 1970, with an altered tracklist that bumps “Alive and Well and Living In,” moves “Inside” to side 1, and adds “Teacher” (different mix to the single) on side 2.
During the Benefit sessions, Jethro Tull welcomed keyboardist John Evan, their bandleader from the pre-Tull days. Though only credited here as a guest musician, he joined officially right afterward and remained with Tull for the entire 1970s. Benefit would be the last album with Cornick, who was fired after the accompanying tour. He surfaced the following year in Wild Turkey and later played in Paris with (ex-Fleetwood Mac) singer Bob Welch.
- This Was (1968)
- Stand Up (1969)
- Benefit (1970)
- Aqualung (1971)
- Thick as a Brick (1972)
- A Passion Play (1973)
- War Child (1974)
- Minstrel in the Gallery (1975)
- Too Old to Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young to Die! (1976)
- Songs from the Wood (1977)
- Heavy Horses (1978)
- Stormwatch (1979)
- A (1980)
- The Broadsword and the Beast (1982)
- Under Wraps (1984)
- Crest of a Knave (1987)
- Rock Island (1989)
- Catfish Rising (1991)
- Roots to Branches (1995)
- J-Tull Dot Com (1999)
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