Music legend tells Harrogate fans how Jethro Tull influenced Sex Pistols

Interview - If anyone but Ian Anderson had claimed Jethro Tull had influenced the Sex Pistols the reaction would be sceptical to say the least.

Friday, 10th January 2020, 11:27 am
Updated Friday, 10th January 2020, 11:28 am
Veteran flute-playing Jethro Tull prog-folk legend Ian Anderson pictured at the Royal Hall in Harrogate in 2012.

But the veteran flute-playing prog-folk legend, who counts The Stranglers lead singer Hugh Cornwall among his close friends, comes across as intelligent and knowledgable as he is provocative, even at the age of 71.

Talking on the phone, he said: “The punks pretended they hated Tull and the prog rock bands in 1977 but that was part of the marketing for the new bands.

“Johnny Rotten was a big fan of our 1971 album Aqualung. If you look at the cover with the tramp leaning to one side and scowling there is a definite resemblance with his own stage persona in the Sex Pistols.

“Rotten told me years later he loved Aqualung.”

For five decades his famous band has survived every trend going on a journey which has taken Anderson from appearing on the Rolling Stones Rock in Roll Circus in 1968 aged 21 to a Christmas show at Ripon Cathedral last month which could have sold out many times over.

His forthcoming talk/video clips/live music tour will see the irascible, sharp as a pin Anderson survey the ever-changing Jethro Tull’s achievements from Thick As A Brick to, yes, that Stones TV show with its fire eaters, famous bands and hippie trappings.

Anderson said: “I think we were somewhat in awe of the Stones on that occasion.

“None of us got to talk on set to Mick Jagger; Bill and Charlie were the ones who talked to us.

“It wasn’t a particularly enjoyable experience. The good and the great were there like The Who but it was slightly weird.”

Despite long-time musical colleague Martin Barre finally leaving the band in 2011 to do his own solo tours with Tull songs, something Anderson says he had been encouraging for years, the enduring popularity of the band he founded in 1967 shows no signs of ebbing.

Such is the band’s appeal, in fact, Anderson is actually doing two tours this year – The Prog Years Tour 2020 which features a full band and his ‘solo’ Ian Anderson on Jethro Tull with guitarist Joe Parrish which comes to Leeds City Varieties on May 4.

Scottish-born Anderson, renowned in the tabloids at one point for his salmon farms and country living, is at home, it seems, in classy venues.

He remembers his Harrogate show at the Royal Hall in 2012 well, though he soon switches the conversation to current world politics and climate change, subjects his lyrics have tackled from the early 1970s to recent solo albums.

Anderson said: “Musician can fall out of love with their early selves but I don’t mind playing ‘crowd pleasers’.

“I’m quite proud of having those songs in my repertoire.

“I take on a thespian role when I’m on stage performing.

“I’m totally engaged each time like an actor doing Hamlet. It’s never boring.”

What happened when Ian Anderson came to Ripon

Ian Anderson showed his community spirit when he visited the Harrogate district before Christmas.

Ripon Cathedral hosted a sell-out fundraising concert last year on Saturday, December 7.

An audience of 800 enjoyed the music of Jethro Tull with Ian Anderson leading the show – and welcoming special guest - Loyd Grossman. This was all against the stunning backdrop of Ripon cathedral - dramatically lit up for the concert.

Members of the audience travelled from all over the world - including the USA, Spain and Germany - to enjoy an evening at the cathedral. Ian Anderson very generously donated 100% of the ticket sales to the cathedral and as a result the concert raised a staggering £25,000 – the most amount ever raised from a concert! Molly Lawson, Fundraising Events Officer said: “The concert sold out back in February in just two weeks and I have been overwhelmed by some amazing feedback from our audience on Saturday. People thoroughly enjoyed the evening and we would like to thank Ian Anderson for his generosity and for making it all possible!”