On the Intersection of Many Lines: An Interview with Ian Anderson / Jonathan P. Eburne

Image courtesy of Ian Anderson

Ian Anderson, singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, flautist, and bandleader of the British rock band Jethro Tull, has been giving interviews for nearly as long as he has been playing music. Jethro Tull marked its fiftieth anniversary in 2018. Released in 1968, the band’s first album, This Was, features on its cover a quartet of very young British musicians dressed up as old geezers, proleptically introducing a brand-new band in the past tense. Under Anderson’s leadership, the (imperfect) past tense of this claim to musical existence has remained continuous, and very much in the present, for over half a century. I’ll spare you the many titular ironies of the band’s musical history, except to note that an early compendium of Jethro Tull’s live performances, hits, rarities, and B-sides was titled Living in the Past. That album, released in 1972, was already the band’s sixth album in five years, and its title track, composed in a 5/4 time signature, was a hit in its own right—suggesting that Anderson’s songwriting, like the music of Jethro Tull, voices its relationship to time with no small degree of wit.

On the basis of Anderson’s gift as a songwriter and the sterling musicianship of Jethro Tull, this wit has fueled enduring popularity on a virtually world-historical scale. But it has also kindled the suspicion, if not the downright antagonism, of many in the musical press. To wit: a 2018 essay by R.C. Baker in The Village Voice presents a welcome rejoinder to the magazine’s fifty-year history of hostility toward the British band. The Village Voice is hardly the only mainstream periodical to harbor longstanding antipathy toward a band like Jethro Tull, particularly those in the genre of “progressive rock.”1 In 1989, when Jethro Tull received the inaugural Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Grammy Award for their 1987 Crest of a Knave album, the music-world cognoscenti were not so much flabbergasted as outraged. How dare a flute-driven group of nearly forty-year-old musicians beat out more recognizably “hard” contenders such as Metallica, Iggy Pop, and Jane’s Addiction! The award was enough of a surprise, in fact, that the band neither attended the ceremony nor even prepared an acceptance video to be broadcast in absentia. Their record label instead published a full-page press release affirming that “the flute is a heavy, metal instrument.” In spite of Jethro Tull’s own modesty toward the award, there was enough simmering resentment in the metal world, apparently, that the late chef-author Anthony Bourdain cemented his bromance with rocker Josh Homme by shooting hunting arrows through Jethro Tull’s 1969 Stand Up record on an episode of No Reservations. That was in 2009 (n.b. scroll to 17:50 in the video to see how the scene unfolds, as an unsettlingly violent “settling of an old score”).

Ian Anderson is fully mindful of such hostility and misperception, yet his policy toward the media remains defiantly open-handed, if carefully tended. On the band’s website, which Anderson and his management team oversee, press kits and high-resolution photographs are freely available for download. The site also features Anderson’s readymade, anticipatory responses to “All Too Frequently Asked Questions,” such as “How did you get the name ‘Jethro Tull’” and “You are now one of the old men of rock […] How long do you plan to go on performing and recording?”—the stated intention being, in this case, to save interview time for more interesting topics of conversation. Nonetheless, many journalists seem content to cut and paste Anderson’s responses, a gesture that likely reveals more about the material constraints on contemporary journalism than it does about journalistic attitudes toward flute-driven rock music.

I spoke with Ian Anderson for over an hour via Zoom during the COVID-19 shutdown in mid-October 2020. As we spoke, the world was grappling with the dire realities of the coronavirus pandemic, while, at the same time, the US was gearing up for a major election. Our conversation thus necessarily reflected these conditions, which have accelerated rather than abated in the months since we spoke. As I type this introduction in early January 2021, pro-Trump rioters have just stormed the US Capitol building in Washington DC, disrupting the formal congressional hearing to certify the country’s next elected president. And whereas a COVID-19 vaccination campaign is now underway, infection rates continue to surge worldwide, with spiking mortality rates in the US and an alarming new strain of the virus sending the now officially post-Brexit UK into another lockdown. My primary intentions in interviewing Ian Anderson for ASAP/J were to reflect on the intersections between his songwriting and his centrality to the artistic, administrative, and fiscal management of Jethro Tull’s, and his own, musical careers. It was far from surprising, therefore, that the immanent conditions of global emergency—the conditions of possibility for touring and performing music under COVID conditions, as well as the accelerating conditions of political authoritarianism in the anglophone world and worldwide—were never far from his mind, as our conversation confirms.

Ian Anderson has been managing and producing Jethro Tull since 1978, in addition to recording and producing seven solo albums of his own, along with numerous other musical and nonmusical projects. Such workaholic tendencies reveal much about the complex ecology of labor and expertise at work in Anderson’s career, which is as much a career in artistic self-administration as it is a career in rock music. Anderson’s place in the technical and managerial aspects of arts administration is, of course, fundamentally tethered to the marketplace, given that rock music is a heavily commodified popular art form. Neither Jethro Tull nor the four incorporated companies Anderson directs are nonprofit corporations; to my knowledge, very few rock bands occupy the third sector—at least, not on purpose. What renders Anderson’s attention to the corporate minutiae of artistic self-management so significant to the Arts of the Present, I propose, is the extent to which this fastidiousness is continuous with his creative process, as well as his ethics, as a songwriter and musician. Anderson’s career as a musician and manager is grounded in the worldly; he is mindful of the cultural as well as the political and ecological demands of the present, even if he tends to present himself as an impartial observer. Anderson has been writing songs about climate change since the early 1970s, for instance, and both Heavy Horses (1978) and especially Stormwatch (1979), Jethro Tull’s eleventh and twelfth studio albums, address the phenomenon of Peak Oil. Other compositions dwell on rural economics and “the plight of the middle American farmer,” as Anderson once put it; let us not forget that the band’s most famous song, “Aqualung,” is an ode to a dying homeless man, snatching his “rattling last breaths/ With deep-sea diver sounds.”

Anderson’s career is, again, grounded in the worldly. Yet as a songwriter and businessman alike, he is attentive not only to the ideological diversity of his fan base, but also to the fundamentally otherworldly pull of ideology, religious and political belief, subjective and personal difference, gender and sexual fluidity, and even the importance of doubt and non-knowledge. To write songs, or to make a living in the arts, is never a sure thing. Nor, he maintains, can collaboration, ecological thinking, or love ever be predicated on de facto certainty. Certainty has to be questioned, attended to, left perpetually open-ended. Anderson puts this in self-depreciating terms: “I’m a professional fence-straddler,” he says. Yet the fence Anderson straddles is not the artificial sawhorse of neoliberal “both-siderism,” but the very real line of demarcation between the known and the unknown, between belief and doubt—which, as Anderson later notes, are joined at the hip. “You can’t just have faith without sometimes having doubt as well.”

What follows is a (very) lightly edited transcription of our Zoom conversation in mid-October. As Anderson notes in closing the interview, “I’m quite careful about what I say.” This doesn’t just mean that he speaks guardedly or in measured phrases. Rather, the intellectual generosity of this care reveals itself in the depth and breadth of Anderson’s attention to the knowable, as well as to the unknowable and undecided. His conversation, like his songwriting, is about “stuff,” as he puts it: whether the minutiae of safety protocols and tour scheduling, the material and cultural specificity of the British landscape, or, perhaps most of all, the irreducibility of difference.

—Jonathan P. Eburne

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Jonathan Paul Eburne:  I thought it would be exciting to talk with you about the managerial side of what you do, as well as the musical side. And so, just to get things started: you recently published a statement, more like a proposal, for how touring musicians and audiences might safely return to live performance during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s something that a lot of responsible artists are concerned with and which a lot of irresponsible performers, including many politicians, have ignored to everybody’s peril. Could you say a little bit about how your thinking about this proposal evolved?  You mention, for example, conducting your own tests on airborne particles. I feel as though this says much about the way you think as a bandleader and manager.

Ian Anderson: Well, yes. First of all, the proposal you mentioned was not really very recent. It was done several months ago. My last concerts this year (2020)—my only two concerts this year—took place at the end of February 2020 in Spain, in Barcelona and Madrid. Shortly after that we went to do a tour in Finland and got off the plane, went to the hotel, and an hour later were given the news by the promoter that the Finnish government had met that afternoon and decided to stop any public gatherings, due to the spread of the virus. At that point, we’re talking about 30 people in all of Finland; relatively speaking, they were pretty concerned about it. Luckily we were able to fly back to the UK the next day, but it cost me a lot of money because I had to pay for flights and pay my band and crew and travel costs. It was an expensive non-event. And so, being aware that things were kicking off in a number of countries, I started to think about what would happen next: if we were able to tour again in April, or May, or into the summer, then what were the provisos that I would have to consider for my band and crew, both in terms of travel and performance? What protocols we would have to put into place to try and minimize the risk of being infected? My thinking about all of this goes back, really, to the month of March, and particularly April, when I was really beginning to consider the inevitability that we would not be able to perform this year—as it turns out, anywhere. But certainly, back in April, it became pretty obvious that we couldn’t undertake to do a UK tour in September, which was booked, and for which, you know, essentially, I am the promoter. The buck stops with me. So it became incredibly important to try to establish what we could and couldn’t do. And to that end I spent a lot of time researching not only COVID-19 but also the precursors to it, which, of course, were the original SARS epidemic and, going back to other pandemics, the so-called Spanish flu of 100 years ago—during which, it should be pointed out, everybody was wearing face masks.

It shouldn’t come as a great surprise to anybody. I mean, the face mask: covering the face goes back to the Great Plague. Kind of a long time ago. So the lack of clarity from our respective governments, regarding their assertion that face coverings or face masks were ineffective against coronavirus, is complete nonsense. What they were panicking about is the shortage of PPE supplies to hospitals and professional medics, and they thought, well, we can’t have the members of the public buying face masks. And so for a long time they persevered with this downright lie about face masks being ineffective and not protecting anybody. That went on for a while. It became obvious to me pretty early that the coronavirus was being spread not only by large aerosol droplets from coughing or sneezing—which of course is exactly the same mechanism by which you catch the common cold or influenza—but also by touching surfaces that have contaminated droplets from other people wiping their noses or their eyes, and then touching the elevator button or the door handle in your hotel room or wherever it might be. All of these things seemed patently obvious to me, and I decided to do some tests to see just what the effect was of singing and playing the flute, in particular, in terms of projecting small aerosol droplets around the size of one micron or smaller. And that, you know, didn’t take very long to work out how to do.

This was something that went on for a while, and we were presented with the inevitability of our culture minister, a member of the government, reacting to the protests coming from the entertainment industry that theaters were being shut down and losing money and facing financial ruin. I wrote my piece to the culture minister back then. When I didn’t get a reply, I wrote again to his sidekick, and again didn’t receive a reply. Or at least, I received an acknowledgement of receipt of the email, but that was it. I’m sure that they were getting lots of people writing letters to them. I thought that what I was saying was kind of obvious and would allow at least some of us to get back to work, albeit in a restricted way. I don’t think you can have—then, now, or next year—unrestricted social gatherings, particularly unseated outdoor concerts or unseated indoor concerts. I don’t think these could take place safely. Because people will not obey the rules. They will gather together. They will push to the front. We’ve seen it happen on countless occasions.

And it isn’t really fair to an audience to think otherwise, let alone fair to performers to risk anybody’s health by holding a concert where you can’t have very strict control measures to keep people safely distanced from each other. And in my view, not only safely distanced, but if they’re indoor concerts, also with everyone wearing face masks. I use the word “mask” rather than “face coverings,” which is popular over here in the UK, because a mask is considered to be something like an N95 mask, which currently cost about two and a half dollars—absolutely widely available without disrupting PPE supplies to hospitals; you buy it on Amazon, your local chemists—but it gives you a much higher level of protection and protects other people much more efficiently from you if it’s a well-fitting N95 mask. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t all be wearing those instead of these flimsy cotton coverings which do very, very little to stop small aerosol droplets coming in or going out. It’s better than nothing, but it isn’t good enough for me. And I would much prefer that everybody take a little bit more care of themselves and other people by wearing more efficient masks.

As I say, they are widely available. Go to amazon.com and type in “N95” and you will be greeted with many possibilities to buy them online. None of this is rocket science. And I think this is what we should all be doing.

That’s basically what I what I wrote about, and I don’t think in the months since I wrote that, which I guess was back in May, that really anything has happened to change my opinion. And here we are well and truly in the so-called second wave—although, in my opinion, the first wave never really went away; it just was tamed for a little while by very strict lockdown measures here in Europe and in pretty much every country. And it has come back with a vengeance—not in the winter, which was what was being discussed, but at the end of summer. By July, August, we saw that we saw cases beginning to rise all over Europe, and by the end of September it was crazy time.

Here we are well into October, and now I don’t think anybody would consider that people like me can go back to work anytime in the next six to eight months. That’s just not going to happen. You have to be realistic, and those of us who chose to be musicians shouldn’t expect people to feel sorry for us. We chose a risky profession even at the best of times, and if you chose to be a musician or a dancer opera singer, whatever it might be, in the classical world or in the popular world, you know you were taking a risk. And if you didn’t have a plan B and plan C, some kind of professional safety net, or a career safety net, then you probably weren’t being realistic and that’s the way it is now, you know.

I’m at the end of my professional life as a musician anyway, so don’t feel sorry for me. I do feel sorry for all the others, but I guess you have to be thinking, now, can you manage to last for maybe two years, until hopefully there’s a vaccine available with sufficient efficacy to protect the majority of people, most of the time? Although if it follows other forms of vaccines, like the flu vaccine, then it’s not terribly effective for older people, who are the most vulnerable and the most easily affected with COVID-19. That, combined with the young freely mixing and carrying on doing what they’re doing anyway and not really giving a toss about anybody else, may, in a couple of years’ time, give us effectively a degree of so-called herd immunity, which would put the virus into—not make it disappear—but it would put it more in the realm of influenza, something that might come back but could at least be coped with by hospitals.

JPE: I teach on a college campus, so I very much know what you mean.

IA:  But now it’s hospitals being overwhelmed, and not having enough beds; they’re not having protection for particularly vulnerable people. And not just the old, since there are those who die from coronavirus before they even get to be teenagers, and those that are teenagers very often have some terrible long-term effects. But the majority don’t; the majority are just going to go out there as if it doesn’t matter. You’d have to bring in the National Guard to every city in America to stop young people ultimately just carrying on, party time. We shouldn’t be kidding ourselves: they won’t be tamed. They’re not that way in my country; they’re partying wildly this weekend in anticipation of further lockdowns and, you know, that’s just the way people are, I’m afraid. Most people are pretty selfish and they’re in denial about the severity of this disease. Perhaps it necessarily afflict them directly—especially if they are, let’s say, under the age of 13, 14 years old—but we of course know that even those people will spread the disease to others who are far more vulnerable. And that is the is the personal moral decision that people have to make: are you going to risk killing Granny?

JPE: There are so many things that you’ve said along the along the way here, which I’ve been thinking about as part of your optic. For instance, the idea of moving the myth of personal responsibility toward more structural and systematic questions. These things need to be dealt with on a broader scale than according to individual responsibility alone. That strikes me as really consistent with your optic as a manager, as a manager of people. I’d like to ask you if you could talk a little bit about this. I think it’s almost hyperbolically valuable for artists and scholars—not only musicians, but anybody involved in the arts—to learn from your example. Not just from your example as a bandleader and producer and songwriter, but also, as you say, as the promoter, the manager, and as somebody who’s really paying attention to the dispersion of risk around the entire operation of the arts.

You mentioned that the arts are precarious, and something that one is individually responsible for. Could you say a little about that? I mean, there are a lot of people interested in how artists can manage themselves, how they can be autonomous, how they can survive. And I really feel like your example is sterling on that front.

IA: Well, it does seem to be a little unusual because, of course, we typically hear about people in the entertainment business as saying, “well, I’ll leave that up to my manager. I don’t know about that stuff.” Particularly when young musicians become in any way successful, they often quickly absolve themselves of all responsibility for their actions, so that  managers, agents, tour managers take over the operation. I mean, that’s fine. But I’m a person of a naturally inquiring mind. When I was 20 years old, and Jethro Tull had just begun, I wanted to know how it all worked. I wanted to know about producing records and how to engineer records or how to deal with the technology, primitive though it may have been back in those days. I wanted to understand how deals were made, what the relationship was between promoters or venue operators and bands. I am just curious; I didn’t want someone else just to tell me to turn up at 4pm for sound check at some place and there’ll be some money, you know, hopefully, in your bank account in a few months’ time. That didn’t seem enough for me. I wanted to know how it worked.

So I’ve always been interested in music as a business. And I’ve always been interested in the idea that, without being a control freak, you shouldn’t feel guilty by trying to be a jack of all trades and extending your ability from being a songwriter or singer or performer to actually taking charge of your own life. And so that’s the way it’s always been. By 1974, we’d not exactly dispensed with management as such—that continued in the background—but the effective running of the band was taken over by me and my company. Financially, you know, with accountants in tow; and practically speaking, with me organizing the schedules for touring and particularly for recording. That extended so that by 1978 it was pretty much more autonomous in terms of me and my company operating things.

1978 was also the year that also I spread out from being simply a musician or a music business figure to have an interest in agriculture and aquaculture. So I developed those interests over the next few years, which gave me, I suppose, the outlet for some kind of greater intellectual capacity to understand how things worked, whether it was working out water flow in meters per second or figuring out how to arrange something for a string quartet. You know, it’s just using your brain. I get a little, you know, a little bored if I don’t have stuff that taxes me and makes me try to figure out solutions. It’s just the person I am.

But of course, we shouldn’t expect other people to be the same. And indeed not even to have any interest, necessarily. They’re quite happy—if they’re successful, they’re quite happy to make money and hopefully they’ll have decent people representing them financially and in terms of creative and artistic management, and things go okay. But, you know, we’re all aware of the many occasions when things don’t go okay, and many young musicians are taken advantage of. And they very often end up with nothing.

JPE: What you say here suggests something I was going to ask you about anyway, which is the sense in which the economic circumstances of the music business form part of a much broader picture. As you’ve said, both now and elsewhere, everything around the work of musicianship also participates in economic as well as environmental and ecological considerations. I can see a progression from the economic aspects of music production—the mechanical, technological aspects—toward the ecological, that is, extending into the environmental as well. This, you might say, is part of the DNA of your work with Jethro Tull: the way that culture, history, environmentalism, and even agriculture have so much to do with the material aspects as well as the creative or thematic aspects of your career.2

I have so many splinters of questions to pose on this front, but perhaps I can start with this: I notice that you’ve cited Jo Lustig, a well-known promoter and agent in the British folk world, as a transitional figure in your management as well as in your songwriting.3 I believe the story is that he presented you with a copy of Alfred Watkins’s The Old Straight Track (1925). And I love this idea—

IA: He gave me a copy of a book that was about the folklore of different regions of the United Kingdom, which was a really good book. And in a way, it gave me the confidence to write contemporary folk-based rock. It was not that I had no interest in folk music—I did, but I knew I didn’t want to try to write things that sounded like they were traditional British or English or Scottish or Irish folk music. I wanted a way into the ideas that spawn traditional music and perhaps to take some of those ideas into a more contemporary rock setting. So that that that was the book that Jo gave me one Christmas. But The Old Straight Track was something I came across, I think separately, following that moment.

It was actually because of where I lived at the time, which was in farmhouse or a manor house that was built over the site of a destroyed monastery which Cromwell’s troops razed—to the ground—and presumably raped and pillaged and generally messed things up. But that particular house always had a bit of a spiritual, weird kind of thing going on, which I wasn’t the only person to notice. And when I came to look at the National Ordnance Survey maps of the region, having heard about the ley lines, I then started drawing lines on my map and found to my amusement and horror that in fact our house lay on the intersection of many lines that extended maybe fifty miles in either direction—if you join together historically spiritual sites, whether they were churches or graveyards or places that had something connected.  Whether ley lines proceeded the creation of ancient church sites, or whether the church sites themselves created this sense of some spiritual joining, is for others to decide. But it was an interesting coincidence, that where I lived sat on the intersection of five ley lines, each of which stretched a long way into the distance.

So it made it seem as if it was rather a crossing of ley lines, sort of a double, triple, or multiple whammy, in the sense of the spiritual forces that are said to flow along those lines. It should be said: I don’t believe in this stuff, but I don’t disbelieve in it either. I am a curious skeptic when it comes to matters of that sort. I don’t discount them, but I’m not going to be sucked into it and become a slave to some beliefs, which it’s a bit dangerous to do. Believe me, I’ve known so many people who’ve gotten caught up in in that in that kind of belief; it overtakes all common sense and all discipline and they become enslaved to it. So I’m not a disbeliever but I don’t expound any huge belief. It’s an ongoing interest that I have in all matters spiritual.

Sometimes when people ask me, “What do you do for a living,” I scratch my head. I don’t want to say, well, I play flute in a rock band, because it sounds a bit, you know, unbelievable. I usually say I work for the church, which is quite true. Usually for a few days here in the UK—except this year because everything is closed down because of COVID—I do fundraising concerts at my own expense for the Church of England, and sometimes also for the Catholic Church in one or two countries where I can sneak under the radar of Frank—that is, Pope Francis—since by edict of the Vatican, Catholic churches are not supposed to hold paying concerts. It’s the same in your country. In fact, they’re even more strict in America than they are in in Italy, but I’ve done a few fundraisers for churches in Italy. And everybody goes around nervously whispering “help” everywhere.

And I do it not necessarily as a Christian. I don’t call myself a Christian. I call myself a person who supports the very positive and huge benefits of religious belief, and indeed the structures in which we exercise that belief in the company of other people. So I’m a huge supporter of the church: the fabric of the Church, the buildings, the house of God. And, you know, if they would let me into a mosque or a Jewish temple to play music, I’d be there as well. It’s just that the Church of England is the place that usually has its doors open to people like me trying to help. And once in a while the Catholic Church, too, as I’ve said. But in certain other religions, it’s not possible to bring in music for the soul, let alone for the wallet. They manage or seem to want to manage without that input.

I do feel people like me should try to be supportive of great traditions and history. So, with me being born in Western Europe under the umbrella of the Christian church, although as I said I don’t call myself a Christian, it’s my honor to serve the church for a few days a year. And so I do. So yes, I work for the church.

JPE: This has so much to do with the vernacular, folkloric landscape that you’re talking about as well. Much like ley lines, it’s not a question of belief, but of the fact that these elements of the landscape are there. It’s part of the world—literally the physical environment around you. And so to honor it as part of this cultural landscape as part of the vernacular tradition and history that you live in: that seems consistent with your songwriting overall.

IA: It certainly is. It infuses some of my songs. It’s the stuff of which songs are made. I’ve always found that if you like songs that are heart-on-the-sleeve, emotional outpourings—you know, the world of Alanis Morissette, let’s say, if that’s what you like, or even 99% of songs that you might say belong in the blues idiom. It’s all about feelings and emotions, whether it’s simple and direct and heartfelt as it is usually in blues, or more constructed, careful wordings of love and being out of love—either way, I’m not your man, if that’s what you like in in song lyrics, because I rarely write that kind of a song.

I most often am an observer of other people in an environment. Perhaps that comes from my art school background, along with many of my peers in the world of British music. We didn’t go to music college. We went to art school. We learned about line and form and tone and color, the descriptive words of the painterly arts, just as they are in the in the musical arts. I think we made the convenient switch. Having done a bit of art college, we then thought, music is not really so far apart. It’s just an oral rather than a visual expression of line and form and tone and color. But it has the added advantage of being so immediate: you know, you don’t have to wait for the paint to dry, to walk on a stage and entertain people. So that became quickly my direction in life, rather than being a painter and probably ending up as an art teacher in some ladies’ college in some Southern county of England. It wouldn’t have been terribly fulfilling, so music was the biggie.

But I continued to work with the same thought processes. I was interested in people in an environment. I’m not really interested in pure landscapes. And I’m not really interested in portraits. I’m interested in seeing people standing back a little bit, almost as you see people on a stage in a theatrical play. They are in an environment, in a stage set. There is a context for what you get to hear. And very often, it’s a storyline. Sometimes it’s more abstracted and it doesn’t really have a beginning and an end. I mean, Waiting for Godot is a kind of mystery that you are positioned in the middle of, trying to make sense of something that is kind of timeless, and whilst a series of episodes, it doesn’t actually join together with a beginning and an end and a story.  You’re left to work it out, wondering what it was all about, and in that way the curiosity factor is not delivering the punch line.

I think that is so often attractive to me as a songwriter: that you don’t have to consider the end of the story. You leave it hanging, and that’s so much more intriguing for an audience, who can then put some of themselves into the evolution of verse and chorus, verse and chorus. You, then, are forced to make your own beginning and end, as a listener. That appeals to me as a way of expressing. I tend to write about people in a landscape.

Sometimes I write about people in the landscape, and it’s not in the third person; it’s delivered in the first person, which gives it a kind of authority. And it gives it a kind of power that maybe would not be so obvious if you were just standing back, describing something. You know, something that’s a little more objective: on the end of the outstretched arm, on the end of your paintbrush. That’s okay, but I quite like the idea of expressing this from a very personal point of view. Sometimes. But I’m not that person. I’m singing—I am like an actor singing lines. I take on a character. And sometimes—I would be quick to defend anybody who thought my lyrics on those occasions were untoward. Come on, you know? I’m playing. I’m acting out a role here. I’m playing a part. I’m trying to give you the understanding of what this person thinks, but it’s not me. The things that I could be saying might be very, very far away from my own beliefs and my own thoughts, my own morals, ethics, whatever you want to call them. But it shouldn’t be excluded from songwriting. I think it’s perfectly legitimate to take on a role which of course is evident in opera. It’s evident in dramatic plays, TV dramas, you know.

I mean, my son-in-law has spent the last ten years of his life hacking the heads off zombies as officer Rick Grimes in The Walking Dead. And like me, he is out of work at the moment; he hasn’t worked now for over a year because of COVID and the fact that he was waiting to do some movies that had to be shelved. No one would expect my son-in-law, if they met him in the street, to be that man who hacks the heads off zombies. You accept it if it’s an actor. But why shouldn’t you accept it if it’s a musician or a singer? It’s carrying out the same kind of a role, delivering ideas, delivering messages, which means that sometimes it’s necessary to take on that character and pretend to step out of your own true self, and take on the mantle of responsibility of speaking for some imagined figure. Because again, they’re imagined. I don’t usually, or ever, write songs about actual—No, no, no, that’s not true. I did once write a song about a true historical character and I spoke in his voice, and with his imagined sentiments…

So that’s what I do. And I think we’ve always got to be careful to try to let people understand that. And that may be behind perhaps some of the ways in which I perform things on stage. I do. I try to make it look as if I’m acting the role, not just doing it deadpan. I try to give it the expression that gives it makes it, I hope, a bit more obviously a theatrical position to be taking rather than heart-on-sleeve. In other words, I wouldn’t be doing a duet album with Alanis Morissette—

JPE: Fair enough. But that would be interesting to hear, nonetheless.

IA: —unless she’s a classical flute player, in which case I’d be very happy to do it. As a songwriter as an artist, I really do love Alanis Morissette. It’s just not my kind of songwriting, personally speaking.

JPE: Part of what you’re describing here, and part of what you’ve narrated so beautifully is how much your songwriting involves a kind of impersonation, but it’s not a radical impersonation—it’s not identity theft. I mean, you can sing about whaling in a song like The Whaler’s Dues (1991), but nobody’s ever going to suddenly confuse you for a whaler. Nonetheless, your work is, as you say, observational. One of the things that you’ve discussed before on a number of occasions, and which I think is really important and impressive and perhaps also misunderstood, is your evolution from a (white, British) blues musician into something else, and of Jethro Tull’s similar evolution from a blues band to something more eclectic but also distinctly British. You’ve talked before about how much this shift took place on account of the fact that blues is based on the vernacular and historical experience of African American musicians. This idea of really thinking about who and where you are, and about the kinds of milieus that you occupy, however theatrically, however much in the third person, is something that’s important to you ethically as well as musically. 

I’d love to hear how this shift sounded to you. You’ve talked about songwriting and lyrics, but I’m also interested in the sound of this evolution. A lovely exercise for me is to trace the “Jeffrey” songs, starting with “A Song for Jeffrey” (from This Was, 1968), which is very much a jazzy blues tune, but then, in the very next album, you go to Leicester Square (“Jeffrey Goes to Leicester Square,” from Stand Up, 1969). After that you go to outer space—to the moon, at least through the TV—with “For Michael Collins, Jeffrey and Me” (from Benefit, 1970), and then Jeffrey Hammond joined the band and you see the Englishness of the Jethro Tull coming fully to fruition. But how did this sound to you; what’s your version of that? I’ve just described my own obsessional little version…

IA:  Well, you’re quite right. The origins of our music, particularly on the on the first album, was to utilize elements of essentially blues and Jazz, but it was Black American music for the most part. Of course there are zillions of wonderful white boys who have been incredible jazz musicians all over Europe and of course in the USA, as well as some amazing white guitar players, you know, Eric Clapton stands up there, obviously, at the top of the list. And in slightly more recent days, Joe Bonamassa: another great guy. When I first met Joe, in fact, he was doing something that was much more raucous and he became over the years more evolved—not just restrained, but he broadened his dimensions, just as Eric Clapton began as a straight-ahead blues guitarist having borrowed many of the phrasings and stylings of Black American guitarists, but then he took it into something else, particularly in the evolution of Cream and his solo work since.

And I suppose if I had not gone my own way back in 1969 and started to adopt much broader musical influences, I too may have stuck with that essentially blues format and just broadened it a little bit. But there’s one landmark event, I suppose, that changed my perception of my right, if you like, to play blues—which was seeing, first of all, when I was about 17, an artist on tour with a group of other people playing around Europe. His name was J.B. Lenoir. And J.B. Lenoir was, I have to say, pretty much the only guy who really tackled big political subjects. I mean, he wrote about Vietnam being new conscription. He wrote about race riots and the Freedom March and Governor Wallace, things that were powerful expressions of a Black America trying to stand up for equal rights. And for me he was a very important musician, who’s almost unknown to most people. J.B. Lenoir is not like Muddy Waters, or many of the other musicians touring the UK in the 1960s. Chuck Berry, for example, who, you know, was pretty shameless in the exploitation of his birthright. I think J.B. Lenoir was so important. A German promoter, Fritz Rau, who became a good friend over the years, was one of the people who brought these Black American artists over to Europe, usually with about ten different artists on the bill. They would come over and do the circuit; he would make sure they got gigs in the UK and in different countries of Europe. And for many of them this was the first time they’d been out of the South Side of Chicago, and suddenly they found themselves, not just playing in a club with smoke and booze, but in Europe’s finest concert halls with the dignity of being such an important influence on a generation of not just young musicians, but on people generally, and bringing Black music to a much wider public. And not just a male public either; it was a concert. It was an important experience to see that in the flesh, but it was even more important when Fritz Rau gave me an album of one of those early blues tours, which featured quite a few pieces by J.B. Lenoir, which then gave me the chance to listen to it more objectively rather than just once-off at a concert. And I think at that point I just decided that, you know, this wasn’t something I should carry on trying to exploit, because that the bottom line. That’s what it felt like doing.

I have such huge respect and admiration for the musicians and music that gave me my start. But I think there’s a time when you’ve got to let it go. Maybe not let it go completely, but you just have to somehow push it away as being sacred ground on which you are not really worthy of walking. Perhaps in the same way as, as I said before, I’m for the Church of England and occasionally for the Roman Catholic church, but I don’t go into mosques and try and to strut my stuff, you know. That’s sacred ground of a difference and very material sort. Some things you just have to stand back and show your respect for, and your feeling of support for, but you know, that’s where I kind of left that that musical format behind.

So little reprises to different “Songs for Jeffrey” along the way, but they were influenced by different music. “Jeffrey goes to Leicester Square” you mentioned. That was only a year later and it begins with a with a Greek folk instrument called a balalaika. That’s a little bit more eccentric and very much more eclectic.

Over the years I guess my musical influences have gone through different branches of folk music, including American blues, because it is Black American folk music. And that’s essentially what it is today. But you know, that’s what I do: I borrow a little bit here and there. I try and find ways to incorporate some of those ideas and the essence of that music. Whether I’m successful or not, I don’t know. But I think that’s what we always should be doing, trying to bring together ideas and putting our own spin on them because to be truly 100% totally creative and stand-alone is pretty impossible to do. There are only twelve notes in the musical scale that we use.

And I guess, if my cat were to walk up and down the piano for a couple of hours, he would have managed to play all of them in many different orders and come out with something not too unlike Captain Beefheart in Trout Mask Replica. Because Don Van Vliet, Captain Beefheart, could not play the piano. But he wrote a lot of the music by banging away on a piano and would then turn to Bill Harkleroad, whose stage name was Zoot Horn Rollo, saying “write that down,” and Bill would spend hours trying to transcribe the meanderings of the good and the bad Captain. And then Don would come back in and sing words over it, which of course no one had heard until he actually did the master vocal take. Sometimes that randomization of musical notes can be very endearing and startlingly original and crazy. It’s naive painting; it’s naive art coming to life as music.

There have been a lot of those folks over the years. And I have to say, I can think of at least three who I would describe as engaging charlatans, because they pull the wool over our eyes and we manage to swallow the sugary pill, pretending we enjoyed it and loved it and understood, whereas of course we were just being conned. Politicians often do the same, as I’m sure you’ve experienced.

JPE: Not to be a charlatan is a project that seems worth chewing on. We’ve talked about the sacred, and of honoring the blues as a Black vernacular tradition and developing something else instead. That parallel gives you not just, say, the playfulness that you get in experimentation; it also yields some of the most powerful songs that you’ve written. My current personal favorites on this front, I can say, would be North Sea Oil (from Stormwatch, 1979), not just because the song is a catchy tune in 5/4 time, but really because of the way it thinks about the North Sea oil industry and the environmental impact as well as economic precarity of that situation. And then there’s a song that turns to the legacy of British colonialism, “Pax Britannica” from your Homo Erraticus solo album (2014), a song that reflects the whole history of your songwriting as well.4 I mean, you talked about J.B. Lenoir and his political charge, and these two songs are examples of kind of parallel (British) vision, it seems to me, of this commitment—a commitment not just to play and eclecticism, but also to saying something very serious about these spaces and environments that you occupy.

IA:  I try to write about stuff, not just emotions. So sometimes I write about things that are inspired by the world around us, whether it’s the natural world or the unnatural world. I’m moved often to write things because, being a bit of a news junkie, I’m always reading and seeing what goes on. If I’m in the USA ever again, then you’ll find me switching channels back and forth between Fox News and CNN, because I want to see both sides of the story. And when I read the newspapers, I read one that would be considered to be a pretty left-wing journal, a very good newspaper called The Guardian in the UK. And I also read its opposite cousin, The Daily Telegraph, which is perhaps a bastion of traditional right-wing beliefs. And I read some of the stuff that’s in between. But to me it is rather important to never just read from one place. I think that a lot of people are dedicated to having one view and they want to reinforce that idea they already have, because that makes life easier. But I always want my perceptions to be challenged by listening to the opposite argument or, if not the opposite, then at least a different one.

That enters into some of my songwriting, too—I mean, you mentioned “The Whaler’s Dues,” where I’m singing in the first person as if I were a whaler on the high seas killing whales for oil and other products. Perhaps in Iceland or on the Faroe Islands somewhere, that would be seen to be a very noble pursuit, and maybe one would think I secretly want to be out there on the high seas killing whales. Whereas other people would be horrified if I was to do such a thing. And so I’m singing it not to make an excuse or to apologize but just to try to explain that some people have those beliefs, and it is their wherewithal to survive; perhaps it is one of the few things they can do to put food on the table and to provide for a family. And so we always have to think about things in a slightly broader way and try to present the counterargument, even if, ultimately, when you’re writing the song, you know which side you’re on—and it ain’t the one that you’re putting forward in the song.

But it’s important, I think, to try and present that, and so that’s part of what I do. I mean, what I’m talking about makes me sound like a very complicated person who straddles the fence and is never prepared to actually go out in a radical way to try and persuade you to my set of beliefs. That’s a fair enough analysis of what I do: I’m a professional fence-straddler. But that’s a more fun way to be than just to have a dyed-in-the-wool, set view.

It’s the same thing with political leaders in the in different parts of the world. I want to hear what they’ve got to say, you know? It’s hard to imagine that they are all truly bad people, but we have to listen to what they have to say. I mean, I’m sure I have people that I know in the USA who are Republican voters and Republican supporters, but it’s not to say that I would expect them necessarily to be overtly partisan when it comes to finally casting their vote in the next election. I had a friend—not a dear friend, but a kind of close friend, spiritually speaking—a man called Tony Snow, who worked as the White House Press Secretary under George Bush, Jr. and sadly died of colon cancer a few years ago. He was an absolute, through-and-through Republican, and he was a really nice man. And he had the respect and support of people over on the Democrat side as well, both in the press, in the media, and elsewhere. He was a good guy. He had his beliefs, but he would listen; he would consider. In my mind, he would have made an excellent American President round about now, had he lived long enough and had he been persuaded to enter that world. He was a political commentator for Fox News prior to getting the White House gig, which is when I knew him. I knew him when he was still working for Fox. And then, of course, he was at the White House. But there are people like that, people who you can talk to and argue with, and to whom you can present a contrary view and they won’t shoot you down. They’ll have a good old listen and make their own minds up.

I would be intrigued to know what Tony Snow would have made of the current Republican Party and its president; it’s sad he’s no longer with us. But you know, he’s an example of someone you might think would have been partisan, but behind it was someone who would, I think, always consider the alternatives. And I know that’s the case with politicians in the UK, a few of whom I know. The good guys will always look and consider the other side and begrudgingly, perhaps, accept that once in a while there are words of—not infinite wisdom, but of some degree of wisdom—coming from your opposing benches in the Houses of Parliament.

JPE: That seems consistent with the artistic position you described earlier, when you mentioned the painterly observations that form the basis for much of your songwriting. It’s not as if you can suddenly just blot out part of the landscape. But it does feel as though the worrisome situation is when that ability to disagree, that ability to have conversations, becomes violently foreclosed—when there’s no longer the possibility of having chat after work or finding some kind of common ground on which to disagree. That seems to be a worry, pretty much everywhere, that there’s little possibility of dialogue.

IA: And leaving politics outside of that, with religious belief this is absolutely rampant. There are theological arguments to be presented based on considerable analysis of historical events. But there are those people who just simply will not face an opposing argument. It just doesn’t chime with what they want to believe. It’s what Al Gore once aptly named in his movie work, An Inconvenient Truth. And that is, in a way, our excuse for not going along with anything: it’s inconvenient. You know, right now it’s inconvenient to have to endure some degree of lockdown, to not socialize with our friends, to not socialize even with members of our family. It’s inconvenient. Climate change is obviously inconvenient, as Al Gore put it back then, and it still is today. It’s inconvenient for us not to guzzle gas, and to fly around the world to do things when it’s not strictly necessary. And I think I think that’s a very useful, very gentle way of showing that we are lazy, selfish, and unbending, and have closed minds to things that cause inconvenience. And that obviously applies to religious beliefs as well.

It’s a subject I think that, carefully, you might choose to touch upon in song lyrics, but with your heart in your mouth because you’re going to upset people.

JPE: I’m aware that we’re running short on time and that you have another engagement right after this. I am also very aware that the Jethro Tull website provides answers to many of the questions you’ve tended get asked on a regular basis over the past fifty years. Thus to conclude, I am wondering if there are any questions that you would ask yourself if you had the opportunity—you know, questions that you don’t normally get asked and about which you might ask, “why doesn’t anybody ask me about that?”

IA: I’ve always thought it rather odd, especially my profession, that no one—well, that’s not quite true. It did once happen in 1972, on one singular occasion, the only time I was ever asked: “Are you gay?” It was Sydney airport in 1972 on our first trip there, with some fairly hostile Australian press. The first question at the press conference was, “Are you guys homosexuals?” It was an intriguing sort of blunt question to have to respond to, and I responded by saying, “Wow, you know, I’m not really sure.” Which of course was me sitting on the fence. But it’s a question that I’ve never been asked. And you know the answer is, I don’t think so. But I wouldn’t necessarily—well, I probably would rule it out at this point in my life because I’m not, you know, I’m no longer firm of buttock and taut of stomach, so I don’t think I’d be a very attractive catch to anybody. But it’s something that, again: I would never close the door on any possibility. I like to understand. Because, of course, in my profession, particularly, you know lots of people who are gay, and you work with people who are gay, and you work with people from different backgrounds, with different ethnicities. And I think that’s just part of life, you know?  You get used to being around people without questioning it in that way. Obviously, no one’s going to say to me, “are you Black, or are you Asian?” It’s a good thing that people don’t ask me that, but I often wonder if they are curious, because we still tend to judge people by things like that. And I really don’t. Because I grew up—as a teenager, you know, you met people, got used to things, you just didn’t question it and you don’t judge people by those criteria, that in the way that some folks do and still do in certain parts of society.

JPE: I’ve always thought of you as an ally. I’m the parent of a 14-year-old trans kid, and this matters. Your former bandmate Dee Palmer, who, well before her transition later in life, was best man at your wedding. At home we’ve followed the story of Dee Palmer and her transition and the fact that you and your wife were supportive of her during and since her transition. I mean, what you’ve just been talking about isn’t an abstraction, or even a matter of sexual preference alone, but just simply a matter of being a decent person. To be an ally is not necessary an obvious thing for all people these days, alas.

IA: It’s important to say that I don’t believe that I was supportive, in the sense that I was necessarily agreeing with what she decided to do. I felt that she should question it very, very carefully, especially at that age. To have a very physical, complete sex change. I wasn’t unsupportive. I was trying to be understanding and to some degree helpful. But I can’t say that I supported her in the sense of giving obvious approval, saying, “hey, yes, you’re doing the right thing, Dave.” And you know, to this day I hope she does feel still that she made the right decision and that she’s happy in her new self and identity.

I think a lot of those things are the same: it’s not an unquestioning support; it’s something you have to consider. It’s a bit like meeting young, aspiring musicians and being asked to impart a few words of wisdom and support to them. I’m afraid I usually come up with something along the lines of—and I’m talking about people who are in their pre-teens or early teens, usually flute players—I say, “Listen. The important thing to get out of music is the love and the enjoyment that comes from being an amateur musician, amateur coming from the Latin word amo, I love.” And that, that’s what I do.

I do it full time, now. I’m an amateur musician being paid for it. But, you know, in a typical year, probably roughly half of my days I am an amateur musician. I play music just for fun. No one’s paying me to do it. I just do it because I’m practicing or just having fun playing something just for the sake of it. Even those of us who are lucky enough to have a career, or get well paid for it, we still should never lose sight of the joy of being an amateur. That is what I advise young students—not necessarily to be content with being an amateur, but not to lose sight of that as being potentially what you might achieve out of music. Because few will go on to become well paid professionals who survive happily out of being musicians for the rest of their lives. A very few will, but it will be very few. The percentage is quite small. So you’ve got to have a plan B. And that’s what I always tell them: just have a plan B. And if you can have a plan C as well. You know, if your plan B is to be an astronaut on the first Mars mission, then that’s probably not a very good plan B. You need a plan C as well.

So that’s kind of what I think about the role that you might play in being supportive. It doesn’t necessarily sound as if it’s being very supportive. But it’s supportive because it’s caring; it’s supportive because it’s asking the difficult question, “are you sure?” And that’s a good question to apply if you’re talking in theological terms. Are you sure? You may come back with a very cogent argument as to exactly why you’re sure and why you believe what you believe, but that’s still a question I think you have to ask yourself, very often: am I really sure?

Priests have said to me that they have days when they wake up in the morning—because I’ve asked them the question, and they readily volunteer—there are days when you wake up and you’ve lost your faith. And I’ve heard them answer, embarrassed though they may be: “Yes. And I have to just kind of go through it all, and get it in my head, and then turn up for work on Sunday.”

It’s an important thing. It’s far better to be beset by doubt, than to have blind belief. One priest I know said, though he may not have been the author of the expression, that faith and doubt are joined at the hip. They kind of belong together if they’re going to result in a more powerful set of beliefs and arguments. You can’t just have faith without sometimes having doubt as well, and reconsidering all these things. That applies in the arts as well.  If you’re a songwriter, whatever you do, you don’t necessarily always believe in your own work. There must be times when you think, “this is actually rubbish,” you know, or “it’s just not that great.” Having total faith and confidence in yourself is a dangerous thing, whether you’re a songwriter or a President of the United States.

JPE: This is why being a being an amateur and being a workaholic are not opposites; they come together, they enable each other, because you have to keep on working in order to enable the love to carry you through the periods of doubt, and through the possibility of doubt.

IA: I think that’s right. I think there are actors or comedians who are people who take what they do on stage as a performance, and then they take it into the other world, that private world, just because it’s a way of practicing and rehearsing. If you’re a comedian, you try out gags and ideas on people around you to see how it goes over, constantly trying things out. It can be a bit tedious.

I know from one comedian friend, that it’s a bit tedious for him to feel that he’s still on stage and you’re the only person in the audience, and you can’t escape while he tries out some new line. It’s the only way some people have of doing it, if you’re an actor. You’ve actually got to do a bit of that sometimes, in the way that you talk to people and behave. You find yourself speaking in tongues, adopting weird accidents, and carrying out characters that you’re sort of rehearsing. I think these things happen. Particularly in music, of course, you don’t always have an audience in front of you. You take yourself into a private space and you practice and try all the things that are really egg-on-the-face, you know, play all the wrong notes, and by elimination, you try to find the right one.

JPE: I realize we are well over our allotted time, so thank you very much. I’m really grateful for the opportunity to chat. Just quickly, for the sake of logistics: I don’t believe in publishing something without having you have a chance to look at it so—

IA: Absolutely not necessarily. I’m more than content, whether you want to paraphrase for the sake of brevity, or whether you want to just put things literally, surrounded by inverted commas. I’m quite careful about what I say. I do try, you know, to bring things to verbal fruition. That is the result of kind of split-second thinking, and not just being too off the wall. I’m usually a constructive person when comes to interviews. I’ve made a few mistakes in my life, saying things without modifying them or realizing how they will come across to other people. And of course we all do that in our daily lives, in the way we talk to other people, friends, family, whatever else. We all tend sometimes to be just a little too unguarded in our expressions, and so doing interviews is rather like making political speeches.

You’ve got to stay away from Twitter. Rule number one.

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Bio:

Ian Anderson, known throughout the world of rock music as the flute and voice behind the legendary rock band Jethro Tull, celebrates his 53rd year as a recording and performing musician in 2021. Ian was born in 1947 in Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland. After attending primary school in Edinburgh, his family relocated to Blackpool in the north of England in 1959. Following a traditional Grammar school education, he moved on to Art college to study fine art before deciding on an attempt at a musical career. Jethro Tull formed in 1968 out of the amalgamation of the John Evan Band and McGregor’s Engine, two blues-based local UK groups. After a lengthy career, Jethro Tull has released 30 studio and live albums, selling more than 60 million copies since the band first performed at London’s famous Marquee Club in February 1968.

Anderson has so far recorded seven solo albums in his career: 1983’s Walk Into Light, the flute instrumental Divinitiesalbum for EMI’s Classical Music Division in 1995, the acoustic collections of songs, The Secret Language of Birds and Rupi’s Dance. In a more progressive rock context he recorded Thick As A Brick 2 in 2012 and Homo Erraticus in 2014. Released in 2017, the classically inspired album Jethro Tull—The String Quartets with the Carducci Quartet reached number one in the Billboard Classical Charts.

Anderson lives on a farm in the southwest of England where he has a recording studio and office. He has been married for 44 years to Shona, who is also an active director of their music and other companies. In 2006, Anderson was awarded a Doctorate in Literature from Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh, the Ivor Award for International Achievement in Music and, in the New Years Honours List 2008, an MBE for services to music. In 2011, he received another Doctorate in Literature from Dundee University.

Endnotes

  1. See, for instance, James Parker’s vituperative 2017 essay in The Atlantic, “The Whitest Music Ever: Prog rock was audacious, innovative—and awful.” The Atlantic, September 2017.  https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/09/the-whitest-music-ever/534174/. This is not the place to elaborate on the generic definitions of “progressive rock” that have proliferated over the past half century, other than to flag the extent to which definitions of the genre tend to demarcate it by sovereign exception: since prog rock “died” with punk, surely Kate Bush can’t be called “progressive,” nor Fishbone, nor Joanna Newsom or Mastodon, nor KBB or Kikagaku Moyo; Frank Zappa, the Plastic People of the Universe, and Soft Machine are “art rock.” And so forth. For a refreshing reconfiguration of the cultural and political coordinates of such generic boundary-drawing, see Tamara Levitz’s dialogue with Benjamin Piekut here in ASAP/J. See also Rob Young’s magnificent cultural history of British visionary music of the 1950s-1970s, Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2011.
  2. The band Jethro Tull is named after the English agriculturalist Jethro Tull (1674-1741) (see the All-too-frequently-asked question, “How did you get the name Jethro Tull?” at http://jethrotull.com/press. Anderson himself became a salmon farmer in 1978, when he purchased and restored the Strathaird Estate in Scotland and oversaw the Strathaird Salmon corporation through the early 1990s. This part of Jethro Tull’s and Anderson’s history is the subject of a 1987 documentary, Fish and Sheep and Rock n’ Roll.
  3. On Jo Lustig and the political and cultural imaginary of British folk music revival, see Rob Young, Electric Eden. Lustig managed the experimental folk supergroup Pentangle along with Steeleye Span, whose 1974 album Now We Are Six was produced by Anderson.
  4. “Pax Britannica” is sung as a love-note from Prince Albert to Queen Victoria waxing about the treasures of colonialism, ironically downplaying the violence of colonial occupation as administrivia: “See, we offer contracts clear in/ English, plain as it appears/ In small print, some trifling matters:/ Not important, never fear.” The song’s piano fanfare, moreover, is a direct allusion to the piano fanfare in the “man of power” section of Jethro Tull’s 1972 album, Thick as a Brick.
Jonathan Eburne
Jonathan P. Eburne is founding coeditor, with Amy Elias, of ASAP/ Journal and Professor of Comparative Literature, English, and French and Francophone Studies at the Pennsylvania State University. He is the author, most recently, of Outsider Theory: Intellectual Histories of Unorthodox Ideas (University of Minnesota Press, 2018), which received the James Russell Lowell Prize from the Modern Language Association in 2020.