JethroTull Devonshire1970 1500 crop

this was a time when it would benefit an artist to stand up

I WAS ONE OF THOSE TEENS who prided them­selves in having a re­ally cool record col­lec­tion, brag­ging about al­bums and sin­gles few of my clue­less high school peers had ever heard of. So, of course, I was a big fan of Warner/Reprise Records in the late ’60s. Aside from cham­pi­oning my beloved Kinks (and Grom­mett save them!), by 1970 they had signed one of my he­roes, the all-but-unknown Neil Young, and the group that was fast be­coming my new ob­ses­sion, the Beach Boys.

So, of course, I was one of the first to send off my $2 for THE 1969 WARNER/REPRISE SONGBOOK, the two-record sam­pler of artists on their cat­alog who weren’t selling mil­lions of records. When I re­ceived the album in the mail, I im­me­di­ately put it on my record player.

After get­ting past the ridicu­lous opening track by Wild Man Fis­cher, there was this bril­liant thing called My Sunday Feeling lifted from the 1968 album THIS WAS by Jethro Tull.1

As bril­liant as the track was, it wasn’t bril­liant enough to get me to spend what little money I had on an album by Tull. Then came THE 1969 WARNER/REPRISE RECORD SHOW with the ex­cel­lent Fat Man from Tull’s new STAND UP album (1969). Later in the year, THE BIG BALL in­cluded Nothing Is Easy, again from STAND UP.

 

Jethro Tull should have been in­ducted into the bloody Rock & Roll Hall of Fame twenty years ago!

 

By now it was 1970 and I was in col­lege and had my own apart­ment, which quickly turned into a refuge for the hippie wannabes and coun­ter­cul­tural hangers-on. One day one of whom brought the new Jethro Tull album over to hear on my stereo. 2

On my first hearing of BENEFIT, I was hooked! I bought my own copy and played it reg­u­larly for vis­i­tors. Then I got around to buying the first two Tull al­bums, but they didn’t move me like the third one.

In 1971, I awaited AQUALUNG but was hugely dis­ap­pointed when I fi­nally heard it. I re­ally can’t say why: I just didn’t con­nect emo­tion­ally, in­tel­lec­tu­ally, or spir­i­tu­ally with the songs. Or maybe I just didn’t grok the group and their new di­rec­tion. I was in the mi­nority here, as AQUALUNG was the album that broke Jethro Tull and opened up a whole new au­di­ence, selling mil­lions of copies to those clue­less former peers of mine.

Which brings us to this morn­ing’s batch of emails and a re­quest from Shaun Roberts to an­swer the ques­tion, “Where does Jethro Tull fit into rock his­tory.” As I like to keep my an­swers on Quora short and sharp, here’ is what I wrote as my an­swer (in­dented be­tween the two im­ages below):

 

LossLeaders 1969RecordShow 500

The 1969 Warner/Reprise Song­book was the first of the com­pa­ny’s loss leaders se­ries. It was a two-record set that fea­tured twenty-eight tracks by artists that weren’t selling as many records as the com­pany be­lieved they should be. It was here that I heard my first Jethro Tull track.

Jethro Tull and the Hall of Fame

Thanks to Shaun Roberts for re­questing that I an­swer the nag­ging ques­tion, “Where does Jethro Tull fit into rock his­tory.” I even ven­tured fur­ther and ad­dressed the unan­swered ques­tion, “Should Jethro Tull be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?”

  Jethro Tull was crit­i­cally and com­mer­cially suc­cessful in four decades (five if you want to be gen­erous).

  Jethro Tull re­leased almost thirty al­bums during that time (counting live sets but not com­pi­la­tions), sev­eral of which are at least 4-star records.

  Six­teen in­di­vidual Jethro Tull al­bums have RIAA Gold Record Awards, making them one of the most cer­ti­fied artists to emerge from the ’60s. 3

It’s hard not to ar­rive at the con­clu­sion that Jethro Tull should be taken se­ri­ously by any his­tory of rock music as a major cre­ative force for al­most twenty years.

I have no idea why Jethro Tull wasn’t in­ducted into the bloody Rock & Roll Hall of Fame twenty years ago! Maybe they need to make a few rap records to im­press the folks on the Hall’s nom­i­nating com­mittee. 3

 

JethroTull Benefit US 600

The 1970 album BENEFIT was the first Jethro Tull album that I owned and re­mains my fa­vorite of their al­bums al­most fifty years later.

Summing things up

That sums things up neatly, I should think. What can one say about the music of the late ’60s and early ’70s? This was a time when an artist could ben­efit from standing up, from saying some­thing dif­ferent, from sounding dif­ferent. Jethro Tull cer­tainly stood out, sounding nothing like any other artist at the time.

Fifty years later, I still have a fond­ness for the first three Tull al­bums with BENEFIT re­maining my fave. I still don’t care much about the music that Tull made af­ter­ward, much of which con­tinued to sell in large quan­ti­ties.

For­tu­nately, the world doesn’t re­volve around my taste …

I have no idea why Jethro Tull wasn’t in­ducted into the bloody Rock & Roll Hall of Fame twenty years ago! Click To Tweet

JethroTull Devonshire1970 1000

FEATURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page of was taken at De­von­shire Downs in 1970. As British as that sounds, the Downs were lo­cated in North­ridge, Cal­i­fornia. Bass player Glenn Cor­nick backs flutist and vo­calist Ian An­derson.

 


FOOTNOTES:

1   I have al­ways con­sid­ered most of the artists on the Bizarre and Straight Records imprints—including Wild Man Fis­cher, the GTOs, and the orig­inal Alice Cooper—to have been Frank Zap­pa’s cyn­ical poke in the eye of both the record com­pa­nies and the fans.

2   Kids who turned on, tuned in, and dropped out at that time often left home or were tossed out by their parent. They didn’t have a reg­ular place to crash, let alone have the money for a good stereo. Un­for­tu­nately, they did ac­quire new al­bums, often by “lib­er­ating” them from cap­i­talist run­ning dog record shops while a friend di­verted the shop own­er’s at­ten­tion.

3   There are hun­dreds of al­bums from the 1950s and ’60s and even some from the ’70s that have sold enough copies to qualify for an RIAA Gold Record Award but have never been cer­ti­fied be­cause a) the record com­pa­nies don’t want to pay for the RIAA audit, or b) the record com­pa­nies don’t want their artists to know how many records they ac­tu­ally sold …

 

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Great piece on a great band. Thank you for re­sponding to me.