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):
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
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
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.
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 …