ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON MARCH 2, 1984
By Steve Newton
Sitting on a park bench, eyeing little girls with bad intent
Snot running down his nose, greasy fingers smearing shabby clothes
Longtime fans of Jethro Tull will recall the above lyrics from the unsavoury tale of a corrupt degenerate named Aqualung. That tune, with its heavy melodic riff, spasmodic drumming, and rolling electric/acoustic lead break, combined with such hits as “Living in the Past” and “Bungle in the Jungle” to make Jethro Tull one of the most successful and highly acclaimed bands of the seventies. From the pastoral eloquence of “Thick As a Brick” to the shuffling madness of “Locomotive Breath”, there was something for nearly everyone on a Tull album.
The man most responsible for the band’s distinct sound and biting , succinct social comments was vocalist/flautist Ian Anderson, chief songwriter and resident madman. With straggly hair and beard, leotards and hunting cap, Anderson came across in concert as a prancing woodsman/elf or modern-day pied piper.
Well the hair and bear have been trimmed, the hat is gone, and on the cover of his first solo album, Walk into Light, Anderson is sportily dressed in leisure suit and matching slacks. And the music has changed too. Computers and synthesizers are the main attraction now.
But Anderson’s keen tongue is intact and his quirky, essentially British lyrics still carry their individual stamp and attack. Particularly impressive are the album’s first single, “Fly By Night”, and “Different Germany”.
I reached Anderson by telephone at his farm near London recently, and asked him about the new album, his collaborator Peter Vettese, and the experience behind “Different Germany”.
After 15 years with Jethro Tull, why a solo album now?
Primarily because, after 15 years with Jethro Tull, it was seeming like a very good idea that we should all take a few months away from touring, explore separate aspects of music, and come back to it this year with a new set of ideas and new input.
So a few months of 1983 were spent working at home and experimenting with recording on my own, and it seemed sufficiently worthwhile to actually release an album of that material, although not in a high-profile manner.
I mean the record has gone out, and everyone expects we’ll do modestly well, but it’s certainly not the intention to give the impression that Jethro Tull is at an end and that I am on my own. Jethro Tull is in the middle of recording a new album, and we’re about to start rehearsals for the touring that we’ll be doing this year.
So Tull is still going strong?
Yes, very much so, at the moment. The album comes out around the end of April and we start touring North America on May the 20th if everything goes as scheduled. And we will be in Canada in June. I can’t tell you offhand the specific dates, but I think we must be playing Vancouver.
Can you expand a little on what the next Tull album will be like?
Yeah. The new music employs a lot more complex harmonic relationships between melody and chords and between the different instruments. Played, however, it probably sounds a lot more simple because there is more transparency in the music, and more economical use of what I hope are interesting sounds and interesting playing.
But it’s certainly not so eclectic as the kind of music we’ve played in the past, which had a lot of elements of classical music or folk music or blues or whatever. This is more of a “gut” kind of music that comes from playing around with modern technology like synthesizers and digital sampling devices. So it probably sounds a bit more up-to-date.
Have you always been intrigued by electronic sounds?
Not until about three years ago when it first seemed to me that the human expression available on electronic instruments justified their use in a band like ours.
I mean the early Moog synthesizers, for example, were rather featureless in a way. It got interesting when you started having a 16-voice polyphony and touch-sensitive keyboards–things that really allowed a musician to get some expression out of electronics.
It became interesting also when drum computers or drum machines reached the stage where they were almost fully programmable. They’re not entirely programmable just yet in terms of a complete range of dynamics but they’re getting close to it.
How did you come to meet Peter Vettese, the keyboard player on Walk Into Light?
Well he auditioned for the role of keyboard player at the beginning of 1982. He was on the last Jethro Tull album, Broadsword.
It says on the back cover of Walk Into Light that Peter does the “blouse vocals” and you the “serious vocals”.
Yes, those are the high-pitched, feminine-voice vocals. When you hear anything particularly shrill, it’s usually Peter. So it’s his terminology. He doesn’t actually wear a blouse, or at least not very often.
What is the message behind the new album’s “Made in England”? Is there a political message there?
I wouldn’t say a political one, no. It’s almost an uptempo lament about the fact that Britain used to produce more than its fair share of landmarks in terms of social, intellectual, and physical endeavour; and yet, as a country we are now seen by most other nations to be a bit down in heel and not really producing anything terribly meaningful. That’s sort of sad, but mind you the Roman Empire had it even worse.
And “Different Germany”?
Oh, that’s just a song really about a specific occasion when I got off the airplane once, flying into Germany alone. When traveling to it with the group I usually arrive at immigration and the gun-toting border guards ask for your autograph and are really friendly and everything is fine. but once I came in on my own–not looking like a member of a group of whatever–and suddenly saw it in a different way.
I saw something that I suppose is Germanic–not that I’m harkening back, I hope, too heavy-handedly towards the period of Germany’s history that it might rather forget–but obviously there was as an element of that in it. It’s a bit like walking down a country lane on a sunny summer’s day and then going back to the same place after midnight on your own without a torch and the hairs rise on the back of your neck. It’s on that sort of a level.
Actually, I think you’ll find that the average German, Jethro Tull-record-owning-person will probably know more about the lyrics than an English-speaking, Jethro Tull-record-owning-person will. Because of the language difference, the Germans seem to take the lyrics very seriously. They enjoy reading them and studying them and exercising their concern to be cosmopolitan on an international level. Ironically, they usually derive more from the lyrics of pop music than a lot of English-speaking people who just tend to “hear” it go in one ear and out the other.
What sort of music do you like to listen to in your spare time?
Well, all I listen to is Top 20 radio in the UK. I don’t have any records or buy anything; I just listen to what radio plays me. And I find equal measures of interesting and loathing for what I hear on the radio. I mean, there is some shocking stuff about, but there’s some very very good, intelligent pop music about in the Top 20 that’s enjoyable to listen to. And it’s influential music, in the sense that it’s all part of setting the trend for the music for the next five years.
To hear the full audio of my 22-minute interview with Ian Anderson years later, in 1992, subscribe to my Patreon page, where you can eavesdrop on over 375 of my uncut, one-on-one conversations with:
Dave Martone, 2020
Ian Gillan of Deep Purple, 2006
Joss Stone, 2012
Glenn Tipton of Judas Priest, 2005
Jack Blades of Night Ranger, 1984
Vivian Campbell of Def Leppard, 1992
Colin James, 1995
Kim Simmonds of Savoy Brown, 1998
Tom Cochrane of Red Rider, 1983
Ed Roland of Collective Soul, 1995
Taj Mahal, 2001
Tom Wilson of Junkhouse, 1995
Mike McCready of Pearl Jam, 2003
David Lindley, 2002
Marty Friedman of Megadeth, 1991
John Hiatt, 2010
Nancy Wilson of Heart, 2006
Jeff Golub, 1989
Moe Berg of the Pursuit of Happiness, 1990
Todd Rundgren, 2006
Chad Kroeger of Nickelback, 2001
Steve Earle, 1987
Gabby Gaborno of the Cadillac Tramps, 1991
Terry Bozzio, 2003
Roger Glover, 1985
Matthew Sweet, 1995
Jim McCarty of the Yardbirds, 2003
Luther Dickinson of North Mississippi Allstars, 2001
John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls, 1995
Steve Hackett from Genesis, 1993
Grace Potter, 2008
Buddy Guy, 1993
Steve Lynch of Autograph, 1985
Don Wilson of the Ventures, 1997
Gordie Johnson of Big Sugar, 1998
Trevor Rabin of Yes, 1984
Albert Lee, 1986
Yngwie Malmsteen, 1985
Robert Cray, 1996
Tony Carey, 1984
Ian Hunter, 1988
Kate Bush, 1985
David Gilmour from Pink Floyd, 1984
Jeff Healey, 1988
Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, 1996
Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi, 1993
Colin Linden, 1993
Kenny Wayne Shepherd, 1995
Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues, 1986
Elliot Easton from the Cars, 1996
Wayne Kramer from the MC5, 2004
Bob Rock, 1992
Nick Gilder, 1985
Klaus Meine of Scorpions, 1988
Jason Bonham, 1989
Tom Johnston of the Doobie Brothers, 1991
Joey Spampinato of NRBQ, 1985
Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers, 2003
Andy Powell of Wishbone Ash, 2003
Steve Kilbey of the Church, 1990
Edgar Winter, 2005
Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde, 1990
Randy Hansen, 2001
Dan McCafferty of Nazareth, 1984
Davy Knowles of Back Door Slam, 2007
Jimmy Barnes from Cold Chisel, 1986
Steve Stevens of Atomic Playboys, 1989
Billy Idol, 1984
Stuart Adamson of Big Country, 1993
Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, 1992
Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule, 1998
John Bell of Widespread Panic, 1992
Robben Ford, 1993
Barry Hay of Golden Earring, 1984
Jason Isbell, 2007
Joey Belladonna of Anthrax, 1991
Joe Satriani, 1990
Vernon Reid of Living Colour, 1988
Brad Delp of Boston, 1988
Zakk Wylde of Pride & Glory, 1994
John Sykes of Blue Murder, 1989
Alice Cooper, 1986
Lars Ulrich of Metallica, 1985
John Doe, 1990
Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon, 1992
Myles Goodwyn of April Wine, 2001
John Mellencamp, 1999
Mike Campbell of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, 1999
Kenny Aronoff, 1999
Doyle Bramhall II, 2001
Jon Bon Jovi, 1986
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1992
Randy Bachman, 2001
Little Steven, 1987
Stevie Salas, 1990
J.J. Cale, 2009
Joe Bonamassa, 2011
Tommy Emmanuel, 1994
Rob Baker of the Tragically Hip, 1997
John Petrucci of Dream Theater, 2010
Eric Johnson, 2001
Stu Hamm, 1991
Gene Simmons of Kiss, 1992
Ace Frehley from Kiss, 2008
David Lee Roth, 1994
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
John Mayall of the Bluesbreakers, 1988
Steve Vai, 1990
Tony Iommi of Heaven and Hell, 2007
Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1996
Geoff Tate of Queensryche, 1991
James Hetfield of Metallica, 1986
Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1990
Rick Richards of the Georgia Satellites, 1988
Andy McCoy and Sam Yaffa of Hanoi Rocks, 1984
Steve Morse, 1991
Slash of Guns N’ Roses, 1994
Brian May from Queen, 1993
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1991
Jake E. Lee of Badlands, 1992
Rickey Medlocke of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1997
John Fogerty, 1997
Joe Perry of Aerosmith, 1987
Rick Derringer, 1999
Robin Trower, 1990
Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, 1994
Mick Ronson, 1988
Geddy Lee of Rush, 2002
Buck Dharma of Blue Oyster Cult, 1997
Michael Schenker, 1992
Vince Neil of Motley Crue, 1991
Vinnie Paul of Pantera, 1992
Joan Jett, 1992
Steve Harris of Iron Maiden, 1988
Sebastian Bach of Skid Row, 1989
Rob Halford of Judas Priest, 1984
Bill Henderson of Chilliwack, 1999
Paul Rodgers, 1997
R.L. Burnside, 1999
Guthrie Govan of the Aristocrats, 2015
Mick Mars of Mötley Crüe, 1985
Carlos Santana, 2011
Walter Trout, 2003
Rudy Sarzo of Quiet Riot, 1983
Rob Hirst of Midnight Oil, 2001
Tommy Aldridge, 2001
Donald “Duck” Dunn, 1985
Mark Farner of Grand Funk, 1991
Chris Robinson of Black Crowes, 1990
Jennifer Batten, 2002
Mike Fraser, 2014
Leo Kottke, 2002
Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead, 2002
David Gogo, 1991
Booker T. Jones, 2016
Link Wray, 1997
James Reyne from Australian Crawl, 1988
Mike Rutherford of Genesis, 1983
Buddy Guy, 1991
Country Dick Montana of the Beat Farmers, 1990
Mike Cooley of the Drive-By Truckers, 2016
Gary Rossington of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1986
Lindsay Mitchell of Prism, 1988
Buddy Miles, 2001
Eddie Money, 1988
Tom Hamilton of Aerosmith, 1983
Gaye Delorme, 1990
Dave Murray of Iron Maiden, 1984
Graham Bonnet of Alcatrazz, 1984
Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac, 2016
Doc Neeson of Angel City, 1985
Rik Emmett of Triumph, 1985
Sonny Landreth, 2016
Tosin Abasi of Animals as Leaders, 2016
Jeff Beck, 2001
Albert King, 1990
Johnny Ramone of the Ramones, 1992
Peter Frampton, 1987
Otis Rush, 1997
Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, 1989
Leslie West of Mountain, 2002
Steve Howe of Yes, 2017
Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, 1983
Uli Jon Roth, 2016
Poison Ivy of the Cramps, 1990
Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1985
Greg Lake of ELP, 1992
Robert Plant, 1993
Malcolm Young and Brian Johnson of AC/DC, 1983
Warren Zevon, 1992
Tal Wilkenfeld, 2016
Steve Clark of Def Leppard, 1988
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Danny Gatton, 1993
Alex Lifeson of Rush, 1992
Ann Wilson of Heart, 1985
J.J. Cale, 1990
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Chris Cornell, 2008
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Kim Mitchell, 1984
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Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, 1984
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….with hundreds more to come