Jethro Tull founder Ian Anderson on music, flutes, morphine drips and why he can't stand hippies

George Varga, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in Entertainment News

Ian Anderson is understandably pleased Jethro Tull — the pioneering progressive-rock band he founded and has led since 1967 — has sold more than 60 million albums worldwide and is now embarked on the aptly named "The Seven Decades Tour."

The veteran flutist, singer, songwriter and guitarist is also pleased Jethro Tull counts a number of high-profile musicians among its fans. They include former R.E.M. singer Michael Stipe, Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett, Nick Cave and members of the bands Midlake and the Decemberists, as well as actress Lisa Lampanelli.

But Anderson scoffs when asked if he has seen any unlikely fans — a contentious political figure, perhaps — turn up at Jethro Tull's concerts.

"I have no idea who is in the audience; they are all strangers to me," he replied, speaking from his home in Wiltshire, England. "But that's part of the appeal. You are in front of people you don't know, will never meet, and don't want to know.

"Concerts give you the opportunity to make some new friends, or some new enemies. Then, after the show, I disappear into my little dressing room and crawl under a rock, because I'm not a social creature."

Depending on the day and his mood, Anderson can indeed be a prickly character on occasion. He can also be warm, endearing and an insightful commentator on his chosen profession. He is the only member of Jethro Tull who has been in all of its 30-plus lineups.


"Sometimes the people you dread meeting — because of anecdotal, spurious hearsay — turn out to be the nicest people," Anderson said. "Sadly, the opposite is true, as well. People you think are going to be nice turn out not to be. I guess I'm the same.

"Catch me on the right day and you're fine. But I'm sure I've disappointed some people who were catching me at the wrong moment, when I didn't want to have to stop — in mid-mouthful in a restaurant — to take a selfie with them."

Flute first, then and now

The Scottish-born Anderson turned 76 in August, 58 years after Tull — the band long synonymous with his name — was launched as a jazzy blues-rock ensemble.


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