Why Ian Anderson Is Totally OK With Being a ‘Party Boy’
Ian Anderson describes himself – and the rest of his longtime and ever-changing band, Jethro Tull – as a “cold fish”, often more comfortable observing than participating.
“It always amuses me to stand by,” he told UCR with a laugh. “People think I’m a party animal, and they’re absolutely right.”
But if you happen to catch him standing by the punch bowl, prepare for a meandering conversation: While discussing Jethro Tull’s latest LP The Zealot Genea random question about a former band member spawned a lengthy thread about life on tour, “light porn” and why Anderson considers himself the “Clint Eastwood” of rock.
I wanted to ask you about the late John Glascock, former bassist for Jethro Tull. Prior to joining, John played in flamenco-rock band Carmen, which opened for Tull on tour. Do you remember how this connection happened?
It was a recommendation from our US agent – Frank Barsalona or Barbara Skydel, one of them – who mentioned Carmen as a possible opening act back when we used to have opening acts. They described them as “flamenco rock” – being a bit more interesting than just a pop or rock band. I don’t remember if I heard any of their music, but I said, “Yeah, okay. They went out and toured with Jethro Tull. It was a bit esoteric for Jethro Tull’s audience at times as it involved a bit of dancing and flamenco rhythms, which perhaps weren’t rock enough for some of our viewers. So I wouldn’t say they were the most successful couple of bands from the audience’s point of view, but we were all very struck by their musicality and their commitment to [doing] something different from other bands. David Allen and his sister Angela Allen were the main focus of the group, and John Glascock – I guess we met him, and he seemed like a nice guy. [Jethro Tull bassist] Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond, at the end of that year, finally decided to go through with what he said he was going to do: “I’m going to do this for five years, and then I I’m going. We didn’t believe him; we thought it would be there forever. He decided he was really going, and we tried to persuade him to stay, but he was committed. He had made enough money to stash and invest, and he thought he could survive on that, and he did for the rest of his life. But John was the last guy I guess we noticed as a bass player who seemed to be interested. We also had a definite feeling that Carmen wasn’t going to continue as a band because they just weren’t achieving any level of commercial success and it was very difficult to make a living as Carmen.
[Former Jethro Tull drummer] Barrie Barlow went on to work with David Allen on other projects because those two got along so well. But unfortunately, [Carmen] was not anymore. I didn’t feel bad about asking John Glascock to try Jethro Tull because I thought, “Well, if not, he’s going to pursue one of his other pursuits: being a casual porn actor. .” At least, that’s what he told me. I think it was kind of light porn, but John had a healthy sex appetite, to say the least, and I suspect he was telling the truth when he said he was into some porn movies.
Listen to John Glascock perform with Jethro Tull in 1978
Wow, I had never heard that.
Gossip and chatter should be considered as such, but that’s what he told me. I think of John in different ways, with a mixture of admiration and as an incredibly warm, passionate, loving and lively human being. He wasn’t my kind of guy because he was a party animal, and I’m a cold, island loner. I’m Clint Eastwood playing the flute in a Spaghetti Western. I’m a guy who doesn’t particularly like to engage with other people, but that’s my fault. John was a very gregarious and fun-loving person. He just enjoyed being around other people and having a good time, which was sadly part of his demise – his inability to shake up the social elements of his life, which instead led him astray. For my part, I tried to shake him up and scare him into giving up some of these forms of behavior as a result of his major. [heart] surgery and partial recovery because it wasn’t going very well. John simply didn’t have that personal will. He loved people too much. He just hated being alone, while some of us really like our own company. A lot of people from the music industry go there because it’s a 24 hour social event. They take the stage home with them via a few hours of clubbing to the hotel room and getting dragged to the tour bus in the morning, sleeping and waking up in time for soundcheck. I can’t think of anything more horrible than living this kind of life. To me, it’s such a mess.
I wasn’t part of John’s clique or his social life, but [he was] a warm human being and a very good bass player – and a good singer. He never really told me he could sing until, unfortunately, it was a bit too late to incorporate it into the albums he was on. John was an unschooled musician – like me, if you said “play E-flat over there” he would have to sit down and count the frets to figure out where E-flat was. [Laughs.] He might not be that bad, but we were both uneducated natural musicians. He had a great ear for harmony and understood how music worked. And he could learn to play stuff and got down to learning stuff, and some of it was pretty tough basslines. He was a great man and a great loss to his friends, family and the music industry. I’m not sure he would have remained a part of Jethro Tull, because Jethro Tull’s culture is probably too far removed from that party world and that idiosyncratic rock ‘n’ roll pastiche that we think we know from others. We are cold fish at Jethro Tull. We are deadpan cold fish from Northern Europe. We don’t have an ounce of Mediterranean, Latin blood. We’re not cut off from that fabric at all – and I find it a lot of fun to be a cold fish. I always enjoy being around, and people think I’m a party freak, and they’re absolutely right. [Laughs.]
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