Jethro Tull are a bit of a musical oddity. Formed in Blackpool, England, in 1967, they initially played a mix of blues-rock and jazz fusion. However, as the ’70s dawned, their music became increasingly grandiose, and they cultivated their signature progressive rock sound, which was a far cry from their original iteration.
Although they are widely known for being categorically a prog-rock band, with their iconic twists of folk and classical music, Tull are also a band that came out of what is possibly the most momentous period in British music. 1960s Britain produced some of the world’s most groundbreaking acts, including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and even the Crazy World of Arthur Brown. It is with the former that we get our story today, and it turns out that Jethro Tull’s frontman, Ian Anderson, is not only a huge fan of The Beatles, but also somewhat of a historian on the band.
In a recent interview with Classic Rock, Anderson recalled first hearing The Beatles: “Like most people my age outside of Liverpool, I had no real inkling of The Beatles until (1962’s) ‘Love Me Do,’ by which time they had, to some degree, been sanitized by their traditionally showbiz-minded manager, Brian Epstein,” he said. Detailing further, Anderson offered up some wisdom as to how Epstein helped the band to get so big, adding: “No doubt he thought it necessary, to help the band get gigs, to get a record deal, and those first few hits were what you might call pretty songs. ‘From Me to You,’ ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ – it was all very innocent.”
The Jethro Tull frontman was then kind enough to give us a comprehensive history lesson on the early days of Liverpool’s favourite sons, explaining how the band’s image and outlook started to shift with their infamous trips to Germany. He said: As their fame grew, however, and the back story of their earliest days became wider known, we cottoned on that this wasn’t how they started. We learned about the Cavern Club, and then we learned about their excursions to the seedy nightspots of Germany (in the early ’60s).”
Not stopping there, Anderson then revealed why he always preferred John Lennon to Paul McCartney, adding: “When I was a schoolboy, I was always attracted to John Lennon above the others, by a long way. Paul McCartney seemed to be the cheerful, cherubic, slightly wet character in the line-up as if the band had had a Cliff Richard transplant.”
Anderson really saw something in the rough and ready image that the young John Lennon conveyed back then: “But John had attitude, a sense of disdain when it came to being groomed and made to dress in matching suits,” he said, adding: “The first time I saw pictures of The Beatles in Hamburg, it struck me that here was Lennon in his natural habitat – leather-clad, greasy of quiff and with an air of menace.”
Lennon or McCartney? It is an age-old question. One would argue, that within the confines of The Beatles, it is reductive to separate them and much better to view them as separate sides of the same coin, as both augmented each other’s songwriting. Without one, we would not have had the other. However, Anderson’s account does speak volumes of John Lennon’s appeal, and it does explain in some ways why Lennon has always been the fan favourite. He oozed rock ‘n’ roll.