Jethro Tull on The Rolling Stones’ Rock And Roll Circus and ‘A Song For Jeffrey’: “It has a directness!”

Ian Anderson and co recall their early years

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IAN ANDERSON (vocals, flute, harmonica): I first came across Jeffrey at Blackpool Grammar School. He, like I, had an interest in painting, and in music. We didn’t strike up an immediate bond, but when I got it into my head that it might be fun to form a band [The Blades], I went to John Evan, who had become the owner of a drum kit – and to Jeffrey, who didn’t play anything at all, so I said, “Right, you’re the bass player!”

JEFFREY HAMMOND (inspiration, later Tull bassist): To someone with no musical ability both John and Ian seemed incredibly talented in their different ways. It was Ian who held everything together without exerting a sense of leadership. The overriding feeling was a desire to be different yet without needing to say how or why or to define it in any way.

TERRY ELLIS (manager, producer): Almost every band of that era, like Pink Floyd and The Rolling Stones, started off playing blues. Then they would graduate from blues into something that was different and more personal.

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ANDERSON: Because he was at art college in London [after the Blades split], Jeffrey was the unofficial mascot of the early [Jethro Tull]. He would come along sometimes to the Marquee Club and hover about in the background, studiously avoiding looking at the band, and reading whatever newspaper he fancied at the time.

CLIVE BUNKER (drums): In the winter he would grow his hair very long and look beatnik-y, and he would always stand at the lefthand side of the stage, from my view. He would never look at the stage, but at the audience, so there was always nobody around him, because no-one dared go near him! And then in the summer, he’d shave his head completely and grow a big beard and do exactly the same thing. He was great.

HAMMOND: Yes, I was the male groupie who was fortunate to travel to gigs in the London area in the Transit. It was especially exciting to see their following grow from barely a hundred or so at their first Marquee gig to packing the place out within a very short period of time.

ANDERSON: “A Song For Jeffrey”, it’s not very clever lyrically, but it’s really about Jeffrey being a slightly wayward lad who wasn’t quite sure where he was headed in life. He knew that he loved painting, but he seemed sometimes without direction and rather lonely. So I thought, ‘Well, I shall write a song with his name in it.’

HAMMOND: I think that Ian must have played it to me rather than being so straightforward as saying, “Hey, this is for you.” I do remember the striking instrumental introduction which defines the song for me.

BUNKER: In those days, when Ian had a rough idea of a song, we would all go round to his place and he’d play it on acoustic guitar and either hum or sing the basic melody. I was tapping my knees trying to come up with a drum part, but I just didn’t know what to do. So I said to Ian, “Have you got any ideas?” And he sang that shuffle beat, and that’s what I played.

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