Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Case for Jethro Tull for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

In the latest installment of the top ten bands that should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, we visit the case for the great Jethro Tull.  

Ian Anderson, Martin Barre and a potpourri of mates have been making incredible music now for over 40 years.  Their portfolio of work is a hodgepodge of genres and formats with about as many misses as hits, but the ones that worked represent some of the best rock and roll ever created.   

Here are the primary points for my case for Tull: 
  • Ian Anderson and the flute.  Unique in all of rock and roll and hallmark to Tull's sound, Anderson's flute is the sound of the band.  And because of him and that instrument, nobody else really sounds like Jethro Tull.  Indeed, the band had their influences and borrowed from others before them, but Anderson and the flute always put a unique spin on the music that has never, and likely never will be, replicated.  How distinctive was that flute-led sound?  I was in junior high riding with my dad to be dropped over a friend's house early one morning, and we were listening to the car radio.  Dad always had younger musical tastes for his peer group, and as the radio played Cross-Eyed Mary, dad exclaimed that he really liked Tull.  I must have had quite a look on my face, as he followed up with "I bet most of your buddies' dads don't even know who Jethro Tull is."  And he was right.   
  • One word: Aqualung.  This 1971 album is a must-have for any classic rock and roll fan.  Most of the album could be heard on FM formats through most of the '70's, and two tracks, Aqualung and Locomotive Breath, continue to be absolute staples on classic rock oriented stations.  It is a monster of an album, and even though it may not have garnered high critical praise, rock and roll fans have spoken, and this album is considered among the top by many of them.
  • The longevity of the band has to be respected.  From their early blues roots in the late 1960's to the award winning Crest of a Knave in 1987, to the prolific work that has continued through the '90's and '00's, Tull has been winning accolades from music fans for decades.   Other than for health, they've not slowed much, and continue to poke into other musical area that allow for growth and maturity.  The band has fortitude, overcoming the transition of band mates, death, and even the loss and resting of Anderson's voice for a three year hiatus.  No matter what has befallen, Tull continues.   
So why are they outside of the Hall looking in?  Here are a couple of plausible explanations:  
  • The Hall does not look favorably on prog rock acts.  This is a well-known bias, with bands like Yes, Rush, EL&P, Tull, and a multitude of others outside of the Hall.  It is a completely unfair bias, and given the massive lineup impacted, it clearly exists.  While Tull fell into that genre in their early years, they've expanded far beyond it, but still get painted by that brush by those ignorant to their library.  
  • My personal conspiracy theory is that their exclusion from the Hall is some kind of "payback" for Tull winning the 1989 Grammy for Best Metal/Hard Rock.  Everyone was convinced that Metallica would win it for ...And Justice for All - even the members of Tull, as they did not attend the event considering the winner a foregone conclusion.  Upon Tull winning, the musical world (especially those in the metal arena) went into a complete rage that still simmers yet today.  Ultimately, due to the controversy of the award, it was subsequently split into two categories, Metal and Hard Rock.   But the damage had been done, and for an entire generation of music fans, Jethro Tull remains "that old, lame band that ripped off Metallica."  
While I've never seen the band live, Anderson still roams the stage as a force of nature, as he did in his younger days.  Toward that end, here are Ian and the boys from 1978, doing the classic Thick as a Brick:  

For the Hall, it is time to put aside the progressive rock bias, ignore the Grammy controversy, step up, and put Jethro Tull in the Hall where they clearly belong. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please feel free to include any thoughts you may have. Know, however, that kiddos might be reading this, so please keep the adult language to yourself. I know, for me to ask that language is clean is a stretch...