Remembering the time Jethro Tull were allowed on kids TV and scared the hell out of everyone with a truly bizarre performance

Jethro Tull
(Image credit: Jethro Tull / YouTube)

In the pantheon of British music TV, Top Of The Pops might be the show that fuelled the most playground arguments. But it wasn’t the only programme of its type in town, particularly during the 1970s, when ITV made a series of pop shows specifically aimed at younger audiences.

Chief among these was Supersonic, which ran 1975-77, and featured many of the leading chart acts of the day, including Bay City Rollers, David Essex, and, ahem, Gary Glitter.

But it also featured a surprising number of rock acts too, from Thin Lizzy to The Damned, and, even better, they weren’t forced to just promote their current singles. That’s why, for instance, a sinisterly masked Arthur Brown was allowed on to perform Fire from 1975. And then the following year, it was the turn of Jethro Tull to get down with the kids…

It was rather an odd time to do it, though, given that Tull’s live act at the time was inspired by Too Old To Rock ‘N’ Roll, Too Young To Die, a concept album about bikes, 'birds' and booze – not exactly teatime pop material. Which is probably why they chose to lead off their appearance with a perky version of their 1969 hit, Living In The Past. 

Nevertheless, it’s still delivered with a manic exuberance. A gurning John Evan plays the claves introduction on Barrie Barlow’s be-helmeted head, while Ian Anderson is as wild-eyed as ever, his snaggle-tooth leer and pulsing temple vein liable to put any watching innocent off their fish fingers. Then Evan is let loose on the maracas, shaking them for all he’s worth and looking like he’s on the verge of some kind of episode.

But then they play Too Old To Rock ‘N’ Roll, Too Young To Die’s title track, and this is the point at which concerned parents around the land may have switched off their TV sets. It starts innocently enough, with Anderson and newly recruited bassist John Glascock – both in matching black leather jackets – sharing the mic for the chorus. It’s when Anderson produces a pint of beer that things go awry, particularly when he attempts to drink and sing at the same time. 

By the end of this performance, drenched in both sweat and alcohol, Anderson looks very much like the man your mother told you not to talk to in the park – though arguably this had been his schtick from the very beginning. Still, not in front of the children, eh?

Made by London Weekend Television and broadcast in March 1976, this performance turned out to be a dry (or should that be wet) run for a TV special featuring a live (mimed) interpretation of the entire Too Old To Rock ‘N’ Roll, Too Young To Die album. Also made for LWT and produced by Supersonic’s Mike Mansfield, it was shown in June 1976. Yet it’s these two films from the earlier session that show Tull at their gonzo best.

Watch the performances below.

Joe Banks

Joe is a regular contributor to Prog. He also writes for Electronic Sound, The Quietus, and Shindig!, specialising in leftfield psych/prog/rock, retro futurism, and the underground sounds of the 1970s. His work has also appeared in The Guardian, MOJO, and Rock & Folk. Joe is the author of the acclaimed Hawkwind biographyDays Of The Underground (2020). He’s on Twitter and Facebook, and his website is