Ian Anderson has admitted he found it “awkward and embarrassing” to explore the history of 17th-century agriculturalist Jethro Tull, who gave his band its name.
But he was surprised to discover an accidental match between the pioneer’s life and the outfit’s catalogue – and that inspired his upcoming solo band tour.
Anderson tells Classic Rock Revisited: “Our manager at the time gave us our name. I wasn’t a history scholar so I didn’t know he was a real guy – I thought it was just a name he’d invented.
“When I found out later I didn’t want to know. I kind of blanked it for a while. I found it awkward and embarrassing to identify with this character.”
He later began reading up on Tull’s life, and discovered that very little had been recorded. “What is there is a little conflicting,” he says. “You draw from that – you distil what you think is likely the main body of fact.
“I must have gone through the entire Jethro Tull catalogue and found, to my amazement, a lot of songs were an easy fit, or just needed a little bending to easily fit the story of his life.”
Anderson says the changes he’s made include individual words or lines of lyrics, and the result is a set of songs that explore how Tull might have lived if he’d been born in the 20th century.
“It was surprise to find out it could be done,” he reflects. “It was quite positive and methodical, working through where I wrote fire new songs to flesh out the narrative in a way that might give it more sense.”
He describes the show as “a little bit naughty” in blending timelines that are three centuries apart. But he adds: “I’m doing everything I can to make the classic Jethro Tull repertoire as entertaining as possible, and give it some contact that makes it fun to perform every night.
“And that also pays homage to the original Jethro Tull.”
Anderson appears at the inaugural Ramblin’ Man Fair in Kent this weekend then tours the UK:
Sep 08: Basingstoke Anvil
Sep 10: London O2 Shepherds Bush Empire
Sep 11: Birmingham Symphony Hall
Sep 12: York Barbican
Sep 13: Gateshead Sage
Sep 14: Salford Lowry Theatre