From modest beginnings in the late 1960s, Jethro Tull, led for nearly a quarter century by inimitable flutist-singer-songwriter Ian Anderson—has ascended to fame with a long string of hits, several dramatic comebacks, and a 1988 Grammy Award. The group’s sound, a mixture of heavy rock, English folk music, blues, and jazz, has no parallel in contemporary music.
Tull was formed in Blackpool, England, in 1967; several of its early members—including Anderson—had played in the John Evan Band. When Anderson, lead guitarist Mick Abrahams, bassist Glenn Cornick, and drummer Clive Bunker teamed as a quartet, they found themselves at a loss for a name. The band performed under numerous monikers, finally settling on their agent’s suggestion, Jethro Tull—the name of an 18th-century English inventor, agronomist, musician, and author. This namesake’s various pursuits have led some to characterize him as an eccentric, if not a crackpot, and his slightly crazed, albeit imaginative, persona suited the band nicely.
Anderson started out exclusively as a singer but picked
Original members include Ian Anderson (born August 10, 1947, in Edinburgh, Scotland), vocals, flute, guitar; Mick Abrahams (born April 7, 1943, in Luton, England; left group, 1968), guitar, vocals; Glenn Comtek (born April 24, 1947, in Barrow-in-Furness, England; left group, 1971), bass; and Clive Bunker (born December 12, 1946; left group, 1971), drums.
Later members include Martin Barre (joined band, 1968), guitar; John Evan (bandmember 1970-78), keyboards; Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond (bandmember 1971-1976), bass; Barriemore Barlow (bandmember 1971-82), drums; David Palmer (bandmember 1977-80), keyboards; John Glascock (joined band, 1976; died, 1979), bass; Edwin Jobson (bandmember 1980-81), keyboards, violin; Dave Pegg (joined band, 1980), bass; Mark Craney (bandmember 1980-1984), drums; Peter-John Vettese (bandmember 1982-1987), keyboards; Doane Perry (joined band, 1984), drums; and Martin Allcock (joined band, 1988), keyboards.
Group formed in Blackpool, England, 1967; signed by Chrysalis Records, c. 1968, and released first album, This Was, 1968.
Awards: Gold records for Stand Up, 1969, Benefit, 1970, Living in the Past, 1972, and A Passion Play, 1973; platinum record for M.U.: The Best of Jethro Tull, 1976; gold record and Grammy Award for best hard rock/heavy metal performance, 1988, for Crest of a Knave.
Addresses: Record company —Chrysalis Records, 9255 Sunset Blvd., #319, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
up the flute because—according to a press release cited by Irwin Stambler in his Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock, and Soul —“When the others were playing, I found I was just gazing ‘round the lofty halls. I thought I’d like to be playing something and moving ‘round too, so I got hold of a flute and a harmonica and bluffed my way through.” Anderson’s bizarre stage presence, characterized by one-legged, breathy flute-playing and wild leaps, created a sensation early in the band’s career. But it was Jethro Tull’s innovative mixture of jazz, blues, and rock styles that caught the attention of critics and two young managers, Terry Ellis and Chris Wright.
Ellis and Wright got the band a recording contract with Chrysalis Records, and the first Tull release, This Was, debuted in 1968. The record showcased the group’s hybrid sound and featured ten original songs, including “A Song for Jeffrey,” which would become an early Tull standard, and a cover of jazz legend Roland Kirk’s “Serenade to a Cuckoo.” (Creem’s Lester Bangs noted in 1973 that “Anderson has always trotted out old Roland Kirk riffs... and Anderson should admit the debt he owes him,” though the band insisted from the outset on its utter originality.) Rolling Stone’s Gordon Fletcher called This Was “uneven” and dubbed the band “an extremely crude outfit that occasionally came on like an amplified Salvation Army band.” Nonetheless, the album reached Number Five on English album charts two weeks after its release.
Jethro Tull’s debut appeared in the U.S. on Reprise Records early in 1969. Shortly thereafter, guitarist Abrahams left the band and founded his own group, Blodwyn Pig; Martin Barre took over lead guitar duties as the band rushed a follow-up album, 1969’s Stand Up, through production. The inside of the record’s gatefold cover featured a group photo that “popped” up—in reference to the LP’s title—when the cover was opened. The LP went gold in the U.S. and included a number of refinements to Tull’s sound. “Nothing Is Easy,” a bluesy rocker graced by a soaring flute solo, was prototypical Tull, and the quartet’s jazzy arrangement of Bach’s “Bouree,” complete with bass solo, further pushed rock’s stylistic envelope. The previously dissenting Fletcher called Stand Up “magnificent.”
Tull’s stage show became increasingly unique and raucous, if a bit off-putting to the uninitiated. Of their appearance at the 1970 Rock and Roll Circus festival, Rolling Stone’s David Dalton reported, “When Ian Anderson gets up on stage to do his act, he completely transforms. Jekyll and Hyde. He becomes a twitching werewolf, wildly scratching his hair, his armpits, and in his long shabby grey coat, part clown, part tramp.… The audience is mainly teenyboppers and have never heard of the group. ‘Who is that?’ they say to each other in disgusted tones.”
The band delivered a handful of singles before releasing Benefit in 1970. The Tull sound—augmented notably by John Evan’s keyboards—was substantially refined, transformed from the psychedelic blues of the first two albums to a slicker, more rock-oriented feel. The hard crunch of Barre’s guitar fueled the hit single “Teacher” as well as the cuts “To Cry You a Song” and “With You There to Help Me.” The band was deemed “most promising new talent” in a 1970 musician’s poll, according to Fletcher; indeed, Tull was only just beginning to show its potential.
In 1971 Jethro Tull released Aqualung, its “classic” LP—at least in the minds of “classic rock” radio programmers. The title cut, with lyrics by Anderson’s wife Jennie, became the quintessential Tull anthem, its unmistakable guitar riff the most familiar piece of Jethro Tull music to non-fans. “Aqualung” describes a “dirty, wheezing old man,” a beggar making his way through London, Ian Anderson told Rolling Stone’s Grover Lewis. The rest of the “Aqualung” side of the album describes other down-and-out characters, while side two, entitled “My God,” attacks what Anderson perceived as the hypocrisy of organized religion—particularly the Church of England.
“The strongest thing that hit me was the fear tactics of the religion my parents attempted to have me enter into,” Anderson told Lewis of his inspiration for side two of Aqualung. “For that and other reasons, I was estranged from my father for years, couldn’t even bear to speak to him.” The song “Hymn 43” typifies the record’s message: “If Jesus saves, then He’d better save himself/From the gory glory-seekers who use his name in death.” The album also featured the rock-radio standards “Locomotive Breath” and “Cross-Eyed Mary,” alongside such Old English-style folk ditties as “Mother Goose.” Aqualung was a Number One album in the U.K. and a Top Ten record in the U.S. Critics, for their part, had more reservations about the disc than fans. Ben Gerson’s Rolling Stone review typified some of their objections: “Despite the fine musicianship and often brilliant structural organization of songs, this album is not elevated, but undermined by its seriousness.” Contemporary Pop Music authors Dean and Nancy Turner, however, wrote in 1979 that “Aqualung was one of the few successful concept-story albums in rock music.”
By the time Aqualung appeared, Tull’s lineup had changed. Cornick and Bunker were replaced by two of Anderson’s Blackpool friends, bassist Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond and drummer Barriemore Barlow. Critics disappointed by the band’s new message-heavy direction alleged that Anderson had purged his old rhythm section to tighten his control over the sound. The contrast between the old and new styles was heightened by the release in 1972 of the two-record retrospective Living in the Past, a compendium of singles, unreleased tracks, and live numbers from the bands first four years. Rolling Stone’s Fletcher referred to the new direction as “little more than amplified folkiedom and moralistic pop-rock—a pale shadow of their earlier work.”
Despite these grumbles, Aqualung had made Jethro Tull a supergroup; Anderson and company routinely sold out large halls and merited feature articles like Lewis’s piece in Rolling Stone. Lewis described Anderson’s stage demeanor—here during a performance of the song “My God”—in familiar terms: “Anderson… goes all but berserk as he raves against ‘the bloody church of England, ‘ hopping about on one leg, grimacing, twitching, gasping, lurching along the apron of the stage, rolling his eyes, paradiddling his arms, feigning flinging snot from his nose, exchanging the guitar for a flute, gnawing on the flute like corn on the cob, flinging it forward like a baton, gibbering dementedly.” The group, which Lewis described as “more like a natural force, a wind or river,” communicated their fervor to fans; a riot at a Denver concert led police to spray gatecrashers with tear gas, and a rush for tickets to a 1972 Tull appearance in Uniondale, New York, resulted in another violent clash between fans and police.
If the conceptual ambition of Aqualung rankled many rock critics, the album-length song Thick as a Brick, released in 1972, was a downright provocation. Fletcher, for one, dismissed it as “emotionally vapid.” Rolling Stone’s Gerson, by contrast, hailed the album as “one of rock’s most sophisticated and groundbreaking products.” Melody Maker’s Chris Welch compared it more or less favorably to The Who’s smash rock opera Tommy, praising Thick as a Brick while admitting that it needed “time to absorb.” Bangs described the LP in Creem as “a series of variations (though they really didn’t vary enough to sustain forty minutes) on a single, simple theme, which began as a sort of wistful English folk melody and wound through march tempos, high energy guitar, glockenspiels, dramatic staccato outbursts like something from a movie soundtrack and plenty of soloing by Anderson.” Bangs also ventured that the lyrics “set new records in the Tull canon of lofty sentiments and Biblically righteous denunciations of contemporary mores.” The record’s cover contained a 12-page mock newspaper full of Tull in-jokes and parodies of British tabloid stories; a three-minute “edit” of Thick as a Brick earned heavy radio play as the album soared to the top of the charts.
Jethro Tull maintained its sizeable following by delivering shows that defined the over-the-top arena concert approach of the 1970s. Bangs, never really a fan of the band’s sound, owned that “in terms of sheer professionalism, Jethro Tull are without peer. They stand out by never failing to deliver a fullscale show, complete with everything they know any kid would gladly pay his money to see: music, volume, costumes, theatrics, flashy solos, long sets, two encores. Jethro Tull are slick and disciplined; they work hard and they deliver.”
What Tull delivered next was another album-length song, A Passion Play. Critics willing to indulge the band Thick as a Brick showed signs of impatience. Stephen Holden slammed the album in his Rolling Stone review, calling it “45 minutes of vapid twittering and futzing about, all play and no passion—expensive, tedious nonsense.” Bangs confessed that “I have absolutely nothing to say about it. I almost like it, even though it sort of irritates me. Maybe I like it because it irritates me.” The group’s fans, however, remained loyal, flocking to concerts during which A Passion Play was performed in its entirety, along with the usual Tull hits.
Anderson’s tireless band trotted out a series of successful albums throughout the 1970s. WarChild, released in 1974, yielded the hit single “Bungle in the Jungle,” and 1975 saw The Minstrel in the Gallery garner respectable sales. Anderson was clearly following his muse, regardless of what critics might say. “From a very personal point of view,” he told Melody Maker’s Harry Doherty after the release of Minstrel, “I want to continue to justify the place on my passport where it says ‘Occupation: musician.’ I feel I’ve not yet really justified that. I am not fully and wholly a musician.” To the group’s devotees, however, he had more than justified himself. Even so, he hinted to Doherty that he might be leaving behind “that heavy show biz thing,” despite his prediction that “Jethro Tull, in the latter half of 76, will become a much more hugely popular group.”
Anderson’s prediction was accurate: the group’s release of that year—Too Old to Rock ‘n’ Roll, Too Young to Die! —sold briskly thanks to the infectious title track’s success on radio. If the album’s title reflected some uneasiness about a rocker’s longevity, its songs and garish comic-book cover showed a newfound lightness and embrace of a more traditional rock approach. Also in 1976, Chrysalis put out M.U.: The Best of Jethro Tull to capitalize on the band’s hits; a second disc of greatest hits, Repeat: The Best of Jethro Tull, Volume II followed in 1977.
Bassist John Glascock, meanwhile, had replaced Hammond-Hammond and would stay with Tull for 1977’s Songs From the Wood and 1978’s Heavy Horses. These albums moved in the direction of folk-rock, with a heavy emphasis on Elizabethan-style minstrelsy. 1978 also saw the release of a feisty live double album, Bursting Out. Glascock died in 1979, the year the band released its next LP, Stormwatch. Anderson played most of the bass parts on the album as well as acoustic guitar and flute. David Palmer, who had arranged strings and horns for the band since its debut, became a full-fledged member in 1976 and took over keyboards on Stormwatch after Evan’s departure. Despite these shake-ups, the band continued to keep their customers satisfied; as a Los Angeles Times concert review put it, “Tull’s baroque rock hasn’t been fresh for years, and its stage show is no longer novel; but if the spontaneity and surprises are gone, they’ve been replaced by a calm, easy-to-admire professionalism that is consistently entertaining.”
During their 1979 tour, Tull was supported by another English progressive-rock band, U.K. That group’s keyboardist-electric violinist, Roxy Music alumnus Edwin Jobson, so impressed Anderson that he recruited him to play on what he intended to produce as a solo album. The result, 1980’s A, pleased Anderson so much that it was released as a Jethro Tull record. Once again the lineup had changed: Jobson replaced Palmer; Dave Pegg of the folk-rock ensemble Fairport Convention took over on bass; and youthful American Mark Craney served as the band’s new drummer. A’s sound was more electronic than past Tull efforts, though the flute and violin interplay between Anderson and Jobson hinted at a classical-progressive rock fusion.
In 1982 Jethro Tull released The Broadsword and the Beast; the medieval iconography of the cover and featured tunes suggested that Tull had begun recycling the image for which it had been most soundly ridiculed. Indeed, that same year saw the release of Rob Reiner’s satirical “rockumentary” This Is Spinal Tap, and the fictional Tap’s mystical setpiece “Stone-henge” was a dead-on spoof of Tull’s excesses.
Soon abandoning the Middle Ages for a more contemporary sound, Anderson debuted a solo album, Walk Into Light ” in 1983. Assisted by keyboardist Peter-John Vettese, who had joined Tull for Broadsword, Anderson produced what Stereo Review’s Mark Peel called “a consistently interesting musical project.” Tull released Under Wraps in 1984. The tour supporting this album was marred by several difficulties, including voice trouble for Anderson, about which he made news by chiding fans at a Los Angeles concert for hurting his throat with their marijuana smoking.
After the Under Wraps tour Anderson took some time off from Jethro Tull. A 1985 People article detailed his new business venture, a highly lucrative salmon farm on the Isle of Skye, near Scotland. The profile described the star “going from Aqualung... to aquaculture—and achieving equally impressive results.” By 1987, however, Tull had a new release in the offing, The Crest of a Knave, which Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock, and Soul author Stambler dismissed as one of the band’s “poorest offerings yet.” The band’s lineup had changed again, with drummer Doane Perry replacing Craney and the arrival of keyboardist Martin Allcock.
Far from defeated, Anderson and crew still had a few surprises left for the rock world: Crest went gold and, in a surprise to many, beat out heavy metal favorites Metallica for the Grammy Award for best hard rock/heavy metal performance of 1988. In a Rolling Stone profile Anderson defended Tull’s win in the face of widespread criticism from industry pundits and Metallica fans, who—at the time—were new to the sport compared to Tull fans: “Metal we aren’t. Hard rock, in a pinch, yeah, okay. If you ask the average kid in the street to sing a Jethro Tull song, he’s gonna go…” explained Anderson, humming the guitar riff to “Aqualung.”
In 1988 Chrysalis put a Jethro Tull boxed set on the market; stuffed with re-mastered classics, unreleased songs, and live takes of singular hits, Twenty Years of Jethro Tull earned a favorable review from Rolling Stone’s Parke Puterbaugh: “With its obsessive emphasis on unissued material, this boxed set is perhaps best described as a deluxe souvenir for serious fans only. Yet there are doubtlessly some recent Tull converts who will dive into this deep mother lode headfirst—and not come up disappointed.” Stereo Review called Tull’s next LP, 1989’s Rock Island, “fodder for ‘classic rock’ stations that want to play something current without throwing their listeners too big a curve.” By then, however, the Grammy had considerably expanded Jethro Tull’s following.
Riding the momentum of their new success, the band unveiled Catfish Rising In 1991. Puterbaugh, writing for Stereo Review, allowed that “after twenty-four albums, it’s safe to say you’re either on the bus or off the bus insofar as Jethro Tull is concerned,” but commended Catfish Rising as a record likely to leave fans “pleasantly smitten.” CD Review, while less enthusiastic about this mix of folksy acoustic songs and trademark Tull hard rock, called it a “subtly accessible blend.” Even so, the approval of rock critics undoubtedly mattered little to a band that has followed its highly independent flute-wielding leader for well over two decades. Whether they will ever grow “too old to rock and roll” will be up to their fans. And many of these fans are young, listeners Anderson described in Rolling Stone as “the kids who watched Muppets on TV and heard Jethro Tull coming from their parents’ stereo.… They literally grew up with Jethro Tull. We’re the teddy bear they didn’t throw away.”
This Was, 1968.
Stand Up, 1969.
Benefit (includes “Teacher”), 1970.
Aqualung (includes “Aqualung,” “My God,” “Hymn 43,” “Locomotive Breath,” “Cross-Eyed Mary,” and “Mother Goose”), 1971.
Thick as a Brick, 1972.
Living in the Past, 1972.
A Passion Play, 1973.
WarChild (includes “Bungle in the Jungle”), 1974.
The Minstrel in the Gallery, 1975.
Too Old to Rock ‘n’ Roll, Too Young to Die!, 1976.
M.U.: The Best of Jethro Tull, 1976.
Repeat: The Best of Jethro Tull, Volume II, 1977.
Songs From the Wood, 1977.
Heavy Horses, 1978.
Live: Bursting Out, 1978.
The Broadsword and the Beast, 1982.
Under Wraps, 1984.
The Crest of a Knave, 1987.
Twenty Years of Jethro Tull, 1988.
Rock Island, 1989.
Catfish Rising, 1991.
A Little Light Music, 1992.
Solo albums by Ian Anderson
Walk Into Light, Chrysalis, 1983.
Stambler, Irwin, Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock and Soul, St. Martin’s, 1989.
Turner, Dean, and Nancy Turner, Contemporary Pop Music, Libraries Unlimited, 1979.
CD Review, December 1991.
Creem, May 1973; October 1973.
Los Angeles Times, November 15, 1979.
Melody Maker, March 11, 1972; September 27, 1975.
People, April 22, 1985.
Rolling Stone, March 19, 1970; July 22, 1971; May 25, 1972; June 22, 1972; February 15, 1973; August 30, 1973; December 1, 1988; September 21, 1989; November 10, 1989.
Stereo Review, April 1984; February 1990; December 1991.
Jethro Tull (1674-1741) experimented with new farming techniques and invented mechanical agricultural equipment. He demonstrated on his farm near Hunger ford, England, that planting seeds in rows and tilling and hoeing increased production and profits. Hull wrote two editions of The Horse-Hoeing Husbandry, which spread his ideas to other farmers and contributed greatly to the Agricultural Revolution.
Tull was born to Jethro and Dorothy Tull, in Basildon, Berkshire, England, and baptized there on March 30, 1674. He grew up on a country estate. At the age of 17, he went to Oxford to study at St. John's College, but he left before graduating. While a student in London, Tull became a musician. He learned how to play the organ and understood how it operated mechanically—knowledge he would later apply to his seed-drill invention. In 1693 he became a law student at Gray's Inn and also studied for two years at Staple Inn. Tull qualified as a barrister in 1699, although he never practiced law. He had hoped to use his understanding of the legal system in government service, but ill health changed the course of his professional life.
The year 1699 was an eventful one for Tull. Besides becoming a barrister, he made an unusually brief tour of the Continent (Europe) and married Sussanah Smith of Burton-Dassett, Warwickshire. A tour of the Continent was a requisite part of a wealthy young man's education at the time, most lasting around two years. Tull's tour was probably only four months long, yet it gave him a glimpse of agricultural practices outside England. After their marriage, Tull and his wife settled on his paternal farm. They had one son and four daughters. Their son, John, pursued financial speculation as an adult and was incarcerated at Fleet Prison for debt. He died without heirs.
Why Tull took up farming is uncertain. It may have been because he had inherited the family farm, because he had financial problems, or because of his ill health (he had a tubercular condition). What is certain is that it was not by choice. Yet, he made the best of his lot and became one of the originators of modern methods of farming. "In short, the whole concept of thorough tillage, row cropping, and keeping the soil surface as bare as possible emerged from the brain of Jethro Tull," summed up Bob Rodale in "The Regenerative Concept."
Influence on Agricultural Revolution
Around the time of Tull's birth, hunger was a persistent problem throughout Great Britain, so farmers began growing more crops and experimenting with manure and fertilizers to increase production and profits. These experiments, however, had to have been hindered by the open field system of landownership, which forced cooperation and adherence to traditional methods. For a thousand years, arable lands in England had been laid out in fields around villages. Each landowner had narrow, long strips of land for planting that covered both the best and worst ground. Farmers agreed which strips were in production, which were fallow, and shared in the plowing. The Enclosure Movement plotted the common fields into privately held "enclosed" fields. Enclosure landowners received a piece of property in proportion to the amount they owned under the open field system. The larger fields enabled farmers to experiment with new, efficient methods and enticed the aristocracy to exploit estates with agricultural enterprises in the early years of the eighteenth century. Between 1700 and 1845, 6 million acres of English fields were enclosed as farm mechanization increased.
When Tull began farming in 1700, he, too, was interested in improving production. But scientific knowledge of plant physiology was limited. Tull and his contemporaries believed that matter was composed of four elements— earth, air, fire, and water—and Tull extrapolated that plants assimilated nutrients by combining the elements. According to the "Washington's Five Farms" web site, "Jethro Tull … believed that plants had tiny mouths on their roots which ate the foods in the soil." He thought plants absorbed and digested fine particles of earth, then discharged waste into the atmosphere. He called roots the stomach and intestines of plants; their leaves were lungs, and sap was blood. He did not think water formed any part of the food for plants.
Tull had seen firsthand the importance of cultivation when he had visited the vineyards of France and Italy. The loosened soil permitted air and moisture to reach the roots of growing plants. Apparently, "Tull thought that perhaps loose soil fit better in the plants' 'mouths,"' speculated a writer for the "Washington's Five Farms" web site. Manures, Tull thought, helped feed plants because they assisted with the breakdown of earth particles. But he also thought manures affected the taste and composition of food and promoted weed growth. He advocated instead pulverizing the soil, planting with drills, and thorough tilling during the growing period to promote production.
Of necessity, Tull invented a seed-drill, four-coulter plow (one with four discs or knifelike projections), and horse-hoe to carry out his theories. The standard practice of the time was to broadcast (simply throw or spread) crop seeds and watch them sprout and grow along with weeds. Tull had the idea less seed would be needed and production would increase if crops were sown in rows that could be weeded. He hired workers to make furrows into which to sow and cover seeds, but they balked at trying a new sowing method. So Tull decided to build a machine to sow seeds as he wanted.
Farmers from Babylon to China had used seeding devices for thousands of years. A setting-board with regularly spaced holes was devised in 1601. Planters used a dibble to make uniform holes in the soil to accept the seeds. In the late sixteenth century, Italian Taddeo Cavalini invented a mechanical seed-drill that he claimed could sow twice the area, using half the seed, and yield one-third more. Several Scots patented seed-drills in the early 1600s, but none were successful. John Worlidge, an Englishman, designed a seed-drill and illustrated it in his 1699 book Systema Agriculture. Tull would admit at a later date that he was familiar with this work.
The seed-drill Tull invented in 1701 has been called the first or earliest agricultural machine because it had internal moving parts. Its rotary mechanism was the foundation of all subsequent sowing implements. Tull's knowledge of the workings of the organ helped him with the machine's design, which he documented for prospective makers with a written description and five sketches. It is doubtful, however, he had the skills to actually build it. G. E. Fussell remarked in Jethro Tull: His Influence on Mechanized Agriculture that it is thought Tull's "drills were made by an ingenious cabinet-maker of Soho Square, and it is certain that men of that trade did make drills for inventors who followed Tull's path." Tull's seed-drill planted three rows simultaneously and incorporated three previously separate actions into one: drilling, sowing, and covering the seeds. A hopper dispensed seed into a box that dropped it in a regulated amount. A harrow cut the drill (groove in the soil) for receiving the seed, and a plow turned over the soil to cover the sown seed. Tull experimented with the machine at Howberry Farm, Crowmarch, near Wallingford.
As explained in "The Agricultural Revolution" web essay, "Experiments showed Tull that crops grew better if he periodically removed the weeds and broke up the soil between the rows of plants. Tull invented a horse-drawn cultivator to do this work." His horse-hoe or hoe-plow pulverized the soil, pulled up grass and roots, and left them to dry on the surface. He also invented a 4-coultered plow that made vertical cuts in the soil before the plowshare. By using his implements, Tull was able to produce good crops for several years in succession and reduced the need for fallowing. In an experiment at Prosperous Farm, he released moisture from springy soil on a hill by plowing across it—a process that is now called contour plowing.
Tull's implements, necessary for his new system of farming, divided farmers into two groups: those set in their ways and those willing to experiment. "From the very beginning there was antagonism to their use on the one hand, and great enthusiasm in their favour on the other. Tull's own labourers had forced him to design these things," pointed out Fussell. Other farmworkers were as reluctant as the inventor's own laborers to use implements. One nobleman landowner shamed his plowman into using a four-coultered plow after personally demonstrating how the thing was used.
Despite resistance, use of the drill and hoeing increased steadily as machines improved. No agricultural censuses were taken in England before the 1860s and none of agricultural machinery before World War II, so it is impossible to say with certainty to what extent Tull's machines were made and used and his farming system adopted. What is certain is that by 1866 the seed-drill was one of the most common implements on English farms.
Influence of Writings on Agriculture
Tull's new farming system and implements were well known and supported by eminent men of his era. In 1729 a party of noblemen met with Tull and persuaded him to write a book about his agricultural experiments and the scientific reasons for his actions. Tull had nearly 40 years of fieldwork behind him when he wrote The New Horse-Hoeing Husbandry; or, an Essay on the Principles of Tillage and Vegetation. First published in 1731, it was greatly expanded for the next edition, published under a slightly altered title in 1733. Later it would be translated into French, Dutch, German, and other European languages. The book contains Tull's ideas on plant physiology and advice on plant culture. It also describes the three implements he invented.
Although The Horse-Hoeing Husbandry books generated imitators, disciples, and other books based on Tull's practices, they also "aroused the most ferocious and unbridled criticism and were condemned in unmeasured terms as being rubbish," declared Fussell. Those embracing the Tullian system included members of the Society of Improvers in the Knowledge of Agriculture in Scotland. However, few landowners anywhere practiced the pure Tullian system. The Equivocal Society, which defended current agricultural practices, was one of the most adamant opponents of Tull's system. Tull responded to the society's criticism by demeaning their system, calling it Virgilian husbandry; he thereby brought himself more denunciation. "At a time when classical learning was the foundation of all education, [Tull] provoked criticism of a formidable cast," observed Fussell. Georgica, written by Virgil, was considered the "apotheosis of agricultural wisdom" and above question.
The debate over Tull's theories would go on for more than a century, and as late as the mid-nineteenth century treatises were being published on his principles. The influence of his ideas on farming—and production of a greater food supply when they were applied—was unmistakable. "Within 50 years [of the introduction of Tull's new farming system] the ability of farmers to assume a position of dominance over nature had increased dramatically," claimed Rodale. By the twentieth century, Tull's basic principles— tilled earth, inter-row cultivation, and mechanical drilling of seeds—had been generally adopted. His system, noted Rodale, also "helped set the stage for the very serious problems [such as erosion and high energy use] that farming faces today," but "the brilliance of his thinking, and the creative way he engineered farm equipment encouraged at least 10 generations of successive agricultural researchers to merely improve and fine-tune his method, rather than to envision a whole new and more sustainable form of agriculture." Fussell defended the eighteenth-century agriculturalist by stating: "It was in the realm of practice, not in that of science, that Tull made his greatest contribution: his science was not learned until he had long used his practice and was limited to the state of knowledge in his day that led him into the errors which have been made a stick to beat him with by critics possessed of modern theories."
Tull's poor health deteriorated as the controversy over his writings and farm system wore on. He died on February 21, 1741 at Prosperous Farm. He is buried at Basildon, where a memorial to him was erected at the local church in 1961.
Fussell, G. E., Jethro Tull: His Influence on Mechanized Agriculture, Osprey, 1973.
"The Agricultural Revolution," AP European History, http://www.eurohist.com/the-agricultural-revolution.htm (December 8, 2000).
"Mechanical Farming," Millennium Stamps, http://www.royalmail.co.uk/athome/millenium-stamps/mc1/theme/theme35.htm (December 8, 2000).
Rodale, Bob, "The Regenerative Concept," Rodale Institute, http://www.rodaleinstitute.org (December 8, 2000).
"Washington's Five Farms: Fertilizers," http://www.mountvernon.org (December 8, 2000). □
Jethro Tull, prog-rock pioneers. Membership: Ian Anderson, fit., gtr., sax., lead voc. (b. Edinburgh, Scotland, Aug. 10, 1947); Mick Abrahams, gtr., voc. (b. Luton, Bedfordshire, England, April 7, 1943); Glenn Cornick, bs. (b. Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, England, April 24, 1947); and Clive Bunker, drm. (b. Blackpool, Lancashire, England, Dec. 12, 1946). Abrahams left in early 1969, to be replaced by Martin Barre (b. Nov. 17, 1946). Glenn Cornick left in 1971, to be replaced by Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond (b. Blackpool, England, July 30, 1946). John Evan, kybd. (b. Blackpool, England, March 28, 1948) joined in 1971. Clive Bunker left in late 1971, to be replaced by Barriemore Barlow (b. Blackpool, England, Sept. 10, 1949). Hammond-Hammond left in December 1975, to be replaced by John Glascock (b. London, England, 1952; d. there, Nov. 17, 1979). Glascock was replaced by Dave Pegg (b. Birmingham, England, Nov. 2, 1947).
Ian Anderson moved to Blackpool, Lancashire, at the age of 12 and formed the Blades in 1963 with bassist Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond and keyboardist John Evan. Performing on the northern England club circuit, the group became the John Evan Band in 1965, with Glenn Cornick replacing Hammond-Hammond. In late 1967, the band moved to Bedfordshire to establish themselves on the nearby London club circuit, but the rest of the group soon left, leaving Anderson and Cornick to persevere. They quickly formed a new band with Mick Abrahams and Clive Bunker, with Abrahams and Anderson as the principal songwriters.
Adopting the name Jethro Tull, the group became an immediate success on the club circuit, gaining a residency at London’s Marquee club in June 1968. Well received at August’s Sunbury Jazz and Blues Festival, they signed with Island Records (Reprise in the U.S.). Their blues-oriented debut album This Was sold well in Great Britain but only modestly in the U.S. However, in late 1968, Abrahams departed to form Blodwyn Pig. Briefly replaced by future Black Sabbath guitarist Tommy Iommi and former Nice guitarist Davy O’List, Abrahams’s permanent replacement was guitarist Martin Barre.
Ian Anderson effectively took over as Jethro Tull’s leader, developing his songwriting talents for highly melodic folk and classically influenced songs often featuring wry, off-beat lyrics. “Living in the Past” became a smash British hit in the summer of 1969 and Stand Up was dominated by Anderson’s songwriting, containing group favorites such as the instrumental “Bouree,” “Look into the Sun,” and “We Used to Know.” Jethro Tull soon scored smash British hits with “Sweet Dream” and “Witches Promise”/“Teacher.”
By 1970, Jethro Tüll was established as one of the top concert attractions in the U.S. through regular tours, perhaps to the detriment of their British popularity. Keyboardist John Evan joined Jethro Tull to record Benefit, their last blues-based album, and accompanied the others with Jeffrey Hammond- Hammond on their subsequent American tour. Glenn Cornick left the group in late 1970 to form Wild Turkey, later resurfacing in Bob Welch’s power trio Paris in 1975. He was replaced on bass by Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond, formerly of The John Evan Band, and Evan himself joined the group on a permanent basis.
Jethro Tuli convincingly broke through in the U.S. as an album band with Aqualung, their first “concept” album and certainly their best-known work. Although attacked by some critics as bombastic and pretentious, the album sold well in both Great Britain and the U.S. and included concert and FM radio favorites such as “Hymn 43” (a minor American hit), “Cross-Eyed Mary,” “Locomotive Breath,” and “Aqualung.”
Clive Bunker departed Jethro Tuli in mid-1971 to form Jude with Robin Trower, Frankie Miller, and Jim Dewar, later reemerging with the re-formed Blodwyn Pig. He was replaced on drums by Barriemore Barlow. Jethro Tuli conducted extensive tours of the U.S. in 1971 and 1972, and Thick as a Brick, essentially an album-long ballad without individual cuts, sold spectacularly, staying on the American album charts for nearly a year. Living in the Past assembled live performances and early songs unreleased in the U.S. on Jethro Tull’s new label Chrysalis, yielding the group’s first major American hit, “Living in the Past,” their British hit from 1969.
Jethro Tull’s final concept album, A Passion Play, was critically lambasted by virtually every rock critic and sold poorly in Britain but massively in the U.S. The subsequent American tour featuring the theatrically oriented performance of the album was greeted by record-breaking, sellout crowds. However, the group, road weary and disillusioned by hostile press reviews, announced their “retirement” from live performance in August 1973. The group retreated to Switzerland, where they recorded the largely orchestral War Child as the soundtrack to a movie. The movie was eventually abandoned as too costly, but the album yielded the group’s second (and last) major American hit with “Bungle in the Jungle.”
Jethro Tuli continued to record best-selling American albums through the 1970s, including Minstrel in the Gallery and Songs from the Wood, which revealed a decidedly folk-rock orientation. By early 1976, Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond had been replaced by John Glascock. The group conducted their first British tour in three years in February 1977 and added keyboardist David Palmer, the orchestrator of virtually all of Jethro Tull’s albums, in May. Ian Anderson subsequently became involved in salmon farming. In the fall of 1979, Dave Pegg, a member of Fairport Convention, replaced ailing John Glascock on bass. On Nov. 17, 1979, Glascock died during open-heart surgery in a London hospital at the age of 27.
In 1980, Ian Anderson dismissed Barriemore Barlow, John Evan, and David Palmer. He then recorded A, perhaps his most fully realized folk-rock album, with Barre, Pegg, and violinist-keyboardist Eddie Jobson, who left after a single tour. With Anderson, Barre, and Pegg as mainstays, Jethro Tuli continued to tour and record in the 1980s. In the meantime, Ian Anderson recorded the solo album Walk into Light and rerecorded a number of Jethro Tuli classics with David Palmer conducting the London Symphony Orch., released as A Classic Case. In 1987, the group recorded their best-selling album in years, The Crest of a Knave, and toured for the first time in three years, with Fairport Convention as the opening act. Jethro Tull’s 1992 world tour produced the acoustic album A Little Light Music. In 1995, Anderson recorded the solo instrumental album Divinities for Angel Records. The following year, Martin Barre recorded The Meeting for Imago Records.
early jethro tull:This Was (1969); Stand Up (1969); Benefit (1970). blodwyn pig (with mick abrahams):Ahead Rings Out (1969); Getting to This (1970). mick abrahams:Mick Abrahams (1971). wild turkey (with glenn cornick):Battle Hymn (1972). jethro tullAqualung (1971); Thick as a Brick (1972); A Passion Play (1973); War Child (1974); Minstrel in the Gallery (1975); Too Old to Rock ’n’ Roll…Too Young to Die (1976); Songs from the Wood (1977); Heavy Horses (1978); Bursting Out (1978); Stormwatch (1979); “A” (1980); The Broadsword and the Beast (1982); Under Wraps (1984); The Crest of a Knave (1987); Rock Island (1989); Catfish Rising (1991); A Little Light Music (1992); Roots to Branches (1995); In Concert (1995). ian anderson:Walk into Light (1983); Divinities: Twelve Dances with God (1995). the london symphony orchestra:A Classic Case: The Music of Jethro Tuli (1986). martin barre:The Meeting (1996).
Jethro Tull invented the seed drill, which altered how land was used for agriculture. He also devised ways to aerate fields, eliminating the need for constant fertilization of crops. His writings were dispersed throughout Europe. Tull's innovative techniques and tools influenced agriculturists to adopt his methods and to improve implements. Some historians suggest that Tull was the catalyst for revolutionary changes in British agriculture, which resulted in more efficient land management and higher crop yields.
Tull was born in Basildon, England. Sources do not cite an exact birth date, but records indicate that Tull was baptized on March 30, 1674. He grew up in a rural environment before enrolling at St. John's College at Oxford University. He graduated in 1691. Two years later, Tull began legal studies and was admitted to the bar in 1699. Tull never intended to practice law, envisioning his educational experiences as preparation for a political career. Because of ill health, he abandoned his political ambitions and became a farmer instead. Tull married Susanna Smith in 1699 and they lived on his father's land at Howberry.
Frustrated by his farm workers, who resisted his ideas about planting, Tull decided to create a machine that could operate more productively than human laborers. He adapted the "groove, tongue, and spring in the soundboard of the organ" and parts of other instruments "as foreign to the field as the organ is" and by 1701 had designed and built a seed drill. The name was derived from farmers' jargon; "drilling" referred to sowing beans and peas by hand in furrows.
Tull's device enabled him to plant seeds systematically in rows. As a result, the available soil in fields could be utilized more efficiently to plant more crops than were grown by using standard planting methods. Tull's tool encouraged increased development of fertile land. The space between rows could be cultivated to enhance yields. Sowing seeds with his drill minimized the fallowing requirements for preparing fields for production. The rotary mechanism Tull had developed to build his seed drill became the basis for subsequent sowing tools.
In 1709 Tull relocated to a farm he called "Prosperous." During the spring of 1711, he began traveling throughout Europe in an effort to improve his health. Tull studied Continental agricultural practices, which he experimented with when he returned to England in 1714. He had been especially impressed with French vineyards, where farmers plowed between rows instead of fertilizing the grapevines with manure. Duplicating French techniques on his English farm, Tull successfully grew turnips and potatoes without manure. He cultivated wheat for 13 years consecutively in nonmanured fields.
Tull advocated that farmers should crumble sod in order for air and water to reach plant roots. He invented a horse hoe specifically to achieve such soil pulverization. Visitors who came to Prosperous discussed agricultural methods with Tull and encouraged him to write an account of his work. Tull distributed Horse-hoing Husbandry in 1731 and a revised edition two years later. Members of the Private Society of Husbandmen and Planters, however, criticized Tull, saying that his pulverization ideas were without merit. Tull responded to these attacks with notes that were included in another edition, issued in 1743.
Tull also had to deal with the refusal of his own agricultural employees to learn how to use his tools and methods correctly. He died at his farm on February 21, 1741. He willed his property to his four daughters and sister-in-law, leaving his wastrel son only one shilling. His husbandry ideas inspired European farmers to experiment with "Tullian" methods. The noted French agriculturist Duhamel du Monceau annotated a translation of his work and followers of Tull's practices included such figures as Voltaire.
ELIZABETH D. SCHAFER