News Update: December 2007

Dear followers, fans, friends and those of idle curiosity,

Many best wishes for a fruitful and joyous 2008 from me, the band and crew of Jethro Tull.

It has been a busy year of touring through 2007 and we have visited many familiar and not-so-familiar countries, cities and cattle stations.

The Locomotive briefly drew Breath in UK cities from York to Salisbury for an acoustic tour before zipping out to South America with Martin, Doane, John, David and Ann Marie Calhoun for an early Latin lunch. Spain, Germany, Netherlands, Greece, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, France, Poland, Israel, Romania, Bulgaria, Finland, Denmark Iceland, South Africa, Canada and the USA kept the boilers stoked for the remaining months.

Anna Phoebe on violin and Florian Opahle made the occasional appearance and James filled in on drums during the Summer when Doane was otherwise engaged.

Martin and Doane both faced medical intervention from time to time but, luckily, there was a fully qualified doctor on board the train. Martin has just successfully undergone surgery in the UK and is now recuperating, post-Christmas, in Canada with his family. Doane is hopeful of avoiding his own surgical fate with the pointy thing and snippety whats-it for months – even years – to come and is complying with his surgeon’s advice to keep up the physio, sleep and eat a lot and watch as much TV as possible. Well, that’s what Doane said he had been advised.

With some little private investigations, I now know that I have the prostate and the colon of a new-born babe and only walked a little oddly for a short time after.

King Blair went. New man now at No 10. Obama’s timing was perfect and the growing snowball down the slippery slope to whatever awaits the USA has really begun. Bad year for a mortgage and earnings in USD. Good year to acquire precious metals, hybrid cars and Christmas gifts in New York if you are European and changing Euros.

I read in the New Year’s Honours list two days ago that I have been given a small medal to wear and more letters after my name. Always controversial, the Honours system in the UK brings mixed blessings. Mine is a lowly MBE which confers on its owner absolutely no right to be called Sir, sport sword, garters or rubberwear and requires only a discrete bow or curtsey from friends and family. The rest of you can tell me to bugger off.

The hundreds of modest folks who gain such honours annually do so from years of quiet service in public sector work, out of sight or ken of the masses, and their names forever mean nothing to the rest of us. So, to temporarily join their ranks does mean something positive and rather uplifting. I wrote two days ago in a press statement:

“Well – I guess the MBE might be considered the village postman’s award. Community stalwart.  Good egg. Humble servant.

But I feel proud to receive this as I am that postman in a musical kind of way: a parochial bringer of good tidings. Door-to-door salesman. Wandering minstrel. All the same kind of professions, really.

Just as well I didn’t get it last year when Emperor Blair was still ruling in what is now The Brown House. I might then have felt compelled to have disrespectfully turned it down…. ”

The 40th Anniversary of Jethro Tull is upon us in February 2008.  Having initially thought that it was all best avoided in any reference to our upcoming concert tours, I slowly changed my mind after chatting to the others in the band and to some of the fans. Now I have agreed that we will celebrate the tours with a full laser light show, a dancing troupe of honed and bronzed young men fresh from the Madonna boudoir, 60 foot inflatable flute-phallus on stage, Chinese acrobats and fireworks nightly – and – live prostate examinations for lucky competition-winners during the concert intermission.

OK – I exaggerate: there will be a little 40-year awareness spread lovingly but discretely for at least the UK tours with the occasional invited guest and some production and lighting references to the “Old Days”. The set-list will be chosen mainly from the first three albums with a few bits and pieces from a little later. Songs and tunes which defined the early Jethro Tull from blues band to eclectic, pre-prog inventiveness.

But it would hardly be appropriate for old Sourpuss and his cohorts to give too much credence to birthday bashes in this sense. I, personally, look forward much more to celebrating the 41st anniversary.

In this upcoming year of 2008, we have plans to visit a few less places than last year. I already have some time set aside for studio work and lazing about in the garden.

But there are already some 70 shows in place between April and end of August, just waiting for the first week of January to go by so that the various promoters can return from skiing their buttocks off  and back to their offices to begin the grim task of signing their lives and homes away on the dotted line of contractual commitment. Watch for more dates to go on this website in the upcoming weeks.

Following the releases last year of the Tull Acoustic best-of CD and the Live In Montreux DVD and CD, there is now a definitive documentary and history of Jethro Tull DVD in the final stages of post-production, due for release in March, they tell me. It features the contributions of most past band members, friends and associates as well as live and studio performances from a multitude of sources over the years. Many thanks go to the fans and fan clubs who helped to provide much of the reference material and information to the producers regarding the sourcing of this archival material.

Jeffrey Hammond wrote much of the DVD cover notes and contributed a painting of Blackpool for the artwork. It is not quite finished to his satisfaction but might, just might, be for sale….

Mick, Glenn, Clive, John, Barrie, and subsequent band members make their appearances in the DVD and who knows what they might have said – or not said – about truly yours?  Will they have spilled the beans about my life-long habits of crack cocaine abuse, cross-dressing and machine-assisted sex? Will they tell of the night when Robert Plant and I shared a young Taiwanese soft fruit-seller? The Vegas gambling debts?  The secret flight to Bagdad to try to avert war in the Middle East?  Arm-wrestling with the Pope, (Bless his soul) on a midnight cruise of the Bosphoros?  If they do, I will sue, I guarantee it.

During the mid sector of the Winter US tour, we were reunited with some of our orchestral friends from the New England Conservancy with whom I toured in the USA in 2006. Marissa, Megumi, Meena and Courtenay made up the Calliandra String Quartet and bowed, wiggled and drove their way across half of America. Well, at least it felt like half of the way to those fragile Yankee gals who are more used to the delights of the tour bus than the self-driven  rental car. They did do one night on the over-full bus at the end of their stint with us, but on questioning, Meena (who had never been on the bus before) offered at soundcheck the next day only, “What happens on the tour bus stays on the tour bus….”    Cryptic and worrying words from one so young and flower-like. Not sure what she meant. Obviously, protecting the reputation of the road crew.

Like many of you, I will be planning some quality vacation time during the year and plan to revisit Iceland, Switzerland and take a short cruise from Istanbul to Athens through the Greek islands and Turkish coastline. I am not exactly a travel agent (although I carry out that function to some extent for the band and crew of Jethro Tull) but I do have a few suggestions for you if you are head-scratching over the issue of where and when to go.

Switzerland is a great Summer destination with pretty good continental European weather. Some of the best train rides in the world and the loveliest parts of this little country are easily reachable via international flights into Geneva and Zurich.  http://www.myswitzerland.com/en.cfm/home will go a long way to getting you started on a Swiss visit.

Iceland is another destination associated, not entirely correctly, with the frozen wastes. This super-trendy, cosmopolitan gem of the North Atlantic is a fascinating blend of geographical, geological and social interest. A bit pricey if you are coming from the USA, due to the current weak dollar, but worth almost every penny. The famous 101 district of Reykjavik around Laugavegur, the main street of shopping, restaurants and bars  is the place NOT to be on Friday and Saturday nights unless you want to party hard and long… Check out http://www.icetourist.is/default.asp?cat_id=30 for the possibilities.  The purchase of a timepiece from the only watchmaker in Iceland, The J S Watch Co. http://jswatch.com/enska/enska.html will impress friends and family. Gilbert ‘O Gudjonsson, watchmaker, will show you his creations, all numbered and beautifully presented. They keep damn good time, too! Laugavegur 62 is the address, Reykjavik’s main drag.

Ian 1The West coast and the islands of Scotland are a wonderful entry into a maritime and mountain experience, but take your waterproofs and a warm jumper as this area is famous for unpredictable weather all year round.  For an overall mainland Scottish Highland coverage, try http://www.visithighlands.com/  The Shetlands (Northern Isles) can be explored form your armchair via http://www.visitshetland.com/ and its slightly Southern neighbour, The Orkneys, at http://www.visitorkney.com/   The Outer Hebrides are covered at http://www.visithebrides.com/

I have not actually tried them but http://www.hebridean.co.uk/ will offer the best of luxury small ship cruising, so I am told, and destinations not on the usual cruise ship list. Travel with The Hebridean Princess. A great way to visit the edge of Scotland and its Islands. On my list for 2009.

Those of you from Europe and the UK may wish to take advantage of the dollar decline by stretching your Pound or Euro a bit further by visiting the USA. Cheap flights to the East Coast in Summer might land you in Boston or New York. A trip through New England up the notorious and truck-hugging I-95 interstate freeway will take you through Connecticut, Massachusetts,  New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Maine. Don’t forget beautiful Lake Champlain and Burlington, Vermont. Actually, avoid the I-95 wherever possible and travel inland. http://www.visitnewengland.com/

My New Year’s resolutions are many: mostly involving tidying up work spaces. The office, the studio, the warehouse where all the musical equipment is kept – all in need of the annual pre-Spring clean.

Hopefully my stomach will shrink of its own accord, requiring only a few less vegetarian curries than last year to help it along. My hair has started to grow back at an alarming rate, or it seemed in a moment of wild optimism this morning. Oh, yes – did I mention my new spectacles….

I must remember to be nice to children and grannies. I will try harder to be a good and tolerant person. Especially when made angry by the occasional drunken Philistines and boors in our audiences in certain countries. The NY Times says that in recent years, excavations in Israel established that the Philistines had fine pottery, handsome architecture and cosmopolitan tastes. If anything, they were more refined than the shepherds and farmers in the nearby hills, the Israelites, who slandered them in biblical chapter and verse and rendered their name a synonym for boorish, uncultured people. Archaeologists have now found that not only were Philistines cultured, they were also literate when they arrived, presumably from the region of the Aegean Sea, and settled the coast of ancient Palestine around 1200 B. C. Well – they are still drunken Philistines to me….

I will try not to indulge in childish, sexist commentary whether from the stage or in private oratory. Lavatorial humour is definitely out, unless provoked. What provokes lavatorial humour? Well, dodgy lavatories for a start. The sooner our theatres and auditoria get round to refurbishing the backstage areas along with the front-of-house restorations they are so volubly proud of, the better I will feel; the better I will dumpy-do.

I will congratulate my fellow musicians when they play well; commiserate when they know they haven’t. I will treat drum roadies with the respect they deserve. Especially when serving the whims and fancies of that tyrant of dustbin-bashers, Doane Perry. Dastardly Blackadder to poor Jay Rubin’s Baldrick.

I guarantee never to use my Doctorate or MBE attached to my name lest housebreakers and chainsaw murderers decide that I must be successful and wealthy and harbouring the crown jewels. And a D. Lit or MBE never guaranteed a leg-over, did it? Well, DID it? Sir Paulie Mac isn’t doing well in that department, is he? Sir Mick is now doing penile (sic) servitude and Sir Elton is, like me, beyond caring. Not that we don’t think about it on Sundays and high holidays.

OK – now it’s time to get back to the basic purpose of this message:

Happy New Year to you all and sundry and may the Good Lord Bless you if He is not busy doing something more important. Not really believing in an interventionist god, I think we might carry out our own tiny and earthly blessings on those we love, admire, appreciate, merely tolerate or – even rank along with the Philistines. For ‘tis the season of  love, forgiveness and  renewal of the human spirit.

And paying off the credit card bill, refinancing the mortgage, speaking in strange, high-pitched voices to grand-children and smothering the cats with sentimental affection and lobster.

See you along the way in 2008.

IA

England

Dec 31st 2007