News Update: January 2001

News Update: January 2001

Well, last year of the False Millennium is now behind us and the glorious voyage into the True New is finally undertaken.

When I was in Brazil recently and on a local radio station, I was surprised but comforted to learn that they (the Brazilians) were celebrating on the correct year and, on returning home, I hear a good many other nations have taken the same line.

Of course, they may, for all I know, have celebrated last year as well and are just taking the opportunity for a dirty double, but I still hope that a splendid time is had by all.

And the baby Jesus had a birthday!  As I grow older, I tend to think more and more of Christmas as Jesus Day rather than as a mere festive and present-packed fun time. Although I would not count myself as a Christian, I rather savour the religious occasion. But with Ramadan and Diwali to figure in to the packed calendar, not to mention the solstice, I am spoilt for choice.

Kind regards to all of you who sent cards, e-mails and snail mail seasonal wishes. Sorry I did not offer such return felicitations  earlier but the run-up to Christmas and new year has been hectic with various chores and an unpleasantness of the feline kind, more of which, later.

Belated Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you, dear reader. There, that’s done, dusted and dug into a shallow hole until next year.

Our many concerts last year took us to many a shore and arrival lounge. With 64 shows in North America, we spent a great proportion of the touring schedule driving and flying between many great cities of the USA but, more importantly, we also travelled between a multitude of smaller towns and out-of-the-way places which we had either never visited before or, at least, not for a decade or three. Biloxi, Robinsonville, Greenville, Ledyard, Harrington, Gilford, Danbury, Elmira, Easton, Erie, Kettering, Youngstown, Interlochen, Green Bay, Fort Wayne, Hamburg, Utica, San Rafael, Anderson, Tulare, Thousand Oaks, Pomona and Fairbanks had not been on the Tull tour list before and many highlights of the year were to be found amongst that list. So nice to see parts of the mighty USA which were just specks on the map before. We hope that the good people of those towns enjoyed us as much as we enjoyed them.

Prior to the US dates, we had toured Scandinavia, Poland and Czech Republic, with individual shows in Croatia, Slovenia and Turkiye.

The previous time we were in Norway, the weather was – well, Norwegian – but this time around, our visit coincided with the first day of summer and the entire population of Oslo turned out into the sun-drenched streets with spaghetti-white legs and arms to get suitably lobstered in the balmy but temporary clime.

Helsinki is a fine city. Clean, crisp with good shopping and lots of mobile phones. Serious drinkers, the Finns. Expensive town but friendly people and easy to get around.

The last time we played Zagreb and Ljubliana was in 1975. I remember them as stern and slightly scary places which, as part of the Soviet influenced Yugoslavia, were our first and, for a while, only experience of the communist system. The transformation is incredible. Go there if you can to see a part of Europe with much to offer, and at reasonable prices.

The visit to Istanbul was brief but exotic as always, the sights and sounds being the inspiration for the “Divinities” track, “In Sight Of The Minaret”.

In Spain we visited for the first time the northern seaside towns of Gijon and La Coruna, as well as appearing in San Sebastian, Zaragoza. Barcelona and Madrid. After thirty years, we made it to Portugal. I had visited the Algarve briefly on holiday, but never the big cities of Oporto and Lisbon.

Back to Israel after eight years (when we recorded live some of the “Little Light Music” tracks), we were understandably nervous given the tensions evident on the very public stage of the world news. In the weeks running up to the shows, some band members became jittery regarding personal safety but were partially assured by the promoter and the local British Council. Tickets were already sold and Tull were to be the first major act to appear on the two week-long Tel Aviv Festival. So we decided in a slightly levered democratic vote that we would monitor the situation up to the point of departure and make a decision at the last minute whether to go, or not. As it happened, there was a major bomb blast during the time we were in Spain so, suddenly, Tel Aviv seemed a safer place to be. In fact there was no trouble to be found in Tel Aviv or Haifa and the streets were safe and secure with far less military presence than I have encountered there before. Jerusalem was a different story of course but many of the audience had driven in from there and offered the opinion that it too was safe enough provided you kept away from the tension points.

But the sad reality remained: there were several deaths during the time we were there and the hoped-for return to fruitful negotiation seems as far away, at the time of writing, as ever. I like the Israelis, but I would probably like the Palestinians too if I could get close enough to woo them with the silvery flute. As on our previous visits, the overwhelming voices of the younger people to whom I spoke were in favour of immediate peace and co-existence – even at the price of giving up some of the territorial acquisitions.

A nice fax came in the other day from the mayor of Tel Aviv thanking us for appearing there and helping to make the festival a success.

On to Malaysia for the strange but enticing invitation to play at the Rentak Asia Festival on the Formula One Grand Prix race weekend. Being a fan of that truly international motor sport I was delighted to be there but the opportunity to play in Kuala Lumpur was sufficient a lure in itself for us to endure the long flight and jetlag for a single concert.

Sadly, the concert, which featured a hundred acts on several stages in the vicinity, failed to do the expected business. The promoters were naively optimistic regarding the marketing and promotion for the shows and did not develop the advantage of plugging in to the 120,000, or so, who were in town for the race. Many people told me that they had no idea that Tull were in town or that the festival was happening. The promoters’ even greater naivety in assuming that acts could turn around on a single stage in 15 minutes was to be the undoing of both days of the festival, particularly the second night when poor Joe Satriani didn’t get on stage until 3 am and had the power cut on his second number. What a long way for him to travel for so little.

We had insisted from the start by way of contractual clause that we were to be scheduled at around 8.30 pm (when it would be dark) but knowing that there would be some inevitable delay. As it turned out, we did not get on until about 10.30 and even then with not all technical lines and connections intact for a decent performance. So we played to about two and a half thousand people who, for the most part neither knew nor cared who Tull was anyway.

The most enthusiastic member of the audience was Eddie Jordan of the Jordan racing Team. Eddie kindly looked after Shona and me on my birthday a couple of years ago at Spa racetrack in Belgium where one of his cars driven at the time by Giancarlo Fisichella came second. Inviting us to the race at the Malaysian Grand Prix, he might have thought, not unreasonably since this was actually the day of Shona’s birthday, that we would bring further good luck to him and the team but it was not to be.  Heinz-Harald Frentzen went out with a mechanical problem after a couple of laps and the other driver, Jarno Trulli came in at the back of the pack. Rotten ending to the season for Jordan Racing. Eddie was not to be seen at the end of the race, hanging his head in sorrow and, perhaps, Guinness.

Shona and I got a lift back to our hotel with the good and the great from one of the Jordan Sponsors, Mastercard. I was taking the opportunity to talk up the Jordan prospects for next year with the new works engine from Honda when we were hit from behind in a freeway pile-up. Luckily, no one was seriously hurt but a few sore necks and backs were in evidence later.

After a couple of weeks at home, we went out to do business with another credit card company – this time, American Express, who were sponsoring two Jethro Tull concerts in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in aid of a national charity for teaching language skills to overcome illiteracy in the poor urban and rural communities of Brazil.

This time, the local promoters were on the case and organised everything well although we were still a little worried after our experience in Malaysia. The Sao Paulo audience were a little over-enthusiastic in places and confused us, particularly towards the end of the concert, with either the local football team or a post-punk thrash-metal encounter of the absurd kind. Not all of them of course -but a portion of the crowd who rushed the stage and made things unpleasant for the folks at the front who had paid most for their tickets. This was difficult enough but they decided to get on the stage too. I get nervous when that happens being afraid for my instruments, myself and the other musicians in that order.

Stage-diving at a Tull gig? Not really appropriate, is it? A bit like getting your willie out at the vicar’s birthday party. Bad form, what?

The day before the concerts, I visited a poor suburb of Sao Paulo to meet the twenty, or so, students aged from 16 to 60 who were learning to read and write. Most were women from very poor backgrounds and the combination of their pride combined with nervousness which came with the learning process was quite striking for me. With the aid of a translator we communicated for a while and the whole thing was both emotional and edifying. I promised to write to them and send photos, which I will. With the benefit (dubious) of the MTV cameras present, perhaps more people in the better-off communities of Brazil will contribute to sponsoring a student, young or old, to acquire basic reading and writing skills which most of us take so much for granted.

Tragically, my favourite cat Bhajee got mangled by a car while I was in Brazil. Shona had stayed home to finish tour accounts etc. and rescued him from the roadside in time to get him to the Royal Vet. College Hospital where he remained in intensive care for four weeks. Having reconnected his internal plumbing severed by splintered bone in the impact, they released him for a week at home prior to further surgery to graft skin and remove bone fragments. At the time of writing, his chances look good. If any of you have ever nearly lost a dear pet in such an accident, you will know the desolation we humans can feel. It’s almost worse than having a human relative in that situation since you can’t communicate with the animal and the trauma of being in a strange and frightening environment, associated with pain and stress, takes some time for all concerned to get over.

The hard-working folks at the Vet. College have my ultimate thanks and appreciation for their dedication and perseverance. They called us every day with an appraisal of his condition and treated us like real grown-ups who might actually understand the terms and rules of engagement regarding animal health. Oh, how it would be if “people doctors” gave us the same consideration. All too often we are brushed off with a lack of information and the assumption that we are too stupid to be given the detailed picture. I know some doctors are different, and I have had the privilege of being treated by a few of them, especially in the USA, but vets are usually so much more forthcoming and seem passionate about their work.

About 40% of cats, depending on whom you believe, will die on the road before they are three years old. Neuter or spay your cat (or dog) to reduce this risk or, better still keep them indoors unless you are taking them out for a walk. (Yes, cats love to go for walks too – whether in your garden or on a lead on a quiet sidewalk)

Our garden is quite large and with a boundary fence but cats are ingenious climbers and jail-break artists. Our cats come and go via a cat-flap but the risk is always there that they will get out to the roadside. We are currently installing 900 yards of radio fencing to signal to the animal with an audible bleeping, through a cat collar receiving device, when they approach the perimeter extent of their permitted travels. A small correctional shock is given if they do not heed the audible warning. Sounds horrible, doesn’t it? Better than dead little friend, ‘though.

I’ll let you know if it works.

Check out the section on cats on this website for other cat stuff, if you are interested. If not, stay tuned for further music news and concert dates.

By the way, I am speaking to you courtesy of my latest computer – 900 megahertz of pure muscle. 128 megabytes of RAM. DVD and CD writer. All connected to a new photo quality printer for artwork purposes. I hate the F****ng thing almost as much as the last one. Poxy plastic son-of-a-bitch gimmick-ridden Millennium Edition madness in a trashy off-white ugly box.

Hey, just don’t get me started, OK?

You may have heard that there was a brief appearance by a certain (or slightly uncertain in this case due to the musical arrangements having changed at the last minute) flute player at the recent acoustic concert by Uriah Heep at the Mermaid theatre in London.  I had been contacted a couple of weeks earlier with a view to my appearing on a song, Circus, although a second number, Blind Eye, was added later.

The show was really a recording, video and audio, for a Uriah Heep acoustic DVD and CD to follow up their recent live release, The Legend Continues, which fans can order through their website, Some fan reviews of the concert are currently on the site. You can buy the CD, VHS video or DVD from late March, I am told.

Jethro Tull and Heep go back a long way: in 1978, Mick, Ken and the other Heeps appeared with Tull on a US tour at the time of the live broadcast from Madison Square Garden. Although, like Tull, there have been many personnel changes since, two of the guys have original hair and the current line-up has been in place for the last 15 years.

The band and their other guests had rehearsed the previous day at the venue as well as elsewhere prior to that, but I had a doctor’s note to say that I could only come for the show day and have one run-through of the songs, thereby ensuring a little tension and hair-pulling (easy for those guys) in the event that things had become too complacent.

Heep performed a flawless set — so flawless in fact, that they did re-takes of the first four songs just to attempt to screw something up.

I awarded them a silver disc for 50,000 copies sold of their last album Sonic Origami — or rather, I announced it while nubile lovelies were co-opted to the stage to present them to the band.

Good luck to Heep on their tours next year. They will be in Europe at about the same time as Tull, but our paths will not cross this time around. Perhaps in another 22 years!

Tull are putting the finishing touches to touring plans for 2001.  The actual cities and venues are not yet confirmed, but soon will be. Just as soon, that is, as the venue managers are willing to start accepting bookings for tickets.

European shows are scheduled to start on the 24th of May in Germany, although there will be a couple of warm-up shows before that.  Dates in Germany and Italy are already confirmed in principle. France, Austria, Holland Switzerland and Belgium are likely in the period up to first week of July.  Most of the Tull band members want to take some weeks off this coming summer to spend time with family at home and on vacation, so there are likely to be only a few isolated shows during the latter part of the summer.

A tour of Scandinavia is likely in September/October with a couple of Russian shows being discussed.

The UK tour begins 16th November through to the 3rd of December with three shows in Ireland at long last.

Recording plans are still not set, since there are various options and ideas and only so much time to pursue them. But there will be some new work for sure and a release of new material as soon as possible.

Andrew Giddings will now have the time to carry out some updates to the website.

This is the end of the news.