On Hall Watchers' Episode 46, released September 21, Eric made a case for Jethro Tull's induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. He received a key assist from his friend Steve, a deeply knowledgeable Tull superfan who sent in a wildly persuasive argument of his own.
What follows is a transcript of Eric and Steve's arguments; let's call it "Two for Tull." It seems these mystical purveyors of flute and guitar-driven prog rock need an inductee plaque on Level Three of The Rock Hall museum... in other words, these minstrels deserve a place in the gallery.
Jethro Tull has been eligible for the Rock Hall since 1993.Why this band from the seaside resort town Blackpool, England? First of all, they feel like a major omission from the Hall; whenever you tell someone Jethro Tull is not in the Hall, they are shocked. Being eligible for 27 years and not getting in will have that effect. They’ve waited so long, founding bassist Glenn Cornick passed away in 2014, as is often the case with delayed Rock Hall recognition.
Jethro Tull, led by mesmerizing singer and flute maestro Ian Anderson, is a one-of-a-kind band – and precisely the sort of distinctive act that the Rock Hall should ideally value and want to honor. Many "classic rock" acts have been granted entry into the hall in recent years, but I’d argue few of them are quite as unique as Jethro Tull. There’s ambition, experimentation, mysticism and, courtesy of guitarist Martin Barre, some serious hard rock thunder here.
This band essentially exists in their own universe, a universe where the flute and the guitar are equally important. Sometimes they transport the listener to the middle of a mystical forest where elves run free, and sometimes they put the listener on a runaway train. And sure, Fairport Convention and the band Traffic had flute playing in their music, but I’d argue no one rocked the flute harder and with more impact than Jethro Tull. It’s a central feature of their music – one of those special qualities that should be figured in when a band’s Rock Hall qualifications are being considered.
“Make no mistake: 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.”
Rock critic jeers aside, Jethro Tull is globally popular, and is one of those rock acts that is pretty much a household name. Of course, everyone knows “Aqualung” – even Ron Burgundy in the movie “Anchorman” quoted it. Having said that, I’m going to put the name recognition, however important, on the back burner, and talk about Jethro Tull’s musical excellence.
If you survey their ambitious and expansive body of work, it’s full of towering achievements – rock, folk, blues and prog all breathe freely under the Jethro Tull umbrella. They can summon both thunder and calm in equal measure. There are major landmark albums like Aqualung, Thick as a Brick and Songs from the Wood, but with Tull, it behooves the listener to dig deeper; lesser celebrated efforts like Stand Up and Minstrel in the Gallery are just excellent.
So that covers "Musical Excellence," now it's time to talk about "Influence." As one of the giants of prog rock, Jethro Tull has influenced artists across the spectrum, and some acts that have taken cues from Tull’s fantastical ambitions and complex music include Marillion, Iron Maiden, Dio, Kansas, Porcupine Tree, and even the Swedish prog metal band Opeth.
Jethro Tull, meanwhile, once did a tour where the entire stage was a pirate ship. It bankrupted them. That alone is so quintessentially rock and roll, it should earn them a place of honor in the Hall.
These guys from Blackpool did everything those other guys did, and if they didn't do it better – and no, they didn't do it better – still they did it all, and they did it determinedly, and extremely well, and without ever losing their sense of humor about the whole thing. They started out as a pretty impressive blues band, the oddball instrumentation notwithstanding – check out "Nothing Is Easy" or "Someday The Sun Won't Shine For You" – and then, too smart for their own good, they went gleefully leapfrogging over records about their flautist frontman's harrowing schooldays, "Wind-Up" and "My God" the examples par excellence. Not to worry — there was plenty of Elvis-worthy horniness in there too: "Cross-Eyed Mary" has to be the catchiest song imaginable about a homeless man ogling schoolgirls in a public park.
"They were hilarious, but they were not kidding around; they never took it seriously even as they were deadly serious."
What is the Rock Hall if not a celebration of the many different things you can do with rock and roll? Who else did, with rock and roll, what Jethro Tull did? How utterly mind-blowing are future generations, exploring rock and roll, going to find records like Stand Up and War Child and Broadsword and the Beast? It's long past time we recognized these guys for their titanic achievements, and give our blessing to Jethro Tull's undeniable place in the canon of great rock and roll.