BY NATURE, Ian Anderson is not the kind of guy who spends much time looking over his shoulder. “Living in the Past” might have been the ironic title of Jethro Tull’s first chart-topping U.K. single in 1969, but Anderson bristles at any suggestion that nostalgia plays a role in the band’s enduring appeal.
Which might explain why he seems ambivalent, at best, about upcoming plans to mark the 50th anniversary of Tull’s first performances at London’s legendary Marquee Club and 1968 release of the band’s debut album, This Was. “Well, the reality is, I’m not a big birthday or anniversary guy and I probably wouldn’t be saying anything but for the fact that we’ve gone on sale with tickets in the U.K. for some concerts next May,” he tells Progression. “Therefore, the cat would be out of the bag, in the sense of it recognizing the 50th anniversary of Jethro Tull’s music and, of course, music of the 33 different members of Jethro Tull over the years.
“Although, I have to say I jokingly said to my son yesterday in an e-mail, ‘Yeah, I’m just working on the 51st anniversary tour at the moment.’”
Jokes aside, Anderson and friends—Florian Opahle (guitar), John O’Hara (keyboards), David Goodier (bass) and Scott Hammond (drums)—will acknowledge Tull’s golden anniversary with a series of commemorative concerts in 2018. Several recordings also are slated for release, including a new Tull compilation, two previously unissued live recordings (one from the early years, another of more recent vintage), an expanded remix of 1978’s Heavy Horses, and even a new studio opus.
In the following wide-ranging interview, Anderson (who recently turned 70) details plans for 2018 and beyond, offering choice comments on high-water marks in Tull’s history, the staying power of progressive rock and the recent passing of several of the genre’s first-wave pioneers.