Tull’s debut celebrates its birthday with the Steve Wilson treatment.
Ian Anderson has described This Was as a “foot in the door” of the music business and reckons that it consists of “cheerful, slightly home-grown, very middle class, white boy English blues”. Jethro Tull were on the edge of the 60s blues boom of musicians who sought out music of a greater authenticity than British popular culture could offer. But many soon realised that their own renderings were anything but authentic and began to adopt a more personal approach.
In 1968, Jethro Tull were already an impressive unit. Clive Bunker drummed in a fluid, jazzy style, while Mick
Abrahams played exciting incisive blues guitar and their version of Doctor Ross’ Cat’s Squirrel equals the version recorded by Cream. But Jethro Tull were also a little bit different – not least because in Ian Anderson they had a lead flautist – and so while Some Day The Sun Won’t Shine For You is basically a competent re-tread of Big Bill Broonzy’s Key To The Highway, songs like the freewheeling My Sunday Feeling and A Song For Jeffrey carried a hint of the postBrubeck jazziness that would infuse their work further on their second album Stand Up, and on the hit single Living In The Past.
In this set of three CDs and one DVD (for 5.1 sound; there is no video footage), Steven Wilson’s stereo remix nicely buffs up the original 4-track recording and the original mono mix is warm, punchy and well worth a listen.
The disc-and-a-half’s worth of associated recordings includes outtakes, singles and B-sides, two 1968 Top Gear sessions and the pre-This Was single Sunshine Day and its B-side Aeroplane (recorded a few months earlier as The John Evan Smash).
One particular avenue that Jethro Tull decided not to pursue was the freeform improvisation of the studio outtake Ultimate Confusion, but they also began to pull away from blues rock, a change of tack that prompted Abrahams to leave the group. But one can see why, when comparing Anderson singing, rather unconvincingly, about how his mule got lame on a cover of Brownie McGhee’s So Much Trouble to the captivating post-album single Love Story, with its mix of hard rock and folky refrain.
Right from their inception Jethro Tull set themselves apart with their eccentric image, and This Was made anti-image its selling point – the front cover photograph shows the group made up to look like grizzled, elderly farm workers. Anderson has said that he came up with the album’s title because he knew the group wouldn’t do anything like this again, and in that respect he was not wrong.
ANDERSON SAID THEY’D NEVER DO ANYTHING LIKE