“A memorable experience” – Aqualung and me. TERRY ELLIS
Nobody was closer to Jethro Tull in their formative years than Terry Ellis. He co-produced the band’s first seven albums and vividly recalls working on Aqualung.
“It was a memorable experience for me, in a very positive sense. I really enjoyed working on this album.”
But Ellis wasn’t even supposed to be involved with Aqualung. “I was very busy with Chrysalis at the time [the company he co-founded with Chris Wright]. Part of that meant that I was managing the band, and that took up much of my time. So,
I said to Ian Anderson that he should produce the album himself and didn’t need me.
“But a week after they went into the studio, Ian called and said that it was too much for him to handle. He was finding it tough to be both a member of the band, yet also in the control room at the same time. He needed help, so I agreed to go down to the studio and take some of the pressure off his shoulders.”
While Aqualung was recorded at Island Studios in west London, there had been some recording done previously at Morgan Studios in north-west London.
“The first version of Wond’ring Aloud was done there.
But not for this album. In fact, it was recorded for an earlier one, possibly Benefit [released in 1970]. This was the full version of the song, eventually released on the 2016 reissue of the album. But at the time we did this at Morgan, Ian decided he didn’t like it, which is why it remained unreleased for a long time. However, by the time the band got into the studio for Aqualung, Ian had revisited the song and changed his mind about its quality, which is why we then did an abbreviated rendition.”
By this juncture, Anderson seemed to have taken control of Tull, and this is something Ellis sees was necessary to focus their musical development.
“This began happening from the moment guitarist Mick Abrahams left after This Was in 1968. When we got to Aqualung it was more obvious than ever that Ian was the leader of the band. He had a vision of where he wanted the music to go, and this was important in the ongoing maturing of the band. Instead of asking the other musicians what ideas they had for the music, he would tell them what was in his mind and the way every part should sound.”
So, does Ellis agree with those fans who feel this is the most important album Tull have ever recorded?
“I would. I love the fact that they made the jump to introducing acoustic material into their repertoire Ian was also improving all the time as a writer, and you can hear this throughout the tracks here. Almost every one of these should be regarded as a Tull classic; that of itself is a measure of the album’s importance in the band’s career.”