Jethro Tull Frontman Talks Prog Rock Pomposity: 'Some of It Was a Bit Overblown'

Ian Anderson also argues why it's wrong to expect another rock revolution, more inside.

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Jethro Tull frontman Ian Anderson recently discussed prog rock's pompous reputation, reminiscing the genre's golden age back in the '70s.

Admitting that the pompous bits were definitely there, Ian argued that most of the music was to-notch and "spot on."

"I still like the original term that comes from 1969: progressive rock - but that was with a small 'p' and a small 'r,'" he told Something Else. "Prog Rock, on the other hand, has different connotations - of grandeur and pomposity.

"Back then, when we were doing 'Thick as a Brick,' bands like Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer were already gaining a reputation for being a little pompous and showing off with their music. I think that was OK. The reality is that certain members of Yes were quite humorous about it; they could laugh at themselves - as, indeed, Emerson, Lake and Palmer privately laughed amongst themselves about themselves. They'd do that with me, too. There's a ready understanding that what we are doing is a bit 'Spinal Tap,' in more contemporary comparative terms.

Saying that world is a better place for having the likes of Yes and ELP, the frontman added, "Clearly, we all - Steve Howe, Ian Anderson - we have other things that we do in which we're not showing off. But that's part of what was going on back then, and I think looking back on it that most of it was a pretty good experience for musicians and listeners alike. Some of it was a little bit overblown, but in the case of much of the music, it was absolutely spot on."

During the rest of the chat, the musician addressed the current state of music, explaining how wrong it is to expect another full-on revolution. After all, "we live in a world of reinvention, of reinterpretation" these days.

"I have to say that I think, these days, we're wrong in expecting revolutionary, new changes in popular music forms," Anderson kicked off. "To somehow imagine that we are going to have some kind of heavy new rock or pop music form that equals or surpasses the Beatles or indeed the rock bands of the 1970s, or '80s or '90s, I think that's a mistake to think that that's going to happen.

"We live in a world of reinvention, of reinterpretation. Out there, there's a bunch of guys playing generic pop and rock music - all of which owes a great deal to what's gone on before. Very rarely does anybody manage to put a stamp of originality on what they do," he concluded.

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    I like his point about being able to laugh at yourself. Prog in it's all bombasticity shouldn't be taken too seriously.
    I might just be a pompous fan, but I think that the best music in the world is when everyone is playing to the best of their ability. that might mean musical skill, or emotional depth, or whatever- but if you're bashing out a song just to bash out a song, then you're not quite on the same level as the greats.
    My uncle went to school with a guy from Jethro Tull... Yet I've actually never heard them.