Jethro Tull’s IAN ANDERSON Discusses TONY IOMMI’s Short Time with the Band
Robert Cavuoto of InternationalGuitar.com recently posted an interview he had with Jethro Tull frontman Ian Anderson discussing, among other things, Tony Iommi’s brief stint with the band. That particular portion of the interview is below. Head here to read the article in it’s entirety.
Robert: I just finished reading Iron Man, by Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath. I learned that he was in Jethro Tull for a very brief period of time. Could you tell me about some memories you have of that and if you’ve read his book?
Ian Anderson: I haven’t read Tony’s book. The last time I heard from Tony was a couple of e-mails we exchanged a few months ago, but that was before he became ill. I haven’t heard from him since, although I’ve sent him an e-mail not too long ago. I don’t know what the outcome of his cancer diagnosis has been in terms of his current state of health.
My recollections of working with Tony are fairly clear. They’re threefold. Once when we played a gig together, probably around September of 1968 at a university, his band effectively went on to become Black Sabbath. We kind of got to know Tony and thought he was pretty good and seemed to have a style that was quite different from Mick Abrahams, who was the guitar player at that time and basically a blues guitarist.
Tony didn’t have that expertise; he did have a very musical way of playing. He didn’t play a lot of major 7s. He played a lot of open fifths and fairly gutsy things, single line things, solo lines. At the end of ’68 when Mick Abrahams had departed from Jethro Tull, we got together with Tony as we did with several other guitar players. He didn’t leave his band and it was a question of seeing what we had in common. I worked on a couple of new songs with Tony and I think it became apparent to me while he could understand where I was headed, the limitations that he faces as a guitarist due to the physical injury to his fingers, meant that he really couldn’t play some of the things that I would have wanted him to play as a guitar player in Jethro Tull. He simply didn’t have the fingers to do it.
He had evolved, indeed, rather like Django Reinhardt. His limitations in terms of the physical injuries he had sustained meant he had to learn to make music in a way that he could within those limitations. Indeed, that’s what shaped Tony as a guitar player and arguably shaped heavy metal music from then on in. Tony was fine playing bar chords using a couple of fingers in a way that allowed some simple harmonies. He couldn’t very easily play more complex chords. It wasn’t ever gonna work out in terms of the music I was writing at that point, which was the music from the Stand Up album.
We enjoyed our afternoon or whatever it was in playing together. It was an enjoyable experience. We played a few blues songs and whatever else. It was fun. Later on Tony came and played with us on the Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus. Without a guitar player, we said to Tony, “Can you come and stand in? You don’t have to actually play. You just have to mime.” So, Tony came along to the studio with his hat pulled down in front of his face so no one would recognize him (Laughing), because he was a bit embarrassed because his guitar wasn’t even plugged in. I was singing and playing the flute live, but the other guys were miming to the backing track. That was his only public appearance with Jethro Tull, as a pretend guitar player. I have no idea how Tony remembers it, but the way I remember it is definitely the way it was.