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The Fast-Moving Mind (and Mouth) of Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The Ian Anderson Band 2014: Scott Hammond (drums), David Goodier (bass), Ryan O'Donnell (vocals and "stage antics"), Ian Anderson (vocals, flute), Florian Opahle (guitar), Jon O'Hara (keyboards)
The Ian Anderson Band 2014: Scott Hammond (drums), David Goodier (bass), Ryan O'Donnell (vocals and "stage antics"), Ian Anderson (vocals, flute), Florian Opahle (guitar), Jon O'Hara (keyboards)
JethroTull.com

It seems that, Gerald Bostock, the noted writer and lyricist, is at it again.

Bostock first came to fame in the early '70s when, as an 8-year-old boy genius, his award-winning epic poem Thick as a Brick was adapted into a concept album by English rockers Jethro Tull. However, his prize was revoked in a scandal; it's all there detailed in a tabloid shocker on the record cover.

His subsequent life was chronicled in Tull's 2012 effort Thick as a Brick 2: Whatever Happened to Gerald Bostock? Divergent theories ran rampant that he possibly ended up as a greedy investment banker, homosexual homeless man, soldier, evangelical preacher or simple English storekeeper.

Now, Bostock and Anderson have collaborated again on Anderson's highly ambitious solo record Homo Erraticus (Calliandra Records). Bostock's lyrics are based on the writings of historian and seer Ernest T. Parritt, found in a rare 1920s book.

The 15 songs, divided into "Chronicles," "Prophecies" and "Revelations," tackle a narrative that takes in the historical, social and cultural impact of 9,044 years of the British Empire. And...let's just say things don't look too hot for the human race in the future yet to come.

"The important part is that it's all summed up in one word: migration," the fast-talking Anderson says. "The physical migration of humans, but also of science and technology. Of commerce and industry. Of arts and entertainment and culture. These are all the things that have shaped our increasingly global society. And I've tried to make it upbeat. I'm not out to give a university lecture."

No, no songs that name-check Playboy magazine, Elvis, "The Walking Dead," John Le Carré and Neil Armstrong can be that stuffy. Especially with the well-known sardonic humor of Anderson. Who also uses the pen name of...Gerald Bostock.

"It is an absurdity, the concept here -- and that's what prog-rock is, to complete such lofty ideals," Anderson offers wryly, before delving deeper into another big theme of the record: invasion. With an American slant.

"Invasion of our friendly neighborhood, welcomes given to the men bearing gifts of beads and mirrors to original inhabitants in exchange for a few million acres of land for the ultimately dubious asset of getting to build a casino on it."

And, he says that sturm und drang about migration -- regardless of what country you call home -- will not go away soon, as the world's population continues to explode.

"[Britons] could be speaking Spanish or German if things had turned out differently. But our wooden ships beat the Armada, and our Spitfires and Lancaster Bombers kept us free of the Germans," he says.

"But not without the absolutely vital help of the USA," Anderson continues. "Talking up the USA is not something you find many people are doing these days, but I give credit where credit is due. Thank the Yank and thank the Lord!"

Story continues on the next page.

 

Anderson with Jethro Tull in London, 1978
Anderson with Jethro Tull in London, 1978

"Apart from the odd Mexican banging at the door, [migration] is not something that people are losing sleep over on a daily basis," he says. "But it's not over, and the geopolitical boundaries of the earth will change in the days to come."

"You know, [the television network] AMC is more effective at invading small countries than all of the American military put together over the last 50, 60, 70 years," he sums up.

"The Walking Dead is sold to 150 different countries in the world, and that has more of a positive effect about people learning about America and Americans than anything," explains Anderson. "People see more vulnerability than empire-building and resource-gathering."

As to the sound of Homo Erracticus, it is very much in line with what fans of Jethro Tull and prog-rock might expect. Not unexpected, as each and every member of Anderson's backing group are also...listed on the official Tull Web site, though it notes the last "Jethro Tull" lineup ended in 2011. But Jethro Tull is not ended as a group. Or maybe it is.

The current tour features Anderson and the band performing Homo Erraticus in its entirety, plus a larger helping of "The Best of Tull" along with some deep cuts for hardcore fans. It makes a local stop September 28 at the Stafford Centre.

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