Wednesday, February 6, 2013

No. 484 – Roots to Branches

Performer: Jethro Tull
Songwriters: Ian Anderson
Original Release: Roots to Branches
Year: 1995
Definitive Version: None, although I suppose anything from the 1995 tour, in which they opened with this song, would work.

I mentioned awhile back how the music reviewer when I started at The Dispatch had a reputation among the alternapress hipsters for being lame—and he was. But I also know that he wrote two things that I remember to this day, which is two more than I can remember anyone producing from the alternapress.

The first, as mentioned, was for Tool being the musical equivalent of a 747—you can’t believe something that heavy will get off the ground, yet it does. The second involved this song.

When Debbie and I saw Jethro Tull in fall 1995 with her brother, Anthony, and his girlfriend, a bit of confusion marked the beginning of the show. The band came out, and it seemed more people were on stage than there should have been—or maybe it just seemed that way from my vantage point. Maybe I was seeing hangers-on standing off to the side. I don’t know, but I do know that one person who wasn’t on stage was Ian Anderson, you know, Jethro himself.

There was a bit of a jokey introduction about being too old to rock where the spotlight flashed on a skeleton center stage, and the band ripped into an instrumental number. Oh, it’s a warmup act, Anthony said.

Well, I wasn’t aware that a warmup act was scheduled, so I said, no, I think that’s them, as in Jethro Tull. Anthony said it was a warmup act. True, most of the guys were younger guys and unrecognizable, but the guitar player looked old and pretty much like Martin Barre, Jethro Tull’s longtime guitar player.

I was sure that it was Jethro Tull, and less than a minute later, my hypothesis was proven correct when the music slowed, and finally we heard the unmistakable sound of a flute. Only one band I know of has a flute as a regular instrument. Sure enough, Anderson came wandering on stage, playing the opening flute solo to this song, which I didn’t know at the time, and we were off and running.

The next day, the music writer said that Anderson started the show off-stage and came strolling onto it like the Pied Piper. If you see a video of this song from a show from either 1995 or 1996, you’ll see that that’s exactly correct and an excellent analogy.

Maybe that was just an example of the blind squirrel finding the word acorn—twice—but at least he found it. The hipsters were too busy sneering to even bother to look.

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