Ian Scott Anderson MBE (born 10 August 1947) is a Scottish-born musician, singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist best known for his work as the lead vocalist, flautist and acoustic guitarist of British rock band Jethro Tull.
Anderson plays several other musical instruments, including keyboards, bass guitar, bouzouki, balalaika, saxophone, harmonica, and a variety of whistles. His solo work began with the 1983 album Walk into Light, and since then he has released another five works, including the sequel to the Jethro Tull album Thick as a Brick (1972) in 2012, entitled Thick as a Brick 2, released April 3, 2012.
Ian Anderson was born in Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland, the youngest of three brothers. His father, James Anderson, ran the RSA Boiler Fluid Company in East Port, Dunfermline. Anderson spent the first part of his childhood in Edinburgh. He was influenced by his father’s big band and jazz records and the emergence of rock music, but was disenchanted with the “show biz” style of early American rock and roll stars like Elvis Presley.
His family moved to Blackpool, Lancashire, England, in 1959, where he was educated at Blackpool Grammar School. In a 2011 interview, Anderson said he was asked to leave grammar school for refusing to submit to corporal punishment (still permitted at that time). He studied fine art at Blackpool College of Art from 1964 to 1966 while living in Lytham St Annes.
While a teenager, Anderson took a job as a sales assistant at Lewis’s department store in Blackpool, then as a vendor on a news stand.
In 1963, he formed The Blades from among school friends: Michael Stephens (guitar), John Evan (keyboards), Jeffrey Hammond (bass) and Barriemore Barlow (drums). This was a soul and blues band, with Anderson on vocals and harmonica – he had yet to take up the flute. They played their first show at the Holy Family Church Hall in North Shore.
In late 1967, Anderson was still holding down a day job, namely cleaning the Ritz Cinema in Luton, including the toilets, in the mornings, “which took me half the day” he said in a later interview. He took an old, chipped urinal from the cinema storeroom and had it for a time after leaving the job. It was not, however, the urinal which “was bolted to the side of John Evan’s Hammond organ on stage” and figured in early 1970s Tull performances.
At this time Anderson abandoned his ambition to play electric guitar, allegedly because he felt he would never be “as good as Eric Clapton”. As he himself tells it in the introduction to the video Nothing Is Easy: Live at the Isle of Wight 1970, he traded his electric guitar in for a flute which, after some weeks of practice, he found he could play fairly well in a rock and blues style. According to the sleeve notes for the first Tull album, This Was (1968), he had been playing the flute only a few months when the album was recorded. His guitar practice did not go to waste either, as he continued to play acoustic guitar, using it as a melodic and rhythmic instrument. As his career progressed, he added soprano saxophone, mandolin, keyboards and other instruments to his arsenal.
His tendency to stand on one leg while playing the flute came about by accident, as he had been inclined to stand on one leg while playing the harmonica, holding the microphone stand for balance. Anderson was known for his famous one-legged flute stance, and was once referred to as a “deranged flamingo”. This stance is on many album covers of Jethro Tull. During a long stint at the Marquee Club, a journalist described him, wrongly, as standing on one leg to play the flute, when in fact he was originally playing the harmonica on one leg. He decided to live up to the reputation, albeit with some difficulty. His early attempts are visible in The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus(1968) film appearance of Jethro Tull. This was referenced in the facetious liner notes for Thick as a Brick in a quote about “the one-legged pop flautist, Ian Anderson”.
Anderson with Jethro Tull at London’s Hammersmith Odeon, March 1978
Anderson already wished to start a solo career in 1980, when Jethro Tull was going to take a break after John Glascock’s death. He wrote the album A as a solo record, but Martin Barre and Dave Pegg’s participation led the album to be released under the Jethro Tull name, causing the old band to split. His first official solo album was Walk into Light, in 1983, in which Peter-John Vettese played an important role in the electronic direction of the music.
In the 1990s he began working with simple bamboo flutes. He uses techniques such as over-blowing and hole-shading to produce note-slurring and other expressive techniques on this otherwise simple instrument. Anderson said that around this time his daughter began taking flute lessons and noticed his fingering was incorrect, prompting him to relearn the instrument with the correct fingering. In 1995, Anderson released his second solo album, Divinities: Twelve Dances with God, an instrumental work composed of twelve flute-heavy pieces pursuing varied themes with an underlying motif. The album was recorded with Jethro Tull keyboard player Andrew Giddings and orchestral musicians. Anderson released two further song-based solo albums, The Secret Language of Birds in 2000 and Rupi’s Dance in 2003. In 2003, Anderson recorded a composition called “Griminelli’s Lament”, in honour of his friend, the Italian flutist Andrea Griminelli.
In 2011, with the end of Jethro Tull touring, and the question of his friend Derek Shulman (whatever happened to Gerald Bostock?),Anderson begun to produce a sequel to Thick as a Brick (1972), entitled Thick as a Brick 2 or TAAB2, was released on 3 April 2012. It is billed as being performed by Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson instead of being a Jethro Tull album proper. Anderson toured performing both albums in their entirety. A trailer for TAAB2 was posted on YouTube.
Anderson released a new album, Homo Erraticus, in May 2014. He described it as a progressive rock concept album blending rock, folk, and metal music peaking at No. 14 in the UK Albums Chart it is his most successful ever solo album.
In September 2017, Anderson announced plans for a tour to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of This Was, and a new studio album in 2019. The band line-up includes Anderson, Hammond, Opahle, O’Hara, and Goodier (all musicians of Anderson’s solo band since 2012), with Barre absent from the lineup.
On 2 January 2018, Ian Anderson published a New Year post on jethrotull.com, including a picture of Anderson with the caption “IA in the studio working on a new album for release March 2019. Shhhh; keep it a secret…”
On 1 June 2018, Parlophone Records released a new (50-track) career collection celebrating the Jethro Tull’s 50th anniversary featuring all 21 Tull albums, named 50 for 50. In the notes of the 50 for 50 booklet it is said that the new album scheduled for 2019 will be a solo record by Ian Anderson and not a new album by Jethro Tull.