Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Sunbury to San Diego
Programme from the 8th National Jazz and Blues Festival, Sunbury, August 1968
Exactly forty years today, on Sunday 11th August 1968 (don't nitpick, I started to write this post yesterday) I made my way with friend Nick Williams to the racecourse at Sunbury-on-Thames, near London and paid 15/- (that's 75p for those born in the decimal era) to attend my first ever rock concert. I only attended for one day (Sunday) but despite missing great acts such as Ten Years After, Deep Purple and Arthur Brown on the previous day the lineup was still tremendous. Traffic, Spencer Davis, John Mayall, Chicken Shack, Al Stewart and Fairport Convention were all in attendance and to my impressionable young mind were simply great and this probably explains why I have so many of their CDs in my collection today. In addition the late, great, John Peel was compere on a secondary stage, actually a tent, of unbilled smaller acts that included a young, dynamic, piano player by the name of Reg Dwight who went on to achieve fame as Sir Elton John.
While all of these bands were exceptionally good, to my mind one stood out above all the rest -the hitherto unknown Jethro Tull. In fact I would say they stole the show although I'm not sure why. Perhaps because on an afternoon/evening that was replete with guitar virtuosoity from the likes of Stan Webb, Stevie Winwood, John Mayall and Jeff Beck, Tull's use of the flute as a lead instrument was fresh and very different. To this day they are pretty much the only band to take this approach and while Ian Anderson's technique was somewhat limited (it has improved immeasurably over the years) the attack was amazing. Dharma for One is still one of the most aggressive instumentals I know. Perhaps also because I was learning to play the flute at the time and JT's sound, particularly the percussive overblowing technique, offered a more macho alternative than the drippy, saccharine styles frequently offered by other flautists.
Anyway I've been a fan of Ian Anderson/Jethro Tull ever since and on Thursday I'm going to see them again in San Diego, California. Back in the heady days of 1968, I'm absolutely positive that neither the band or I would have dreamed we'd be doing the same thing 40 year later. Let's hope we may be doing this again in 2048!