Aqualung, My Friend

This “old friend” seems to keep popping up a lot lately.

Funny, because I haven’t much listened to, or thought about, Jethro Tull for decades – other than last year when Stephen Bennett did his fantastic harp guitar cover of “Teacher” for the Rock album.

It started last Friday, when I got an email from my German-speaking friend Erik Hofmann (the new Stauffer book author, remember?…who by the way promises some shocking new harp guitar revelations for harp guitar researchers – so I hope some of you are ordering it!).  I had asked Erik how it was that his English seemed better than my own.  He explained that it was because “English was a door to much of the culture I love…I have to thank Jethro Tull and…for teaching me your language.”  I wrote back to say that – by complete coincidence – the L.A. Times had run a story just that morning about a new Tull tour, the news being that they were performing the entire Aqualung album for its 40th Anniversary.

Then yesterday, my brother Mark (in Chicago) called to tell me he and wife Barb had just gotten back from Denver – where they went just to see…this very Aqualung show at the famed Red Rocks Amphitheatre (where 40 years ago there was an infamous riot when Tull first played…Mark even ran into a guy at a restaurant who had been there!).  He loved it by the way.  I didn’t remember he was that much of a fan…but perhaps it was his LP that I borrowed in High School to learn the title tune for our rock band (I can still remember playing that solo on my black Les Paul Custom…).

Anyway, this has nothing to do with harp guitars…except that it gave me the chance to tell both Erik and Mark this amusing little story:

So one day a few years ago, some fellow an hour south of me in Long Beach wrote about having a Knutsen harp ukulele that he had been given.  He even had a (terrific) photo of the original owner back in the day with the instrument (shown).  He very generously offered to drive up with it so I could photograph it for the Archives, so we scheduled a time and one afternoon he stopped by with it.

I took about an hour to set up and shoot it, examine it and discuss it with the owner, a charming English chap who had the distinctive vibe of an aging hippie, complete with headband.  Jaci engaged him with general pleasantries while I photographed, asking about the provenance, his connection with the family, just this and that.

It was only when we had packed up and he was leaving that we thought to politely ask “so, are you a musician also?”  I forget what he said – something low key about doing it more casually, I think – until he let slip “I used to be in Jethro Tull…”  “You’re kidding – what albums?!”  I asked.  “The first three…”  Our mouths fell open – “But I had those albums!” I managed to sputter.  I don’t now recall why it was that we didn’t bolt the door and make him stay and regale us with old rock and roll stories (prog-rock stories, technically) – I think he had to get somewhere or something.

Sure enough, when he left, I Googled to verify that our unassuming visitor, Glenn Cornick, was really Jethro Tull’s original bass player.  Too little, too late!

Well, at least I had a souvenir – my new Knutsen Archives page documenting HU23, along with its cryptic owner.

P.S. As it happens, Glenn missed Aqualung by 1 album…

  1. Melle Weijters Says:

    But then he did play the bass solo on Bourree (from the album Stand up)!

  2. Benoit Says:

    Eric Is French By the way. He lives near by Lyon, my native city…

  3. Ken Bonfield Says:

    One of the first 5 albums I ever owned was Tull’s Living in the Past, and I immediately got Aqualung which is right up there with Allman Bros. Live at Fillmore East as one of those timeless quintessential albums that had a huge impact on me as a player and a composer(even if you can’t hear it in my work). I don’t think Ian Anderson gets nearly enough credit for his acoustic accompaniment.

    Cool stories.

  4. Mark Miner Says:

    Thanks for your story Gregg. The concert was a blast. Funny how most of the crowd seemed around our age. Ian Anderson can still play the flute standing on one leg. Amazing.

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