Fronting his band Jethro Tull through various line-ups for more than 48 years, Ian Anderson says he is more than happy that in his mid 20s, he didn't do 'something stupid' and throw it all away.

"If I had been asked at 21 years of age, did I think I would be singing and fronting Jethro Tull nearly 50 years later?, I would have said 'not very likely.

"But to ask me the same question at 24-25 years of age I would have thought 'Hey, we've actually achieved something and if we don't do something stupid and throw it all away, there is now every reason I could be a professional performing musician in my old age."

Many of Anderson's music heroes during his teenage years were jazz, blues and classical musicians.

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"These people were older than my father, so I grew up with the idea that the music that I listened to and revered was by essentially old men, so it didn't seen weird, the idea that in my mid 20s that I too might become one of those old men and still be lucky enough to have a job.

"I wouldn't have if had I been a Formula One racing driver or a tennis pro - it would have been all over for me, so I am very glad I chose the right profession."

For the The Very Best Of Jethro Tull by Ian Anderson with his band's concerts in Auckland and Wellington in April next year, Anderson, 68, has been busy sorting through Tull's massive catalouge of songs.

"Out of about 260 songs it probably comes down to a list of about 100 that I might choose to play on stage and that gets short-listed to maybe 40-50 to again choose from to do a Best Of Jethro Tull with 20 or so songs."

Loyal Tull fans can rest assured the concerts will include Aqualung and Locomotive Breath.

"Of course there are always going to be firm favourites while other songs come and go. Ultimately it is about me having a good time and making it an adventure for the audience
and the band."

The veteran flute-playing vocalist says he will also include a few songs from what he
describes as "Jethro Tull's first proper album" Stand Up, released in 1968 and which is
being re-mastered in Tull's book/CD set in November.

Previous deluxe book/CD remastered releases include Aqualung, Passion Play and Minstrel In The Gallery.

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Hamilton News suggested a few selections from Stand Up including Reasons For Waiting.

"A-ha, would you believe I am currently mixing Reasons For Waiting played by a string quartet and me for an album due to be released next February which will be called, Jethro Tull - The String Quartet.

"It will consist of a selection of Jethro Tull music orchestrated by our keyboard player John O'Hara for a string quartet in the classical style."

However, the original Stand Up album remains an important album in Tull's musical cannon.

"It was the first collection of music that I wrote which was not derivitive of blues-based material. I began writing the songs for it in early 1968.

"Our guitar player back then was the late Mick Abrahams who was a very fine blues and rock guitarist, but he wasn't really so comfortable with some of the more eclectic influences on Stand Up."

Combined with more issues arising, Abrahams departed Tull in late 1968 and Martin Barre joined as lead guitarist in Januarly 1969.

"Martin and I began to develop our skills on Stand Up and we also began to understand about recording technology and the job of production from a creative and technical point of view.

"Stand Up remains a very important album to me as I feel it is the first proper Jethro Tull album. It made a huge impact in the UK and it also began its popularity in Europe and the USA towards the end of 1969.

"It really was a very big step forward for Jethro Tull."

Whether out front singing and pacing the stage, Anderson will always be known for his unique approach to the flute - still played at times on one leg. However, back in the dim and distant past, the flute was the last thing on Anderson's mind.

In 1967 he decided to trade his guitar for a microphone but suddenly he spotted a glistening flute on the wall of the music shop.

"It just caught my eye and I thought that would be an interesting thing to play, maybe it would find me a place in a rock band."

Anderson admits back then he had no idea what to do with it.

"Infact some months went by before I managed to get a note out of it."

Purchasing the flute in August 1967, he didn't feel comfortable with it until January 1968.

"By February I was playing it on stage."

And while guitarists including Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page treasure their beloved Gibson Les Paul 1948 Editions, Anderson says he does not own a flute that is equivalent of a 1948 Les Paul because flute-makers changed quite a bit in the latter part of the 1960s when the intonation of the Brannen Flute (which Anderson plays) was re-addressed by British flute maker Albert Cooper.

"Cooper bought about trying to improve the actual scale of the Brannen flute.

"He finally got a much better scale 'the Cooper Scale' which is now pretty much standard.

Anderson's breathy-vocalising into the flute and hesitant singing-style has become trademark Jethro Tull.

But combined with his unique and famous approach, the flute remains a demanding instrument.

"The flute is an imperfect instrument and like so many other instruments, it can never be
perfectly in tune.

"Some of the notes can be a little sharp, so you have to work hard to control the instrument."

For almost 50 years, Anderson has continued to work hard out front of Jethro Tull and has enjoyed global success with his inimitable style which next April will be on show in Auckland.

The line-up for The Very Best Of Jethro Tull by Ian Anderson features: Ian Anderson on lead vocals and flute, Florian Opahle on lead guitar, bassist David Goodier, keyboardist John O'Hara, Ryan O'Donnell on vocals and stage antics, Greig Robinson on bass and Scott Hammond on drums and percussion.

The Very Best Of Jethro Tull by Ian Anderson playing with his Band will be staged at ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre on Saturday April 22, 2017.

AQUALUNG FOOTNOTE:
For legions of Jethro Tull fans the 1969 album Aqualung remains a classic and firm favourite album.

Its cover featuring a fiendish-looking tramp in long overcoat and boots is as recognisable as the song. However, there is a unique story behind the cover that is not so well known.

Jennie Anderson (Ian's wife at the time) was attending art school and doing a photographic project on tramps. While in the area of Victoria, London and walking through a park, a tramp caught her eye. The more time she spent with him, the more the man opened up about his life story. The tramp agreed that Jennie could take photos of him and was shocked when she asked him, where could she send the photos?

Nobody before had befriended the tramp or ever given him anything. Jennie was adamant she would come through. She vowed she would send the photos of him to the nearby Salvation Army and would not let him down.

However, back at art school she went to develop the film and discovered to her horror, there was no film in the camera. Not long after, Ian sat down with Jennie and played guitar and the words from Jennie flowed and the song Aqualung was created.

For Jennie Anderson (now Franks) Aqualung remains an incredibly sad song.