Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson Regrets Not Fulfilling Frank Zappa’s Dying Wish

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Jethro Tull’s lead singer, Ian Anderson, recently gave an interview in which he discussed the 1970s British music scene, along with Frank Zappa, and Captain Beefheart.

He highlighted the temporary, yet close relationship between Zappa and Beefheart and pointed out their contrasting personalities:

“I know that obviously Frank Zappa and Beefheart were briefly joined at the hip, for a week or a month maximum. But they fell out, everybody fell out with Don Van Vliet. Frank, everybody had a huge loyalty to all the musicians he played with, everybody spoke really highly of him and his scales and his ability.”

During that time, Zappa expressed resentment towards British groups like Jethro Tull, Deep Purple, and Led Zeppelin.

His own band, Mother of Inventions, faced financial challenges, which may have contributed to these opinions. Anderson explained his reaction to hearing his hero’s unfavorable opinions and the moment their relationship changed when Zappa was diagnosed with cancer:

“He wrote scathingly about some of the British bands of that era, like Led Zeppelin or Jethro Tull, for example. And I took it a little bit hard because I was a big Zappa fan in the early 70s, and then you’re suddenly hearing that your hero thinks very very little of you and your work. It’s a little disappointing, but I put it aside until much later on when I heard Frank Zappa was suffering from terminal prostate cancer, and I got a call from one of his ex-musicians, saying ‘Hey, Frank wants you to call him.’ And I said, ‘Really? I don’t know Frank.’ And he said, ‘This is his phone number, and you know, he’d really like to speak to you.’”

Anderson went on to describe three instances where he tried to contact Zappa but couldn’t find the courage to complete the call. He was unsure of what to say to a dying man he had never met:

“So I write down the phone number and on three different occasions I dialed his phone number from some hotel room in the middle of America and before it could pick up, I panicked and put the phone down because I don’t know what you say to a dying man you’ve never met before.”

Anderson shared his remorse about never calling Zappa and not granting Frank’s wish before his passing:

“And I just didn’t have the guts to do it, which I deeply, deeply regret to this day that I didn’t speak to Frank because I don’t know what he wanted me to say but maybe he just wanted to say hi, you know. And we never met, and now we never will. So, it was a poignant moment that I unfortunately chickened out of and I deeply regret that.”

Despite the challenges and varied opinions, Jethro Tull remains active since their inception in 1967. Their most recent album, ‘RökFlöte,’ was released in April, and they are preparing for a tour this fall, running from September 7, 2023, to May 6, 2024.

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