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“I’d seen this wild-eyed, crazy-haired guy and my parents were horrified!” Marc Almond’s lifelong passion for Jethro Tull and Ian Anderson

Soft Cell singer cherishes memory of performing Thick As A Brick with the man who wrote it



In 2013 Soft Cell vocalist Marc Almond fulfilled a childhood dream when he performed Thick As A Brick with Jethro Tull at London’s Royal Albert Hall. That same year he told Prog why bandleader Ian Anderson was his prog hero.

“When I was 13, we moved from Southport to Leeds. That’s when I started to buy records, and the first couple were by Jethro Tull. I knew of them because of Top Of The Pops – I’d seen this wild-eyed, crazy-haired guy and my parents were horrified but I thought it was fantastic!

“One of the very first albums I bought was Benefit, and I stuck with them for quite a while as they developed album after album. Tull had this mystique, an eccentricity that set them apart. They quickly moved away from the usual blues-based rock tunes and in songs like Sweet Dream there was an almost flamenco influence, exotic sounds that certainly caught my teenage ear. Ian Anderson was special, and his ability and ambition to move from blues rock to progressive music, suites and song cycles, seems very natural for him.

“The first time I heard Thick As A Brick, I’d not heard – or seen – anything like it. I loved the whole experience of the packaging, the music and the stories. Then there was the theatre. Tull had a strong element of British folk theatre and that really influenced me when I started making my own music.

“I was in a restaurant a couple of years ago and I got chatting to someone about music. It turned out to be a Tull session player. I gushed to him, quoted different albums, and he obviously reported back to [Tull manager] James Duncan, cos a little while later I got a message: would I like to contribute to a church benefit concert?

“So I met Ian, and we rehearsed for that show. We got on really well, and I told him that one day I’d love to sing a Tull song. Then the TAAB call came! It was the weirdest thing to stroll onstage at the Royal Albert Hall and hear my voice singing something I grew up with, and standing next to me is a guy on flute who’d made such an impression on me all those years ago. It was surreal, and strangely spiritual.

“I adore Ian – he’s one of Britain’s great songwriters, and it was an honour to work with him. I’ll treasure it forever.”