This Was is the debut album by the British progressive rock band Jethro Tull, released in 1968. Recorded at a cost of £1200, it is the only Jethro Tull album with guitarist Mick Abrahams, who was a major influence for the sound and music style of the band’s first songs. When the album was released the band was already performing at the Marquee Club in London, where other successful British groups, such as the Rolling Stones and The Who, had started their careers.
While vocalist Ian Anderson’s creative vision largely shaped Jethro Tull’s later albums, on This Was Anderson shared songwriting duties with Tull’s guitarist Mick Abrahams. In part due to Abrahams’ influence, the album incorporates more rhythm and blues and jazz influences than the progressive rock the band later became known for. In particular:
The music to “My Sunday Feeling”, “Some Day the Sun Won’t Shine for You”, “Beggar’s Farm” and “It’s Breaking Me Up” are based on blues progressions, with “Some Day the Sun Won’t Shine for You” arranged similarly to Big Bill Broonzy’s blues standard “Key to the Highway”.
“Cat’s Squirrel” (included in the album “because people like it”, according to the liner notes) was written by Doctor Ross and covered as an instrumental by numerous 1960s British blues bands, including the supergroup Cream. Abrahams would later perform the song in his post-Jethro Tull blues band Blodwyn Pig.
The album includes a cover version of Roland Kirk’s jazz standard “Serenade to a Cuckoo”. According to the liner notes, “Cuckoo” was one of the first tunes Ian Anderson learned to play on the flute.
The coda of “My Sunday Feeling” incorporates quotes from two well-known jazz tunes, Henry Mancini’s “Pink Panther Theme” (specifically the song’s bass line, played as a short solo by Glenn Cornick) and Nat Adderley’s and Oscar Brown, Jr.’s “Work Song”.
This Was also contains the only Jethro Tull lead vocal not performed by Ian Anderson on a studio album, in “Move on Alone”. Mick Abrahams, the song’s author, provided vocals on the track; David Palmer provided the horn arrangement.
Abrahams left Jethro Tull following the album’s completion in a dispute over “musical differences”. Thus, the album’s title probably refers to Abraham’s’ blues influence on the album and how blues weren’t the direction Anderson wanted the band to go. As said in the liner notes of the original record, “This was how we were playing then – but things change – don’t they?”
The song “Dharma for One”, a staple of Tull’s early concerts (usually incorporating an extended drum solo by Clive Bunker), was later covered by Ekseption, Pesky Gee! and The Ides of March. This song featured the “claghorn”, an instrument invented by Jeffrey Hammond. Anderson also claims to have invented the instrument.
This Was received generally favourable reviews and sold well upon its release. Melody Maker review thoroughly recommended the album in 1968 for being “full of excitement and emotion” and described the band as a blues ensemble “influenced by jazz music” capable of setting “the audience on fire”. Allen Evans of New Musical Express wrote in his review that the album “sounds good and has a lot of humour about it” and that the band “play jazz really, in a soft, appealing way, and have a bit of fun on the side with tone patterns and singing”. American critic Robert Christgau, on the contrary, was appalled by the success of a band that combined “the worst of Roland Kirk, Arthur Brown, and your nearest G.O. blues band.”
Recent reviews of the remastered edition underline the duality of Anderson and Abrahams’ songwriting and stage presence, as well as the strong ties of the band to blues in their early days. Sid Smith of BBC Music wrote that “what made Tull stand out from the great-coated crowd (of touring bands) was the high-visibility of frontman Ian Anderson’s on-stage Tourette’s-inspired hyper-gurning and Mick Abraham’s ferocious fretwork.” An AllMusic reviewer remarked how Jethro Tull on their vinyl debut appeared “vaguely reminiscent of the Graham Bond Organization only more cohesive, and with greater commercial sense”. David Davies of Record Collector reminds how “This Was only hints at the depth and majesty of the ensuing seven albums”, but also wrote that “the direct, unfussy and predominantly blues-based” tracks of the original recordings and the extra tracks of the collector’s edition “could well come as something of a surprise” and “be of the greatest interest to Tull aficionados.” (by wikipedia)
Ian Anderson (vocals, flute, harmonica, claghorn, piano)
Mick Abrahams (guitar, vocals)
Clive Bunker (drums, percussion)
Glenn Cornick (bass)
David Palmer (french horn)
01. My Sunday Feeling (Anderson) 3.43
02. Some Day The Sun Won’t Shine For You (Anderson) 2.49
03. Beggar’s Farm (Abrahams/Anderson) 4.19
04. Move On Alone (Abrahams) 1.58
05. Serenade To A Cuckoo (Kirk) 6.07
06. Dharma For One (Anderson/Bunker) 4.15
07. It’s Breaking Me Up (Anderson) 5.04
08. Cat’s Squirrel (Traditional) 5.42
09. A Song For Jeffrey (Anderson) 3.22
10. Round (Anderson/Abrahams/Bunker/Cornick/Ellis) 1.03