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Tull’s Ian Anderson reflects on his ‘Metal’ Grammy win

It’s Grammy time again, and Powerline asked Jethro Tull’s singer to comment on his metal award.

The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences recognized hard rock and heavy metal artists a little late in the game — awarding the Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance Vocal or Instrumental at the 31st Grammy Awards in 1989. That year Jethro Tull won the Grammy for the Crest of a Knave album. Metallica was the favorite to get the award for their album …And Justice for All — and it showed by the stunned look on the audience’s faces (including the musicians in Metallica) when Jethro Tull’s name was called instead.

With the 2012 Grammys coming up this Sunday, Powerline asked Jethro Tull’s vocalist Ian Anderson to recount that historic day when Jethro Tull was given the award for best hard rock/metal performer.

“I probably get (the question) a lot more when I’m talking to American writers than I do over here,” says Ian Anderson from his English home. “It’s not really a big deal over here. It was in a year where it was a new category for Hard Rock forward slash Metal and that category still exists today … and we were, for some strange reason, nominated. And at the time no one paid any attention to the fact that we were nominated. There was not a peep out of anyone. Because they thought there’s no way Jethro Tull are gonna win it. Nor Iggy Pop, nor Jane’s Addiction. It’s going to be Metallica because they were the huge, new, straight-out-of-the-box, enormous, hit talent that year and everybody took it for granted that Metallca were gonna win the Grammy, including Metallica themselves. And when it was ordered to Jethro Tull, to a barrage of boos and hisses and gasps of disbelief, I’d like to think that it wasn’t that the six thousand voting members of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences were voting for Jethro Tull as a heavy rock band or a heavy metal band. They gave us the award because we were a bunch of nice guys who never won a Grammy before. And sad to relate, even after all these years, there is still no category for best one-legged flute player. Otherwise, I’d be winning it every year.”

Even though wrongly categorized, maybe the Crest of a Knave album deserved to be awarded. “Well, it was a pretty good album. It had some good tunes on it,” says Anderson, “but I don’t think anyone would possibly believe it was a hard rock or heavy metal album. But what the hell? It’s just one of those moments.”

“And as we said at the time,” Anderson continues, “Metallica were an exciting new band. and they will be sure to win the Grammy next year and indeed they did. And to prove the point that heavy metal bands do have a sense of humor, they took out a full page ad in Billboard when they won the Grammy, thanking their record producer, their record company, their mums, their dads, their brothers, the family dog and Jethro Tull for not bringing out a new album that year.”

Did Anderson ever get to speak to Metallica about the experience? “No, I never actually met them,” says Anderson, “but I’m sure they’d be delightful and humble characters.”


Ian Anderson is about to go on tour for his latest Jethro Tull release, Thick as a Brick 2, a sequel to 1972’s concept album Thick as a Brick. TAAB2 (released on the 40th anniversary of TAB) is the continuation of the story of the fictitious boy character named Gerald Bostock. In the sequel, Gerald grows up (aged fifty in 2012) to the revelation of many different fates. Thick As A Brick 2 will be released as a standard jewel case CD and digital download, and in a Special Edition 2-disc package with DVD featuring 5.1 stereo mixes, 24-bit stereo mix, video of the making of the album, interviews with the musicians and Ian Anderson reading the lyrics in various locations. The TAAB2 world tour will take up most of 2012, and it begins in the U.K. in April. Check for updates on

The 54th Grammys will be held Sunday night, February 12 at 8 p.m. est.

15 Comments on Tull’s Ian Anderson reflects on his ‘Metal’ Grammy win

  1. Tull have nothing to apologise for, they’ve produced masterful and timeless music, bridging many genres, for 44 years. Metallica will be best remembered for four or five chords and growling, incoherent vocals

  2. Like it. from Rita Jakobsen Bodoe Norway.

  3. Jethro Tull has always been an huge influence on hard rock and heavy metal. Martin Barre is one of the finest rock guitarists. Many of Tull’s songs certainly qualify as “heavy metal”–think of Locomotive Breath, which has one of rock’s best guitar solos, in my opinion. Some people say Led Zeppelin is not heavy metal and look at their influence on hard rock. Heavy metal is really just a label. Jethro Tull rocks as hard as anybody…

  4. The only heavy metal category winner I could possibly name would be Tull. And son of a gun … It was the million dollar question on Who Wants to be a Millionaire, about ten yrs ago! Of course, I was watching the program on tv – not in the contestant’s seat:(
    Tull #1 for 40 yrs.

  5. There is nothing to apologise for , I agree with previous comments. Jethro Tull is a terrific super talented band , they well deserved this Grammy !! and so far .. nobody can play that flute like Ian Anderson can do !!

  6. Jethro T. have nothing to apologise for , I agree with previous comments. Jethro Tull is a terrific super talented band , they well deserved this Grammy !! and so far .. nobody can play that flute like Ian Anderson can do !!

  7. I think it’s awesome and hilarious it shows that despite those that think otherwise jethro tulls music can and does cross many barriers and defies conventionality.You can classify them many different ways I’ve heard of them catagorized as easy listening, soft rock( not! ), classic rock, ect… Yet overall the still ROCK HARD as any Metallica, Nine inch nails,or contemporary modern rock band

  8. Who cares categorization, Tull stands TALL!

  9. the flute is a heavy metal instrument..

  10. You can’t really categorize Jethro Tull in any genre. They pretty much are their own genre when it comes to rock music. But ultimately they not only deserved the Grammy for “hard rock”, not only for COAK but for their previous Seminal L.P.’s Stand Up, Benefit, Aqualung, and Thick as a Brick.

    The real story is why the F aren’t these guys in the R&RHOF!

  11. EAVL - Equisetium Arvensis Virtual Literate // June 17, 2014 at 6:47 pm // Reply

    someones are still really listen them,- and solely for that flute, accompanying electric guitars on stage,- cause in other cases, the electric guitars sounds would be only flat and annoying, as far, as for me,- listening them. Cause el.-guitar’s sounds yielded are sometimes simply like, for instance: plastics, polymers ,etc. ,etc. ,- in comparison to wood, stone, steel, and any other natural borne materials. The flute mastered in such a way adds something really much more substantial to the J.T.’s musics, may be an outstanding atmosphere, or possibly listener’s inspiration. Moreover, it uncovers whole period of many cennturies of skotch folk music influences on novaday, contemporary trends among anglo-saxons bands. I’ve met their music over two decades ago, and I must say, my memory really recently lacked “empty guitar tunes”/”undressed to kill”/”rock island”…

  12. EAVL - Equisetium Arvensis Virtual Literate // June 18, 2014 at 4:50 am // Reply

    I think there are many timeless arrangements among all of the Jethro Tull’s musics. Simply not to be omitted, overlooked, or to be over-heard, shoud I say, – at once and immediately put aside. This is a music, to which man astonishingly returns repeatedly…

    Though, sometimes the meanings of their lyrics do not really suggest the need for use and adaptation of so many sophisticated musical motives and accords.

    I do not listen any heavy-metal musics, – and those of Jethro Tull’s are not exception, in spite of listening them with attention. Thus, they are not really standard heavy metal band! Instead of this,- they are simply the band of highly motivated, as well as of highly talented instrumentalists and musicians. Everything in their mucics depends on unique style, they have been elaborating for years. So much outstanding style, that I didn’t hear of anyone else following them with straight, direct saliency in music.

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