Ian Anderson Recalls Tony Iommi Joining Jethro Tull, ‘He Mimed The Prerecorded Backing Tracks’

Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson recently talked about the band’s encounter with Tony Iommi and the possibility of him joining the band as a full-time member. He spoke of his efforts to fit in with the band’s music but couldn’t continue working with them because of his disability.

Jethro Tull was formed in 1967 and has significantly contributed to the rock and roll scene. Despite their unique sound and successful songs, the band wasn’t inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Its constant member Ian Anderson recently talked about not being inducted and said that he is not mad about it because the Hall of Fame is an institution focused on American music, and Jethro Tull is not American.

In his recent conversation, the interviewer asked Anderson to share his opinions on Tony Iommi and what would have happened if he had continued with Jethro Tull. At the time, the band needed a guitarist, and Anderson had spotted Iommi performing with The Earth and wanted to recruit him. However, he couldn’t adapt to Anderson’s chords, and according to the Jethro Tull leader, he would have been frustrated if he had decided to stay in the band.

He continued to say that in 1968 Iommi filled in visually for a TV show because the band was lacking a guitar player. Apparently, Iommi mimed playing the guitar to help the band out. The main reason Iommi wouldn’t have been happy in the band is that Anderson composed songs based on his techniques and unfortunately, this wasn’t fit for Iommi’s fingers because of the accident he had when he was a teenager and has been playing with three fingers.

Here is what Anderson said about Iommi:

“It would have been frustrating for him, frustrating for me and probably not worth to have because Tony, when he came down to spend a couple of days in this studio with us rehearsing, just to see how it might work. It wasn’t easy for him to play some of the chord shapes and elements of the music that I showed to him.

I didn’t realize that he had a bit of serious damage to his fingers after an industrial accident. This meant rather like Django Reinhardt, he had a develop a side of music that he could work with. I heard him play live with the band called The Earth and thought, ‘Well I like this guitarist, he plays really nice straightforward, simple things. Just chords which are two or three notes and up and fifth.’ It was really pointed and sometimes rather ambivalent.”

He continued saying:

“The melody could be the decider in terms of a major or minor or seventh or a ninth or any other interval. The chords themselves were quite ambiguous sometimes, and I like that. But of course, I have got four good fingers on my left hand so, I was writing songs while I was playing bar chords, majors and minors, sixths and sevenths and nines and things. That wasn’t really easy for Tony.

We were gonna have to modify the music a lot, or we were gonna have to find another guitar player. Tony did come back again actually a few weeks later to help us out in the recording of the ‘Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus,’ a TV program that was made around the Christmas of ’68. Tony came and mimed to a couple of prepared backing tracks as we didn’t have a guitar player at that point.”

This period of trying for Jethro Tull was when Iommi had left Black Sabbath, which he had founded less than a year ago. He left to join Jethro Tull but returned after the attempt was unsuccessful. Even though he had to start his music career without one finger because of a work accident he had in his teen years, the guitarist achieved an impressive amount of fame and success with Black Sabbath even though he couldn’t fit in with Jethro Tull.