Book Review: Lend Me Your Ears

There are many ways to approach the history of a beloved musical artist. When expertly implemented, one method, the oral history, can provide a unique and valuable perspective. And that’s the approach taken by Richard Houghton for Jethro Tull: Lend Me Your Ears. Subtitled “A Fan History,” it explores the timeline of Jethro Tull, starting with a 1964 gig in Blackpool, England by The Blades, a three-piece featuring Ian Anderson on guitar and vocals.

In fact it’s Tull founder-leader Anderson himself who provides that first reminiscence. Anderson provides a lively and amusing foreword, too, one that demonstrates a healthy awareness of the importance that fans play in a group’s success. Anderson’s involvement also provides Lend Me Your Ears the sort of gravitas that comes from an artist actually lending his name – and tacit endorsement – to the project.

But Houghton delivers the goods in such a way that Anderson’s stamp of approval is mere icing on the cake. He casts a wide net, drawing articulate and insightful memories from regular fans and famous names alike. The latter category includes several members of the band themselves, including Jeffrey Hammond and Mick Abrahams, and respected music figures like Steve Lukather, King Crimson’s Jakko Jakszyk.

Some of the quotes are quite brief – a sentence or two – but quite a few are in-depth, painting word-pictures that illuminate what it was like listening to a record like A Passion Play when it was first released, or vividly recounting a Tull concert from, say, 1974. Contributors share photos, too, including an especially amusing (yet relevant) one on p. 347. Houghton’s engaging crowd-sourced narrative brings the story right up to present day, with fan (and artist essays) about shows and released as recent as January 2022.