Ian Anderson: "Heavy Horses is a logical successor to Songs From The Wood"
Jethro Tull’s Heavy Horses turns 40 this year, and there’s a special box set to celebrate the occasion. Ian Anderson looks back on the album’s creation…
From up here you can see the morning mist rising up off the freshly turned earth. The threads of sunshine are turning into beams of light. It’s cool, but the day’s going to swelter long before midday. In the distance the valley comes slowly into relief, the hill’s black edges stark against the blueing sky.
At this time of day, it’s deserted except for a figure leading two giant shire horses, hat pulled down hard on his head, doing his best to keep the two beasts with him, traversing the land in straight, parallel lines. A slow half‑circle turn and off they go again, this strange trio: mute, two of them hugely muscular, one sinewy and determined, working together.
In the distance, on the far edge of the field, a photographer cradling a camera with a telephoto lens shouts an instruction and the man between the horses jerks his head up, nods a silent affirmation, pulls at the heavy horses and goes again.
“I was holding on – they were very big!” Ian Anderson laughs as he remembers the day-long photo session for what would become the cover of Jethro Tull’s 1978 album Heavy Horses.
“They were actually pussycats, those two horses – they were very good. The absurdity was that the shots that were taken were from a very long way away. It could have been so much easier. They wanted to get the valley in the background and the brow of the hill to give it some context, so I was a long way off. I had to walk an awful long way with these animals!
“The photographer was way over there somewhere – there was a lot of hollering and shouting. And you had to walk, and then it would be, ‘Let’s do that again, sorry!’ But they were very well behaved. They were the best part of the day – they were nice animals.”
The band’s 11th studio album came as the decade was ending, a beautiful paean to a time that was fading as quickly as the 70s in which it was created. It’s framed, albeit loosely, as the spine of the band’s classic folk rock triumvirate, which began with 1977’s Songs From The Wood and ended with 1979’s Stormwatch. That’s to underplay its elegance and vivacity though.