For most of its 47 years, the British rock band Jethro Tull was led, driven and defined by one man: singer, flautist, songwriter and conceptualist Ian Anderson, who publically admitted his retirement of the group and name last spring. But at its founding in late 1967 and across its first three albums – This Was (1968), Stand Up (1969) and Benefit (1970) – Jethro Tull was a band, and bassist Glenn Cornick, who died on August 28th at age 67, was its stout, nimble underpinning, the vital half of a blues-ribbed, jazz-fluent rhythm section with original drummer Clive Bunker. In the liner notes to a 2008 reissue of This Was, Cornick recalled that the album was recorded on 4-track tape and he and Bunker played their bass and drum parts live to one track, sounding like “he and I were some conjoined musical creature.”
Born on April 23rd, 1947, Glenn Douglas Barnard Cornick was part of a mid-Sixties soul band from Blackpool, the John Evan Smash, with Anderson, then a guitarist. When the group fell apart, Cornick, Anderson, another of that band’s guitarists, Mick Abrahams, and Abrahams’ friend Bunker became Tull’s first lineup. Anderson immediately became the primary songwriter and visual focus in his stewbum’s overcoat and cross-legged pose as he soloed on flute.
With You There to Help Me
Popular on Rolling Stone
But Cornick was a figure of striking eccentricity as well: wearing glasses and a bowler that he later traded for an Indian-cloth headband. The bassist also had a co-writing credit as Len Barnard on the B-side of Tull’s first single, “Aeroplane” (mistakenly issued as Jethro Toe), and he was a consistent, compositional force on the early albums, often running in sturdy, melodic counterpoint to the flute and guitars. In a band that actually functioned in those first years like a power trio under Anderson, Cornick’s robust doubling of riff played by Abrahams and (starting with Stand Up) his replacement Martin Barre was a grounding force, keeping Anderson’s progressive writing rooted in blues movement and muscle.
Cornick was, it seems, not destined to be in Tull for long. Two of his signature performances, “Song for Jeffrey” and “Jeffrey Goes to Leicester Square,” were named after Jeffrey Hammond, Anderson’s grammar-school friend, one of Cornick’s predecessors in the John Evan Smash and, finally, his successor in Tull when Cornick, chafing under Anderson’s hardening grip, left at the end of 1970. Cornick started his own band, Wild Turkey, which he revived for albums and shows (including Tull fan conventions) in the Nineties and early 2000s. Cornick also played with ex-Fleetwood Mac guitarist Bob Welch and Nazz drummer Thom Mooney in a mid-Seventies trio, Paris.
Neither of Cornick’s later bands are on Spotify, so this jukebox is all Tull, classic and deep with diversions, including that “Aeroplane” rarity (it was actually a John Evan Smash recording, with the horns taken out) and Tull’s performance on the Rolling Stones’ Rock and Roll Circus TV special with Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi. “His background in the beat groups of the North of England and his broad knowledge of music was always helpful in establishing the arrangements of the early Tull,” Anderson said of Cornick in a tribute on Jethro Tull’s website. The front and center evidence on this playlist: the opening dance of bass and flute in “Bourée,” Anderson’s popular adaption of Bach’s “Bourée in E Minor” on Stand Up.
Follow the legacy from there.