Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson remembers winning heavy metal Grammy over Metallica to 'boos and hisses and gasps of disbelief'

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Jethro Tull’s unexpected 1989 Grammy win over Metallica in the newly created Hard Rock/Metal Performance category still resonates, decades later. For his part, frontman Ian Anderson thinks the nod was more about paying tribute to the band’s lengthy history than necessarily designating Jethro Tull as a better metal band than Metallica.

“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,” the flute-playing Anderson tells Powerline. “They gave us the award because we were a bunch of nice guys who never won a Grammy before.”

For all of the wailing and gnashing of teeth amongst fans, both Jethro Tull and Metallica ended up having a little fun with the situation. Tull’s label famously placing an advertisement in Billboard magazine that said: “The flute is a heavy, metal instrument.” A year later, when Metallica belatedly claimed its own Grammy in the Hard Rock/Metal Performance category, the band’s label placed its own ad thanking a long list of people — including “Jethro Tull, for not bringing out a new album that year.”

Anderson still takes a similar impish glee in the win, adding: “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.”

Here’s a look back at our thoughts on Jethro Tull and Metallica, Click through the headline for the complete review …

ON SECOND THOUGHT: METALLICA – ST. ANGER (2003): Some trademark riffs were noticeable here and there, but essentially the band’s sound on St. Anger was all new, and as such I had to listen to this as if the band was new to me too. And what I heard was, if not especially groundbreaking, an aggressive, honest assault that was straining to free itself of the past while doing the very things the band knows the fans love about them. No, it’s still not perfect: James Hetfield’s singing is not a highlight by any means (where is that growl we all loved so much, James?), and there’s nary a guitar solo out of Kirk Hammett to be found. But if you give it an honest chance, it might just work its way into you the way their old material did.

JETHRO TULL – AQUALUNG (1971; 40th ANNIVERSARY EDITION): Aqualung was — and still is — an album that’s simply bursting with strange, forgotten, sometimes unsavory characters (not least of which is the leering homeless man of its title track) as well as blunt questions about faith and its earthly trappings (“My God,” and the closing “Wind Up”). A highlight is “Locomotive Breath,” this chillingly prophetic indictment (recorded, mind you, four decades ago) of over population that kept building — relentlessly, improbably — towards popular music’s most distinctive flute solo. Ian Anderson completely rocks an aerophone on this one, making for a curiously involving, out-of-nowhere delight. — Nick DeRiso

LOU REED AND METALLICA – LULU (2011): As per usual, there were a lot of reviewers out there straining themselves to come up with clever ways to say how much they hated this record. This reminds me of St. Anger, which had a kind of brutal and claustrophobic intensity that really dug in. And speaking of brutal, Frank Wedekind’s Lulu plays were drenched in it — a young German dancer sexing it up with rich men, rampant violence, and even a collision with Jack the Ripper. So all of those comments about Reed’s “random mumblings” are more than a little off base. Me, I kinda dig it when Reed is croaking out “Jack, I beseech you!!” as the boys are grinding away behind him.

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