You cannot compare Ian Anderson’s contributions to rock history with anyone else. The man took a look around at his contemporaries and was convinced that he could not compete with them as a guitar player. So, naturally, he took up the flute. The newly released DVD Nothing is Easy: Live at the Isle of Wight 1970 is a fascinating look at Jethro Tull at a very early stage of their career: before Thick as a Brick, before Aqualung, before the hits and before the duds. The cultural significance of the Isle of Wight is not lost on Anderson, who says in the film, “It was a great chance to see a lot of weird stuff going on and be there at the kill, because this was the end of the hippy ideal, this is where the whole thing imploded.”
The DVD peppers in a lot of documentary footage of some of the back story of Isle of Wight, including power struggles between money hungry organizers and music hungry concertgoers and artists. Sound checks were used as excuses to push people outside of the festival area, in the alleged hopes of making more money. The crowd was told that the artists had demanded this. Needless to say that 600,000 muddy fans didn’t take kindly to the ham-handed attempts by the organizers to use the bands as bait to extract more cash from them. The organizers come off like amateur business hacks. I can imagine them now wishing that this footage had been destroyed years ago. The disc is worth seeing if only to watch their abject ineptitude.
Eventually, they got it right, as organizers requested that the fences be brought down to allow anyone and everyone to come and go as they pleased. The music won out, and it was under positive vibes that Jethro Tull took the stage at Isle of Wight on the last night of the festival. Anderson made a point to debunk the notion that the bands were demanding the fans to leave for their sound check. The disc juxtaposes Tull’s sound check of “Bouree” along with fans arguing with the dim-witted organizers. Priceless.