Glenn Cornick interview about Jethro Tull, Wild Turkey…
You played bass in a number of bands before joining Jethro Tull, including Jailbreakers, The Vikings, Formula One, The Hobos, The Executives, and John Evan’s Smash. I know that The Executives did release some singles, but I am not sure for other bands. Can you help me out?
I did one single with the Executives – it might have been called ‘Lock your Door’. I don’t remember much of it. That was the first real recording that I had ever made. Later, in ’66 or early ’67 we did some recordings with Derek Lawrence as John Evan Smash and they have since been released as the Derek Lawrence Sessions as it was the nucleus of the Jethro Tull Band. Other than those, there aren’t any other early recordings.
How did it all start for you? By that I mean where did you start playing bass? I would like to hear a story of your teen years and perhaps if you can tell me what are some of your influences?
Everyone in Britain loved the Shadows (Cliff Richard’s backing band and stars also in their own right) and every boy wanted to be like them. I got an acoustic guitar when I was about 15 and learned some chords. A school friend of mine played bass in a local band and I used to go see him play in pubs. I wanted to be in a band and I tried to get a job as a rhythm guitarist. There was nothing around but I heard someone wanted a bass player. I traded my guitar for a bass at the local music shop and that evening did my first ever gig. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing and I only did 2 gigs with that band before I was fired but I liked the bass and stayed with it. It is my natural instrument and I will never be as comfortable playing anything else. After that (and after some serious practice at home) I found a job playing bass with a newly formed band called the Vikings and that was my real start in music. When I was about 17, I felt I needed to leave the small town where I lived and move somewhere with more chance of musical advancement. I ran away from home to Blackpool with my Fender bass and a backpack and never really ever returned home! My influences at the time were of course, Jet Harris from the Shadows and after that, a great bass player called Cliff Barton who played on an album called ‘Long John’s Blues’ with Long John Baldry. Now my absolute favourite player is Ashton ‘Family Man’ Barrett from the Wailers.
Around 1967 a new band was born, called Jethro Tull.
I played with several bands in Blackpool and in the end joined a band known as the ‘John Evan Band’ or the ‘John Evan Smash’. We were one of the better bands from Blackpool and when the popularity of blues bands happened in London we decided to move down there and play just blues music. That was the beginning of what became Jethro Tull. It took us about a year to start having some success.
How do you remember the early days with Jethro Tull before releasing your first album?
I believe that we were successful because we worked harder than any other band in Britain. In the early days, we were playing for almost no money in tiny blues clubs all over the country and we played almost every night – maybe to only 40 or 50 people but we always put on a good show and all those people remembered us so that when we had our first album, they bought it and when we did bigger gigs, they all came to see us. For a time Ian and I lived in Luton in the worst little apartments you ever saw and we were so poor that we would share one can of stew or soup between us each evening. (Listen to the song ‘We Used To Know’ from ‘Stand Up’ as it tells that story). It was hard but it was also great because we were all doing what we really wanted and within months it improved.
On October 1968 you released now legendary album ‘This Was’. In the early Jethro Tull period you were an amazing blues band. What’s the story behind making ‘This Was’?
We had no experience with recording and almost no money. Our manager borrowed the money to make the record from the bank as he wanted us to have complete control over the album and to own the rights to it. That was a new idea as almost every album was funded by a record company who were then able to tell the band what to do. We were able to go to Island Records with a completed album with finished artwork and everything and say,”Here’s our album. Would you like to release it?”. They wouldn’t need to risk money on the production and they were able to see the finished product. It was recorded in a small studio in Chelsea called ‘Sound Techniques’ – a great live room for recording acoustic music but less than ideal for doing loud electric instruments. It was done on 4 track so the drums and bass were always together on one track – primitive but probably suitable for the music we were playing at the time. Mixing was just adjusting the levels – it would be “should we make the drums and bass louder?” or “should we put more top end on the guitar?” – nothing more complex than that. It was mixed in both Mono and Stereo but most of the first British copies went out in Mono as most people didn’t have stereo players at that time.
Then came ‘Stand Up’ with its unique sound, blending elements of hard rock, prog jazz, and folk/prog. I would like to know what are your strongest memories from the recording session and the production of the LP?
For Stand Up, we were recording at Morgan Studios on 8 track – a huge advancement for us! The engineer was Andy Johns and he was great to work with and had many fun ideas. We would go into the studio one day at a time between other gigs and things. We would go in at 9 in the morning and leave by 6 P.M. with a finished mixed track. It was done over a period of several weeks whenever we had free days. It was great for me to work with Andy because he was also a bass player (it’s him playing bass on ‘Look into the Sun’) so he had a good understanding of bass sounds and our tastes were similar. He was very experimental. In the beginning of “New Day Yesterday” the guitar sounds like it is played through a Leslie cabinet. It was actually Andy standing in front of Martin’s amp and swinging a Shure SM58 microphone in a circle in front of it! We still thought we were a blues band. You don’t consciously change the direction of your music. It just happens naturally so we were all shocked when the album was released and people said “Oh, they’re not playing blues anymore”.
Your last album with Jethro Tull was ‘Benefit’. What happened next?
We did a lot of touring in the States playing the ‘Benefit’ songs and even some things that would later go onto ‘Aqualung’. I don’t think the band was ever better than we were at that time. At the end of one of the tours at the end of 1970, I was fired. No reason has ever been given.
If you don’t mind I would like to hear a story or two about touring with Jethro Tull. How was it?
It was more fun than any young man could ever hope to enjoy. I loved being on the road though the others were not so keen on it. We would go to the States for 30 days and play 30 different cities! It was fast and exciting and very hard work. We were playing on an equal level with all the great bands in the world. We were friends with all those bands and people who, 18 months earlier had been my heroes. Amongst many others were Jimi Hendrix, the Who, Zepplin, Mountain, Johnny Winter, Jeff Beck Group, Eric Clapton, Chuck Berry, Creedence Clearwater, Booker T and the MG’s and dozens more! Surprisingly, we were quite straight. There were almost no drugs around and not a lot of drinking. It was such hard work that there wasn’t time to lose control. We had to be up every morning by at least 7 A.M. to eat breakfast and get to the airport to get to the next city.
After leaving Jethro Tull, you formed Wild Turkey in 1971, initially with: Graham Williams on guitar, Alan ‘Tweke’ Lewis on guitar, John “Pugwash” Weathers (ex Pete Brown & Piblokto!) on drums and Gary Pickford-Hopkins (ex Eyes of Blue) on vocals; but Weathers and Williams left to join Graham Bond’s Magick before Wild Turkey recorded any material. They were replaced by Jon Blackmore on guitar and vocals and Jeff Jones (ex Man) on drums who joined you, Tweke and Gary to record Wild Turkey’s first album Battle Hymn. The album was promoted on UK and US tours supporting Black Sabbath; Tony Iommi having briefly played with Cornick in Jethro Tull. What can you tell us about Wild Turkey’s first album? Why such a strange name?
After Tull I didn’t know what to do. Our manager, Terry Ellis suggested I form a band so I put together Wild Turkey. We were a pretty good band but we probably should have spent more time working on improving ourselves. I think we just had too much fun and never really approached it as a job. No reason for the name ‘Wild Turkey’. It was the best of several suggestions at the time. We did tour a lot in Europe and the USA with Black Sabbath. It was great fun but didn’t do much for our careers.
In 1972 Mick Dyche replaced Jon Blackmore, Steve Gurl joined on keyboards and the band recorded their second album Turkey. Early in 1974, Lewis left to join Man and Wild Turkey continued with one guitar player until Bernie Marsden joined. Kevin Currie then replaced Jones on drums. When Pickford-Hopkins left to join Rick Wakeman, it was decided to disband Wild Turkey, in June 1974. Gurl and Marsden joined Babe Ruth. What happened? You were an amazing musicians together…
After 4 years of playing together with no real success, when Gary left, it seemed hopeless to start again. I think we were all ready for a change.
After you disbanded with Wild Turkey you joined a German band called Karthago. They made two albums before you joined.
After the break up of Wild Turkey, I felt I needed to get out of Britain for a time. (Though I never planned it, I never returned). I called everyone I knew in music around the world and told them I was looking for a gig. The first offer was from West Berlin so I went there! It was a great change to live there for a year. It was a very exciting place at the time. Soon after I joined the band, they were ready to record a new album so we went to a village in England, I think it was Chipping Norton, and we recorded the album. I never felt I was really right for their music but it gave me a break to be in a different environment. Funnily enough, the “Rock ‘n’ Roll Testament” album was just re released a couple of months ago in new fancy packaging.
After that you went to form Paris with guitarist Bob Welch (ex Fleetwood Mac) and Thom Mooney (ex Nazz) on drums. You recorded an eponymous album ‘Paris’ in 1975, before Mooney was replaced by Hunt Sales (ex Todd Rundgren’s Runt), and in 1976 recorded ‘Big Towne, 2061’. What can you tell me about this music project?
I had met Bob Welch in Paris (hence the name of the band) a couple of years earlier as he was a close friend of my first wife, Judy. She had in fact suggested him to Mick Fleetwood for the job with Fleetwood Mac. After he left Mac, he wanted to form a band and approached me. I was ready to leave Germany so I decided to come to the States to work with him for a few months (not knowing that I would never leave!) Paris is not a band that I am very proud of. Once again, I don’t think enough effort was put into working on the material and the show and too much attention was put into image and overall appearance. I don’t really think the material was strong enough. It lasted for about 2 years with no real success then Bob went on to do his solo project which was successful for a brief time.
What did you do after Paris? I know that you made another album with Wild Turkey called ‘Stealer of Years’. How did you get together again? How do you like the album?
I didn’t play much after Paris. Did a few things around L.A. and then pretty much stopped working in music for several years. After some time, I got involved in the L.A. Irish scene which, at the time was great fun and I was involved in that for quite a few years. I had a call from Britain to see if I wanted to do a new Wild Turkey album. I agreed to do it but I left most of the work to Gary and Tweke. I only had chance to write a couple of songs. It isn’t an album that I feel connected to. It really isn’t a Wild Turkey album and has no continuity with the previous albums. It isn’t bad, it’s just not my style of music though there are a couple of high points on it. I think Gary’s vocal on ‘Gunslinger’ is the best vocal he ever did and I think that ‘St Catherine’s Bells’ is probably the best song I have ever written.
In the early 2000s two live albums were released, and in 2006 the fourth studio album, ‘You and Me in the Jungle’.
I think the 2 live albums are interesting as archives but that’s all. When I was given the chance to do a new album, I decided that it would be the album that I wanted to do so I started writing it and planning out everything. I had a great time writing the songs and, for me, it is my favourite album that I have ever been involved in. I did practically everything including the cover artwork so it really is ‘my project’. I also wanted to involve Pugwash Weathers and Graham Williams in it as they had helped form Wild Turkey but left before we ever played or recorded. Pugwash is suffering from Multiple Sclerosis so can no longer play drums but I used him to arrange percussion and play some percussion parts and Graham plays guitar on a couple of tracks. I do believe that the album carries on from the first 2 Wild Turkey albums. There was some criticism that the album was not sufficiently ‘Prog rock” but I actually don’t like most prog rock and I find it more satisfying to write well crafted pop songs.
You are working on your new Wild Turkey album.
Unfortunately not. It is difficult to keep a band together from half way around the world. The other guys live in Britain and I live in Hawaii! We had a great time with the last album and the tour but health problems within the band make it unlikely that we ever play together again.
What are some of your future plans?
Last year I wrote a couple of dozen new songs but they are all in a Scottish style so they wouldn’t be appropriate for a rock band. Maybe once I am settled here ( I’ve only been here for a couple of months) I will see about finding some people to work with. I would love to hear the new songs performed. They are very different from anything I have ever done before.
I have to thank you for your time and effort. I am really happy we did this. Would you like to share anything else perhaps?
Only my apologies for taking months to finally do this interview but, at least I had a good excuse. During that time I managed to move my family and everything I own from California to Hawaii.