The first band that opens your mind to the possibilities of music will always be special to you, regardless how much your taste in music evolves after that. For me, Jethro Tull were that band. Not that you need to be told that. Indeed, since I first started writing for Backseat Mafia last year, I’ve probably written more words about Jethro Tull, than I have any other band.
It was made public this morning that Tull’s original bass player, Glenn Cornick (he of the round glasses, flowing hair and the iconic headband) passed away at his home in Hawaii on Friday 29th August, from congestive heart failure.
Cornick was not a widely acknowledged as an iconic bass player in the same way that John Entwistle or Jack Bruce have been, however he made his own mark on Tull’s first trio of albums, and his later work with his own band, Wild Turkey. Of his many accomplishments, Cornick will probably be best remembered with the instantly recognisable opening bass line of Tull’s biggest hit, the surprisingly complex 5/4 time “Living in the Past”, however he played a larger part of Tull’s story than many would realise. Other than frontman, Ian Anderson, Cornick was the only band member to make the transition from the Blackpool based John Evan Band, to the London-based quartet that would become Jethro Tull. Over Tull’s first three albums, bluesy debut This Was, the startling Stand Up, and the atmospheric and slightly sweaty Benefit, Glenn Cornick was a vital piece of the Tull jigsaw, his fluid swaying motion around the stage, flowing hippy locks and head-band, a necessary counterpoint to Anderson’s bug-eyed lunacy on vocals and flute.
Be it Cornick’s dependable rhythmic relationship with drummer Clive Bunker, or his startling bass solo on the band’s cover of J S Bach’s “Bouree” (later Tull bass player, Jonathan Noyce, would point to it as the most demanding part of the live Tull set for him, where he’d ‘just have to not think about it and give it some welly’), Cornick very much made his presence felt on Tull’s first three albums, arguably among the band’s most enduring output.
Following the release of Benefit, Cornick was invited to leave Jethro Tull. The story as to exactly why has never been made entirely clear, as both he and Anderson remained cagey about the details in the decades since. Cornick would form his own band, Wild Turkey, which enjoyed modest success in the early to mid 70s and in later years he was a regular and popular guest at classic rock conventions, looking back on his time with Tull with great fondness and enjoying the relationship he had with the band’s fans.
Simply put, without Glenn Cornick, there would have been no Jethro Tull. While he was only a member of that band for a few short years, they were arguably the band’s most vital period and as such, I will always have a great fondness for the music he produced.
Goodbye Glenn, you were a key part of my formative musical years.