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~ "Do You Still See Me Even Here.........?"
Seven years of Virtual Jethro Tull community
~

By Jan Voorbij


This article is not about the art of Jethro Tull, but about the people who appreciate it. To be more specific: it's about the fans that virtually meet on the internet, exchange their views, opinions and information, design and maintain Tull-websites, or just drop in for an occasional Tull-chat.

This article was originally published in the November 2001 issue of Bert Maessen's magazine "That's NOT the way Ian planned it - The Jethro Tull bootleg magazine".


WWW and Tull, does that ring a bell? There are over 150 of them: websites dedicated to Jethro Tull. They vary in design, size, quantity and quality of information, purpose or intention - you name it. But what the webmasters of these sites and their visitors together have achieved is, that Jethro Tull has become one of the best documented bands on the worldwide web.
How did that happen? Can we speak of a virtual Tull community? And what are the sites that are a must for every Tull-follower on the globe? This article is an attempt to answer these questions.

* Way back in the year …. 1994

When I got access to internet in 1996, I discovered to my astonishment that there was a lot of activity going on when it comes to Jethro Tull. As a Tull-follower I had been rather isolated from others who shared the same passion, ever since most fans I knew backed off in 1973, when A Passion Play was released. This album for most of them simply was too much to cope with. And since I was always a guilder short or a day late I missed out on all the seventies gigs! What a bummer…

What I came across on the worldwide web were a few Tull-sites that offered information on the various aspects of Jethro Tull. One of the pioneers was Mike Lynch who in 1994 had launched his Tull-site The Paradise Steakhouse. ( http://www.fredcorp.com/tull/ ). For over 6 years this site was the most frequented one, until first Dag Sandbu's site and later the Official Tull site took over. There was a handful of comparable Tull-sites operational back then, trying to cover the whole scope, which inevitably led to overlap, limited informational quality and the practice of "borrowing" eachothers' graphics.

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Another very successful initiative, dating from 1992, was Dave Steiner's
"St. Cleve Chronicle" (SCC).
This moderated Jethro Tull mailing list reached its peak in 1999, counting over 6800 subscribers from all continents! This list offered an important feature: interactivity, which was the internet was intended for in the first place. There was a new issue every month. People who were subscribed back then will certainly remember the ardent discussions, the exchanges of information, views, interpretations and memories. There were a lot of regular posters and the need for information was huge. Bear in mind that in those days there were only a few "paper sources", like A New Day, two or three fanzines and Bert's magazine that offered information on Tull. The SCC was the first platform where in-depth discussions took place.
Though Mike's and Dave's sites are still on-line, they were no longer maintained nor updated since 1999 and these pioneers seem to have evaporated into thin air…. alas.

The third platform where Tull-fans could virtually meet was the Usenet newsgroup alt.music.jethro-tull (AMJT). Like the SCC it had its regular posters, but the nature of the medium made the contents more direct and shallow. It started as an all American thing, but over the years more and more posters from Europe, IsraŽl, South America and Australia joined in. Like so many newsgroups, AMJT was infected by so-called "trolls", people who like to distort discussions by insulting and embarassing posters. I'm under the impression that the regulars from the beginning have found a virtual Tull-home elsewhere

Many Tull-fans, who got access to the internet in the mid-nineties participated in all these platforms and had come to know eachother well. I estimate that in those days a group of about 60 people, mainly Americans, had regular contacts. Even appointments were made to visit Tull-concerts together, pictures were shared and bootleg tape trading flourished. There it was: the virtual Tull community of fans, generally in their thirties and forties, who in most cases had never met in the flesh, but nevertheless had become friends in due time.

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* The second generation sites

Then something remarkable happened. In 1997-1999 a new generation of Tull-sites was launched. Instead of covering the full scope of Tull, the webmasters of these sites specialised and focussed on one or two aspects of the band and its music. These sites became very popular in a relatively short time and - more important - derived their success not only from the efforts of their webmasters, but to a great extent from the contributions of fans who visited their sites! And on top of that we can recently see how these webmasters, instead of competing, cooperate by passing on information that is relevant for their colleagues'site, thus improving the overall quality and diversity. There seems to be a drive, an urge, a mission perhaps to make Jethro Tull one of the best documented bands on the internet.

This development - that has been underway for about three years now - shows in my opinion five things:
1. It is in the interest of the fans that both in-depth and recent information on Tull is available anytime. The mutual interest of webmasters and visitors has produced a lot of unknown information; saving it from oblivion
2. The Tull-site "that has it all" is an outdated concept and makes maintaining too complicated and updating too late;
3. Visitors tend to commit themselves to the sites they appreciate and contribute, which proves that we can speak of a community.
4. Paper resources are gradually replaced by - or at least additional - to virtual ones.
5. Mr. Anderson and his gang should be proud of his fans, for they offer him much more than the money they spend on CD's and concert tickets: a loyalty not many bands experience these days.

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* J-Tull Dot Com

Somewhere in the course of 1998, Jethro Tull must have become more and more aware of the fact that the popularity of the internet could serve them well. By launching their official site they could directly and on a far larger scale provide their fans with the latest information, but also use it as a marketing tool. When we take in account that Tull gets very little airplay and not much publicity in papers and music magazines, the importance of this relatively new medium is obvious. In January 1999 the Official Jethro Tull Website was launched and promoted by naming their new album after their site: J-TULL DOT COM.

* Who are they?

The question rises as to what the virtual Tull-community consists of anno 2001. Who are these people? This one is not easy to answer as my perspective is limited. But I'll give it a try.
Last month I've been counting the names of people who regularly post in Tull-newsgroups, forums and clubs and this search produced the names of about 130 fans. They are the regulars, the most dedicated fans and form the true blood nucleus of this virtual community.

Apart from that there is a second group: an unknown number of "lurkers": people who for one reason or another only read postings in newsgroups, clubs and forums, but seldom or never write one themselves. Important is that they want to stay informed. There must be hundreds of them, but no one knows exactly how many.

The third group is formed by the people who regularly visit Tull-sites and come back over time. Only a thorough statistic survey of the most popular websites could give us some information. They remain a mystery, but I don't think their number exceeds one hundred. People who sign guest books on websites, but are never heard of again belong to this group too.

There is a fourth and mysterious group: these are the occasional visitors; people who only visit Tull-sites before and/or after Tull performed in their neighbourhood, state or country. Some of them ask questions by email. I haven't the foggiest idea about how many fans this group counts. However, during the DOT COM tour in 1999, I almost could follow the band's touring by monitoring daily the visitors of my site.

Most of the regulars are people who are in their thirties, forties or fifties. But the amount of emails I have been receiving since 1998 from people who are in their late teens or twenties is so significant, that I tend to assume that a new generation is discovering Tull. They show themselves very interested and have a great appetite for information. Some of them even launched their own Tull-site: (check e.g.
The Whistler In The Gallery)

Now let's see what this Tull-community eventually produced.

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* Quality Tull-sites

Below you find my short reviews of 13 sites that have something special to offer. In selecting, I tried to keep the overlaps of contents as limited as possible, and though most of them offer more, I focus on the speciality that makes them so attractive.

1. Tull's Virtual Home:

Title The Offcial Jethro Tull Website
URL http://www.j-tull.com/
Country of origin UK
Webmaster Andrew Giddings, Tullwebber@aol.com
Speciality News, information on the band's members, tourdates.
Other features The band's equipment, links, press kit, pics, discography, management & production, merchandise, email addresses.
Update frequency every two months or so
Launch date January 1999
Comments The site was intended to provide the fans with actual information, but doesn't stand up to it. A band of this class and merit should IMO have a professionally hosted and maintained website, that is updated every two weeks. Andy Giddings is just too busy and design and contents both could be improved.

2. Video clips for who wasn't there

Title Laufi's Tull World
URL http://www.laufi.de/
Country of origin Germany
Webmaster Marco Laufenberg, laufi@laufi.de
Speciality Real Media video & audio clips
Other features Tour dates & reviews, CDR-trading, bootleg guide, photo gallery, Tull Conventions, Martin Barre Band, information on German Fan Club Beggars' Farm
Update frequency every two months
Launch date January 22 1998
Comments This huge site offers a lot of information and is well-structured. The initially download takes some time due to the use of Java-script on the homepage. One of my all-time favouirites.


3. Tull-collectors' heaven

Title Collecting Jethro Tull
URL http://www.collecting-tull.com/
Country of origin Norway
Webmaster Dag Sandbu, dsandbu@online.no
Speciality Most complete discography and bootleg & collectibles guide available.
Other features Picture gallery, history of the band, Tull on the web
Update frequency weekly
Launch date 1998
Comments It might take some time to find your way around on the biggest Tull-site there is, but it certainly is rewarding. This one is my personal favourite, which I visit every other day.

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4. Tull's history in the music press

Title Jethro Tull Press
URL http://www.tullpress.com/
Country of origin UK
Webmaster Andrew Jackson
Speciality Articles in the music press about Tull from 1967 to 2001.
Other features The original pictures that go with the articles were added too after being optimised for screen display; miscellaneous pictures and press adverts are also included,search engine.
Update frequency weekly
Launch date 2000
Comments A very interesting site that not only sheds a light of Tull's genesis and development over the years, their albums and concertsbut also on how the press regarded them back then.


5. The ultimate Tull concert & set list Database

Title The Ministry Of Information
URL http://www.ministry-of-information.co.uk/
Country of origin UK
Webmaster Neil Thomason, n_r_thomason@hotmail.com
Speciality "Where did they play, when and what?": the ultimate reference when it comes to Tull tours, concerts and the setlists from 1968 to 2001 ever published (and still growing).
Other features The most detailed and very interesting interpretation of "A Passion Play", trading, links.
Update frequency weekly
Launch date 2001
Comments Wonderful exclusive design and brimmed to the full with information.


6. How to turn your computer into a Tull-machine

Title Witch's Promise
URL http://tinpan.fortunecity.com/ayers/87/main.html
Country of origin USA
Webmaster Sam Thirouin, scthir@1st.net
Speciality Jethro Tull desktop stuff: screensavers, logo screens, skins, desktop themes
Other features links
Update frequency last update August 17 2001
Launch date March 1999
Comments Ch‚peau for Sam's graphical talents.

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7. Audio files: Tull on stage

Title The Clasp, a Tull fan's community
URL http://www.digitull.com/
Country of origin India
Webmaster Varun Krishna, varunk@digitull.com
Speciality MP3 files of Tull concerts from 1969 to 2001.
Other features personal email and webspace, forum
Update frequency temporary no updates
Launch date 1998
Comments A great example of what fans' contributions eventually can produce. It takes some time to get access to the files, because submitting to Visto and specific Visto groups has to be done first, but it's really worth while.


8. Lyrics & annotations gallore

Title Cup Of Wonder - The Annotated Jethro Tull Lyrics Page
URL http://www.cupofwonder.com
Country of origin Netherlands
Webmaster Jan Voorbij, jan.voorbij@gmail.com
Speciality Annotations to over 95% of the Jethro Tull songs and introductions to each album Tull has released over the years.
Other features Album list, song list, book reviews, concert reviews, essays, links, unreleased tracks, search engine and mailing list.
Update frequency weekly
Launch date November 18 1998
Comments It's not appropriate to comment on my own site in this article, except that this huge site is a labour of love, inspired by the idea to give something in return for over 30 years of profound musical and lyrical joy, granted for free (well, ... sort of). A bit sprawling, so it takes some time to find your way around.


9. Tull photographs: a history in images

Title My Jethro Tull Photo Site
URL http://www.maxquad.tullfan.com/
Country of origin USA
Webmaster Bruce Mironov, bc-mironov20@home.com
Speciality Great concert photographs, made during tours from 1975 to 2000.
Other features Links
Update frequency every two months
Launch date June 2001
Comments Beautiful pictures of which many are of sheer professional quality. In fact a visual history of the band.

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10. Meeting with & talking to other fans

Title My Jethro Tull Club
URL http://clubs.yahoo.com/clubs/myjethrotullclub
Country of origin Denmark
Webmaster Emil Engelund, emilte@hotmail.com
Speciality Mailing list (well, sort of) where 400 fans exchange information, opinions, gig reviews and where people can react immediately to eachothers postings.
Other features Pics, member list, chatting, links
Update frequency daily, since this is a mailing list
Launch date December 1999
Comments Discussion and information exchange. Emil managed to organise chats with several Tull celebrities.


11. Tull collectors' reference

Title The Jethro Tull Archive & Reference Centre
URL http://www.electrocutas.com/
Country of origin UK
Webmaster Pete McHugh, pete@electrocutas.com
Speciality Posters, handbills, flyers, tourprogrammes, CD- & promotional singles, full tour date history, and other
collectibles.
Other features Video webcast, unofficial CD-archive, tour dates
Update frequency daily, weekly
Launch date 1999
Comments Pete managed to realise a very interesting collectibles site that serves prefectly well as reference.


12. CD-Tree of live recordings

Title TalkTull
URL http://www.tullzine.org/talktull.htm
Country of origin USA
Webmaster Kevin Smith (Vern), vernernet@juno.com
Speciality Moderated mailing list where dozens of fans exchange information, opinions, gig reviews etc.; CDR-tree with concerts and interviews.
Other features Links, photos, scrapbook and a memorial site for deceased Tull-friends: http://www.geocities.com/vernernet/tribute.html
Update frequency daily, since this is a mailing list. As for the CD-tree info: three times a year.
Launch date 1999
Comments The best Tull-forum there is. Great in-depth discussion, information and humour. Kevin also manages the Tull Ring, a platform of over 50 Tull-sites:
http://www.ringsurf.com/netring?ring=tullring;action=index


13. Guitar tabs of Tull songs

Title The Jethro Tull Guitar Page
URL http://www.geocities.com/pacojimenezz/jethrotull/home.html
Country of origin Spain
Webmaster Paco Jimenez, pacojimenezz@hotmail.com
Speciality Guitar tabs to dozens of Tull-songs, albumwise ordered.
Other features links
Update frequency monthly
Launch date March 10 2000
Comments Paco writes these tabs himself but also receives dozens from fans from all continents. His collection is rapidly growing. A dream for every guitar-playing Tull-fan. The design could have been better, but navigation is fast.


And now for the future

Coming at the closing point of this article, I would like to recommend any future Tull-webmasters to pick a single aspect of Jethro Tull that has'nt been covered yet. It will bring you many visitors because it will present information that isn't available yet, or to fragmented to study it properly. Here are some suggestions:
∑ Ian's stage personae over the years
∑ Stage banter: humour, the Tull way
∑ Musicological information
∑ Early Tull: the formative years
∑ Details on equipment & tour management
∑ Details on the recording process over the years
∑ Tull cover bands & bands and artists influenced by Tull
∑ ….?

Well, that's all for now. I hope the recommended sites will offer you a lot of information and most of all: pleasure. And while you're there, why not give the webmasters a virtual pat on the shoulder in their guest book?

IJsselstein NL, October 5 2001

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