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Jethro Tull Can’t Escape Rabbit Costumes – Real Life ‘Spinal Tap’ Stories

Spinal Tap Jethro Tull


One of the most famous moments in ‘Spinal Tap’ finds bassist Derek Smalls trapped in a pod on stage, fighting to get out as his bandmates performed ‘Rock and Roll Creation’ without him. For Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson, that hit close to home — very close.

Only this time, the snafu involved rabbit suits during an early-’70s tour in support of ‘A Passion Play,’ rather than strange on-stage cocoons.

Anderson relayed his story as part of our ongoing series of rock star memories in honor of the classic mockumentary’s 30th anniversary. Turns out, even high-brow proggers like Anderson have had their share of ‘Tap’-style disasters.

There’s also a weird coincidence associated with Tull and the same Smalls character. But, more on that in a moment. First, about rabbit suits…

“We started a U.S. tour in 1973 in Buffalo, N.Y., where we began the show – without proper rehearsals – by appearing on stage in giant white rabbit costumes,” Anderson remembers. “Each rabbit suit had a zip in the back so after a bit of wild dancing to the taped intro music, we lined up across the stage one in front of the other where the plan was that each rabbit would unzip the rabbit in front, the musician occupants would burst out of the rabbit suits playing their instruments and the live show would begin.”

Derek Smalls could have told you what happened next.

“The zips jammed on two of the rabbit suits – so the band line-up was somewhat depleted as the road crew wrestled with the suits and ended up cutting the musicians free with box knives.”

Actually, it’s fitting that something from the film would echo in real life for Anderson, because he has made at least two concrete connections between Jethro Tull and Spinal Tap.

“It should also be remembered – as ‘coincidences’ go – that the name ‘Derek Small’ appears on both the ‘Thick as a Brick’ and ‘Passion Play’ album covers, some 10 years before the ‘Tap’ movie,” Anderson says. “Ah, well – get your inspiration where you can find it.”

Anderson has previously said that one of the movie’s advisors was a label representative who toured with Jethro Tull, as well. Meanwhile, a new reissue of ‘A Passion Play’ is planned for 2014.

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