IAN ANDERSON Says MOTÖRHEAD And MÖTLEY CRÜE's 'Spurious Use Of The Umlaut' Was 'Silly'

May 18, 2023

JETHRO TULL recently released its 23rd studio album, "RökFlöte", via InsideOut Music. Following 2022's "The Zealot Gene", the group's first LP in two decades, Ian Anderson and his bandmates are returning with a 12-track record based on the characters and roles of some of the principal gods of the old Norse paganism, and at the same time exploring the "RökFlöte" — rock flute — which JETHRO TULL has made iconic.

Speaking to the "Rock, Paper, Swords!" about the use of the umlauts in "RökFlöte" and his recent comments making fun of MOTÖRHEAD or MÖTLEY CRÜE for adding umlauts to their names, Ian said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "I am mocking. I am a bit of a fan of MOTÖRHEAD. But looking back on it, [late MOTÖRHEAD leader] Lemmy's fascination for World War I and World War II, which he was an amateur historian and I think took it all very seriously. But he was fascinated by the dark side of the Nazi era; there's absolutely no mistaking that. And [there's] nothing wrong with having an interest in history and trying to rationalize it, know about it, understand it — nothing wrong with that at all — as long as you don't start dressing up in a way that makes it look like you are somehow supportive of some dark elements in history. And the spurious use of the umlaut, I can only imagine, is a fascination for something that isn't necessarily a dark thing. I mean, the umlaut is a part of spelling — it's not only the German people; it appears in Icelandic, for example. There may be a connection. But I think making a bit of a joke about it in terms of naming your band and including an umlaut just because it makes it look like you're a tough guy, which I think is the only explanation for that, in the case of those two bands [MOTÖRHEAD or MÖTLEY CRÜE]. At the very least, it's a bit silly. Silly in a way that Monty Python would have said, 'Silly.' And I think that's, in actual fact, what it's about. If you're gonna use it, for god's sake, use it correctly and properly in the language that you're speaking. 'Rök', old Icelandic word meaning 'destiny', and 'Flöte' being the German pronunciation and spelling of the instrument I play. Utterly correct. And I chose to do it knowing that it was going to be potentially — not courting disaster, but courting a bit of comparison, which is why I readily point out that other folk who have done it have been a bit silly."

Anderson previously discussed his use of the umlauts in an interview last month with Finland's Chaoszine. At the time, he said: "If you're going to bring an umlaut into the world in a rock album — not just one but two in the title alone — then you've gotta be sure of your ground. And it's, to me, kind of important that there's a real reason for those umlauts, partly because 'Rök', in old Icelandic is spelled with an umlaut, a word meaning 'destiny', and 'Flöte' in the German language has an umlaut over the 'O'. So they are legitimate; they are correct — unlike MOTÖRHEAD or MÖTLEY CRÜE. There are those sort of use of the umlaut which is suggestive of something that has to do with an era of history that I think we should put behind us. We shouldn't forget it, but we shouldn't be, in some way, showing any infatuation with that world today.

"Lemmy once referred to the umlaut in MOTÖRHEAD, he referred to it as the 'Nazi dots.' I mean he that many years ago — obviously, when he was alive — but if he was to do that today, he'd probably be finding himself vilified for some fascination with that Nazi era."

Anderson added: "Lemmy, in his simple way, was a bit of a historian about aspects of militaria and warfare, but it might have bordered on the unhealthy side of normal. [Laughs]"

Earlier in April, Anderson told Germany's Radio Bob! about the use of the umlauts in "RökFlöte" and how he would like people to pronounce the title of the new JETHRO TULL LP: "Well, I would probably prefer to stick with the typical Germanic-language pronunciation, but it's also the pronunciation in Icelandic from which I derived some of the ideas on the album, coming from the Poetic Edda of old Icelandic literature and the first attempt to write down the mythology and the beliefs of the old Norse world of paganism, adventure and so on and so forth. So it began, before I started work on the album, it had a working title of 'Rock Flute', in English, because I thought, 'I'm gonna make a rock album and it'll have a lot of flute on it.' So that was what was at the top of my page when I started work on January the 1st of 2022. And during the course of the day, I narrowed down my thoughts about the subject matter to deciding that I would write — focusing, really, on some of the Gods from Norse paganism, the polytheistic beliefs in Norse religion. And in a fanciful way I decided that perhaps the title should become not 'Rock' but 'Rök', which in old Icelandic means 'destiny', and 'Flöte', which is the German- and other Germanic-language pronunciation and spelling of flute, the instrument I play. So that's what it became. And I changed the heading at the top of my page of notes to reflect that and did a lot of research about the identity, characters and the roles of Norse Gods with a view to writing about them in, not in humorous way but in a light-hearted way to describe their characters and their personalities. And then, in the final 40 percent of each set of lyrics, the final two stanzas are bringing those characters and those roles into a context, into a parallel context of the world that I know today, or since I was born. And that was really the focus for the album, for all the tracks, partly looking at the historical, analytical side of it and partly creating a parallel set of analogies in the present day."

He added: "The umlauts are there for a legitimate reason because they are correct in the linguistic spelling, whereas the misappropriation of the umlaut at the hands of, for instance, MÖTLEY CRÜE or MOTÖRHEAD ought to make you either laugh or get angry, depending on your point of view."

MOTÖRHEAD leader Lemmy had said that he "pinched" the idea for putting the umlaut on the second O of the band's name from his friends in BLUE ÖYSTER CULT. He later said that he "only put it there to look mean".

As for how the members of MÖTLEY CRÜE decided to add the umlauts to their name, singer Vince Neil recounted: "I can remember it like it was yesterday. We were drinking Löwenbräu, and when we decided to call ourselves MÖTLEY CRÜE, we put some umlauts in there because we thought it made us look European. We had no idea that it was a pronunciation thing. When we finally went to Germany, the crowds were chanting, 'Mutley Cruh! Mutley Cruh!' We couldn't figure out why the fuck they were doing that."

"RökFlöte" is available on several different formats, including two limited deluxe formats that include bonus demo material, extensive liner notes and a Blu-ray featuring Dolby Atmos, 5.1 Surround Sound, alternative stereo mixes by Bruce Soord (THE PINEAPPLE THIEF),as well as a bonus track and in-depth interview with Anderson. The album will also be available digitally in the spatial audio formats Dolby Atmos and Sony 360 RA.

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