Thick as a Brick

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Thick as a Brick
JethroTullThickAsABrick.jpg
Studio album by Jethro Tull
Released 10 March 1972
Recorded December 1971
Studio Morgan Studios, London
Genre Progressive rock
Length 43:46
Label Chrysalis (Europe)
Reprise (America, Japan and Oceania)
Producer Ian Anderson, Terry Ellis
Jethro Tull chronology
Aqualung
(1971)
Thick as a Brick
(1972)
Living in the Past
(1972)
Alternative cover
The cover of the 1997 25th anniversary re-release. Note the vertically elongated front page image and the completely different leftmost panel.

Thick as a Brick is the fifth studio album by the British rock band Jethro Tull, released in 1972. The album is notable for only including one song, which spans the entire album. Thick as a Brick was deliberately crafted in the style of a concept album, as well as a "bombastic" and "over the top" parody of the then-prevalent vogue for concept albums. The original packaging, designed like a newspaper, claims the album to be a musical adaptation of an epic poem by the fictional 8-year-old genius Gerald Bostock, though the lyrics were actually written by the band's frontman, Ian Anderson.

The album was recorded in about three weeks in December 1971, featuring music composed by Anderson and arranged with the contribution of all band members. The live show of 1972 included the playing of the full suite, with various comic interruptions. Thick as a Brick is considered by critics the first release by Jethro Tull entirely consisting of progressive rock music and received mixed reviews upon its release. Nonetheless, it was a commercial success and topped various charts in 1972. Today it is regarded as a classic of progressive rock and received several accolades. Ian Anderson produced a follow-up to the album in 2012, focused on the adult life of Gerald Bostock.

Background[edit]

Band frontman Ian Anderson was surprised by the critical reaction to their previous album, Aqualung (1971), as a "concept album", a label he firmly rejects to this day. In an interview on the radio show In the Studio with Redbeard which spotlighted Thick as a Brick, Anderson's response was to "come up with something that really is the mother of all concept albums".[1] Taking Monty Python as an influence, he began to write a piece that would combine complex music with a sense of humour, with the idea it would poke light-hearted fun at the band, the audience, and the music critics.[1]

Anderson has also stated that "the album was a spoof to the albums of Yes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer, much like what the movie Airplane! had been to Airport"[2] and later stated that it was a "bit of a satire about the whole concept of grand rock-based concept albums."[3] Although Anderson wrote all the music and lyrics, he decided to co-credit the writing to a fictional schoolboy named Gerald Bostock. The humour was subtle enough that some fans believed that Bostock was real.[1] Reviewing the 40th anniversary reissue, Noel Murray suggested that many listeners of the original album "missed the joke".[4]

Recording[edit]

The group ran through two weeks of rehearsals using The Rolling Stones' basement studio in Bermondsey.[5] Anderson had not finished writing the suite, so he got up early each morning to prepare material for the rest of the band to learn that day.[6] Recording started in December 1971 at Morgan Studios in London.[5] Unlike previous albums, where Anderson had generally written songs in advance, only the initial section of the album had been worked out when the band went to record it. The remainder of the suite was pieced together in the studio.[7] Anderson recalls the album took about two weeks to record and other two or three for overdubs and mixing.[5] Guitarist Martin Barre remembers the whole band coming up with various ideas for the music,[3] and that some parts were recorded in a single take,[8] with every band member having important inputs into the music, with considerable contributions from keyboardist John Evan.[9]

Musical style[edit]

Thick as a Brick was considered by some to be Jethro Tull's first progressive rock offering,[10] coming four years after the release of their first album (1968). The epic album is notable for its many musical themes, time signature changes and tempo shifts – all of which were features of the progressive rock scene. In addition, the instrumentation includes harpsichord, xylophone, timpani, violin, lute, trumpet, saxophone, and a string section—all uncommon in the band's earlier blues-inspired rock.[11]

Cover art and packaging[edit]

The original LP cover, which opens up as a 12-page newspaper.

The original LP cover was designed as a spoof of a 12x16-inch (305x406 mm) multiple-paged small-town English newspaper, entitled The St. Cleve Chronicle and Linwell Advertiser, with articles, competitions and adverts lampooning the typical parochial and amateurish journalism of local English newspapers.[12] The record company, Chrysalis Records complained that the sleeve would be too expensive to produce, but Anderson countered that if a real newspaper could be produced, so could a spoof one.[13]

Jethro Tull's official website states about the mock-newspaper: "There are a lot of inside puns, cleverly hidden continuing jokes (such as the experimental non-rabbit), a surprisingly frank review of the album itself [written by Anderson under a pseudonym], and a little naughty connect-the-dots children's activity." The "newspaper", dated 7 January 1972, also includes the entire lyrics to "Thick as a Brick" (printed on page 7), which is presented as a poem written by Bostock,[11] whose disqualification from a poetry contest is the focus of the front page story. This article claims that although Bostock initially won the contest with "Thick as a Brick", the judges' decision was repealed after a multitude of protests and threats concerning the offensive nature of the poem, furthered by allegations of the boy's psychological instability.[14] In addition to this, the front cover includes another short article where Bostock is investigated as the father of his 14-year-old friend Julia's child, although this has been cropped out of many renditions of the cover.[15]

The contents of the newspaper were written mostly by Anderson, bassist Jeffrey Hammond and keyboardist John Evan, while its layout was designed by Chrysalis' Roy Eldridge, who had previously worked as a journalist. Anderson recalls that the cover took longer to produce than the music.[13]

The satirical newspaper was heavily abridged for conventional CD booklets, but the 25th Anniversary Special Edition CD cover is much closer to the original, and the 40th anniversary boxed version contains a nearly-complete replica of the original newspaper, missing only an article spoofing former US Tull distributor Reprise Records.[citation needed]

Live performances[edit]

Following the release of the album, the band set out on tour, playing the entire album with some extra additions that extended the performance time to over an hour.[16] For example, the flute solo of the midsection of Thick as a Brick was extended with Anderson improvisation, that contains "Boureè" and "God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen".

Before the band started a performance, men wearing capes would appear and begin sweeping the floor, counting the audience and studying the venue - after a few minutes, some of the men revealed themselves to be members of the band and began to play.[17] During some shows, the entire band stopped mid performance when a telephone rang on stage, which Anderson would answer, before carrying on performing. At some points, news and weather reports were read halfway through the show and even a man dressed head to toe in a scuba diver outfit would come onto stage and pass by as the band performed. The humor caused problems when performing in Japan, where audiences responded to the changes with bewilderment.[16] Barre recalls these first live performances being "a terrible experience"[13] as there was a lot of complex music with a variety of time signature changes to remember.[16]

Anderson performed the entire album live on tour in 2012, the first complete performances since 1972.[18] In August 2014, Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson released the CD/DVD/Blu-ray Thick as a Brick - Live in Iceland.[19] The concert was recorded in Reykjavík, Iceland on 22 June 2012 and featured complete Thick as a Brick and Thick as a Brick 2 performances by the Ian Anderson Touring Band. Some of the humour and stage antics were maintained, specially the telephone ringing in the middle of the song, replaced by a cell phone and a Skype call.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4.5/5 stars[20]
Robert Christgau C−[21]
Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide 3.5/5 stars[22]
Record Collector 4/5 stars[23]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide (1979) 2/5 stars[24]

Contemporary reviews were mixed. Chris Welch of Melody Maker praised the musicianship of the band and the improved ability with the flute by Ian Anderson, writing also that "the joke at the expense of a local newspaper wears thin rather rapidly, but should not detract from the obvious amount of thought and work that has gone into the production of 'Thick'"; he described the music as a creative effort where "the ideas flow in super abundance" but that "needs time to absorb" and "heard out of context of their highly visual stage act... does not have such immediate appeal."[25] Tony Tyler in his review for New Musical Express generally appreciated the construction of the suites and the arrangements, but he had doubts about the album's possible success. He called Thick as a Brick "Jethro Tull's own stand-or-fall epic after the lines of Tommy" and "an assault on the mediocrity and harshness of lower-middle-class existence in '70s Britain."[26] Ben Gerson in Rolling Stone magazine called Thick as a Brick "one of rock's most sophisticated and ground-breaking products." Going further, the reviewer stated: "Martin Barre's guitar and John Evan's keyboards especially shine, and Ian's singing is no longer abrasive. Whether or not Thick As A Brick is an isolated experiment, it is nice to know that someone in rock has ambitions beyond the four- or five-minute conventional track, and has the intelligence to carry out his intentions, in all their intricacy, with considerable grace."[27] But Rolling Stone's Dave Marsh gave it 2 out of 5 stars in The Rolling Stone Record Guide, claiming it had "relatively undifferentiated movements."[24] American critic Robert Christgau crushed the album calling it "the usual shit: rock (getting heavier), folk (getting feyer), classical (getting schlockier), flute (getting better because it has no choice)."[21]

Modern reviews are very positive. AllMusic reviewer writes that "Jethro Tull's first LP-length epic is a masterpiece in the annals of progressive rock, and one of the few works of its kind that still holds up decades later."[20] Jordan Blum of PopMatters thinks that the album "paved the way for modern progressive rock" and "today, it represents not only a pinnacle achievement for Jethro Tull, but also a concrete example of just how adventurous and free artists used to be." Record Collector reviewer writes that "today, free from the irrelevant context of misdiagnosis and derision that dogged it on its original release, the album sounds like nothing less than an Olympian feat of composition and musicianship."[23] According to Modern Drummer reviewer Adam Budofsky, "that it remains so elevated in progressive rock fans’ hearts and minds forty years later is a testament to its quality."[28]

The album reached the top 5 in the UK charts, and number one in Australia, Canada and the US,[29][30][31] where it was certified Gold.[32]

Prog magazine included Thick as a Brick at number 5 in their list "The 100 Greatest Prog Albums of All Time",[33] while Rolling Stone listed the album at number 7 in their "Top 50 Prog Albums of All Time".[34] Thick as a Brick is ranked number 2 in the user-managed website Prog Archives's top albums list, with an average rank of 4.64 stars.[35] Geddy Lee, from Rush, put Thick as a Brick as one of his favourite albums,[36] as did Iron Maiden's Steve Harris.[37]

Track listing[edit]

All lyrics written by "Gerald Bostock" (Ian Anderson), all music composed by Anderson.

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "Thick as a Brick, Part I"   22:40
Side two
No. Title Length
2. "Thick as a Brick, Part II"   21:06

Differences among various CD releases[edit]

By 2012 the album received four major releases on CD: the first release (1985, which featured the two tracks combined as one),[38] the MFSL-release (1989),[38] the 25th Anniversary Edition (1997), and the 40th Anniversary Edition (2012). The 1997 does not feature Ian Anderson whispering "Yeah" after the coda of Part II.

The 40th Anniversary Edition was released in November 2012, and includes a CD, a DVD, and a book. The CD contains a new mix of the album. The DVD contains a 5.1 surround sound mix (in DTS and Dolby Digital), the new stereo mix in high resolution, and the original stereo mix in high resolution. The first pressing of the DVD/CD box contained a faulty DVD with significant audio errors. A corrected replacement edition was issued later, with only a horizontal line beneath the "album duration" note on the disc label to identify it. The album was also re-released on vinyl at the same time.[39] This edition lists part one at 22:45 and part two at 21:07.

The website for the 40th anniversary edition lists these digital parts:[39]

  1. "Really Don't Mind" / "See There a Son Is Born" - 5:00
  2. "The Poet and the Painter" - 5:29
  3. "What Do You Do When the Old Man's Gone?" / "From the Upper Class" - 5:25
  4. "You Curl Your Toes in Fun" / "Childhood Heroes" / "Stabs Instrumental" - 6:48
  5. "See There a Man Is Born" / "Clear White Circles" - 5:58
  6. "Legends and Believe in the Day" - 6:34
  7. "Tales of Your Life" - 5:24
  8. "Childhood Heroes Reprise" - 2:56

Ian Anderson split it up into these parts to be sold individually on iTunes and Amazon. "Some artists choose not to do that – famously Pink Floyd – and don't want to have their music unbundled to offer it in song length pieces," he said. "But I accept that that's the musical appetite of most folks these days. They don't really have the time or the concentration to listen to a whole album in one go. They want it in manageable pieces."[12]

Personnel[edit]

Jethro Tull
Additional personnel

Charts[edit]

Year Chart Peak
position
1972 Australian Albums (Kent Music Report)[40] 1
1972 Canadian Albums (RPM)[41] 1
1972 Danish Albums (Tracklisten)[42] 1
1972 German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[43] 2
2012 German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[44]
40th Anniversary Collector's Edition
53
1972 Italian Albums (FIMI)[45] 2
2015 Italian Albums (FIMI)[46]
The Steven Wilson 2012 Stereo Remix
77
1972 Dutch Albums (MegaCharts)[47] 3
1972 Norwegian Albums (VG-lista)[48] 3
1972 UK Albums Chart (OCC)[49] 5
1972 US Billboard 200[50] 1

Certifications[edit]

Country Organization Year Sales
USA RIAA 1972 Gold (+ 500,000)[32]

In popular culture[edit]

The song itself has been played on many classic rock radio stations across the globe. Most opt to play the single edit, clocking in at approximately three minutes. However, some prefer the longer 7-minute version, which contains the Side One main theme, "Come on Ye Childhood Heroes", and the closing theme from Side Two.[relevant? ][citation needed]

In 1983, Chrisye released a cassette called Resesi (Recession), which had a cover inspired by the album. The album was re-released on CD in 2004.[citation needed]

At the end of the The Simpsons episode "Girls Just Want to Have Sums", Martin Prince sings "Thick as a Brick" until Lisa Simpson hits him with a folding chair to shut him up. The actual song plays over the closing credits.[12]

Car maker Hyundai used the song in one of their commercials in 2001. Ian Anderson recorded a new version specifically for the commercial to avoid having another artist do it. He does not drive a Hyundai, calling himself a "professional passenger."[12]

Former Gryphon' Richard Harvey has covered Thick as a Brick in the special compilation The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Plays Prog Rock Classics.[51]

Follow-ups[edit]

Thick as a Brick 2: Whatever Happened to Gerald Bostock?[edit]

On 1 February 2012, Ian Anderson announced via the official Jethro Tull website that there was to be a follow-up album, TAAB2: Whatever Happened to Gerald Bostock?. According to the Jethro Tull website, the sequel is "a full length Progressive Rock 'concept' album worthy of its predecessor. Boy to man and beyond, it looks at what might have befallen the child poet Gerald Bostock in later life. Or, perhaps, any of us."[52]

TAAB2 was released on 2 April 2012. It describes five different scenarios of Gerald Bostock's life, where he potentially becomes a greedy investment banker, a homeless homosexual man, a soldier in the Afghan War, a sanctimonious evangelist preacher, and a most ordinary man who runs a corner store and is married and childless. The original Thick as a Brick of 1972 consists of only two long tracks comprising a single song, while Thick as a Brick 2 lists 17 separate songs merged into 13 distinct tracks (some labelled as medleys), although also all flowing together much like a single song. To follow the style of the mock newspaper on the original Thick as a Brick, a mock online newspaper was set up, simply titled StCleve.[53]

Homo Erraticus[edit]

While TAAB 2 was a follow-up about Gerald Bostock, the 2014 Ian Anderson solo album Homo Erraticus was presented as a follow-up work by Gerald Bostock. In the backstory Anderson created for the album, the now middle-aged Bostock came across an unpublished manuscript by one Ernest T. Parritt (1873-1928), entitled “Homo Britanicus Erraticus”. Parritt was convinced he lived past lives as historical characters, and wrote detailed accounts of these lives in his work; he also wrote of fantasy imaginings of lives yet to come. Bostock then created lyrics based on Parritt's writings, while Anderson set them to music.[54][55]

As with the original Thick As a Brick, authorship of each song on this album is explicitly credited to both Anderson and Bostock.[54]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Rees 1998, p. 48.
  2. ^ Keresman, Mark (7 July 2013). "7/10: Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull at Symphony Hall". AZCentral. The Arizona Republic. Retrieved 21 May 2016. 
  3. ^ a b Nollen 2002, p. 83.
  4. ^ Murray, Noel (28 November 2012). "Thick As A Brick and the pleasures of the very, very, very long song". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 15 November 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c Nollen 2002, p. 82.
  6. ^ Rees 1998, pp. 48–49.
  7. ^ Morse, Tim. "Classic Tracks : Jethro Tull's Thick as a Brick". Mix 72: 176. 
  8. ^ Nollen 2002, p. 84.
  9. ^ Lalaina, Joe (17 November 2015). "Jethro Tull Guitarist Martin Barre Talks Guitars, Jimi Hendrix and "Aqualung"". Guitar World. Retrieved 21 May 2016. 
  10. ^ Smith, Bradley (2007). The Billboard Guide to Progressive Music. Billboard Books. p. 114. ISBN 9780823076659. 
  11. ^ a b c Anderson 1972, p. 7.
  12. ^ a b c d "Thick As A Brick by Jethro Tull Songfacts". Retrieved 5 February 2014. 
  13. ^ a b c Rees 1998, p. 49.
  14. ^ Anderson 1972, p. 1.
  15. ^ "Thick as a Brick". The Official Jethro Tull Website. 
  16. ^ a b c Rees 1998, p. 50.
  17. ^ Smolko 2013, p. 169.
  18. ^ ""Thick as a Brick" Played in Special 2012 Tour". Jethro Tull Official Website. 2011. Archived from the original on 26 September 2011. Retrieved 21 May 2016. 
  19. ^ "Jethro Tull". Burningshed.com. Retrieved 1 May 2015. 
  20. ^ a b Eder, Bruce. "Jethro Tull - Thick as a Brick review". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved 21 May 2016. 
  21. ^ a b "Jethro Tull - Consumer Guide reviews: Thick as a Brick". Robert Christgau. Retrieved 27 June 2014. 
  22. ^ "Thick as a Brick - Jethro Tull". Superseventies.com. Retrieved 22 May 2016. 
  23. ^ a b Rathbone, Oregano (December 2012). "Jethro Tull - Thick as a Brick". Record Collector (408). Retrieved 21 May 2016. 
  24. ^ a b Marsh, Dave (12 November 1979). "Jethero Tull - Thick as a Brick". The Rolling Stone Album Guide (1 ed.). New York City, New York: Random House. ISBN 978-0-394-73535-1. 
  25. ^ Welch, Chris (11 March 1972). "Jethro Tull: 'Thick as a Brick'". Melody Maker. Archived from the original on 17 April 2002. Retrieved 21 May 2016. 
  26. ^ Tyler, Tom (11 March 1972). "'Brick': Is This Jethro's 'Tommy'?". New Musical Express. Archived from the original on 9 November 2005. Retrieved 21 May 2016. 
  27. ^ Gerson, Ben (22 June 1972). "Thick as a Brick - Jethro Tull". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 21 May 2016. 
  28. ^ Budofsky, Adam (19 November 2012). "Jethro Tull Thick As a Brick (Collector’s Edition)". Modern Drummer. Retrieved 21 May 2016. 
  29. ^ Nollen 2002, p. 81.
  30. ^ Rees 1998, p. 51.
  31. ^ "Album artist 51 - Jethro Tull". Tsort.info. Retrieved 1 May 2015. 
  32. ^ a b "RIAA Gold & Platinum Database: search for Jethro Tull". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 24 March 2016. 
  33. ^ Kilroy, Hannah May; Ewing, Jerry (6 August 2014). "The 100 Greatest Prog Albums Of All Time: 20-1". TeamRock.com. Retrieved 22 May 2016. 
  34. ^ Epstein, Dan (17 June 2015). "50 Greatest Prog Rock Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 22 May 2016. 
  35. ^ "Progressive Rock Top Albums / all subgenres". Progarchives.com. Retrieved 1 May 2015. 
  36. ^ Middles, Mick (29 June 2012). "In The Mood: The Favourite Albums Of Rush's Geddy Lee". The Quietus. Retrieved 27 June 2014. 
  37. ^ Ewing, Jerry (19 October 2015). "Iron Maiden's 10 Proggiest Moments". TeamRock.com. Retrieved 21 May 2016. 
  38. ^ a b "Core albums 1968 - 1977". Collecting-tull.com. 12 September 1997. Retrieved 27 June 2014. 
  39. ^ a b "Thick as a Brick 40th Anniversary Editions - Special Collector's Edition". Thick as a Brick Deluxe.com. Archived from the original on 16 September 2013. Retrieved 22 May 2016. 
  40. ^ David Kent (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970 - 1992. Australian Chart Book, St Ives, N.S.W. ISBN 978-0-646-11917-5. 
  41. ^ "RPM Top Albums – Volume 17, No. 19 24 June 1972". Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 22 May 2016. 
  42. ^ "Thick as a Brick - Jethro Tull" (in Danish). Danskehilister.dk. Retrieved 22 May 2016. 
  43. ^ "Officialcharts.de – Jethro Tull – Thick as a Brick". GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved 22 May 2016.
  44. ^ "Officialcharts.de – Top 100 Longplay". GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved 22 May 2016.
  45. ^ "Gli album più venduti del 1972" (in Italian). Hit Parade Italia.it. Retrieved 22 May 2016. 
  46. ^ "Italiancharts.com – Jethro Tull – Thick as a Brick - The Steven Wilson 2012 Stereo Remix". Hung Medien. Retrieved 22 May 2016.
  47. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – Jethro Tull – Thick as a Brick" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved 22 May 2016.
  48. ^ "Norwegiancharts.com – Jethro Tull – Thick as a Brick". Hung Medien. Retrieved 22 May 2016.
  49. ^ "Jethro Tull: Official Charts". The Official Charts Company. Retrieved 21 April 2012. 
  50. ^ "Thick as a Brick Billboard Albums". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved 22 May 2016. 
  51. ^ "Royal Philharmonic Orchestra - Plays Prog Rock Classics". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved 22 May 2016. 
  52. ^ Schlansky, Evan (2 February 2012). "Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson On Thick As A Brick 2, The Grammys And More". American Songwriter. Retrieved 22 May 2016. 
  53. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Ian Anderson - Thick as a Brick 2 review". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved 22 May 2016. 
  54. ^ a b "Ian Anderson - Homo Erraticus lyrics". Jethro Tull Official Website. Retrieved 22 May 2016. 
  55. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Ian Anderson - Homo Erraticus review". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved 22 May 2016. 

Sources[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Jesus Christ Superstar (Danish version)
Danish Hitlisten number-one album
23 March 1972
Succeeded by
Machine Head by Deep Purple
Preceded by
First Take by Roberta Flack
Billboard 200 number-one album
3–16 June 1972
Succeeded by
Exile on Main St. by The Rolling Stones
Preceded by
Annie by Anne Murray
RPM number-one album
24 June 1972
Succeeded by
Exile on Main St. by The Rolling Stones
Preceded by
Machine Head by Deep Purple
Australian Kent Music Report number-one album
10 July – 24 September 1972
Succeeded by
Slade Alive! by Slade