Thick as a Brick
|Thick as a Brick|
|Studio album by Jethro Tull|
|Released||10 March 1972|
|Studio||Morgan Studios, London|
Reprise (America, Japan and Oceania)
|Producer||Ian Anderson, Terry Ellis|
|Jethro Tull chronology|
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 has received several accolades. Ian Anderson produced a follow-up to the album in 2012, focused on the adult life of the fictional Gerald Bostock.
- 1 Background
- 2 Recording
- 3 Musical style
- 4 Cover art and packaging
- 5 Live performances
- 6 Critical reception
- 7 Track listing
- 8 Personnel
- 9 Charts
- 10 Certifications
- 11 In popular culture
- 12 Follow-ups
- 13 References
- 14 Sources
- 15 External links
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". 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.
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" and later stated that it was a "bit of a satire about the whole concept of grand rock-based concept albums". Although Anderson wrote all the music and lyrics, he co-credited the writing to a fictional schoolboy named Gerald Bostock. The humour was subtle enough that some fans believed that Bostock was real. Reviewing the 40th anniversary reissue, Noel Murray suggested that many listeners of the original album "missed the joke".
Later, in a 2012 interview with BBC breakfast, when introducing Thick as a Brick 2, Anderson again described that this song had been made primarily as a spoof to the so-called "progressive rock genre" that had taken over the people's imagination at that time (the early 70s). It was meant to "gently" lampoon that genre.
The group ran through two weeks of rehearsals using The Rolling Stones' basement studio in Bermondsey. 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. Recording started in December 1971 at Morgan Studios in London. 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. Anderson recalls the album took about two weeks to record and other two or three for overdubs and mixing. Guitarist Martin Barre remembers the whole band coming up with various ideas for the music, and that some parts were recorded in a single take, with every band member having important inputs into the music, with considerable contributions from keyboardist John Evan.
Thick as a Brick was considered by some to be Jethro Tull's first progressive rock offering, 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.
Cover art and packaging
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. 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.
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, 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. 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. (The section of the photograph that includes Julia's pose for the camera is often cropped out as well.)
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.
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.
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. 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. 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. Barre recalls these first live performances being "a terrible experience" as there was a lot of complex music with a variety of time signature changes to remember.
Anderson performed the entire album live on tour in 2012, the first complete performances since 1972. In August 2014, Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson released the CD/DVD/Blu-ray Thick as a Brick - Live in Iceland. 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.
|Robert Christgau||C− |
|Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide|||
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide (1979)|||
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". 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". 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." But Rolling Stone's Dave Marsh gave it 2 out of 5 stars in The Rolling Stone Record Guide, judging it had "relatively undifferentiated movements". 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)".
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." 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." 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."
Prog magazine included Thick as a Brick at number 5 in their list "The 100 Greatest Prog Albums of All Time", while Rolling Stone listed the album at number 7 in their "Top 50 Prog Albums of All Time". 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. Geddy Lee, from Rush, put Thick as a Brick as one of his favourite albums, as did Iron Maiden's Steve Harris.
|1.||"Thick as a Brick, Part I"||22:40|
|2.||"Thick as a Brick, Part II"||21:06|
|25th Anniversary Edition bonus tracks|
|3.||"Thick as a Brick" (1978 live version at Madison Square Garden)||10:50|
|4.||"Interview with Jethro Tull" (Ian Anderson, Martin Barre and Jeffrey Hammond)||16:30|
2012 40th Anniversary Special Collector's Edition
|CD: Steven Wilson stereo remix of the album|
|1.||"Thick as a Brick, Part I"||22:44|
|2.||"Thick as a Brick, Part II"||20:54|
|DVD: Steven Wilson 5.1 surround and stereo remixes and flat transfer of the original stereo mix of the album and 1972 radio ad|
|1.||"Thick as a Brick, Part I" (5.1 Surround Mix)||22:44|
|2.||"Thick as a Brick, Part II" (5.1 Surround Mix)||20:54|
|3.||"Thick as a Brick, Part I" (2012 Stereo Mix)||22:44|
|4.||"Thick as a Brick, Part II" (2012 Stereo Mix)||20:54|
|5.||"Thick as a Brick, Part I" (Original Stereo Mix)||22:44|
|6.||"Thick as a Brick, Part II" (Original Stereo Mix)||20:54|
|7.||"1972 Radio Ad"|
Differences among various CD releases
By 2012 the album received four major releases on CD: the first release (1985, which featured the two tracks combined as one), the MFSL-release (1989), 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. 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:
- "Really Don't Mind" / "See There a Son Is Born" – 5:00
- "The Poet and the Painter" – 5:29
- "What Do You Do When the Old Man's Gone?" / "From the Upper Class" – 5:25
- "You Curl Your Toes in Fun" / "Childhood Heroes" / "Stabs Instrumental" – 6:48
- "See There a Man Is Born" / "Clear White Circles" – 5:58
- "Legends and Believe in the Day" – 6:34
- "Tales of Your Life" – 5:24
- "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."
- Jethro Tull
- Ian Anderson – lead vocals, acoustic guitar, flute, violin, trumpet, saxophone, cover art, producer
- Martin Barre – electric guitar, lute
- John Evan – organ, piano, harpsichord, cover art
- Jeffrey Hammond (as "Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond") – bass guitar, spoken words, cover art
- Barriemore Barlow – drums, percussion, timpani
- Additional personnel
|1972||Australian Albums (Kent Music Report)||1|
|1972||Canadian Albums (RPM)||1|
|1972||Danish Albums (Tracklisten)||1|
|1972||German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)||2|
|2012||German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)
40th Anniversary Collector's Edition
|1972||Italian Albums (FIMI)||2|
|2015||Italian Albums (FIMI)
The Steven Wilson 2012 Stereo Remix
|1972||Dutch Albums (MegaCharts)||3|
|1972||Norwegian Albums (VG-lista)||3|
|1972||UK Albums Chart (OCC)||5|
|1972||US Billboard 200||1|
|USA||RIAA||1972||Gold (+ 500,000)|
In popular culture
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? ]
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.
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 - indeed he has never held a driving licence - calling himself a "professional passenger."
Thick as a Brick 2: Whatever Happened to Gerald Bostock?
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."
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.
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.
As with the original Thick as a Brick, authorship of each song on this album is explicitly credited to both Anderson and Bostock.
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- Jethro Tull, Progressive Rock and Thematic Approach, essay by Dave Morris
- Scans of the pages of the LP cover mock newspaper
- Jethro Tull - Thick as a Brick (1972): Complete lyrics
- Jethro Tull - Thick as a Brick (1972/1997, 25th Anniversary Edition) album to be listened as stream at Play.Spotify.com
- Jethro Tull - Thick as a Brick (1972/2012, 40th Anniversary Special Edition) album to be listened as stream at Play.Spotify.com
- Ian Anderson - Thick as a Brick 2 (2012) album to be listened as stream at Play.Spotify.com