Thick as a Brick

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Thick as a Brick
Studio album by Jethro Tull
Released 10 March 1972
Recorded December 1971 at Morgan Studios, London
Genre Progressive rock, hard rock
Length 43:46
Label Chrysalis, Reprise
Producer Ian Anderson
Jethro Tull chronology
Thick as a Brick
Living in the Past
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 English 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 a (fictional) 8-year-old genius, though the lyrics were actually written by the band's frontman, Ian Anderson. The album was a commercial and critical success and topped the US charts.[1]


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 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".[2] 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.[2]

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"[3] and later stated that it was a "bit of a satire about the whole concept of grand rock-based concept albums."[4] 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.[2] Reviewing the 40th anniversary reissue, Noel Murray suggested that many listeners of the original album "missed the joke".[5]


The group ran through two weeks of rehearsals using the Rolling Stones' basement studio in Bermondsey.[6] 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.[7] Recording started in December 1971 at Morgan Studios in London.[6] 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.[8] Anderson recalls the album took a week to record,[9] while guitarist Martin Barre remembers the whole band coming up with various ideas for the music,[4] and that some parts were recorded in a single take,[10] with every band member having important inputs into the music, with considerable contributions from keyboardist John Evan.[11]

Musical style[edit]

Thick as a Brick was considered by some to be Jethro Tull's first progressive rock offering,[12] 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.[13]

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.[14] 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.[9]

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], a little naughty connect-the-dots children's activity, and a naughty view of Milton's "chum" Julia as well."[15] 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,[13] 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.[16]

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.[9]

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]

The scuba diver in the original 1972 tour

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.[17] 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. The humor caused problems when performing in Japan, where audiences responded to the changes with bewilderment.[17] Barre recalls these first live performances being "a terrible experience"[9] as there was a lot of complex music with a variety of time signature changes to remember.[17]

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.[18] 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.

Anderson performed the entire album live on tour in 2012, the first complete performances since 1972.[19] In August 2014, Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson released 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.[20]


Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4.5/5 stars[21]
Robert Christgau C−[22]
Rolling Stone 5/5 stars[23]
Melody Maker favourable[24]
New Musical Express favourable[25]
Sputnik Music 5/5 stars[26]

The contemporary review in Rolling Stone magazine was positive, calling 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."[23]

AllMusic gave a very positive review: "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."[21]

The album reached the top 5 in the UK charts, and number one in the US, Canada and Australia.[27][1][28]

Thick as a Brick is ranked number 2 in Prog Archives's top albums list, with an average rank of 4.64 stars.[29]

ProgMagazine included Thick as a Brick at number 5 in their list The 100 Greatest Prog Albums of All Time,[30] while Rolling Stone listed the album at number 7 in their Top 50 Prog Albums of all time.[31]

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.[14]

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."[14]

Geddy Lee, from Rush, put Thick as a Brick as one of his favourite albums,[32] as did Iron Maiden's Steve Harris.[33]

Former Gryphon' Richard Harvey has covered Thick as a Brick in the special compilation The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Plays Prog Rock Classics.[34]


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."[35]

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 (1972) consists of only two long tracks comprising a single song, while TAAB2 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 (1972), a mock online newspaper was set up, simply titled StCleve.[36][37]

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.[38][39]

As with the original Thick As A Brick, authorship of each song on this album is explicitly credited to both Anderson and Bostock.[40]

Track listing[edit]

All lyrics written by "Gerald Bostock" (Ian Anderson), all music composed by Anderson [11].

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),[41] the MFSL-release (1989),[41] 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.[42] 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:

  1. Really Don't Mind / See There a Son Is Born (05:00)
  2. The Poet and the Painter (05:29)
  3. What Do You Do When the Old Man's Gone? / From the Upper Class (05:25)
  4. You Curl Your Toes in Fun / Childhood Heroes / Stabs Instrumental (06:48)
  5. See There a Man Is Born / Clear White Circles (05:58)
  6. Legends and Believe in the Day (06:34)
  7. Tales of Your Life (05:24)
  8. Childhood Heroes Reprise. (02:56) [42]

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."[14]

Chart positions of the original 1972 album[edit]

Year Chart Position
1972 Billboard 200 1
Australian Kent Music Report Albums Chart
Canadian Albums Chart
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
Machine Head by Deep Purple
Australian Kent Music Report number-one album
10 July – 24 September 1972
Succeeded by
Slade Alive! by Slade


Jethro Tull
Additional personnel

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Nollen 2002, p. 81.
  2. ^ a b c Rees 1998, p. 48.
  3. ^ "7/10: Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull at Symphony Hall". 7 July 2013. Retrieved 10 April 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Nollen 2002, p. 83.
  5. ^ Murray, Noel (28 November 2012). "Thick As A Brick and the pleasures of the very, very, very long song". AV Club. Retrieved 15 November 2012. 
  6. ^ a b Nollen 2002, p. 82.
  7. ^ Rees 1998, pp. 48–49.
  8. ^ Morse, Tim. "Classic Tracks : Jethro Tull's Thick as a Brick". Mix 72: 176. 
  9. ^ a b c d Rees 1998, p. 49.
  10. ^ Nollen 2002, p. 84.
  11. ^ a b "Dear Guitar Hero: Jethro Tull Guitarist Martin Barre". 
  12. ^ Smith, Bradley (2007). The Billboard guide to progressive music. Billboard Books. p. 114. ISBN 9780823076659. 
  13. ^ a b c Anderson 1972, p. 7.
  14. ^ a b c d "Thick As A Brick by Jethro Tull Songfacts". Retrieved 5 February 2014. 
  15. ^ "Thick as a Brick". The Official Jethro Tull Website. 
  16. ^ Anderson 1971, p. 1.
  17. ^ a b c Rees 1998, p. 50.
  18. ^ Smolko 2012, p. 267-169.
  19. ^ ""Thick as a Brick" Played in Special 2012 Tour". 
  20. ^ "Jethro Tull". Retrieved 1 May 2015. 
  21. ^ a b Bruce Eder. "Thick as a Brick - Jethro Tull | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 27 June 2014. 
  22. ^ "CG: jethro tull". Robert Christgau. Retrieved 27 June 2014. 
  23. ^ a b "Jethro Tull Press: Rolling Stone, 22 June 1972". 22 June 1972. Retrieved 27 June 2014. 
  24. ^ "Jethro Tull Press: Melody Maker, 11 March 1972". 11 March 1972. Retrieved 1 May 2015. 
  25. ^ "Jethro Tull Press: NME, 11 March 1972". 
  26. ^ "Jethro Tull - Thick as a Brick (album review 4)". 29 September 2005. Retrieved 1 May 2015. 
  27. ^ Rees 1998, p. 51.
  28. ^ "Album artist 51 - Jethro Tull". Retrieved 1 May 2015. 
  29. ^ "Progressive Rock Top Albums / all subgenres". Retrieved 1 May 2015. 
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^ Middles, Mick (29 June 2012). "In The Mood: The Favourite Albums Of Rush's Geddy Lee". The Quietus. Retrieved 27 June 2014. 
  33. ^
  34. ^ "Maiden, Crimson and Yes men play orchestral prog - Prog". Retrieved 1 May 2015. 
  35. ^
  36. ^
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^
  41. ^ a b "Core albums 1968 - 1977". 12 September 1997. Retrieved 27 June 2014. 
  42. ^ a b [1] Archived 16 September 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  • Nollen, Scott Allen (2002). Jethro Tull: A History of the Band, 1968–2001. McFarland. ISBN 9780786411016. 
  • Anderson, Ian (1972). Thick as a Brick (Media notes). Jethro Tull. Chrysalis Records. CHR 1003. 
  • Rees, David (1998). Minstrels in the Gallery: A history of Jethro Tull. Firefly. ISBN 0-946719-22-5. 

External links[edit]