Saturday, March 10, 2012
Thick As a Brick : 40 Years Ago Today
I've already heard Americans give all sorts of explanations for its title, Thick As A Brick. That's a common British slang expression. It means someone's as intelligent as a bunch of crap.
Ian Anderson was a little pissed off about the way critics and fans called Aqualung a concept album. While it's true that quite a few songs mention religion in one way or another Anderson says, really, it was just a bunch of songs.
And by the way, stop calling him Jethro.
As Anderson says in an interview on the remastered CD:
The first things about Thick As A Brick was "let's come up with something which is the mother of all concept albums and really is a mind boggler in terms of what was then relatively complex music and also lyrically was complex, confusing and above all a bit of a spoof."
It was quite deliberately, but in a nice way, tongue in cheek and meant to send up ourselves, the music critics and the audience but not necessarily in that order. But it was meant in a nice way. This was the time of "Monty Pythons Flying Circus" and a very British kind of a humor which was not terribly well understood by the Japanese and the Americans when we finally went out to perform Thick as A Brick in concert but they sat politely if a little confused.
So what is the concept? It begins with the silly idea that a 12 year old boy named Gerald Bostock wrote the lyrics...despite the very Andersonish lines:
The Poet and the painter casting shadows on the water --
as the sun plays on the infantry returning from the sea.
The do-er and the thinker: no allowance for the other --
as the failing light illuminates the mercenary's creed.
The cover--complete with thoroughly written and thoroughly ridiculous newspaper articles--actually took longer to produce than the album itself.
Critics probably didn't know what to make of Thick As A Brick at first. The first Rolling Stone review praised the album :
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 time has not been kind to the album. The Rolling Stone Record Guide called Thick As A Brick "virually unlistenable". It truly is a thick album. The listener has to tramp through this bungled jungle of lyrics and musical ideas, drum solos and breathy flute solos and the same acoustic guitar refrain over and over again. Make no mistake: Jethro Tull worked very hard on this spoof...but if Thick As a Brick is a joke, it's really not that funny or one you want to hear over and over again.
Ian Anderson is not only touring Thick As A Brick this year, he has recorded Thick As A Brick 2!
As he told Billboard Magazine, he had a conversation with former Gentle Giant frontman Derek Shulman:
At some point, probably late in 2010, one of us said, 'I wonder what Gerald Bostock -- the little kid on the (original) album cover who supposedly wrote the lyrics -- would be like today?' " Anderson recalls. "That caught my attention -- 'Yeah, I wonder...' So in January of 2011 I started to sketch out a scenario of what would be some of the many possibilities of what could have befallen him. It was not going back and saying 'What happened in 1973?' It was taking a 40-year leap into the present day -- good food for thought, and applicable to all people of my age who might be looking back at their lives and thinking, 'I wonder if I had done this and not that...' So it turned into something that amused me enough to write a concept album for the year 2012."