Monday Muse: How to become a Jethro Tull fan in Four Albums or Less.
Step 3: Thick as a Brick
Following Aqualung, Jethro Tull is a firmly established touring act, putting extravagant stage performances and drawing audiences on both sides of the Atlantic. In 1972 they undertook their most ambitious project to date. Thick as a Brick is a 43 minute long progressive rock… thing. Ian Anderson is quoted as saying:
“because everyone was saying we were a progressive rock band, so we decided to live up to the reputation and write a progressive album, but done as a parody of the genre.”
The concept of the album is as an epic poem turned in to a poetry competition by an 8 year old boy named Gerald “Little Milton” Bostock , a poem that is disqualified by the judges as being “just a bunch of other poems stitched together loosely” Which pretty much sums up the album. The title song, familiar as a radio single and still an integral part of the live act, leads off, then the record veers wildly between themes of military fantasy, coming of age and the disappearance of childhood heroes.
Despite, or perhaps because of Tull’s tongue in cheek approach to prog rock overload, the album was wildly successful. The 1972 tour was an elaborate stage show, I wish there was more video available but this is all I found on YouTube
Thick as a Brick is tougher listening than earlier Tull, presaging some of the really oddball stuff to follow on “A Passion Play” , an album that follows its predecessor even farther down the rabbit hole of prog rock mayhem. But I still pop it into rotation every once and awhile. This year Ian Anderson, touring on his own, performed the entire album onstage for the first time since the initial tour. This coincided with the release of “Thick as a Brick 2”, which I am still digesting, but liking a lot.
Thankfully they did not stay down there and get lost as many of the true progressive rock bands did, but were able to resurface, and over the years reinvent themselves again and again.
Which we will cover in our final lesson next week.