On March 3, 1972 "Jethro Tull" released their fifth album "Thick as a Brick".
This is probably the band's most complete and perfect album, a true classic that ranks among the best progressive albums of all time. A full concept album from start to finish, which includes a one-and-only theme piece spanning 44 minutes, divided into two parts (also due to the limitation of vinyl records of the times). The level of writing and performance of "Jethro Tull" is at its peak on this album, and the result is accordingly.
Interestingly, an album intended to be used as a parody of concept albums quickly became a classic of concept albums. The original record packaging was designed as a 12-page newspaper, which folds into the album cover. The newspaper with the fictional name "The St. Cleve Chronicle & Linwall Advertiser", was in fact an imitation of a type of local newspaper prevalent throughout Britain at the time. From the "Newspaper" title it could be understood that the album is a musical adaptation of an epic work, a poem about Britain, written by an imaginary 8-year-old boy named Gerald Bostock, in which he criticizes the British people. The lyrics and music were actually written by vocalist, writer, multi-instrumentalist, and band leader Ian Anderson. Later he would even point out that there was an autobiographical element in the words he wrote. He was a bit rebellious and different from his peers as a child. Conventionality never attracted him, and he absorbed all his difference, rebellion, and uniqueness, into the character of Gerald Bostock.
What brought Ian Anderson to write this epic work, was the critical reviews of "Jethro Tull's" previous album - "Aqualung", from 1971. Anderson was surprised when the critics called it a "concept album". He dismissed the idea, thinking it was simply a collection of poems, so it was unclear to him how the critics had come to the wrong conclusion. As much as Anderson insisted that "Aqualung" was not a concept album, the media still continued to treat it as such. In response, he decided to give the critics the real thing. To write a piece of music that will be the mother of all concept albums. He concocted, conceived, and also executed! Anderson took the surreal British humor of "Monty Python" as an influence and began to write a piece that would combine the complex music of the progressive genre, along with a British sense of humor. A grandiose work, which will be a satire on "progressive rock", thinking that it will make the band, the audience, and of course the music critics laugh.
Indeed, musically it is a complex and diverse album, starting with rock, through folk, jazz, classical music, and Celtic music. You will find a lot of dynamism, rhythm changes, and odd-time signatures in this album. The diversity also dominates the musical instruments which, beyond the flute, acoustic and electric guitars, keyboards, bass and drums including also harpsichord, timpani, violin, lute, trumpet, saxophone, and other stringed instruments, which are played by the band members (yes, yes, Anderson, for example, plays flute, acoustic guitar, violin, trumpet, accordion and saxophone).
(Photo: Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns)
Although the album is reflected as one complete, perfect, and lasting work, it is composed of a combination of individual songs interwoven together. Parts of this magnificent suite combine Celtic, classical, and folk music into the framework of the band's typical rock music.
The first part - "Really Don't Mind / See There a Son Is Born" opens the album and ends at minute 5:00. It opens up with the sounds of Anderson's acoustic guitar and flute playing. This is the central musical theme on which Anderson based the entire piece. We are witnessing a kind of dialogue with the listener, which aims to challenge his ability to understand music. A kind of criticism on the music critics who failed to understand the band's previous album, yet call themselves "music critics". Those "smart people", don't know how it feels to be "thick as a brick", when they just complicate simple things, precisely because they are "smart". In other words, if you are very smart, you will never be able to understand the point of view of a stupid person.
The second part - "The Poet and the Painter" starts at minute 5:00 and ends at 10:29, which is a bit more rockish. It deals with the two types of people. The doers and thinkers. "the poet lifts his pen While the soldier sheaths his sword". When war rages outside the soldier fights and the poet write about the war.
The third part - "What Do You Do When the Old Man's Gone? / From the Upper Class" starts at minute 10:29 and ends at 15:54. John Evan's Hammond organ works overtime here and it kind of repeats the musical ideas of the previous section. This part is about what the son will do when he loses his father. Will he try to fill his father's shoes and follow in his footsteps or will he try to develop his own identity? "What do you do when the old man's gone, Do you want to be him?" This section ends in a paradox when the son says "I'll judge you all and make damn sure that no one judges me". I can criticize you but not the other way around. A point to think about is how sometimes we judge people so easily, but underestimate and angry at people who judge us.
The fourth part - "You Curl Your Toes in Fun / Childhood Heroes / Stabs Instrumental" concludes the first side of the vinyl and starts at minute 15:54 to 22:40. Anderson's side flute dominates this section, but it also leans on John Evan's keyboards and the rhythm section of Jeffrey Hammond and Barriemore Barlow, with Martin Barre's powerful riff breaks towards the end. In this part, the political views of the young boy and their utopian character are expressed.
The fifth part - "See There a Man Is Born / Clear White Circles" opens the second side of the vinyl and ends at minute 5:58. It opens with the sound of whistling wind in the background of Celtic music, but quickly turns into a rhythmic and fast section that even includes some brief drum solos by Barriemore Barlow. The title of this chapter corresponds with the title of the first chapter that opens the album. If the opening section talks about "See There a Son Is Born", here already the boy becomes a man, and the title changes to "See There a Man Is Born". At this point in life, the boy who has become a man comes to terms with the world around him and accepts things as they are.
The sixth part - "Legends and Believe in the Day" starts at minute 5:58 and ends at 12:25. It is Leaning on Anderson's acoustic guitar playing. The music in this section is more melancholic and heavy and it describes the protagonist's sad acceptance of the fact that his perception of his age has changed.
The seventh part - "Tales of Your Life" starts at minute 12:25 and ends at 17:49. It describes the life of the elderly telling "legends" about the experiences they have collected over the years.
The eighth part that ends the album is "Childhood Heroes Reprise". Its name suggests that it is a kind of repetition of the fourth section that ends up the first side of the vinyl. This repetition symbolizes the cyclical nature of life and how the thoughts you once had when you were just a young child come back to you in the end.
There is no doubt that "Thick as a Brick" has gone down in music history as one of the greatest albums in progressive rock in general. This fact is reflected in almost every possible relevant ranking list. "Rolling Stone" magazine ranked the album 7th among the 50 greatest prog albums of all time. In 2014, "Prog magazine" ranked it 5th in the list of the 100 greatest prog albums of all time, and believe us there are other lists that rank it at the top. Even great artists like Geddy Lee and Steve Harris have mentioned it as one of their favorite albums, and for good reason.
On the occasion of the album's 40th anniversary, in 2012, Ian Anderson released a solo album that is a continuation of this album, and was named "Thick as a Brick 2: Whatever Happened to Gerald Bostock". The follow-up album also focuses on Gerald Bostock, the fictional author and child prodigy of The original album, only forty years later. The follow-up album presents five different and hypothetical life stories for Gerald Bostock, in which he is a greedy investment banker, a homeless homosexual, a soldier in the Afghanistan war, a holy evangelist, and a married man with no children. However, by the end of the album, all five options seem to converge into an ending of bleak loneliness.