Thick as a Brick
(1972) is a concept album
by the British rock
band Jethro Tull
. Its lyrics
are built around a poem
written by a fictitious boy, "Gerald Bostock
" a.k.a. "Little Milton
" (Ian Anderson himself). The album
featured only one song, lasting over 43 minutes. To accommodate the album on LP vinyl and cassette, the seamless track was split on both sides of the record. It reached number one on the (U.S.) Billboard Pop Albums chart.
The epic is notable for its numerous time signature and tempo changes (not uncommon to the newly emerging progressive rock
subgenre of rock
), as well as a large number of themes throughout the piece, resembling a typical classical symphony in this regard, rather than a typical rock song. Released in 1972, Thick As A Brick
was Tull's first true prog rock offering, four years after the release of their first album. Not only was the musical structure complex, but many instruments uncommon in rock music were added. Whereas in prior numbers the band were content with guitars
, Hammond organ
, and Ian Anderson
's signature flute
, Thick As A Brick
, and a string section (as well as acoustic guitar, electric guitar, drums, bass, piano, and flute).
While the previous album, Aqualung, stretched the band's wings further from the blues of the first three albums, it was still basically mainstream rock. Band leader Ian Anderson was surprised by the critical reaction to the previous album Aqualung as a "concept album", a label he has firmly rejected to this day. In an interview on In the Studio with Redbeard (which spotlighted Thick as a Brick), Ian Anderson's response to the critics was "if the critics want a concept album we'll give them a concept album and we'll make it so bombastic and so over the top." With Thick as a Brick, the band created an album deliberately integrated around one concept: a poem by an intelligent English boy about the trials of growing up. Beyond this, the album was a send-up of all pretentious "concept albums". Anderson also stated in that interview that "the album was a spoof to the albums of Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer much like what the movie Airplane had been to Airport". The formula was successful, and the album reached number one on the charts in the United States.
The ensuing tour involved a single 42-minute performance without intermission, but with short comedic interjections and extended instrumental solos. One comedy item involved Anderson announcing that a horse had strayed into the theater, whereupon a crew member sitting in the audience would stand up in a spotlight, take off an overcoat revealing a jockey suit, and leave the auditorium carrying a saddle. Despite the length of the performance, only the first half of the album was performed, the second half being represented only by the coda. There are no known official video or film recordings. Later live performances feature a shortened version of the first side, such as the 12 minutes and 30 seconds version on the live album Bursting Out.
The original LP cover was a spoof of a twelve by sixteen inch (305 by 406 mm) multipage local newspaper
with stories, competitions, adverts, etc., lampooning the parochial and amateurish local journalism
that still exists in many places today, as well as certain classical album covers. The "newspaper" also includes the entire lyrics to the song, and references to the lyrics are scattered throughout the articles. The spoof newspaper had to be heavily abridged for conventional CD covers, but the 25th Anniversary Special Edition CD includes a partial facsimile; some content is missing, such as the original connect the dots
activity and part of the "front page
- "Thick as a Brick" (part one) (Ian Anderson/Gerald Bostock) – 22:45
- "Thick as a Brick" (part two) (Ian Anderson/Gerald Bostock) – 21:05
25th Anniversary Edition bonus tracks
- "Thick as a Brick" (live at Madison Square Garden, 1978) – 11:50
- Interview with Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson, Martin Barre, and Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond – 16:30
In the end of the The Simpsons episode "Girls Just Want To Have Sums", Thick as a Brick was sung by Martin Prince, with the actual song then playing during the end credits.
- Ian Anderson – lead vocals, acoustic guitar, flute, violin, trumpet
- Martin Barre – electric guitar, lute
- John Evan – piano, organ, harpsichord
- Jeffrey Hammond (as "Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond"): Bass guitar, Vocals
- Barriemore Barlow – drums, percussion, timpani
- David Palmer – Brass and string arrangements