T – is for Thick as a Brick

Monday 26th June

Of all the weird and wonderful bands which emerged in the wake of the Beatles and the explosion of musical ideas in the Sixties, Jethro Tull must rank among the strangest.  The band was always the conception and musical vehicle for Ian Anderson, classically trained flautist and a rock and roller too, but with a touch of traditional folk on the side.  One never knew quite what to expect from the band.  There were definite folky albums ‘Songs from the Wood’ and ‘Minstrel in the Gallery’, but others were a bit rockier like ‘Aqualung’.  I saw them in concert a few times, and was forever amazed at the quickfire changes between heavy rock and suddenly a lyrical flute solo, performed by Ian standing on one leg and often in cod-medieaval costume.

‘Thick as a Brick’ was essentially a concept album, and at the same time a complete spoof.  It was released in 1972, and was one long track with the music fading and rising between sides one and two.  The premise of the record was that it was written by a twelve year old prodigy called Gerald Bostock – who didn’t want to become ‘Thick as a Brick’.  The album came as a provincial newspaper “The Saint Cleve Chronicle and Linwell Advertiser”.  This was a real twelve page newspaper, full of silly stories about Gerald winning a poetry competition with his poem “Thick as a Brick”.  But most of the stories were in the vein of Monty Python with a joke about a non-rabbit running through most of the articles.  There were even crosswords and Sports pages and small ads.  Completely off the wall, as was the album itself.  I still cannot quite understand what the lyrics were all about “I really don’t mind if you sit this one out” – it begins, almost inviting the listener to take the record off.  But the fabulous chords and repeating motifs are brilliant.  Possibly a fore-runner to Tubular Bells of the following year, it had several sections and some great tunes and was largely instrumental.  Of all of Jethro Tull’s many albums this is by far my favourite.  It sold poorly I think at the time, but has become a cult album and a firm favourite at Jethro Tull’s concerts.

And there really has never been a record anything like it….

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