The late 60’s and early 70’s were rife with concept albums. These are albums in which all the songs contained are somehow connected by a unifying theme. Many premiere bands of the day such as Yes, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, The Who and others joined in the fray. This month I’d like to focus on Jethro Tull, another band that were not about to be left out of the concept album mix. 1972’s Thick as a Brick was this band’s offering and it remains a classic to this day. In contrast to the heady, seriously themed offerings of the others, Thick as a Brick was a humorous, bizarre parody of all that came before. Jethro Tull was riding the critical success of Aqualung their mainstream Rock offering from the year before. However the critics repeated assertions that Aqualung was a concept album despite front man, Ian Anderson’s staunch denials. Anderson finally commented “If the critics want a concept album, we’ll give them the mother of all concept albums and we’ll make so bombastic and over the top…..”. Anderson was surely a man of his word.
Thick as a Brick is a poem written by a fictitious English schoolboy named Gerald Bostwick about the trials and tribulations of growing up (Very tongue in cheek and over the top as promised) wedded to some of the finest progressive rock music of the day. Instrumentally, all of the usual suspects appear on this gem; guitars, piano, drums, organ and bass, but listeners are additionally treated to Anderson’s flute riffs and the sounds of xylophone, Tympani, harp, trumpet and violin plus an assortment of other strings, a rarity for the rock tunes of the 1970’s.
And if that wasn’t enough, the original L.P. was contained in a cover that was actually a several page “newspaper” which contained the entire lyrics to the album, a review of the album itself, and several other fictitious articles which should make you laugh or scratch your head but nonetheless hold high entertainment value.
A compact disc has an advantage over an L.P. It is small, portable, durable, and requires inexpensive equipment to play (The needle alone from a decent turntable could cost several times that of a standard C.D. player). However this modern technology comes at a price. You lose the big production album cover art and if you ask me, that’s a real shame. In the days of the L.P., record companies often spent a small fortune producing cover art (remember, L.P. covers were approximately 12×12 inches). Many an hour was spent by listeners enjoying these creations as well as the contained “liner notes” those envelopes which contained the L.P. were also often adorned with artwork and other interesting ditties. The miniaturized versions contained in today’s C.D.’s just don’t cut it folks. Thick as a Brick is a huge case in point. The C.D. version comes with a heavily abridged, barely readable, quite laughable version of the newspaper. So if you want the full impact of this month’s recommendation get your hands on the L.P. version of “Brick” and enjoy. Your prescription is written. Refill as needed. Until next time the doctor is in…..