Monday, 25 February 2008

Lyrics & their meaning Part 7- Thick as a brick

More of the lyrics common sense forgot.

Thick as A Brick (1972) – Jethro Tull

In April 1972 JethroTull released Thick As A Brick an album that was both revolutionary in both content and packaging. The album consisted of one song that lasted the whole record. Another unique feature was the albums packaging, which consisted of a complete small town newspaper as the album sleeve. The record sold by the truck loads and was the peak of Jethro Tull’s success with the album reaching number one in the United States and staying in the charts for 20 weeks The band then went on to reap the benefits of a successful headlining tour.
Thick As A Brick was the follow up album to Aqualung. This album had made good chart positions on both sides of the Atlantic and the band headlined a successful tour with support acts such as the likes of Led Zeppelin. Aqualung, which mixed good commercial tunes mixed with social commentary, supplied by front man Ian Anderson. Anderson at this stage had become the only original member of the group left and in the course of the bands existence had become leader, front man, songwriter and producer. Anderson with his ‘Mad Fagin’ appearance and wild antics on stage had become so synonymous with Jethro Tull that first time listeners often mistook Anderson the man as Jethro Tull the band. So strong was his presence. With success came artistic freedom but also pressure to follow up that success.
Lyrically the song has been described as wordy and ponderous as well as clogged and obscure. It contains vague reference to growing up and the English class system. It seems to have no structure and at the end starts to repeat itself.
There is good reason for this given the pressure to produce new material. Anderson would work on a piece of music the night before and bring it to the studio pretending it was something he’d been working on for weeks. The whole recording was constructed that way. In his own admission Anderson confessed that the album sleeve took longer to put together that the recording itself.
The record has been termed a concept album. But evidence points to the facts that the tunes and lyrics were hurriedly put together with not much thought for form and structure. Basically to try and explain what the whole piece was about, the label concept album was stuck to it. The very unfunny and loosely satirical newspaper sleeve cover was devised to help create this allusion. Moreover it was Anderson’s belief that since people were now discovering them, they’d only have an album or so left in the band before they would start lose popularity. So he decided Jethro Tull would ‘go out in a blaze of glory with some ludicrous album with a ridiculous cover, full of complex, abstract and contradictory ideas as it would probably be the last album they would make any way’.
In a strange twist of fate Jethro Tull attempted to do exactly the same thing with their next studio album A Passion Play. And were crucified by the critics. Anderson who by this stage had lost his ‘devil may care attitude’, was so incensed that he responded by cancelling half of the planned tour to promote the album and announcing Jethro Tull would no longer perform live. Anderson has also admitted that during this period he split up the band for a short time till he came to his senses. Despite all this the album sold very well but Jethro Tull- who still exist today- never reached the level of popularity the experienced in the early 70’s ever again.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The story of the song’s origin is fascinating and quite amazing. More so because, for all its being thrown together as such, it turned out incredibly well. It was well received. Even today people love it. Its likely mixing and editing made it so. But does that really matter?