Thick as a Brick

Album: Thick As A Brick (1972)
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  • This is the only song on the album. Side 1 is "part 1," running 22:31, and Side 2 was "part 2," clocking in at 21:05. Each side is over 20 minutes long.

    A radio edit, running just 3:01, was sent to radio stations and is the version used on most compilation albums. Speaking with Songfacts in 2013, Ian Anderson explained: "Back in 1972, you had to be aware of what was then called AOR radio - it was a delicate beast. It could only in most cases manage to play music that was in bite size portions. So we had to think about giving the option to American radio playing little edited sections of 'Thick As A Brick,' so they didn't have to delicately drop the needle into the middle of a long track or lift it off after the three and a half minutes. So we did that specially for American radio.

    It was never released publicly in that form, but in limited editions which were sent out to radio stations in the US, which is the only place where the record got played, anyway. It never got played in the UK or anywhere in Europe, it was just not that kind of music."
  • "Thick as a brick" is a phrase meaning stubbornly dumb, as one's head is so thick that no new thoughts can enter it. The song starts with Ian Anderson expressing his low expectations for his target ("I may make you feel but I can't make you think") before singing about class structures, conformity, and the rigid moralistic beliefs of the establishment that perpetuates it.

    The song follows a young boy who sees two career paths: soldier and artist. He chooses the life of a soldier, just like his father. We see him assimilate into the society he once rebelled against, becoming just like his dad.
  • With minimal meddling, the album took only two weeks to record, and was written in less than a month. The packaging was designed to look like a small-town newspaper called the St. Cleve Chronicle and Linwell Advertiser. When opened, the album revealed 12 pages of newspaper stories, making innovative use of the square foot of sleeve space with a fold-out so the Chronicle measured 12"x16".

    Under the headline "Thick As A Brick," we learn that an 8-year-old boy genius named Gerald Bostock wrote the lyrics for a poetry competition, but was disqualified on moral grounds by the governing body, The Society for Literary Advancement and Gestation (SLAG). According to the story, Ian Anderson of the "Major Beat Group" Jethro Tull read the poem and wrote 45 minutes of "pop music" to accompany it.

    The newspaper also contained ads, recipes, TV listings, a crossword puzzle, and a review of the album. Jethro Tull wasn't the first to use the newspaper theme for album art: The Four Seasons 1969 album Genuine Imitation Life Gazette was made to look like a newspaper with lyrics to the songs appearing as stories. It even had a comics-section insert.
  • In 2012, Ian Anderson released a sequel called Thick As A Brick 2 - Whatever Happened To Gerald Bostock? The album presents various outcomes for the now 48-year-old Bostock, including banker, preacher, soldier, and shop owner. Anderson says the album examines how "our own lives develop, change direction and ultimately conclude through chance encounters and interventions, however tiny and insignificant they might seem at the time."

    Anderson had never performed the original Thick As A Brick in its entirety, but later in 2012, he began a tour where he played the entire album and its sequel.
  • This continued an experimental phase for Jethro Tull. Their previous album, Aqualung, was considered a "concept" album, with characters and themes continuing from one song to the next. This was considered "progressive" rock, with very obtuse lyrics and a great deal of production. This song seems to be a commentary on modern society and the human condition.
  • In 2001, this was used in a Hyundai commercial. Group leader Ian Anderson recorded a new version for the spot to avoid having other musicians butcher his song, as is often the case in commercials. He improvised an outro which he felt was the best part, but it was edited out. Anderson does not drive a Hyundai. He calls himself a "professional passenger."
  • This appears in an episode of The Simpsons where Lisa goes to the "Boy's School." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Jimmy - Upton, MA
  • In the digital age, an album containing just one song doesn't fit the download model. When the 40th Anniversary Special Edition was released in 2012, Ian Anderson divided the album into eight different pieces that could be sold individually on iTunes and Amazon as $1.29 songs with titles like "The Poet and the Painter" and "See There a Man Is Born/Clear White Circles." "Some artists choose not to do that - famously Pink Floyd - and don't want to have their music unbundled to offer it in song length pieces," Anderson told us. "But I accept that that's the musical appetite of most folks these days. They don't really have the time or the concentration to listen to a whole album in one go. They want it in manageable pieces."
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Comments: 38

  • Anthony from Columbus, OhRE: Patrick from On.'s comment. IMHO, it is the exact opposite. The wise men he refers to are actually not wise at all. A truly wise person is aware that no matter how much they know, there is an infinite amount yet to be learned. The only people who don't know how it feels to be 'thick as a brick', are those dim enough to believe they know it all. Which also may be a sly reference to the critics.
  • Roger from Dallas, TxSeeing both the Aqualung and Thick as a Brick tours was, (considering the era) a total trip. They still evoke sharp memories. Masterpiece.
  • Cyberpope from Richmond, CanadaRumour has it that Ian Anderson is planning to release Thick As A Brick II for 40th anniversary in May or June 2012!
  • Margret Hamilton from St. Paul, MnOk, so the critics hated it. We hate the critics. So we're even.
  • Joe from Grants Pass, Ori don't 'bout any any of you, but my fingers get sore just listening to this... LUVIT !!; also Barriemore one of my all-time favs, along with Cozy Powell
  • Tanner from Okemos, MiJethro do you think it is long enough yet?
  • Patrick from Kingston, OnI am surprised there hasn't been a comment on the title itself. As per the lyric, "and your wise man don't know how it feels, to be thick as a brick." Is probably one of the greatest thoughts written in a rock lyric. The only thing a wise man will never, ever know or learn is what it is like to be stupid. Great observation.
  • Mario Anthar from Tijuana, MexicoThis is a complete musical experience.
    It's beautifil and bright, complex and simple, so full of intensity and magic.

    "The dawn creation of the kings has begun..." is beyond description.

    About the critics. In my opinion, the previous album had created quite a buzz around the media, drawing the attention of main stream business, opening new markets and getting full support from all those involved in getting the thick as a brick album out and promoting it.
    top selling album for 3 weeks is proof of that.

    My guess is that by the time the powers that be realized this was not the radio friendly "in bed and having fun" sort of album they unleashed the dogs.

    By the way, who cares about the critics.

    Greets from Mexico.
  • Matt from Victori, TxI love this album, but feel "A Passion Play" may be even more challenging/rewarding. Both of them are life changers.
  • David from Bala Cynwyd, PaTo add on what Jeff (from Detroit) stated, Ian Anderson was upset that the critics considered the Aqualung album a concept album...
    consequently, his attitude (towards the critics) was "OK, you want a concept album, I'll give you a concept album that's over-the-top and bombastic."...so as much as one can appreciate the composition/musicianship of TAAB, it was really meant as a send-up album...in the end, TAAB scored well with the J-Tull fans...
  • Tom from Marble Falls, ArJohn from Jasper, Canada, Gerald Bostock IS Gerald Bostock! That was literally the name of the kid on the front cover. He's still alive and well, living in England.
  • Marley from Springfield, NjThis song truly is a masterpiece. It is beautiful but also rocking at the same time.
  • Eric from Lake Orion, Miis it me or does most of the song sound like rush composed it
  • Eric from Lake Orion, Mito really find out about the recording buy the cd "thick as a brick" and the last song if u will is an interview with the band
  • Kevin from Jacksonville, FlIn an interview with Martin Barre, he stated he was terrified the first couple times they had to play this entire best live in 1972. The music is so complex with a lot of changes and odd time signatures strung together, he was afraid he would mess up or forget some of the parts. Passion Play in 1973 must have been even more unnerving to pull off.
  • Andy from Rockaway , NyPure concept.Anderson would always end his concerts in the 70's with...........THICK AS A..................audiance: BRICK.
    Great Music!!
  • Tim from Davis, CaI dissagree with Robert from Chicago, the best veresion to put on you iPod is the whole thing! (and it's the easiest to find, on iTunes anyway).
  • Heather from Los Angeles, Ca"...and the love that I feel is so far away...." my favorite lyric in the song.
  • John from Jasper, CanadaGerald Bostock is Ian Anderson.Ian and band were fans of Monty Pythons Flying circus tv show that was bein shown on tv at the time.
  • Cyberpope from Richmond, CanadaThe beauty that is Jethro Tull is these guys would do ANYTHING to prove they COULD play any instrument ever known to man, & could sing any style ever done! True masters & this song/album tops it all!
  • Robert from Chicago, IlThere are other edits of this song found elsewhere in the Tull catalog. There's a second edit found on the "Repeat: Vol.II" collection which is roughly the 11:00 to 14:00 segment. Another version appears on FM radio occasionally combining the first three minutes of the song (Main Theme) with the "Comic Books, Super Crooks" segment found towards the end of Side I, tagging on the last 30 seconds of the "Finale" from Side II. The latter is my favorite for those who want one to put on their iPod. I have no idea where to find this version, but I think it might be on the "Anniversary Collection" 2-CD set. It's around 6 minutes long.
  • Gabriel from Paris, FranceLyrically and musically one of the Jethro Tull's more complex albums of all times, "the mother of all concept albums" as Anderson use to refers when asked and a response to people calling Aqualung a concept album. The music for this album developed, as they did for previous records, along the way during live shows and rehearsals in north london. Lyrically it is supposed to be based on a poem written by a 8-year old boy called Gerald "Little Milton" Bostock, a fictional character invented by Anderson (photo on album cover). This album contains a lot of details of the british-kind of humor of the time, specially regarding Monty Phyton's Flying Circus show.
  • Micheal from Little Rock, AkThick as a Brick os the coolest song ever because he plays the flute and sings during the song and I like the sound of the flute and the melody of the song.
  • Angie from Ocean Springs, MsTull puts on a hellofa show, fo show!
  • Saul from Lowell, MaIan Anderson doesn't just write songs... he writes what has commonly been called a "masterpeice"

    "Thick as a Brick can be compared to ANY masterpiece written by Beethoven,Bach, or any other of these brillant men...wish i could meet Ian before I "mingle with the dust"
  • Chris from Paradise, CtThis is the best rock song in the history of rock and roll....Ian anderson is amazing on the flute!!!!!!
    Does anyone know what it means????
    -Chris Galea-
  • Tressa from Eaton Rapids, MiIts a great song!!! One of their best. I recently saw them in concert a few weeks ago. They were great!!!
  • Erik from Cherry Valley, Ilthe critics hated it because it is so long, they fail to realize the masterpiece that it is

    Jethro Tull is a great reason why I love progressive rock, they don't write music around 3 minute radio slots, they take thier time with it and the result is awesome
  • Dan from Omaha, NePrimarily because of this song/album, but also because of their other work, I think Jethro Tull is the most deserving group to be in the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame that has yet to be inducted. I find myself listening to this album and soul searching.
  • Dave from Cardiff, WalesRe: the last comment - Charlie, I assumed you meant Part 1, but I now see that you meant the entire work
  • Dave from Cardiff, WalesCharlie, the critics hated it, like they hated the TAAB album, because it was ahead of it's time, and they simply weren't ready for it
  • Rabin from London, Englandmy favourite album.followed by songs from the wood,minstrel in the gallery,stand up.must make time to listen tull more often. rabin.rbose@ealing.gov.uk
  • Andrew from TorontoGreat song and album design,one of the many things lost in the CD age.The CD is great though because u can listen without having to flip the record over as is the case with many CD releases from 60,s and 70,s.This album in my top five Tull releases but in my opinion lags behind Stand Up and Aqualung.
  • Nessie from Sapporo, JapanPete, that "Robin Hood" feel is from the open tuning used for the guitar. Awesome guitar work on this one, their best song.
  • Pete from Nowra, AustraliaJethro Tull great sound ....sorta takes me back to the Robin Hood and his band of merry men days
  • Jeff from Detroit, MiI believe that critics called aqualung a "concept album", however, in Anderson's opinion, it was not. He wrote Thick as a Brick to show them what a real concept album was.
  • Charlie from Thomaston, Ctwhy did the critics hate it?
  • Ken from Hartland, MiAs mentioned on the Aqualung post, Ian swears this was his first concept album.
    I also have heard that he had quite a time collecting royalties from some countries due to the fact that in keeping with the newpaper claim, he actually listed the song as wirtten by Ian Anderson and Grerald Milton Bostock. I have heard he had to take out assumed names in some countries to get his "other" half. Anyone else have any info on this?
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