believe in the day?
THICK AS A BRICK 40 years later...
mwe3.com presents an interview
a deliberate endeavor to revisit sacred terrain from the early rock
era of Thick As A Brick, Jethro Tull founder Ian Anderson released
a solo album called Thick As A Brick 2 in March 2012.
Celebrating the original album Thick As A Brick, released in
March 1972, Thick As A Brick 2 examines some interesting what-ifs
surrounding the original Thick As A Brick said lyricist Gerald
Bostock. Funny thing was, when the original Thick As A Brick came
out, the lyrics were actually the last thing on anybodys mind.
On Thick As A Brick, it seemed like Andersons lyrics
were more useful as a delivery mechanism for his completely unique
sounding voice and even more influential melodic giftfeaturing
Ian crafting rock tracks the way Beethoven or Mozart would write classical
orchestrations. With lyrics that seemed to create a cosmic, universal
type experience rather than offering a direct message, 1972s
Thick As A Brick was groundbreaking more for the sound Tull
achieved in the recording studio and for its treasure of rare melodic
passages and orchestral rock music structures. The original Thick
As A Brick was also trendsetting in the way the original black
vinyl Lp was packagedits huge labyrinth of newspaper like album
packaging appeared to be a spoof and some kind of cosmic joke, especially
for anyone expecting Aqualung 2! While, musically, theres
some affinity with the original Thick As A Brick album, for
the most partwith its bleak portraits of homelessness, religion,
military men, ordinary people and greedy bankersThick As
A Brick 2 doesnt exactly paint a pretty picture of the various
futures it seems Ian's prodigy Bostock might have lived to achieve,
whilst encompassing a wide range of unsavory type personalities. Thick
As A Brick 2 isnt a Tull albumits an Ian Anderson
solo album and long time fans will note that Martin Barre is not here.
Even so, Martins guitar sound is replicated brilliantly by German
guitarist Florian Opahle, while on drums here is Scott Hammond
instead of current Tull thumper Doane Perry. As many music
fans who lived through that original late 60s / early 70s
era will tell you, there will never be another album quite as brilliant
or mesmerizing as the original Thick As A Brick album. That
said, Ian goes to great lengths, both melodically and lyrically to
come up with a 21st century inspired kind of Thick As A Brick
albumone that will no doubt make Gerald Bostock proud of his
musical, (though still thoroughly fictitious) heritage. On March 23,
2012, Ian Anderson spoke to mwe3.com founder Robert Silverstein for
a few minutes about the timeless, yet still historically significant
Thick As A Brick and its 2012 sequel.
ANDERSON: Hello is that Robert Silverstein?
mwe3: Yes sir, Ian Anderson!
IAN ANDERSON: Yes, this is Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull.
mwe3: Its always an incredible honor to either see you
play live or talk to you on the phone.
IAN ANDERSON: Great, nice to talk to you too. Fire away.
mwe3: Hows Martin Barre doing?
IAN ANDERSON: Well, hes like me, busy preparing for various
concert tours and new projects hes doing this year, so I guess
hes pretty much in the same position I am of trying to make
all the things come together for a busy year.
mwe3: How did it work out with Martin not appearing on the
newly released Thick As A Brick 2 album? You have a new guitarist
with you called Florian?
IAN ANDERSON: Well Florian is not exactly a new guitar player.
Hes been playing with me for ten years. Hes done lots
of shows with me in all different places over the years, and indeed
played guitar as guitarist with Jethro Tull on a few occasions when
Martin was ill or didnt want to do some tours. So yeah, Florians
an old hand.
mwe3: Why did you release Thick As A Brick 2 as an Ian
Anderson solo album and not a Jethro Tull album?
IAN ANDERSON: Because I find when it just says Jethro Tull
on the ticket it does tend to suggest that maybe its just repertoire...you
know, the classic repertoire and the greatest hits sort of approach
to it. So, usually when we do tours with Jethro Tull it usually features
Martin Barre playing the guitar, quite often Doane Perry playing the
drums, our L.A. drummer, and it usually is more the...yknow
classic best of material. But when I do projects that are much more
specific, then I find using my own name, keeps the riffraff at home!
The beer drinking buddies who come out to whistle and shout and hoot
and holler. (Ian shouts Play Aqualung!) Theyre
going to more likely stay at home, which is the best place for them,
(laughter) because I need an audience who's not going to be interrupted,
or I am going to be interrupted by those drunken fools. So its
good that they stay home. Are you one of them? (laughter)
mwe3: I was probably the first people in New York City to buy
Thick As A Brick when it came out on album back in early 1972.
I remember the day I bought it as an import at Discophile on 8th street
in Manhattan. What do you make of this era were in right now,
if thats not too heavy? Are you interested in astrology at all?
IAN ANDERSON: Its not a thing I have any experience,
knowledge or frankly much interest in... So no, in a word. Im
not interested in astrology at all really. Its one of the dark
arts that Ive never really got round to. Its not so much
that Im against the idea in principle, of finding out about
astrology, and learning about astrology. Its just that in my
history, I suppose the people that Ive met, that have been involved
in astrology are not people that I find that that easy to talk to.
And so I suppose its just the people involved in it, rather
than the, I dont know if you can call it a science but whatever
you would call it, its not that Im against the idea of
it. Its just I dont really feel drawn into the social
mix of what it seems astrology is about, when it comes to people who
practice it, talk about it or what ever. Youre not one of those,
are you? (laughter) Of course you are! I know you are, but dont
worry about it! Lets move on away from astrology! Its
not my thing.
Okay. I know its the 40th anniversary but why Thick As Brick
2 now? I was reading Derek Shulman was involved. The original
Thick As A Brick album was to me, possibly the greatest progressive
rock album of that magical early 70s period. Was there some
concerted effort to bring back Thick As A Brick now?
IAN ANDERSON: Well the original album was made in a follow
up to the Aqualung album, which was deemed by some of the music
writers, critics, what ever you want to call them, as being a concept
album. And I always said, No, its not a concept album.
Its just this collection of songs So when it came to Thick
As A Brick, a year later, I said Right, lets give
them the mother of all concept albums. Well do a parody,
a spoof of the prog-rock concept album genre, which was riding high
at that point with people like Emerson Lake & Palmer, King Crimson
and the early Genesis and YES, and well do a parody. Well
do a little mickey-take, a little spoof, filled with English real
humor, a composition written by an 8 year old boy, a child poet who
wrote the lyrics. And thats how that came about and it was a
lot of fun. Of course, like any parody, its a comic mask for
lots of underlying serious stuff. And Thick As A Brick was
like that. And when it came to 40 years later, doing a sequel, it
was not about what happened next, i.e. 72 or 73. It was
a big leap into the future, into 2012. This is an album that really
talks about today and the way things might have turned out for the
little Gerald Bostock, forty years later. And so, Gerald Bostock,
age 50 today, cause I reinvented his age cause I like
zeroes on the end, hes portrayed in many different possible
guises, as he went through life, and made some life-changing positions,
as we all do, or did, or will do if were younger folks right
now. So its an album really about 2012 and how different it
is from 1972, except perhaps in one thing; which is the futility of
war. In 1972, we were a year away from America pulling out of Vietnam
and the North Vietnamese troops sweeping down into South Vietnam and
installing a Soviet style socialist republic, which endures till this
day. And here we are in 2012, about a year away from America drawing
down its troops in Afghanistan and the Taliban are waiting in the
wings to return and stone Mr. Karzai to death in the village square
somewhere and subjugate the women and children to a life based on
the extremist views of a religion that seems to have gone a bit wrong.
So, thats an uncanny similarity, and an uncanny echo of the
past. One of the examples of how things, sometimes, dont always
change with the passing of years.
mwe3: Being that I was 18 in 1972 and had to register for the
draft, I always felt it was the English musicians, specifically John
Lennon who was inspiring everybody to try to stop the Vietnam war.
In a way, Thick As A Brick echoed that kind of antiwar thinking
in a way.
IAN ANDERSON: Well, on the face of it, we had an 8 year old
boy who was rather glorifying wars, and military, the rather traditional
values of aggression, of family disputes... Actually, in some ways
it was rather the opposite through a little boys misguided notions.
We were looking at the glorifying of war and aggression. In terms
of what that album touched upon, in some parts of the lyrics, which
are very close to me because Ive been singing them this afternoon,
and as always having to think what lay behind my mental workings when
I wrote the music and the words back in 1972, so yeah, I have to reacquaint
myself with some of that and try to sing in in character.
mwe3: How do you think the English music press and media is
going to respond to the Thick As A Brick 2 CD?
IAN ANDERSON: Well its a little early to say. I mean,
Ive been doing lots of press and promotion but a lot of it is
advance stuff that probably hasnt made it into the press and
media yet but it is just about now as were getting close to
the time when the album is released. I dont know the end result
of that but I would guess that its going to be probably divided
down the middle by people who absolutely hate it and people who think
its quite good! And I think most Jethro Tull fans, people who
consider themselves to be fans of Jethro Tull, itll be a bit
like that. Half of them will think its pretty good and half
of them will really hate it but thats the way it is. I dont
expect huge accolades and I certainly dont expect enormous economic
success but Im not really doing it for anybody else. Im
doing it for me. Frankly, I dont give a fuck what anybody else
thinks, cause Im just doing it for me. Im 64 years
old and I have a right to have fun. So, I put a lot of work and effort
into it and I really hope people enjoy it, but if they dont,
well they can watch the X-factor and go and toss themselves off in
a corner somewhere, I dont really care. What do you think? Is
that a healthy state of mind for me to have? What do you think?
mwe3: Well Ive played the Thick As A Brick 2 record
about ten times and its clearly a masterpiece. Obviously its
different than Thick As Brick. What could touch Thick As
A Brick, it's like what could touch Abbey Road...the masterpieces,
the iconic rock albums that were made back then? Who would have guessed
Ian, 40 years later nobody could top those albums. Did you think back
then that no one is going to top this album in our lifetime? When
they teach rock music as a history course in 2072, theyll probably
refer back to Thick As A Brick as case in point essential listening.
Did you ever think about that?
IAN ANDERSON: Well, I do think about it, because quite often
I get people telling me that theyre just completing their Ph.D.
thesis in Aqualung or Passion Play or some such thing.
Its extraordinary how people do take it all very seriously and
do quite often go into the minutia of detail. It does happen out there
but Im not sure its an entirely healthy pursuit. Its
just some people like doing stuff thats maybe a little off the
beaten track. I think theres a danger that if you take it all
so incredibly seriously and elevate it to the status of high art then
you may be giving it an importance that perhaps it doesnt quite
deserve. However, I think Thick As A Brick was a good album.
It stands as an extreme example of progressive rock as it was in the
early 1970s. And I think it stands out because it was a very original
and interesting album cover. I think the music was quite good. It
was well played. Its not a bad album at all but I dont
think I would ever be setting out to replicate it, or as you put it,
to top it because I dont really feel a need to try
to create something that is better, bigger, grander... Thats
not the way I think about it. Im just doing something that has
a strong relationship but to me its about doing something thats
different... but based on some of the same premises, and based
on some of the continuity of some of those earlier ideas. But it's
different. I dont think... if you said to Beethoven, did his
9th Symphony top his 7th or his 3rd? ... I think hed probably
just belt you round the ear and say go away laddie and
come back to me when you stop talking in those terms. Because
its not about topping, its about doing something
new, something interesting. Whether Beethoven thought he was improving
on his previous symphonies, I rather doubt. I think he was thinking
in terms of, hey, Im just totally passionate about this
new work. And its not a question of trying to make it
better, its a question of making it different. But at the same
time using some of those elements that you do hear, reprised, reiterated
and developed where he goes back and gives a little nod and a wink
to some previous symphonic work. Thats the way we folks do it.
Were supposed to be artists. Were supposed to be a little
bit clever when it comes to writing and arranging music. Im
not saying Im anywhere near Beethovens standard but yknow,
you learn from the masters and thats what Ive tried to
do over the years.
mwe3: Well in my opinion youre more important than Beethoven
or Mozart because I grew up with your music. Can you imagine the effect
of Thick As A Brick on an 18 year old? As a matter of fact,
that Thick As A Brick tour was the first time Tull played at
Madison Square Garden in 1972? (editor: Actually
the first Tull show at Madison Square Garden, before Thick As A Brick
was released, was October 18, 1971)
IAN ANDERSON: Well, Im not sure... It might well have been
in that era for sure, but it was around the time of... Well we played
two tours in the USA in 1972 and I do remember that it was quite a
hard tour compared to relatively easy doing the U.K. and maybe some
of the dates in other places. But it was a rough ride in Italy and
it was a rough ride in the USA because we really did struggle to get
the attention and the appreciation of some of the quieter, acoustic
moments. People were tending to shout and whistle and generally made
it very difficult for me to concentrate on what I was playing. So
I didnt enjoy doing it, which is one of the reasons I said,
Im never going to do this again. And another of
the reasons that I wouldnt go out there and do this today is
simply putting on the ticket Jethro Tull. I would hate to invite...make
people think they were coming to simply another generic rock concert.
Its not Deep Purple with a flute, its Ian Anderson unveiling
his new grandson, alongside the old baby, cause Im the
guy that wrote the stuff and Im kind of passionate about doing
it on my terms and letting the audience hear it as opposed
to becoming too much of a rock event. I know Roger Waters goes out
and does The Wall in big arenas and so on...plugs into his
monitors and shuts out a lot of the din and the noise of the audience
to just get through the show. But, Im someone whos a little
more sensitive about...when I have a quiet, emotional moment, I want
people to be really quiet and listen to it. I really dont like
it when people whistle and shout. That just really annoys me.
I read a great muli-artist interview you did with Steve Hackett
and Ray Shulman for the Classic Rock Presents Prog magazine where
you said, In our parents time before the internet, they would
been content to grow old in front of the TV set. You also said,
'our generation now is a lot more active now and we can get a hold
of a lot more information then ever before.' Do you see this trend
moving forward and how do you see this impacting a whole new generation
of potential Jethro Tull fans? All of a sudden some 18 year old guy
is discovering Thick As A Brick in 2012.
IAN ANDERSON: Well its certainly the case that a lot of
younger people who are into progressive rock, and Ive certainly
noticed that being on the increase, particularly in the Latin countries
and Italy and Spain, and throughout Latin America. Theres a
huge rise in the popularity of progressive rock and its partly,
I think, because of the interest amongst young people in bands like
Dream Theater, Porcupine Tree or Opeth. But its also that theyre
aware that they inherited the legacy of bands from the 70s,
that were the original vocal prog-rockers. So they have an interest
in that too. Theres certainly a considerable growth, as well
as a revival of interest in progressive rock and I think that its
good that thats the case! Its a good balance and the scheme
of rock music is a good antidote to the banality of the X-factor and
that generation of cheesy pop. So, yeah, its good that we have
some younger people getting into it and they can find out about it
much more easily on the internet than, I guess we could 40 years ago
when it was much harder to get information. These days, everything
is... its out there. And its just a couple of clicks away
if you go to Mr. Google or Mr. Wiki or Mr. YouTube. Theyll help
you out and find you everything you need to know. So when you want
to buy some viagra or a new Ian Anderson album, its pretty easy
to keep yourself young forever. Just use the internet, its a
click away. Gotta go now cause Im a bit late for my next
interview, amongst the many I have to do tonight but very nice to
talk to you. Ive just been to your web site, it looks really
great and keep up the good work.
Thanks to Ian Anderson @ www.IanAnderson.com