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Ian Anderson, composer of Thick as a Brick
An ancient copy of the Thick as a Brick LP with full newspaper cover was found on Friday 27-July-2002 in Greville Records (Melbourne, Australia). The cover was a bit stained and creased, but in tolerable condition considering it's almost 30 years old. This replaces the cover I idiotically lost sometime in the last 20 years, probably during a house move. Thanks to 'ME' in the alt.music.jethro-tull newsgroup who suggested some local alternative music stores which eventually turned-up a copy. Gaslight Records was the first store I rang, but they couldn't help me. The 2nd store I rang was Greville Records and they found a copy after trawling through the boxes of second-hand LPs that ring the floor of the shop. Thanks also to 'Me' and 'Iva' who gave me the catalogue number 72438-57705-2-4 for the anniversary CD, which I'll pass to a friend in the USA who has offered to locate a copy of the CD with the bonus tracks. As I said in the group, I don't want to see the original Thick as a Brick altered in any way, except perhaps digitally cleaned of any analogue noise.
I've always wondered about the technical aspects of the writing and recording Thick as a Brick, especially how it was composed, how the musicians learned the parts, how many overdubs and sessions were used, what equipment was used, etc. In July 2002 I finally heard the bonus track and many of my questions were answered. I learned that the album was originally going to be a regular collection of songs but it very quickly turned into the "mother of all concept albums". The subtle silliness of the concept and the mock newspaper cover were influenced by the rising popularity of Monty Python's Flying Circus TV show in the early 70s. Ian Anderson composed the epic work at a furious pace and the musicians practiced intensely in a dank basement for about a month before they went into the recording studio. The recording used extensive overdubs and splicing to create two continuous record sides. The recording process lasted just over a week, and passed quickly because everyone had studied their parts so well during the practice sessions. The band members describe the live performances of Thick as a Brick as being nerve-wracking and exhilarating, requiring great concentration.
When I first heard Thick as a Brick back in 1973 I was a rather "square" young classical music student, and I was absolutely gob smacked by its musical complexity. I had not heard any "pop music" like it before, especially with such astonishingly seamless time signature changes. I'm still amazed by the way the first ascending "rock" theme alternates between 5/4 and 6/4. Mike Oldfield does a similar thing with the opening riff of Tubular Bells, creating a subtle dizrythmic effect. I was initially reminded of The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky, but my non-musical high school friends back then had no idea what I was talking about with such comparisons.
Please enjoy a classic piece of early 70s musical silliness: the pages of the LP cover mock newspaper. Click the thumbnails to popup enlargements.
Copyright © 1999-2013 Greg Keogh
Last Updated: 02-Feb-2013 02:06 UTC