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Last time we sort of did the history about this record, and tonight we shall deal with the first side of the album.  It is quite complex, and is just one long song called "Thick as a Brick Part I".  Obviously, the second side, to be covered next time, is called "Thick as a Brick Part II".  Here is how I suggest that you read this blog.

Open a second entry of this in a new tab (if you are using Firefox or other browsers that support multiple tabs).  If not, just open a second browser window.  Use the second one to play the music, and I will give you prompts when to go back the the first one for discussion.  I believe that will be the most efficient way to cover one long (22 minutes, forty seconds) bit of music.  I am going to break it into chunks at what I deem to be different songs.

Here is "Thick as a Brick Part I".  All the material was written by Gerald Bostock, aka Ian Anderson.  It is good stuff.

Really don't mind if you sit this one out.

My words but a whisper -- your deafness a SHOUT.
I may make you feel but I can't make you think.
Your sperm's in the gutter -- your love's in the sink.
So you ride yourselves over the fields and
you make all your animal deals and
your wise men don't know how it feels to be thick as a brick.
And the sand-castle virtues are all swept away in
the tidal destruction
the moral melee.
The elastic retreat rings the close of play as the last wave uncovers
the newfangled way.
But your new shoes are worn at the heels and
your suntan does rapidly peel and
your wise men don't know how it feels to be thick as a brick.

Now for the explication of the song.  I find the opening line quite brilliant.  What I deem to be the first song runs from time stamp zero to about 2:02.  I call this "My Words but a Whisper".  The line "Really don't mind if you sit this one out." to me at least, defines Anderson's attitude about the work.  He is saying essentially that he already knows that the entire work is a big joke to poke fun at the critics who thought that Aqualung was a concept album.

The rest is also interesting.  "My words but a whisper; your deafness a SHOUT.  I may make you feel but I can't make you think." is profound.  I have been there and done that, trying to be a lone voice in the wilderness just to find that the very people who should understand choose to shut down the conversation.  It has happened to me in my private and professional life, and it, frankly, hurts.  Fortunately most of the time people finally realize that I most often speak from a position of experience and, hopefully, wisdom and most people who know me finally get it.  But that does not happen with most people, because they do not really know me.

The next line about male ejecta only is used to illustrate the point; you do not love, you only feel.

The part about riding over the fields and making animal deals has to do with humans reacting from pure emotion rather than logic.  Hey, I am probably the most emotional person whose writings you have ever read, but I really try to temper emotion with logic.  It does not always work, but I try.

The rest of it seems to be something to do with trying to discard the old and accept the new, and that has a special relevance with our era, with the Republicans trying to take us back to the old, bad ways and negate the progress that our beloved Nation has made since around 1960.  I know that I am sort of reaching here, but it is a universal symptom of being human to be torn from old ways (mine, unfortunately, were not always honorable) to new ways, hopefully more enlightened than the old ways.

Perhaps it is just me, but I think that there is a tribute to Peter Townshend's writing in this movement, that line that says,

But your new shoes are worn at the heels and
your suntan does rapidly peel...
That sounds very much like some of the sentiments from "Substitute"!

The final line is "...and your wise men don't know how it feels to be thick as a brick."   That is really good!  I have found in my life experience that "wise men" are often quite stupid, and that includes me in many respects.  I think that being a clever fool is better than being a stupid expert, but the Krauthammers of the world will never agree.

The part starting at around 2:03 and going about a minute seems to be a transitional piece from the initial song to the one that I call  "The Newborn", a person who has never experienced dishonesty, except that his parents were nothing but dishonest to him, telling him how the world works in a defective way.

I must use an aside here.  Lying to children is an age old way to get them to conform to your wishes, and The Woman and I lied to The Little Girl about what happened to her kitten.  We told her that he had run away.  Both The Woman and I thought about it, and we both decided (with me insisting) that we tell her the truth.  Last evening, we brought The Little Girl to see where I buried that kitten.  We were honest with her, and told her that he had died, in my arms.  She was sad, but understood in a way, still thinking that he might come back home.  We explained to her that he can never come home, but that we will never forget him.

Children can deal with death, in a childlike way.  They sort of understand that when something or someone has died, he or she can never come back, and dying is not an act of rejection.  Running away implies abandonment, and abandonment to a child means that the affected party for some reason did not love them.  It can have some really deep and dark psychological implications, and I am really happy that The Woman came to agree with me to come clean with The Little Girl.

Right at three minutes comes "The Newborn" and it is quite interesting, both musically and lyrically.  I LOVE Hammond organ, and this satisfies well.  Here are the lyrics:

See there! A son is born, and we pronounce him fit to fight.
There are black-heads on his shoulders, and he pees himself in the night.
make a man of him
put him to trade
teach him
to play Monopoly and
to sing in the rain.
Obviously this is not about a newborn at all, with blackheads but one that yet has nocturnal incontinence problems.  The piece seems to be talking about conditioning a person for her or his place in society.

Right at five minutes comes "The Poet", and here are the words:

The Poet and the painter casting shadows on the water --
as the sun plays on the infantry returning from the sea.
The do-er and the thinker: no allowance for the other --
as the failing light illuminates the mercenary's creed.
The home fire burning: the kettle almost boiling --
but the master of the house is far away.
The horses stamping -- their warm breath clouding
in the sharp and frosty morning of the day.
And the poet lifts his pen while the soldier sheaths his sword.

And the youngest of the family is moving with authority.
Building castles by the sea, he dares the tardy tide to wash them all aside.

The cattle quietly grazing at the grass down by the river
where the swelling mountain water moves onward to the sea:
the builder of the castles renews the age-old purpose
and contemplates the milking girl whose offer is his need.
The young men of the household have
all gone into service and
are not to be expected for a year.
The innocent young master -- thoughts moving ever faster --
has formed the plan to change the man he seems.
And the poet sheaths his pen while the soldier lifts his sword.

And the oldest of the family is moving with authority.
Coming from across the sea, he challenges the son who puts him to the run.

I am darned if I can figure this one out!  I think that the poet and the soldier are two faces of the same person, our protagonist, but it is difficult for me to say.  Someone explain it to me, please.

At about 11:17 it transitions to "What do You Do?", and this seems to have to do with a young man's way of dealing with his father and his own self image.

What do you do when
the old man's gone -- do you want to be him? And
your real self sings the song.
Do you want to free him?
No one to help you get up steam --
and the whirlpool turns you `way off-beam.
After that is a wonderful instrumental transition to "I've Come Down."
I've come down from the upper class to mend your rotten ways.
My father was a man-of-power whom everyone obeyed.
So come on all you criminals!
I've got to put you straight just like I did with my old man --
twenty years too late.
Your bread and water's going cold.
Your hair is too short and neat.
I'll judge you all and make damn sure that no-one judges me.

You curl your toes in fun as you smile at everyone -- you meet the stares.
You're unaware that your doings aren't done.
And you laugh most ruthlessly as you tell us what not to be.
But how are we supposed to see where we should run?
I see you shuffle in the courtroom with
your rings upon your fingers and
your downy little sidies and
your silver-buckle shoes.
Playing at the hard case, you follow the example of the comic-paper idol
who lets you bend the rules.

Come on ye childhood heroes!
Won't you rise up from the pages of your comic-books
your super crooks
and show us all the way.
Well! Make your will and testament. Won't you?
Join your local government.
We'll have Superman for president
let Robin save the day.

You put your bet on number one and it comes up every time.
The other kids have all backed down and they put you first in line.
And so you finally ask yourself just how big you are --
and take your place in a wiser world of bigger motor cars.
And you wonder who to call on.

So! Where the hell was Biggles when you needed him last Saturday?
And where were all the sportsmen who always pulled you though?
They're all resting down in Cornwall --
writing up their memoirs for a paper-back edition
of the Boy Scout Manual.

The transition and this piece have a wonderful combination of flute, Hammond, and the bass playing is outstanding.  I think that it has to conformity versus nonconformity in society.  The musical style also transitions back to the opening theme with some embellishment. The last part of it seems to indicate a transition from the man child to an establishment conformist, with a large measure of self-induced ignorance that the establishment is not actually real.  Or at least that is what it seems to me.

This is, as I said earlier, a difficult album around which to wrap one's arms.  However, it is wonderfully made, well played, and even if one can not make sense of the words the music is outstanding.

That is it for now.  I am writing at The Woman's house today because I had to set off flea bombs in mine (the last of the legacy of Junior Jace Potter, the kitten) so I can not go back to ventilate it until 4:00 this afternoon.  I have no idea if I shall be around for comments this evening because I do not know if I will be visiting or not.  She had a doctor's appointment this afternoon, so I am alone in her house but she will be back pretty soon.  It turns out that I may have to go at any moment because she is getting The Little Girl down now.  If things go as hoped, we will have a nice time together, and I may even get a haircut if we are not having too much fun just being with each other.

On a bit more of a political note, after I explained to her what is at stake this election and how important it is to keep the White House and the Senate, and to try to retake the House, she had me print out a Kentucky mail in voter registration form, and she mailed it off Wednesday past.  Her mum and dad were so impressed that they asked me to print them forms as well, and for the first time every her mum registered as a Democrat (Kentucky has closed primaries).  I had to explain to them that regardless of how they register, they can vote for any party in the general election, but only for either Democrats or Republicans in the primaries.  Once they understood that all was good to go.  See, even though I do not write a lot about politics, I still am active in my little way.

Next time we shall look at Side 2.  I am not sure whether I shall do any more on Tull after that or go to something else.  I will have to think about it.

Warmest regards,

Doc, aka Dr. David W. Smith

Crossposted at

The Stars Hollow Gazette,

Docudharma, and


Originally posted to Translator on Fri Sep 21, 2012 at 05:58 PM PDT.

Also republished by Protest Music.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tips and recs for (21+ / 0-)

    some really outstanding music?

    Warmest regards,


    I would rather die from the acute effects of a broken heart than from the chronic effects of an empty heart. Copyright, Dr. David W. Smith, 2011

    by Translator on Fri Sep 21, 2012 at 11:29:17 AM PDT

    •  Thanks, folks! (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SherwoodB, Sinocco, palantir

      I appreciate making the Recommended List.  My readers are the best!

      Warmest regards,


      I would rather die from the acute effects of a broken heart than from the chronic effects of an empty heart. Copyright, Dr. David W. Smith, 2011

      by Translator on Fri Sep 21, 2012 at 06:44:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Got to go, folks! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SherwoodB, palantir

      Wish us happiness, please!

      Warmest regards,


      I would rather die from the acute effects of a broken heart than from the chronic effects of an empty heart. Copyright, Dr. David W. Smith, 2011

      by Translator on Fri Sep 21, 2012 at 06:46:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I am back now. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        We never got to the haircut, and I do not mind.  We joked, laughed, sorted clothes, held hands, and she really liked the back massage (through clothing) that I spent almost 90 minutes giving her.  In short, she and I spent a whole lot of quality time together, and she wants to repeat the experience soon.  For the first time ever she told me about her education, "David, you are the only one who ever thought that I was smart."

        And we sort of said some vague commitment words as well.

        Bliss is only bliss when two experience it simultaneously.  Tonight was bliss.

        I shall stay around for half an hour or so, or when the melatonin tells me to say goodnight.

        Warmest regards,


        I would rather die from the acute effects of a broken heart than from the chronic effects of an empty heart. Copyright, Dr. David W. Smith, 2011

        by Translator on Fri Sep 21, 2012 at 08:52:14 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Awesome takes me back to HS graduation. (0+ / 0-)

      I think I still have this in my collection although probably not in very good condition as my "stereo" at the time was very old and not high quality. Did not deter me though from drowning out the dysfunctional family environment at the time. Music was my refuge as a teenager. Headphones were a life saver.

  •  The poet and the solider (9+ / 0-)

    I think I pull more societal references from the song than you do.  England was once known for its poets.  Now, not so much.  All the hunting references are interesting to me, too.  The song deals with "classes" a lot, and I think it also speaks about societal changes.

    I could be wrong.  I find the song very personal, for some reason.

    •  Part of the genius of this work is that (6+ / 0-)

      it is SO ambiguous.  Lots of wonderful art is like that.  Thank you for commenting, tipping, and recommending!  I do not remember you commenting here very much.  Please come back every week.

      Warmest regards,


      I would rather die from the acute effects of a broken heart than from the chronic effects of an empty heart. Copyright, Dr. David W. Smith, 2011

      by Translator on Fri Sep 21, 2012 at 06:14:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks for this, Doc... (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Sinocco, palantir, Translator, mookins

        I never really tried to analyze the lyrics. Like you I revel in the richness of the imagery and the ambiguity.

        As serious a piece as the album is, above all else it is great fun to listen to. However dense or even grim the music may seem at points, there seems always to be a humorous undertone lurking somewhere nearby.

        I also think you would be right to end the series after TAAB, though there are several great albums to follow, notably "Songs From the Wood," which I think is right up with their best work.

        On the other hand, the NEXT album was "A Passion Play."

        It would be interesting to compare TAAB with APP as they are both album length pieces, but the general consensus is that TAAB is a masterpiece and APP a rather curious failure.

        I'll give a brief explanation. I have had APP on vinyl for decades and always found it impenetrable, not ambiguous like TAAB. I pulled it out recently and listened to it a couple of times after Doc started this series and my original impressions were actually confirmed and amplified, if anything.

        Where TAAB has catchy, memorable and tremendously moving tunes, APP is very melodic, but unmemorable. The musicianship alone makes the album worth many listens, but I still come away with nothing.

        With the exception of the interlude titled "The Tale of the Hare Who Lost His Spectacles, " humor is totally absent. All of Tull's other LP's have at least  a couple of good laughs. Ultimately, however else it may impress,  APP is a joyless affair.

        Since you were not going to cover it I thought I'd expand on some things I had suggested in earlier posts.

        Nice work again Doc, and I look forward to "Side II!"

        Dating myself there, huh?

        I'm not paranoid, I'm just well informed--SherwoodB

        by SherwoodB on Fri Sep 21, 2012 at 06:48:44 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thank you very much! (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          mookins, SherwoodB

          This is an extremely difficult piece to decipher, but the music is good even if the words make no sense.

          She and I had words that made sense not long ago.  We finally told each other that we are our favorite persons, and she even told the lady down the street that we are much more that neighbors.  Sorry if I seem to be one minded, but when your love expresses her love to you it is IMPOSSIBLE to refrain from shouting it from the rafters!  I am glad, my dear friend SherwoodB, that you are the first to know.

          Can you tell that I am happy?

          Warmest regards,


          I would rather die from the acute effects of a broken heart than from the chronic effects of an empty heart. Copyright, Dr. David W. Smith, 2011

          by Translator on Fri Sep 21, 2012 at 08:57:42 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  In concert they showed a film (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          SherwoodB, Translator

          at the opening that used the images on the album cover. The ballerina's dead, as the heartbeat on the soundtrack slows then stops. She then gets up, leaps and twirls light as a feather, dances toward a full length mirror and-  it ripples like water as she passes through!

          Then Anderson appears on the stage, 'The Silver Cord lies on the ground'. The Silver Cord, in Tibetan Buddhism I think,  is what connects the physical to the astral body; the album's about the interval between death and rebirth.

          The Hare's Spare Pair's about redemption, that kind of rebirth, that we're not trapped, not damned. It was a film during the intermission. And it actually was lighthearted, whimsical, character in a big bunny rabbit costume prancing around an easter-egg looking garden.

          •  Thank you mookins for your thoughts/ (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Translator, mookins

            insights about APP!

            I have often wished I had caught the show. Maybe I would have "gotten it!"

            Your recollections give me much to consider, not the least of which is that sometimes, hearing a piece of music performed live can "fill in the blanks" and illuminate us as to what the recorded version may have lacked.

            Live music is a very, very different animal from its studio (frozen in time) equivalent. APP may be a great example.

            I'm not paranoid, I'm just well informed--SherwoodB

            by SherwoodB on Fri Sep 21, 2012 at 09:32:42 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Trying to remember (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Translator, SherwoodB, palantir, mookins

    Which album has the line "Hare has a spare pair"? Meaning glasses.

    Love, love, love Jethro Tull. Thanks for your diary.

  •  I have this album (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SherwoodB, Sinocco, palantir, Translator

    the CD version where it's only one song, no parts, 40 something minutes. I used to listen to it a lot, but found earlier Tull easier to listen to.

    Until a few months ago, I thought this was a super deep piece of work. I never read the lyrics either.

    Turns out, just as you mentioned, this is a joke album. I'll even go much further, it is the finest troll ever conceived (excluding all things Zappa). The amount of effort and artistry it took to even put one over anyone, is simply a marvel.

    I had this album for years and never suspected it. I guess I really am thick as a brick.

    •  Great post, Nyerd... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sinocco, palantir, Translator, Nyerd

      I think the beauty of the "joke" is that the music is so much better than the other "real" concept albums that were popular at the time.

      I also liked the Zappa reference as Ian and Frank definitely could be consummate tricksters and valued high level musicianship without it necessarily being a "show-off" thing.

      I'm not paranoid, I'm just well informed--SherwoodB

      by SherwoodB on Fri Sep 21, 2012 at 06:57:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  So True. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        TomFromNJ, SherwoodB, Translator

        Here's the Wikipedia page I thought I linked but didn't.

        Thanks to insomnia, I just came up with an apt comparison of what Thick as a Brick is. It's a Sirens Song. Allow me to explain.

        At the time of Thick as a Brick, there weren't too many progressive rock bands back then doing mega concept albums. Yes hasn't released Close to the Edge yet, Pink Floyd released Echoes, ELP had Tarkus, Moody Blues is doing donuts because they beat everyone else to it, etc. And everyone thinks Aqualung is a concept album.

        And this compels Ian (et al) to create the most over the top parody of the genre. Thick as a Brick, as I always understood it, meant stupid (by the way, Translator, i like your take on it). The first lyric is the key to the whole thing "I really don't mind if you sit this one out." To me, that is Ian saying "progressive rock is going to get embarrassing real soon. but you won't know it, and I'll help rope you into it because, well, look at my album cover....... Now I'm going to dazzle you for 40 minutes and put on super epic (90min) concerts versions, sometimes even in the hosts country's native language."

        me 5 years ago: "What do you mean Dream Theater isn't party music? No, don't go!"

        And yet, looking back on this album, and my failure to understand it due to it being "too British for me to appreciate it", the album is deceptively simple. Taking it seriously, perhaps it's the British class system becoming all too familiar here that assists the translation.

    •  Being as thick as a brick (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mookins, Nyerd

      is sort of a badge of honor.  It means that one rejects the conventional and embraces the new, or sort of scary things in our psyches.  I just got back home from that very thing, and it went extremely well.

      Warmest regards,


      I would rather die from the acute effects of a broken heart than from the chronic effects of an empty heart. Copyright, Dr. David W. Smith, 2011

      by Translator on Fri Sep 21, 2012 at 09:00:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Hey Doc! I am only 2 hours up the road (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SherwoodB, Sinocco, palantir, Translator

    in Northern Kentucky.  I always loved Thick as a Brick.  Never really knew the meaning but loved the song.

    Romney is...

    By blood a king, in heart a clown.~ Alfred Lord Tennyson

    by Paddy999 on Fri Sep 21, 2012 at 06:59:57 PM PDT

  •  What a pleasant surprise... (5+ / 0-)

    I stumbled on this diary at the end of the day, end of the week, just the right time.  Nice beak from the politixx...

    Thick as a Brick is playing in one tab as I open up your previous Tull diaries in other tabs, browsing comments and bookmarking videos to enjoy later.

    I "discovered" Ian Anderson when Tull opened for Zeppelin at the Sports Arena in San Diego in the summer of '69 as I recall (dimly).  I remember being blown away by the music, and frustrated by not being able to find any Tull music at Tower Records the next day (I think Stand Up came out a month or two later).

    Pretty sure I bought everything they released for the next 10 years or so, probably still in the box of vinyl out in the garage...

    Anyway, thanks for the memories and for the thoughtful commentary about the music - much appreciated.

    That which unites us is, must be, stronger than that which divides us. RFK

    by Sinocco on Fri Sep 21, 2012 at 07:05:10 PM PDT

    •  I remember that Ian mentioned many times (5+ / 0-)

      that the tour opening for Zep really helped break them in the U.S.

      Being an opening act can be a very advantageous thing: the headliner is more responsible for filling seats and if you do go over well, you build your audience. I am sure Tull gave Zep a run for their money every night and it is to their credit that they booked an opening band that could do just that.

       I remember in 1980, the Police (who had just become huge with the Zenyatta Mondatta LP) booked a little known UK band called XTC to open their first big arena tour. I really dig the Police, but XTC blew them off the stage when I saw them ( I was already a fan of both bands and totally enjoyed the show).

      Andy Summers said that that was exactly why they booked them to open--to keep them selves sharp.

      Just some thoughts...:)

      I'm not paranoid, I'm just well informed--SherwoodB

      by SherwoodB on Fri Sep 21, 2012 at 07:21:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Thank you for the kind words! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mookins, SherwoodB

      We will do the second side next week, unless the relationship that has been starting gets more time intensive.  Tonight was wonderful, just she and I.

      Warmest regards,


      I would rather die from the acute effects of a broken heart than from the chronic effects of an empty heart. Copyright, Dr. David W. Smith, 2011

      by Translator on Fri Sep 21, 2012 at 09:08:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I always thought of Ian Anderson (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SherwoodB, IADave, Translator

    as a kind of Loki crossed with Pan.

  •  'The Poet': about contradiction, heedlessness, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Translator, SherwoodB

    vanity: the contradiction of a culture of lofty art that disregards, acquiesces in violence.

    The doer and the thinker, well who else is there? the 'Be-er', the fool on the hill, the one who's leaving the Brokedown Palace.

    The vanity, the smallness of the Great, moving with what they think is authority.

    I think the album's about the big picture, that only Little Milton sees.

    But he answers them with a mighty voice in Side 2.

  •  Going through a welcome divorce here.... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TomFromNJ, Translator

    Listening to music out in the open now--speakers, not headphones--and the two long concept albums by Tull, Thick as a Brick and Passion Play are now my favorite albums of the British prog rock era. I think Passion Play is underrated, but TAAB is superior if only due to the incredible melodic strength of this first side.

    And the most wondrous part of all is, in my mind, the "Come on ye childhood heroes" section--enshrined in my mind as "Robin Saves the Day". Having listened to it over and over, it seems to me perhaps the most BEAUTIFUL piece of rock music ever recorded--so much so that this piece alone is sufficient to justify the existence of the much-maligned genre of prog rock. The charming lilt of the introductory vocals--the bounce of the bass line--the ecstatic exuberance of Barriemore Barlow's drums--the melodic interplay of guitars, keyboard, and flute--not one but TWO bridges--all merge into a sublime musical confection that's over all too soon (as the sublime always is)--and nothing's left to follow it besides the nihilistic stabs of guitar and organ that abruptly bring the side to an end.

    It's pure gorgeosity, musically and lyrically uplifting, and despite it's classical and folk influences you can't possibly regard it as anything but rock music. (Barlow himself makes damn sure of that!) And unlike when I listen to some of my other favorites of that era nowadays, I don't feel a speck of guilt in my pleasure.

    My 13-year-old son--a major DeadMau5 fan--also thinks a lot of these two Jethro Tull albums, spontaneously saying that he appreciated all the effort that was put into making music then. :-)

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