Jethro Tull's Thick as a Brick and A Passion Play
Inside Two Long Songs
Publication Year: 2013
Since the 1960s, British progressive rock band Jethro Tull has pushed the technical and compositional boundaries of rock music by infusing its musical output with traditions drawn from classical, folk, jazz, and world music. The release of Thick as a Brick (1972) and A Passion Play (1973) won the group legions of new followers and topped the Billboard charts in the United States, among the most unusual albums ever to do so. Tim Smolko explores the large-scale form, expansive instrumentation, and complex arrangements that characterize these two albums, each composed of one continuous song. Featuring insights from Ian Anderson and in-depth musical analysis, Smolko discusses the band's influence on popular culture and why many consider Thick as a Brick and A Passion Play to be two of the greatest concept albums in rock history.
Published by: Indiana University Press
Series: Profiles in Popular Music
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Title Page, Other Works in the Series, Copyright
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List of Illustrations
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Tim Smolko’s book on the subjects of Thick as a Brick, A Passion Play, and The Chateau D’Isaster Tapes makes for a scholarly but vigorous insight into the sometimes wacky but always considered and adventurous world of Ian Anderson’s rather extreme musical meanderings ...
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Most record collectors remember in vivid detail the first time they discover a favorite album. Many years ago when I first saw Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick in the stacks at Jerry’s Records in Pittsburgh, I was intrigued. Why did they make the album cover into a newspaper? What was all the text about? Who was this strange little bloke, Gerald ...
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First off, I’d like to thank my wonderful wife, Joanna, for encouraging me, editing me, and acclimating her ears to the din of loud electric guitars and drums. I owe so much to you and I love you! I’d also like to thank: My editors at Indiana University Press, Raina Polivka and Darja Malcolm-Clarke, along with series editors ...
1. Life Is a Long Song: Providing a Context for Thick as a Brick and A Passion Play
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In the late 1960s and early 1970s, British progressive rock bands such as King Crimson; Emerson, Lake & Palmer; Yes; Genesis; and Jethro Tull were imbuing their music with a broadened harmonic palette, large-scale forms, polyphonic textures, avant-garde sensibilities, virtuoso technique, and the use of the latest advances in instrument and ...
2. Galliards and Lute Songs: The Influence of Early Music in Jethro Tull
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This chapter, which builds upon chapter 1 in providing a context for Thick as a Brick and A Passion Play, first describes how an interest in medieval and Renaissance culture and music arose within the British folk and rock music of the late 1960s. It then considers how these influences began to show up early in Jethro Tull’s career and on ...
3. Geared toward the Exceptional Rather than the Average: The Album Cover and Lyrics of Thick as a Brick
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Just as the music of Thick as a Brick was inspired by the broadened possibilities and creative atmosphere of rock music in the late 1960s and early 1970s, so was its album cover. The album cover became a wildly creative art form during this period, and browsing the stacks in the rock section of a used record store even today can be quite an ...
4. The Music of Thick as a Brick: Form and Thematic Development
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Before examining the form and thematic development of Thick as a Brick, it would be helpful to read a portion of the first review of the album, which warns the listener that the structure of the work may seem a bit odd: “One doubts at times the validity of what appears to be an expanding theme throughout the two continuous sides of this ...
5. The Music of Thick as a Brick: Other Features
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This chapter continues the study of Thick as a Brick’s music, focusing on its stylistic diversity, instrumental passages, instrumentation, and harmony. As with many large-scale progressive rock songs, Thick as a Brick is a stylistically diverse and restless piece of music, with unrelenting shifts in musical style, meter, key area, tempo, texture,...
6. The Château d'Isaster Tapes and the Album Cover and Lyrics of A Passion Play
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During a break in the tour for Thick as a Brick in the summer of 1972, Jethro Tull began work on the music that would later become A Passion Play. From the start, the band intended on writing another concept album. Anderson comments: “[Thick as a Brick] was a very successful album, and when it came to the next album I guess we ...
7. The Music of A Passion Play
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Like Thick as a Brick, A Passion Play takes the listener on a spacious musical journey, although the journey is a bit gloomy because of the subject matter of the lyrics. Yet because of Anderson’s wry vocal delivery and the droll and inane “The Story of the Hare Who Lost His Spectacles,” the gloominess is not overbearing. The music is rich, layered, ...
8. Monty Python, Reception, and Live Versions
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This final chapter discusses three aspects of Thick as a Brick and A Passion Play that are important but have not yet been considered. The first section shows how the two albums were influenced by British humor of the 1960s and 1970s, especially the television show Monty Python’s Flying Circus (1969–1974). The second section describes ...
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In the liner notes from the 1988 compilation 20 Years of Jethro Tull, David Rees and Martin Webb encapsulate the band’s career in a way that is difficult to improve upon: If ever there was a band beset by paradox, Jethro Tull is it. In a medium where gimmicks are the norm, the group’s success has always come from the music ...
Epilogue: Whatever Happened to Gerald Bostock?
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On February 1, 2012, on the official Jethro Tull website, Ian Anderson announced something as unexpected as Thick as a Brick and A Passion Play hitting number one on the Billboard chart: he had written and recorded a sequel to Thick as a Brick. The new album recounts the further possible adventures of Gerald “Little Milton” Bostock, ...
Appendix 1. The Complete Lyrics to Thick as a Brick
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Appendix 2. The Complete Lyrics to A Passion Play
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Appendix 3. Analysis of the Instrumental Passages
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About the Author
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Tim Smolko holds master’s degrees in Musicology and in Library Science and is monographs original cataloger at the University of Georgia. ...
Page Count: 266
Illustrations: 10 b&w illus., 28 music exx.
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: Profiles in Popular Music