Ipswich Regent-bound Ian Anderson is back in the thick of it
Amazingly it is 40 years since Jethro Tull unleashed the album Thick as a Brick on an unsuspecting public. To celebrate the fact, band leader and songwriter Ian is taking his own band on the road to play the album in it’s entirety – and that’s not all.
On April 2, EMI released Thick as a Brick 2 – Whatever Happened to Gerald Bostock and it too will be performed during the shows.
“For many years, Thick as a Brick was a no-go area and we only performed it in it’s entirety for a few months after it’s release.” says Ian from his home near Bristol.
When it originally came out, people took it to be a serious concept album, but he had other ideas.
“It was a time, following the release of our album Aqualung, which wasn’t a concept album although many people thought it was. So I thought, let’s give them the mother of concept albums.”
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The album’s premise was that of an epic poem written by a ten-year-old schoolboy called Gerald Bostock - in actual fact Ian himself.
It was one long track - obviously split to encompass the vinyl format - and became Tull’s fifth consecutive top ten album, peaking at number five, it topped the charts in America.
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But in reality, it wasn’t serious at all, as Ian explains.
“It’s a ****-take of bands like Yes and ELP and was a satirical look – Monty-Pythonesque if you like – at the overindulgence that was prevalent at the time.”
However, the joke back-fired slightly.
“Some people took it seriously and didn’t get the joke.” Ian says ruefully.
“When we took it on the road, it was not a good experience and when we went to America with it, people were just whistling and shouting and just wanted rock and roll.
“I vowed I would never do it again, although I play a short excerpt at concerts; but times have changed.”
It seems strange he’s touring with his own band - featuring Tull stalwarts John O’Hara on keyboards and David Goodier on bass, along with guitarist Florian Opthale and Scott Hammond on drums - rather than with Jethro Tull.
“When I tour solo or with my band, the rowdy faction seem to stay at home, except in Ipswich where they are welcome. Actually, I find that British audiences are more accepting of the different kinds of music I produce,” he says.
“It also happens in a few countries abroad, especially Italy.”
Ian appears quite proud of the original album and has an idea why it was so successful.
“I think it was partly because of the gentle ascendency of Jethro Tull in the previous three years. We were continuing to improve and I feel that the album is the zenith of early Tull.”
The new album revisits the child prodigy today.
Gerald is now 50-years-old and has just moved back to St Cleve, the village where he lived back in 1972. On the website www.stcleve.com there is a newspaper similar to the one that was with the original release.
“As the 40th anniversary approached, the record companies wanted a follow-up, then I got to wondering what Gerald Bostock would be doing now,” says Ian.
“This new look at his life is all about making choices in life and I examined my own childhood. I was thinking about things like ‘where did my friends go’?
“I could have been lots of things and I asked myself where I would be today if I’d made different decisions.”
As part of the celebration of the 40th anniversary, Ian and his band will also be performing the new album, again in it’s entirety, during the show.
“The intention always was to do both albums live onstage,” he says.
“The new album has some of the same sonic values as the first and lyrically it’s pretty serious in parts. Some of it is pretty dark stuff; something serious for people to get their teeth into.”
Sadly, though, due to the length of the pieces, there won’t be much time for much else in the show.
“No, I don’t think we’ll be playing any other tracks, the new record is about 53 minutes and the old one 44, plus people have heard the others often enough before.”
After that, the man who introduced the flute to rock and roll will be undertaking many other projects.
“Well, I’ve just done a track with The Darkness - you see, I have friends in low places; then I’m doing a string quartet album of mainstream Jethro Tull tracks which will be perfect for the weddings, christenings and funerals of Tull fans.
“Then I hope to do an album of lots of little songs, just me and an acoustic guitar – real singer-songwriter songs. I sometimes get carried away when recording and keep adding layers, but these will be relatively unadorned.
“It has the advantage of being cheap to make and is a labour of love – in these days of downloading, it costs more to make a record than you’d get back in physical record sales.”
Ian and his band will be performing Thick as a Brick and Thick as a Brick 2 at Ipswich’s Regent Theatre on Wednesday, April 25.