In 1972, English progressive rock band Jethro Tull released its magnum opus, “Thick As A Brick,” a satirical concept album featuring one epic track, split into two parts, about 8-year-old outcast Gerald Bostock. Four decades later, we have some idea how the kid is faring at middle age, thanks to band leader Ian Anderson's sequel, “Thick As A Brick 2: Whatever Happened to Gerald Bostock?”
On Oct. 27 at Pantages Theater, local fans will get to see Anderson perform both those albums in their entirety; and we caught up with rock's most famous flautist to talk about why he decided to revisit his band's biggest album.
Tacoma Weekly: What do you remember about recording the original “Thick As a Brick” album?
Anderson: It was something that was written, rehearsed and recorded in a very short space of time. So it was an intense and accelerated period of coming up with something and bringing it to fruition in quite a creative rush. It was quite a carefully considered album, and there were a lot of technical challenges for all the members of the group since some of the music was quite difficult to play. Indeed, the original album does contain some wrong notes, but we correct those when we play it today.
It's an interesting piece to have done. We tried to rehearse it as a live album so that we could play it in the studio fairly continuously and minimize the amount of overdubs. But a lot of the vocals and some of the flute parts were not included in the rehearsal period. So the guys in the band probably never heard a completed work until they got a copy of the record.
TW: What about the record do you think allows it to stand the test of time?
Anderson: I wouldn't say it's stood the test of times in terms of there being a large number of memorable songs that you can hum and sing along to. But, of its sort it's an unusual album to have graced the top of the Billboard charts, being a continuous piece of music, certainly not a collection of catchy tunes; but a challenging piece of music which, whilst wearing the comedic mask of parody, has some quite downbeat and serious stuff about the passage from childhood through puberty to manhood.
TW: What first inspired the character Gerald Bostock?
Anderson: Gerald Bostock, as a name, was an amalgam of names of childhood peers at school. The character ... is a feature of almost every class at school. There's always one of those kids who's pretty clever and is unlikely be the favorite. He's unlikely to meet with peer group approval because he's lousy at sports and actually enjoys being at school, enjoys learning, enjoys exhibiting his ability through passing exams. Those kids are never very popular.
TW: What sorts of things informed you as you wrote “Thick As a Brick 2”...?
Anderson: I wanted to look at a few parallel options that I had in front of me as to how the young, fictitious Gerald Bostock might have turned out as a middle-aged man. Life presents possibilities along the way. ... We are creatures of enough intellect and enough choice to be able to, largely, direct where we go in life. So I wanted to write about some of the “what ifs,” “maybes” and “might have beens” in somebody's life and set them in today's world. So it's not a nostalgic return to 1972. It's very much ... about today.
TW: Given the stature of the original album, was it daunting at all to approach it again?
Anderson: When I sit down to write something like that, I need to have it, basically, plotted out. And then it's working both ends toward the middle, in a way. I'm trying to achieve a result, and it's a mixture of whimsy and the very practical deliberation and experience of being a songwriter.
You know, you try to bring together the best of the heart and the head when you're working. But you've got to do it quickly. I haven't got time to piss about; I get on with it. I wrote “TAB 2” in about two weeks of concentrated effort. It was recorded in a couple of weeks. It was rehearsed in 10 days.
When I sat down on Jan. 1 at 9 a.m. this year to write another album, I worked on the same plan – deliberately to complete something by the end of the month. I like to work under that kind of pressure. It's good to really focus the mind. … In December when we start rehearsing and recording it, it's something to look forward to. It's exciting; and, as a 66-year-old, a little excitement doesn't go amiss.
TW: So you're about to do the next project. What can you tell me about that?
Anderson: I can't really tell you anything at all about it because it's not to be released until Easter of 2014. The tours are already being booked now for the 2014-15 periods when we'll go out and play that album along with some other well-known Jethro Tull music.
You'll hear about it first on our website, of course (http://www.jethrotull.com), where there'll be a few samples to stream and listen to and all that sort of thing. ... It is another conceptual, lengthy piece of music which is not “Thick as a Brick 3,” but has, in its back story, a little bit of a reference to some elements of the “Thick As a Brick” material. But it's a new album, a stand-alone piece that doesn't musically or lyrically have anything to do with “Thick As a Brick.” But yes, Gerald Bostock has been at work, scribbling on pieces of paper and coming up with some lyrics again.
Bonus coverage: Visit our Daily Mashup blog to hear Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson discuss the impact global politics had on his “Thick As A Brick 2” album, http://www.tacomaweekly.com/dailymashup.