Ian Anderson on “Thick as a Brick.”

From gstormcrow on songmeanings, 2009

[paragraphs re-ordered.]:

After decades of listening to Tull & reading interviews from old magazine articles found on the Jethro Tull Press website, I believe the following quotes by Ian say the most regarding Thick’s lyrics.

(Excerpts from Ian’s interview with Melody Maker magazine published in their 12/07/74 issue):

   “‘Thick as a brick’; it really is a slang phrase from the north of England, where I spent my (well, some of my) growing-up years. To describe someone as being ‘as thick as a brick’ meant to describe them as being stupid, basically. You know, to be ‘thick’, as in ‘thick-headed’; thick as a ‘brick’ being a small, dense object. So I was really talking about people being intellectually incapable of absorbing whatever it might have been put across in those slightly spoofish, bombastic terms in the lyrics of the album.”
(Excerpt from Ian’s 12/23/91 interview on the US radio show, ‘In The Studio – Thick As A Brick’)

“The way that I write allows a lot of people to interpret in their own fashion. I am not just saying one thing. I am saying a lot of things to a lot of people. The music means different things to different people.” “I want to insist that every listener makes a tiny bit of effort to reach the music and interpret what I am saying. My words put out feelers. It’s up to listeners to pick up on them and get from them what they wish – I’m not attempting to be clear-cut. I want to deal in terms that invite questioning. Balm for the masses is no use whatsoever.” “We do tend to judge music on its rhythms and whether you can tap your foot to it. But most of our music deserves to be listened to several times. I’m still listening to Beethoven and I still don’t understand what he is doing, but I’ll get there some day. God knows that whatever I ultimately make of Beethoven I will never derive the same interpretation as what was intended – and I hope he respects my right to my interpretation – but at least I have a willingness to try to understand it.” “I don’t really want to get into specific comparisons and explanations, especially about Passion Play and Thick As A Brick. I don’t want to start people off trying to figure out where the new album is in relation to the last two. Believe it or not, they all mean something.” “It’s distinctly worrying, because I know that the last few records have been difficult to listen to. WarChild, so I’m told, is a lot more accessible. I don’t know if I like that or not. I’ve started to worry that perhaps people will think it’s a simple record and they’ll play it at parties and they’ll play it when they’re stoned and they’ll play it in their car – instead of actually sitting down and making an effort to listen.” (Excerpts from Ian’s interview with Melody Maker magazine published in their 12/07/74 issue)

    [gstormcrow:] One common theme in most of Tull’s lyrics is an implied narrator, akin to a medieval court-jester, whom tells absurd jokes riddled with hyperbole to humour his audience while hinting toward specific similarities of actual circumstances or events. Since he is considered a fool and not to be taken seriously, the jester’s jokes can be either safely dismissed for their absurdity or thoughtfully pondered for the meaningful questions they pose depending on the audience’s mindset. Examples of Tull’s narrator/jester theme can also be found in the lyrics of Minstrel In The Gallery, A Passion Play, Skating Away, Solitare, Wind-Up, Lick Your Fingers Clean and Sealion to name a few.

Over-analyzing is of course exactly that — by definition ”over” means too much.


gstormcrowon October 09, 2009   Link
   So far, we have only to add the note that there is a double twist to the saying, and the muse may be having one over on Ian! But the wise of this society do not consider the thick with compassion. To persuade, one must see and feel from the point of view of the thick.
   Also, the poet himself appears briefly, in the lines following: And the love that I feel is so far away. He tells his beloved that that he is as a recent nightmare to himself. She responds not with compassion, but only to say that his turbulent inner life is “a shame,” an unnecessary misfortune (as distinct from an embarrassment).

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