Updated: Thursday, 2nd April 2020 @ 10:55am

Prog-rock godfather: Jethro Tull discuss playing legendary album Thick as a Brick for the first time in 40 years

Prog-rock godfather: Jethro Tull discuss playing legendary album Thick as a Brick for the first time in 40 years

By Dean Wilkins

For the first time since 1972, Thick as a Brick will be played in full by Jethro Tull’s front man Ian Anderson, a man without equal.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the album that laughed in the face of music critics and poked fun at illustrious bands Yes and Genesis. An album that was given the title ‘The Mother of all Concept Albums’ and was designed as a spoof of its own genre.

In an interview with MM, the man who pioneered prog and successfully introduced the flute and organ into rock music, Ian Anderson described how he and Jethro Tull members ridiculed others through their album.

“It’s a parody of prog-rock both lyrically and musically. We also poked fun at a few of our peers at the time such as Yes and Genesis, who sometimes took themselves too seriously.”

The album was created after critics had labelled preceding album Aqualung a concept album.

“Aqualung was constantly reviewed as a concept album and I said ‘it’s not a concept album it’s a bunch of songs’. So when thinking of something new to record a few months later I thought, ‘well okay I’ll give them the mother of all concept albums and make it a totally over the top affair’.”

The result was (and is) an exceptional achievement of music, one that has been at the forefront of musical exploration for generations. It’s a 45-minute mammoth journey that follows the fictitious poem written by an 8-year-old boy. Anderson himself penned the poem but continued to run with the idea of the child to support the spoof angle.

The album changes course several times during the three quarters on an hour voyage, and was split in half to cater for its original release on vinyl. Anderson talked about how the second half can be difficult to perform live: “The first few minutes of side two are a little irritating but they were designed to be a spoof of free jazz, whilst having a lot of fun with the album while making it.

“But the joke wears thin after a while of playing it so we need to tighten that little bit up,” he joked.

Having not played the album in its entirety since the original tour of ’72 and ’73, Anderson will deliver the full innovation to a Mancunian audience at Opera House on April 22.

With the help of supporting musicians, Anderson will master the flute once again as he anticipates the new challenge: “This is revisiting the whole album which will not only put a little bit of added pressure on me but particularly some members of the band, who in some cases weren’t even born when that was released.”

It’s seems this opportunity was too tempting for the godfather of prog-rock to decline, describing his passion for live performance as an ‘obsession’ and ‘addictive’.

With a strong sense of belonging in Manchester, Anderson, whose mother is from the city, says he has a ‘genetic affinity’.

“I have a natural draw to the city and a strange fascination with Manchester. My first Indian restaurant meal was in Manchester, right in the middle of Piccadilly, so there’s a fair bet when I’m in Manchester these days I’m likely to be eating an Indian lunch.

“I’m a lone eater and solitude is usually high on my list so when I check into a hotel I usually ask the front desk ‘what’s the worst Indian restaurant in town?’ which is the most likely one to be empty – which suits me just fine.”

Anderson is a charming character and is debatably the country’s finest musical product. At 64-years-old he has a career that stretches across six decades and has played over 2,500 gigs... evidently an obsession.

When asked about how he remains passionate as a musician with such an outstanding career, Anderson joked: “Well partly because it’s a pretty good job and most people who do what I do rather like doing it. I mean even Van Morrison, who’s the second most grumpy person on the planet (most grumpy being Bob Dylan) somewhere deep inside is laughing and giggling, happy to be on the stage again. I guess I just let it show on the outside too.”

With video projects and theatrical inclusions being incorporated into the show, the April audience will be exposed to a remarkable performance. Most importantly, it’s the first time one of Britain’s finest albums will be played live in over 40 years. And it’s happening in Manchester.