(How's THAT for a cliched opener?)
It was freshman year, I was on the band bus, and we were on our way to whichever away football game it was that we were playing that Friday. As always, I was sitting next to "Injun" Ted Conley: baritone, partner-in-crime, and eventually my co-section leader. Injun had spent the last bus ride talking up one of his favorite albums, Jethro Tull's Thick As A Brick.
That night, I'd finally get to hear it, and my ears were opened. Up until then, I knew what kinds of music I liked (Barenaked Ladies, Elvis Costello, Santana, and Paul Simon took up most of my CD collection, and to some degree still do), but Tull was something different entirely. This was prog-rock with organ instead of synthesizers, folk with flute (and sax, AND trumpet), Renaissance meets rock. I was hooked instantly. Tull's leader, Ian Anderson, was a troubadour for our time, a Minstrel In The Gallery!...
...yes, I had to drop my second-favorite Tull album in there too.
According to Injun, the song was written by Anderson, under the guise of Gerald Bostock, an 8-year-old English schoolboy from St. Cleve (no such place, for those of you keeping score). Gerald wrote the poem for a local poetry contest and won, but was disqualified due to the subversive nature of the poem, according to The St. Cleve Chronicle and Linwell Advertiser--and let me digress at this point--the newspaper is one of the best things about this album. As its cover, it sends up the trivial small-town paper and proves pretty subversive in its own right, but I don't think you should take my word for it: Here it is in its entirety...and yes, I know what Fluffy the Duck was looking at...come on, you guys. The newspaper established a separate universe for the song, grounding it in some inside-joke version of reality.
The album itself was a send-up, satirizing the overblown concept album and its focus on large, "big-picture" concepts, complete with often-obtuse text and virtuosic solos from Martin Barre on lead guitar, John Evan on organ, and Barriemore Barlow on all percussion, not to mention Anderson out front on the flute (and sax, AND trumpet, and you get the picture). Together with Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond on bass, this was the band's lineup for the early-to-mid 70s, often considered their best ever.
TAAB became my favorite album, and I had to keep going from there...thanks, Injun. I purchased the follow-up, A Passion Play, and was again, struck by the cover. Ian and the gang had set this concept album as a play complete with program, apparently set in the same St. Cleve/Linwell area. It occurs to me that this concept behind the two albums would lend itself to a surreal film project along the lines of Across The Universe, but unfortunately, no one has caught on. However, A Passion Play is a story for another day. The first time I heard Thick As A Brick, it was on my cheap Aiwa portable CD player in the fall of 2000, the album was almost 30 years old, and the casual listener might have thought Gerald Bostock was a real person, if they cared.
Today, the album is 40 years old, I listen to it on my Asus laptop, and listeners are asking, "Whatever happened to Gerald Bostock?"
Well, according to Ian Anderson, Gerald Bostock is 50 years old, and his life could have gone five different ways, as shown in Anderson's new album, Thick As A Brick 2. First things first, this is NOT a Jethro Tull album; it was recorded and released as an Anderson solo project, and Martin Barre, the only other member of the band left over from TAAB, is absent, presumably due to work on his own solo projects. Current Tull members David Goodier (bass) and John O'Hara (keyboards) are on the album, which also features drummer Scott Hammond (Doane Perry is Tull's current drummer) and lead guitarist Florian Opahle. Secondly, as I mentioned, the focus is of the poem and on Gerald himself, or rather, five of his possible futures, exploring "what-ifs, maybes, and might-have-beens." Whether he's a decadent banker, a gay homeless guy, a soldier dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a bullying fire-and-brimstone preacher, or just an ordinary shopkeeper, you sense that his life was affected in some way by his poetry, and the new lyrics serve in the same spirit as the original: still a satire, but moving its focus from the life of man to the life of a man.
And while St. Cleve might have discovered new forms of media, the tone remains the same...heh heh...