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Ian Anderson on "Thick" and Selective Compromise


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Ian is on the road playing both the 1972 Jethro Tull album Thick As A Brick and it's sequel (TAAB2 - released in 2012) in their entirety. Shortly after returning from South America, he spoke with me about the project and answered some of my burning questions about his songs and songwriting.

Ian is a master of artistic integrity with selective compromises. Thick is an entire album with just one song and an accompanying newspaper contained in the packaging. It's a complex, sardonic affair that went to #1 in America despite the derision of critics. (Critical reaction is often misremembered, but a look at the Rock's Backpages archives proves that this album was abhorred by Dave Marsh and the other popular scribes of the era).

The follow-up album explores the possible outcomes of Gerald Bostock, the 8-year-old boy, who as explained in the newspaper, wrote the lyrics to the song. Gerald has embraced social media, and now has his own Facebook page.

In my chat we Ian, we talked about some of these selective compromises he's made to remain a commercially viable working musician. This includes a tidy radio edit of the 46 minute "Thick As A Brick," and further edits to package the song for the digital age so you can get pieces of it on iTunes for $1.29 each. The Pink Floyd take of selling only the entire album is not a battle Ian deems worthy of a fight.

Ian is very forthright when reflecting on his work. He will tell you what's good and bad without hesitation. So it was that we got into a discussion of his attempts to write an outright, commercially viable pop song, which he cops to doing three times in his career. Those songs:


"Living In The Past"

"Ring Out, Solstice Bells"

With just 1% of his discography targeted to the masses, this leaves a substantial body of work to analyze. Having previously spoken with Ian about "Aqualung," I asked him about his beautiful flute piece "Buree," and also one he mentioned in passing: "Locomotive Breath." As always, his answers were enlightening, with a pleasant degree of humor.

Ian Anderson: "The delight in making music is that you don't have a formula"

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