Final Thick As A Brick

I’ve grinned as I read each response as I too am a five decade Ian superfan.  But I had to write as no one yet has mentioned the single factor that vaults him into rarified air among my favorite artists….his ability to continue generating compelling art decades after his peers settle for milking the most from their glory years.

Pull up track ten from 2012’s TAAB2, A Change of Horses released when Ian was in his mid sixties.  Set your stereo to appropriate Tull levels, pull up the lyrics and see if this eight minute odyssey doesn’t speak to you like it does to me.

Resolute, the optimist
I ride fresh horse and carry on
Four hundred thousand hours
Have come and gone.

At 62, I spend my days meeting my insurance clients needs to meet the bills, but increasingly find I invest my remaining time in volunteer work as Treasurer for an underserved kid’s camp vs chasing new clients. Sometimes I feel a tinge of resignation that the “go get ’em” years are behind me, but I’m an optimist at heart so my inclination is to look forward rather than back.  And decades after Ian’s art first spoke to me, he’s still speaking to me and putting a bounce in my step at 62 as I look forward!

Long time reader who enjoys every post,

Pete Reardon

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Thanks to this band I had the best line of the night at a NARAS function years ago.  We were going around the room introducing ourselves and indicating our area of expertise.  I recited my name and mentioned that I was currently producing a gangsta rap tribute to the music of Ian Anderson, entitled “Death Row Tull.”  Took a beat or two for people to realize I was kidding.

Bob Paris

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Stand Up was the first album I ordered by mail order as a teenager in NZ from the then new Virgin Records. Fabulous album, and of course a great cover. Many years later I interviewed Ian Anderson by phone when, for some reason, he was in the US – a tour/new album perhaps – too long ago to recall. But I do remember him being very intelligent and courteous. A great body of work, shamefully underestimated and appreciated. Keep up the good work.

David Porter
New Zealand

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When I was in college outside of Burlington, we drove over to Plattsburgh State to see Jethro Tull. At that point you had to drive north almost into Canada to get from Vermont into New York. ‘Thick as a Brick’ had just been released. John Evan had been hired to play keyboards. Anderson, Barre and Bunker along with Glenn Cornick rounded out the band. In your original article and all the subsequent responses, no mention was made of Mr. Cornick. His bass playing was so critical to Tull’s sound, especially on ’Stand Up’, my favorite. And how cool was that Gibson Explorer?

Dan Daly

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Tull was the music scene when I was in senior ‘study’ hall on LI high school. Aqualung! I absorbed and later bought earlier stuff in their catalog. TAAB was as a symphony. Incredible. Why they are not appreciated these days is dead wrong! And BTW I love ‘One White Duck’ etc from that one!

David Bodnar

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Just to add to the memories of Jethro Tull.

I first saw them at the Nottingham Albert Hall in October, 1970. It was the classic ‘Benefit’ line-up. They’d just returned from the Summer US Tour. They played ‘To Cry You A Song’, the re-tooled ‘Dharma for One’ and ‘A Song For Jeffrey, to name but a few. They were a fierce band and the Martin Barre/Glen Cornick axis worked superbly well.  John Evan was great too and so musical. He’d yet to develop his zany stage presence.

I saw them again three years later at Wembley Empire Pool playing ‘A Passion Play’. What a contrast to what I had come before. It was a shock to the system. But I stuck with them.

A year later, I was the music correspondent for the University Of Manchester student newspaper. I had tickets for Jethro Tull on the ‘Bungle On The Jungle’ UK tour. I got a tip off on the hotel Ian and the band were staying at. So being an intrepid reporter, I staked out the lobby together with a photographer and waited. Sure enough, Ian walked in and we intercepted him. He wasn’t very happy but said he’d do an interview. He connected us with the Chrysalis PR guy who was on the tour. I think his name was Chris. Chris kept us busy for the rest of the day and we hung out with him at his hotel (The Manchester Piccadilly). I really thought we’d get an interview. But alas, Chris was a Chrysalis decoy. Can’t blame him. He was just doing his job. I still have fond memories of that fleeting meet-up with Ian in the Manchester Central Hotel.

Yes, Jethro Tull should be in the Hall Of Fame.

andy jones

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Damn you Bob!
I thought I was on hiatus from buying any more remastered CDs. But now, with the Wilson remixes, here I go again.

Loved your commentary on the band. I would not have even commented had the accolades stopped coming. But….

I have been a fan of Tull since the 60’s. Saw them several times throughout the late 60′ and 70’s in Chicago. 2x for the THAB tour. That they could create the same ambiance live as the recording is still a mystery to me. One thing I can say, they were even more awesome in concert than they were on vinyl. Sign of the times, I guess.

Loved their music then, still do now. Thanks for bringing focus back to such a seminal group! I’m listening to the MFSL version right now, and would not trade it for the world.

Keep up your good work. We all appreciate it!
Cheers,
Tom

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492 letters and no love for Broadsword and the Beast??
(Just kidding I didn’t really count but damn)
For a 14-yr-old into Tolkien and D&D, this was the perfect album.

Jon Langston

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“The second time was when they played Stony Brook University on Long Island on 4/25/71”

was at that show too!

Michael Fremer

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I’ll just say that, to me, that “Thick As A Brick” was when Tull jumped the shark. This Was, Stand Up, and Benefit were GREAT. Everything they attempted after that was “meh” – poor imitations of the aforementioned albums. – Mark Towns

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Greatest album jacket of all time… STAND UP !!!

Kenneth Frankel

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My first concert was Tull at Cincinnati Gardens 1972.    Fat Mattress opened.  Tull played the whole TAB album including some dude hopping on stage in a bunny suit.  My favorite band early on!

Tim Pringle

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+1 for “Wond’ring Aloud”.

Daniel Schwartz

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Wish you had included my favorite line from “Inside” after “sitting on the corner feeling glad, got no money coming in but i can’t be sad”, here it is:
“that was the best cup of coffee I ever had”.

one of my favorite lyrics from any lyricist.  it just really captures the essence of freedom and being young, or in my case, retired.

cliff keller

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No one mentioned so many brain cells destroyed by all that weed smoked to aqualung.

Steve Tipp

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Thought this might interest you.
I am friends with my brothers old art instructor, Burt Silverman.
His painted was used for the cover of “Aqualung”.

I thought you might enjoy reading this story.

The painter behind Jethro Tull’s Aqualung cover is still haunted by its success: https://theoutline.com/post/4490/jethro-tull-aqualung-cover-artist-burton-silverman?zd=3&zi=gxkb6h42

Steve Isaacson

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I was fortunate enough to work for WEA in the 70s in Chicago and you knew that regardless of the FM rock format, the stations played Jethro Tull. No exceptions. And while Ian could be bit prickly at times, you knew that his focus was the music. Why Tull isn’t in the Hall is a travesty.

David Hersrud

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I receiived the 8 Track ‘A Passion Play’ for Christmas
from my cousins.

A quick listen, and I thought it was rubbish…

In all fairness, I was only 12 at the time.

I have not listened to that recording since, but still
have the 8 Track around some where and a working
8 Track Player.

I should give a listen. Of course spotify would be a touch
more convenient.

Cheers

Mitch Nixon

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I was not surprised to see the number of comments to your post about Jethro Tull.  Even 50 years later Ian Anderson’s last concert in Forest Hills, which I attended,  was sold out.

I hope you’ll allow me to add one more to the pile:

In 1974 I attended sleepaway camp in upstate New Yrok.  For the annual talent show, I recruited my bunk mate to accompany me on  acoustic guitar while I  belted out  a rendition of  “Locomotive Breath” onstage in front of the whole camp. (I remember I had to slur the words “got him by the balls” lest I offend the camp administration)  It was the first time I had ever sung anything on stage in front of an audience.  Happily it was a big hit and I got a rousing ovation.  I also heard that as a result of my performance the prettiest girl in camp now wanted to date me, which I proceeded to do for the rest of the summer. It was the first and only time I got to feel what it’s like to be a rock star.  Thank you Jethro Tull.

David Ehrlich

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I was a fan at 14 since Aqualung and of course then I bought Benefit, Stand Up and This Was which are three very different recordings.
Thick as a Brick changed my life as much as Close to the Edge and Tarkus did at the time and I was a huge fan. Passion Play was a downer as was Topographic for Yes but I loved Warchild, Songs from the Wood, Minstrel, Heavy Horses, Stormwatch. Broadsword was and is an absolute masterclass.
I met Ian outside the stage door at Manchester Free Trade Hall in the mid 70’s. I forget which tour as I’ve seen them so many times but he was drinking a bottle of Lowenbrau. We spoke briefly and this was when he still had the rich thick northern English accent. I asked him for a beer and he gave me the bottle he was drinking. I had met my hero.
Fast forward to the mid 90’s and several unremarkable JT albums later I was General Manager at Zomba Records in the UK and was invited by John Taylor at Virgin Retail (who knew I was a fan) to attend the party for the opening of their new store in Richmond where Ian would be playing a short acoustic set. John took me meet him after the show. The northern accent was gone, he was sublimely arrogant and talked about fucking gravadlax. I’ll never forget the disappointment but I still love and play the music. A hero – not a nice one – but a hero nonetheless.

Andy Richmond

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I went through at least 2 vinyl copies of TAAB and Passion Play. I was a huge fan. The creativity has remained with our generation as what music should be. My university students once told me about that time, “We don’t have bands like that today.”

But, like many of your readers, I immediately remembered the shows of those albums. BTW, the roadies put on the trench coats one by one. So the crowd slowly noticed. I saw the Passion Play tour before hearing the album, thankfully. Seeing it live first was great.

About 10 minutes before the show, house lights up and the crowd talking, we noticed that “something” was different…a sound. We stopped and listened, but couldn’t discern anything over the room noises. A few minutes later, definitely something now. Later, sounds like a heartbeat? Yes. It got louder, oh so slowly and disturbingly, as more people noticed. Up until the lights suddenly came down and the cover photo appeared on a large screen above the band, heart loudly pounding. This eventually started to move and dance. Very bizzare. Can’t remember the rest of the soundtrack but the whole experience was fantastic in itself. Then the band hit, played the entire album and more. I think their greatest live song was probably “Cross-Eyed Mary.” They killed it each time I saw them.

Exciting times!

Robert Bond

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Tull’s first states date was in the middle slot of a three act night at the Fillmore East in late January, 1969. Blood, Sweat and Tears was the headliner. I Don’t remember what act had originally been booked to open, but they were a late scratch and Bill got the Gay Despardo Steel Band to do the honors and he had them stream in down the aisles, steel drums pounding, to take the stage.

Even though most were there that night for BS&T, WNEW had created a bit of a buzz for this completely original and unique sounding band with a lanky, scraggly, flute playing front man, so there was a decent contingent there that just had to see witness this band live.

Ian and the band’s set that night was riveting. Encores weren’t routine those days – especially for non-headliners , but the level of pandemonium when Tull’s last note sounded was too strong to deny them one. Ditto the second encore, and there would have been a third, but the band begged off, saying someone wasn’t well enough to do another – an excuse that might have been a courtesy to David Clayton Thomas who had made a point of getting them back on the bill after Ian had been unable to perform due to illness at a previously booked date with BS&T at the venue.

Unfathomable that neither group is in the Rock Hall Of Fame.

Tom Starr

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One more note on Ian. I was at the Byron Bay Bluesfest in 2017 with my management client Jake Shimabukuro and we had dressing rooms in the same area as Ian and the Tull band. He walked outside near the small pond and i figured i would at least try to say hi to see if he would respond as i have heard he is not easy to approach. I said hello and told him i enjoyed the tour at the Ryman he had done showing videos at times during the show that he had recorded at his home and the stories he told. He said he appreciated that I enjoyed that tour as many of his fans did not. He mentioned most fans want the same show they had seen before. He thanked me for my comments, kind of smiled and wished us well. I have to say i was relieved that he did not tell me to f off which i had expected. Then he proceeded to play one hell of a Jethro Tull set! I often go to Apple Music, hit shuffle on Tull and pass the hours away still in awe of the music. Thanks Bob

Van Fletcher

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Our Ian Anderson Story…

My band from Canada called The Tea Party found ourselves in the UK for the first time in 1994.  We decided a tour before our debut record was released was a good idea but alas we were a bit ambitious and we were unfortunately off of everyone’s radar.  The tour weaved it’s way through the English countryside stopping at all the small pubs on the touring circuit including the small Princess Charlotte in Leicester, which was made famous by hosting Radiohead, Oasis and Coldplay on their first tours. We finished soundcheck and tour manager said someone wanted to say hello in the back room.  We entered the small room and we were announced formally, “The Tea Party please meet Ian Anderson” It turned out that Ian had signed a deal with Chrysalis and had got his hands and ears on our debut and wanted to hook up. It was a fruitful exchange of pleasantries.  He loved our informed take on retro rock and we gushed over his contributions to the canon of the aforementioned genre.  We made plans to record together but nothing came of it.  We’d try to hook up on the 8 or 9 subsequent tours but the schedules never aligned.

Cut to twenty years later when we are recording the title track to our Ocean at the End record.  Jeff Martin our guitarist and producer suggested I hop on the old mellotron and lay down a sympathetic flute line.  After a minute of doodling around I had an epiphany and it struck me that this song was perfect for Ian to join us on.  It had been so long since we spoke but we hooked it up and he laid done two incredible tracks for us to include on the song. We were in headphone bliss once we tacked on a bit of reverb and delay.  The studio in Toronto, Revolution Studios, had an egg chair with speakers retro fitted into it.  It was an ideal place to trip out to the rough mixes.  We were blessed to be able to work with him and we’ll never forget his kindness.  Looking forward to Ian and the rest of Jethro Tull’s eventual induction into the RRHOF.

All the best,
Stuart Chatwood
The Tea Party/composer

Link to our 8m30s song featuring Ian Anderson of flute, The Ocean at the End (about 1/3 of the length as Thick as a Brick (Pt.1)!
Youtube:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPhAxKBmZz8

Spotify:
https://open.spotify.com/track/0YsOBNMmUKB1nTdlqUUcY4?si=yJK4MA4_S4KuPXzYRYL5SA

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Back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, Jethro Tull was the best live band on the road.  We’d go see them every time they came through Los Angeles.  We saw pretty much all the classic rock bands through the years, and nobody put on a better live show.  Between Ian Anderson’s songwriting and showmanship and Martin Barre’s guitar work, there just wasn’t a rock and roll band that did it better.  Many times we’d see another concert the same week that we’d see Tull play, and there was never a comparison.  As soon as they started, we’d look at each other and just say, “now that’s how it’s supposed to be done!”  You could, see, hear, and even feel the difference.

We’ve never worried about whether our friends liked Jethro Tull as a band or whether their music appealed to them.  Their sound was unique and everyone has their own taste in music.  For us, their music is certainly one of those we go to whenever nothing else seems to hit just right. We doubt Ian Anderson cares whether the politically skewed “R&RHoF” inducts them or not. They have certainly inducted a handful of bands that don’t belong, devaluing the whole institution, while ignoring a number of quality artists who belong.  It’s all politics, not rock and roll.

Jethro Tull’s “Songs From The Wood” is probably THE “comfort” album for us… one of the dozen or so albums we go back to that just brings back a special time and feel and that we can listen to all the way through any time, any day.  Definitely a top album and right up there with “Stand Up,” “Aqualung,” and “Thick As A Brick”.  And we do think that “Heavy Horses,” “The Broadsword and the Beast,” and “Rock Island” are under-appreciated… and probably always will be.

It was great reading your TAAB review, and equally great reading everyone’s comments about one of our favorite bands.

As always, thank you!

Russ & Julie
Russ & Julie’s House Concerts
www.houseconcerts.us

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Long time reader (over a decade), first time responder.

Back in the late ’60s/early mid-70s when I was a total prog rock snob drummer (before I got hip to The Groove in the late 70s), Jethro Tull ruled my world, had their first five albums and wore them out multiple times, though I didn’t really get the first two until acquiring Benefit, and then Aqualung and TAAB, that’s when they all suddenly made sense.

JT first showed up on my radar back in 1969, when I happened to see a PBS TV show featuring them at the Newport Jazz Festival as a trio, Mick Abrahams had just left, their unique flute-based Jazz trio sound turned my head around, had never heard anything like it back then… Ian’s captivating flute stylings also turned me on to the great Rhasaan Roland Kirk years later, but that is another story for another time…. And Clive Bunker…! One of my early drum idols, a true drumming heavyweight.

I was fortunate to see most of the great rock touring acts of the time — Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Argent, Ten Years After, Iron Butterfly, Edgar and Johnny Winter, etc, etc (regrettably missed Jimi, Cream, and King Crimson, I was too young)… The only live show that could top JT at the time imho was the legendary Led Zeppelin, I was one of the 58,600+ people who saw the Tampa stadium show the second night of their HOTH tour, on May 5th 1973.

First saw JT during their TAAB tour in 1971 (took my SAT tests the next day with no sleep, did much better than expected) remember the entire show and encores, also saw their Passion Play tour in 1972 (don’t remember any of it except for the dancer, stage schtick, and the encore reprise of TAAB and Aqualung), and most recently their 25th Anniversary tour in 1994.

Back in ’71-’72, their live sound was best in class, utilizing 16 of those John Meyer designed high fidelity Tychobrahe PA cabinets… JT live was the only act of the era imho that could compete with my dual pair of Advents / Harman-Kardon / Gerard / Ortofon stereo system for sonic quality, carefully bought with odd jobs and gig money, piece by piece, of course.

LZ’s sound was also great though not quite as accurate to me, with their Showco/Clair Bros mega PA system expertly mixed by the legendary late ML Procise, who later famously mixed ZZ Top etc, until he retired from the road.

JT’s live stage act and onstage schtick was memorable, even to this day, there was always something going on to capture your interest, often Ian acting bug-eyed hysterical, punctuated by something crazy going on in the vicinity of the drums and/or keyboards…

JT always put on expertly crafted live shows, well worth the $3.50/$3.75 ticket price at the time (I paid a staggering $6.00 to see Led Zeppelin in ’73…!).

That early 70s JT lineup was superb, though Doane Perry is still my favorite on drums, wish I’d seen Clive live (and regrettably missed the late Mark Craney)…

And Martin Barre? Absolutely essential to the JT sound over the years, just not the same without him, what an amazing guitarist and songwriter… Learned electric guitar by playing Aqualung and Locomotive Breath until I got it right, some of the very best classic riff rock ever, even taught the guitarists in my first cover bands how to play both these songs…

And why on God’s green Earth is JT not in the RRHoF?
How did this travesty occur? Somebody fix this asap, please.

Bob, many thanks for the Steven Wilson remix mentions, I had somehow totally missed these, am rebuilding and completing my JT collection with these as soon as they arrive via Amazon, have my Sennheiser 580 headphones / tube amp at the ready…

Keep up the great writing Bob, always read your missives
as they arrive in my Inbox… Stay Safe, Be Well, All the Best…
=BobBB= The DrumBuddha https://DrumBuddha.com

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I hope you are well.  I should have written this note a few days ago, but I’ve just found a moment to share a vivid memory. It must’ve been around 1982 and I was working briefly washing dishes at a seafood joint in St. Tropez. While outside on a break one evening, I saw a  bearded man on the dock wearing what looked like a cape and playing a flute.  I walked towards him and sure enough it was Ian.  I moved a bit closer and just took in the amazing scene…

I was a massive Tull fan, and chancing upon the mighty Ian Anderson casually playing on a random dock was the greatest experience that I had in St. Tropez, and that’s saying something.

Be well,
Jeff Kempler
Lava

David Byrne On HBO

I hate to pierce the bubble on this, but am I the only one who thought this wasn’t good, ultimately barely watchable?

Byrne’s barefoot danceathon got raves on the road. And when the reaction caught up with the country, when the press finally realized what was going on, Byrne took the show to Broadway, in the wake of Springsteen’s talkathon, and did boffo at the b.o. But just like Bruce’s show, it did not translate to the screen, no way, just like Beyonce’s appearance at Coachella.

In other words, you had to be there.

In other words, you just can’t capture the live experience on film.

I could tell, watching this show, that to be in the audience would be a thrill. And maybe, even more thrilling, to be at a gig, outside, where many of the original shows took place, crushed-up, standing, moving your body, getting caught up in the excitement.

But there was no excitement in this show. You see filmed plays/musicals have never worked, which is why Hollywood always makes them into movies, from “My Fair Lady” to “Hello Dolly!” to “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” You’ve got to take them out of the theatre, you’ve got to enlarge them. One person on stage alone singing works in a theatre, it does not on the screen.

Furthermore, may I say that Byrne’s voice has taken a hit over the years? Such that when you focus on it you can hear the flaws, but if you were there live you’d overlook them?

As for the numbers… This is a performance that needed a soundtrack album in advance. So you could familiarize yourself with the material, so you’d know it and understand it, like “Hair,” and ultimately “Hamilton.”

“Hamilton” on Disney did not work either. But, everybody knew the tunes, and you had a peek into a phenomenon. You felt you were let in on an experience that had evaporated, the original players/singers in the original performance. But it’s not like David Byrne is gonna disappear, at least let’s hope not.

But the hype was unbelievable! Spike Lee was involved! But what we really ended up with was a press clusterfuck. A self-referential bonanza of stories that left the public out. I’d say I was let down upon finally seeing the show, but that would be too charitable. If you watched the whole way through you are to be commended. And it’s not because we’ve got short attention spans, but because there’s so much else of quality to choose from.

And I can continue to denigrate the show and its publicity, but the truth is this was a great advertisement for live performance, something which is absent today. I could tell if I was there, I’d dig it, I’d have a story to tell. And, in an era where everything ends up on YouTube, it’s still not the same as going. Actually, I’d say filming this show did it a disservice. It eviscerated all of its magic. Which was about movement and instrumentation and choreography. You had to be there.

In an era where everything is easily duplicated, it turns out the ephemeral is what we’re really interested in. Something done once, for us. And sure, there’s the benefit of the shared experience with those who go with you, but it’s the little, out of the ordinary moments that make a show transcend, a cover, a speech, a mistake…we like to say we were there, we like to believe we experienced something special.

But watching David Byrne on HBO we felt like we were at a movie. Even worse, a movie of other people’s experience. It was static, we all saw and felt the same thing. Whereas at a show you’re constantly shifting to get a better view, you can feel the bass and lock eyes with those you know and don’t know and smile.

Unfortunately, the performing arts get no respect in our country today. They’re the glue that keeps our culture alive, but the government refuses to save them. Sure, we’re trying to Save Our Stages, but the truth is the live business is caught up in a battle between the right and the left, no agreement can be made, being part of a bill that does not pass is a pyrrhic victory.

Even worse, as taxes have been lowered, as the arts have been excised from school, our feeder system has been compromised. You cannot teach inspiration, but you can nurture it. Instead, we teach to the book, we turn out automatons, who end up graduating without good paying jobs anyway.

I’m not saying that everybody is entitled to make a living in the arts. I’m not saying that the government needs to sponsor everybody who thinks they’ve got an artistic gift to the world. But if we’re saving farmers, if we’re subsidizing energy producers, can’t we eke out a few shekels for live performance, which ultimately brings us together and makes life worth living?

Top Of The Lake

Hulu: bit.ly/3jhiJ6T

Richard Griffiths told me to watch it. But it was unavailable on the Big 3, i.e. Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. And I’m reluctant to subscribe to any more services, I feel like the system is beating me. How come I can’t just pay one price for everything, like Spotify, give me the number and I’ll pay it, because there’s nothing more frustrating than wanting to watch a show and finding out not only is it not on any service you’re paying for, but it’s not available at all. Think of a tune and you can hear it instantly. Think of a movie or TV show…good luck!

Actually, I’m about ready to lay down for Acorn, which has all the BBC shows. We paid for MHz, but after watching “A French Village,” I didn’t find any other must-see TV so I canceled it. I could not figure out how to cancel on the screen or online, so I called up Amazon and they were nice about it, but I felt it was all subterfuge, they wanted to make it difficult. My shrink told me to order on Roku, because it’s easy to cancel on their website, I checked, this appears to be true. However, Roku doesn’t have HBO Max. And our “Smart” Samsung in the bedroom ain’t so smart, it only provides the Big 3 apps, and there’s no way to add a Roku without a wire showing, and this is anathema to Felice.

It shouldn’t be this difficult.

We’ve watched all the A level material. Once again, the “New York Times” is my guide:

“The 30 Best International TV Shows of the Decade”: nyti.ms/31IykXl

Yes, the international shows are better, superior, but when I ask someone what they’re watching they frequently talk about network, or basic cable or one of the traditional premium outlets, like HBO, Showtime, Starz, et al. It’s like they’re lax and unadventurous. And they’re lambs led to the slaughter. They watch what is hyped, what the service recommends, and that’s death. I wish a machine could tell me what to watch, but so far it can’t. As for what’s hyped in the news, I ignore it. One day you see the placed story, by the publicist, the series sounds intriguing, then the reviews come out and it turns out it’s junk. And you wonder why people don’t trust the media.

So, “Top of the Lake” is so strange… Not David Lynch strange, but Jane Campion strange. As in the woman behind “The Piano.” It’s kinda like that, intriguing, yet slow and confusing, but you’re drawn to the show because it’s exotic.

These shows jump around. You read they’re on Netflix, and then they move to Amazon. All of a sudden “Top of the Lake” was available on Hulu, so we started it.

It’s shot in New Zealand, and the landscape is so beautiful, it’s jaw-dropping. And for a while there you don’t know what’s going on, because they talk about Sydney but there are no mountains like this near Sydney…

And the star is Elisabeth Moss. She has never rung true for me. But she rings true here, maybe because she has a New Zealand accent.

And the bottom line is everything looks up to date, but the truth is it’s the boonies, with few ways to make a living, with the locals tattooed and drunk and a lake so forbidding you’re loath to paddle across it, and the water is so cold…

And Holly Hunter is in “Top of the Lake” too. In a minor, but very bizarre role.

But the star of the show is the guy who plays Matt, Peter Mullan. And I’d tell you he reminds me of Jacob Snell from “Ozark,” but he literally is Jacob Snell from “Ozark”! But in this case Mullan’s hair is blonde, long and scraggly and he’s even sharper. And he’s even more dangerous than Jacob Snell.

As for most of the actors, you won’t recognize them, they’re from New Zealand.

So, it’s a lawless town. Everybody’s agreed to look the other way. And some of this lawlessness relates to the economy, and if you shut down the illegal activities, people will have nowhere to work, they’ll have to move to Christchurch to do manual labor for minimum wage.

And I’ve lived in the country. Life is not valued the same way it is in the city. People do bizarre things, like brothers playing chicken on the highway and neither of them blinking and both dying, and it’s hard to explain but it’s real.

So, you’re struck by what is happening, and there’s more than one through line. And the show is so eerie, you can’t turn it off.

I’m not saying you should put “Top of the Lake” on the top of your list, then again, the first season’s got great ratings on RottenTomatoes, 95 and 86: bit.ly/3o7dRFb But I didn’t think it was quite that good. And, once again, I won’t watch anything below 80, almost never ever. Shocks me when people recommend shows with bad ratings/reviews. I’ve only got one life, do you expect me to waste my time? And so many do waste their time, but…

I view streaming TV like the movies of yore. They’re the heartbeat of not only America, but the world. If you want to know what is going on, you watch streaming TV. But only the great stuff.

I’m a completist. You can only evaluate the landscape if you’ve seen everything. And at this point I’ve seen all the A level shows on the Big 3, I know the score, so I guess I’ve got to sign up for Acorn and the other services to fill in the holes.

Sure, there are some phenomena, like “The Tiger King,” and the first season of “Stranger Things”… That’s another thing about Netflix shows, they tend not to be able to live up to the first season. As if the first season was done on a lark and when it was successful the creators were inhibited, like a musician trying to follow up his huge debut, which represents his entire life up to that point, very few can equal the initial success.

And the funny thing is music is about commerce, but streaming TV is not. As long as you’re paying for the service, they’ll churn stuff out. Ratings are not really relevant. Oh, they’ll cancel a show, but they’re always taking swings of the bat. And they give the creators freedom, and to reach the brass ring, to capture the zeitgeist, you must leave the talent unfettered, people must follow their dream. Sometimes they follow it off a cliff, but…

This is so different from the major label music business. Spotify doesn’t care what you listen to, but the Big 3 labels do. And the marketing costs are so high that they massage the music, make you get a cowriter, a remix, a redo, because you see income is based on the number of streams, which is not the case with streaming TV. If you could subscribe to Universal, or Sony or Warner, it might be different, but that is never going to happen.

And since making TV is expensive, there’s less in the channel, quality rises to the surface if you’re looking for it. And the hype is irrelevant. There’s the aforementioned Rotten Tomatoes, you can do independent research, you can discover whether a show is worth watching or not.

And so many are.

Is “Top of the Lake”?

Well, one thing’s for sure, when you watch it you’ll want to go to New Zealand, it’s a great advertisement for tourism. But it will also have you questioning your life, your choices, the coherence of the environment around you. We’re all looking to be found. But many are too fearful to be lost. But only by venturing into the unknown do you have a chance of being fully realized, of being located.

Once again, there’s a basic plot to “Top of the Lake,” but that’s almost secondary, to the vignettes, to the personalities, to the mood.

This is a show that engenders conversation. And that’s what great art does, stimulate our brains to ponder, to engage, to develop.

I don’t know where they’re going to go with season two.

But I’m gonna watch it.

More Thick As A Brick

Hi Bob,

Still, Jethro Tull have never even been nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Go Figure!

Best,

Terry Ellis

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I remember having lunch with Ian when I was running the Chrysalis Music Group USA.
He was not the easiest of men to get on with, and didn’t like sycophants.
I felt rather an idiot when I asked him about the Jazz Flute Solos Book produced by the Hal Leonard/Almo Irving Group, as he responded he didn’t play jazz. Which of course he didn’t.
Jethro Tull’s performances were always great shows and his manager, Joe Lustig – a charming man.
I enjoy your daily postings. Thank you.
Ann P Munday

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My uncle owned a record store so I got to hear Thick as a Brick right when the album came out. How was I to know that Jethro Tull wasn’t the guy leading the band? In my memory, even the FM radio jocks would talk about Jethro Tull as if they were talking about a person. (Am I crazy?)

Anyway, that young boy thought this was the greatest song ever written about a brick. But, five years later the Commodores released Brick House. After that, I always thought that Thick as a Brick was the second greatest song about a brick ever written. (Now you know I am crazy).

Marc McLaughlin

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I owned Minstrel in the Gallery on 8-track. It eventually got stuck in the player in my 1972 Mercury Marquis becoming forever etched in my mind. After an uncountable number of plays, the first and third as well as the second and fourth track started playing over one another. Fun times.

Andrew Paciocco

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I was fortunate to interact with the ‘early’ Jethro Tull Band on two occasions. First, I was a high school senior “interning”at The Fillmore East when JT opened for BS&T on 1/25/69. I was assigned the task of ‘roadie’ help and basically lugged gear. It looked like the JT uys were happy to be playing in the U.S.A. for sure. The second time was when they played Stony Brook University on Long Island on 4/25/71. They were a well oiled machine for that gig (I was a member of the student hospitality crew though I cannot recall what food they ate backstage).
And, yes, Martin Barre has always been awesome

Norm Prusslin
Long Island, N.Y.

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Just to chime in, I first saw Tull on the Stand Up tour at Fillmore West. People were shouting out tunes from the first album, to which Anderson replied “Thank you for requesting these obsolete tunes, but we won’t be playing them!”. That made a lasting impression on me.

They were also masters of stage schtick: on the Passion Play tour at Oakland Coliseum Arena they had a mass of roadies in floppy hats and trenchcoats doing setup, who left one by one only to leave the band remaining when they removed the disguises.
Midway through a song, a white phone began to ring on John Evan’s piano. Anderson stopped the song, walked over and answered, returned to his mic and announced “Mike Nelson – white courtesy telephone please!”. The band started back up on a dime as a man in wetsuit and scuba gear padded over to the phone.

A great, great band.

Joseph

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I still have every Tull album (both vinyl and CD) up until mid-80’s… If I had to go to a desert island, and could bring only one, it would be Songs From the Wood. A truly beautiful masterpiece from start to finish.

Gary Fritz

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I have always felt that “Wond’ring Aloud” was one of the most beautiful songs ever made.

Bob Jameson

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I was 17 when we performed “A New Day Yesterday” and “Cats Squirrel” at a battle of the Bands in my Brooklyn high school gym. Came in second.
Btw – I think guitarist Mick Abrahams (Tull guitarist at the time, went on to form Blodwyn Pig) performance on Cats Squirrel is the best version out there.

Jim Faith

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Bob, lifelong Tull fan. They’ve never received true credit for their contribution in the spectrum of rock. And thank you for recognizing Martin Barre. You never here him even mentioned. Ever. His riffs and playing forever resonate.

And your last line is spot on. Let’s celebrate these guys (and ladies) while they’re still here.

Best,
Larry Blackwell

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Bob, enjoyed your bit about tull, been a fan since ’68
Something I think all Jethro Tull fans would enjoy; Jethro Tull the String Quartets. Reworked tull gems by Ian and a quartet. Recorded in a crypt no less !
Ric
Ric’s Recollections

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Loved this, Bob. I saw the first TAAB tour and have always been a fan. Martin Barre keeps me coming back.
Tom Lehr

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Great one Bob! My Mom actually turned me onto the band after she read an article on them in 69. I became an instant fan. Martin Barre and Clive Bunker were monsters!!

B Chapin

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When JEFF The Brotherhood went into Blackbird Studios with Joe Chicarelli, they asked me if I knew anyone in Nashville who played like Ian Anderson.
No, I said. No one plays like Ian Anderson.

A few months later Jake and Jamin asked me to hear the mix of the first single “Black Cherry Pie” and I was stunned by the flute solo. “Who did you find that played like Ian Anderson?” I asked.
“Ian Anderson”, they replied.

Long story short: They sent him the track, he sent it back in 48 hours with a message: No charge. Thanks for keeping rock alive.

“Black Cherry Pie” is on YouTube and all the streamers. Ian Anderson plays like it’s 1972.

youtu.be/cEMYOAGa6aQ

Best,
Robert Ellis Orrall

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I was a big fan. Never missed them when they played Chicago, which was pretty often in the day.
There was nobody like them, and don’t get me started on Ian Anderson. He was IT for me. When he would play that flute while balancing on one leg, I was mesmerized.
I actually named my son Ian!
I was fortunate enough to get to meet him once and told him. He looked at me like I was crazy, but I didn’t care.
I think it’s time to revisit some of the old tunes.
Thanks for the memories Bob.

Bonnie Feinerma

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Was This Spinal Tap related to Tull? You forgot to mention Ring out These Solstice Bells and the album Broadsword. Haha. Kidding. Tull is one of my FOATs. Ian Anderson is an underrated great on the acoustic guitar. A true rocker, thinker, and businessman. “ We used to know” may be the best tune. The flute has never been so cool. Oz

Joshua Osswald

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It’s the Fall of 1980, I’m working my first job out of college for the Real Paper in Cambridge.

At the end of one day as I go to my car in the underground garage of our building, I notice a brown paper bag leaning up against my front left wheel.

It’s full of albums someone clearly didn’t want.

The only one I kept was ‘Thick As A Brick.’

I read the newspaper every time I played the album.

Regards,

Raymond B. Levin

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This little diddy from TAAB resonates for our times:

“The doer and the thinker, no allowance for the other
As the failing light illuminates the mercenary’s creed“

Peter Duray-Bito

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I know I’m very late to the party in responding to this post (the blessing of an internet free weekend spent primarily watching the leaves turn in upstate New York) but I had to add mine to the chorus of “thank yous” for writing this piece. I was lucky enough to see the band perform TAAB twice, both times at Madison Square Garden, once with Roxy Music as an opener and the other time with Gentle Giant (great interview with Derek Shulman by the way). Anyway, and I’m not sure if this was mentioned in any of the dozens of responses you posted, but the band that toured TAAB was absolutely amazing live. This was, for me anyway, the best of all the post blues band lineups. Much has been written about Martin Barre (and deservedly so), but the supporting cast of characters called on to perform the piece live – John Evan on keyboards, Barriemore Barlow on drums and Jeffrey Hammond Hammond on bass were perfect complements to Ian’s on stage antics. Again, TAAB was a piece of music that was meant to be performed, not just played, and these guys pulled it off. Reminds me of how much I miss live music…and great albums. Thanks again.

Tom Ennis

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Cheers on good Tull prose.

I had the privilege of interview Ian Anderson around 2000 and I had the audacity to ask him, “If I was auditioning for the guitarist position in your band and my name was Jethro, would that help our deter me?”

He chuckled and softly said, “I don’t think that would enhance your chances.”
Sent from my phone
Doug Van Pelt

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Went to see JT while coming home from the Marines on leave, they were playing The Felt Forum.

My previous concert to this was 78 Stormwatch Tour when my babysitter took me while in 3rd grade – she didn’t wanna miss it at Nassau Coliseum..

So I get to the Felt Forum, Fire Up A Joint and everyone’s like Put That Out..and I’m looking around like this is a fucking Tull Show right??? So I hit it like 3 Snoop Puffs and clipped it..

Best,

Matt Gaines

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I loved your piece on JT. I promoted two shows with them in Ireland last year. Both sell outs and both went down a storm. I found everyone fantastic to deal with and Ian was such a gent. I forwarded your blogpost to James Anderson, Ian’s son, who looks after the business side of things. I am already trying to book them again to come back when we get to the other side of Covid.

Keep on doing what you do Bob! It’s keeping me sane.

Best to you & Felice.

Cheers,

Brian Hand

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The dude who claimed he listened to ‘Thick As A Brick’ on a Sony Walkman in 1976 was some kinda “futurist”, as in my universe it tells me the wondrous game changer only hit the market in 1979!
For mine ‘Stand Up’ was just amazing on release and remains so. But for singular best use of a Tull song in film or TV… ‘Locomotive Breath’ deployed in a episode of ‘Fargo’ was an astonishing placement.
And Steven Wilson in all his musical guises is the greatest musician on the planet for at least the last two decades. His King Crimson 5.1 remixing of their early albums is stunning, let alone as the linchpin of the greatest post Pink Floyd legacy with Porcupine Tree.

Ross

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So great to see some love for Tull!! As a kid, there was never any contradiction in loving punk rock and loving Tull. It was just music for odd balls, and to young ears it all felt the same.

Nothing evokes the weird and vanished England of eccentric dialects and standing stones quite like them. It might be magical realism, but their version of this country resonates with me just as much as any of the movements that existed alongside – and usually at odds – with them.

Ross Allmark

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Wonderful letter.
Tull stands alone.

Frederick Lyle

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Bob

Aqualung was better.

Best,

Michael McCarty

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I bought the Aqualung remix a couple years ago on vinyl hoping it would be an improvement on the awful original mix. I wasn’t disappointed. It came with details from Wilson about what he’d done. So anyway…..Thick as a Brick. But you did the review. And it fairly accurately matched my own experience. Anderson tied the whole thing together like the rug in Lebowski’s room. Benefit is my favorite, the US release with Teacher. Heavy Horses is a great song. He was a master at blending melody and lyric to create a mood. Budapest is a fave. Still, it ain’t Tull without Martin. His musical vision is woven deep throughout all of their recordings. What a great massive creative burst of music the 60s and early 70s were! Glad I was there! Thanks for the piece.

Bill Nelson

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June 3rd 1972, Ottawa Civic Center

Did not disappoint -a great show, well played.

$3.75

lawn mowing money

for those who say “Tull ain’t ‘eavy Met’l” show them Jethro Tull with Tony Iommi on guitar.

TourSwag

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Thanks Bob. You have unlocked the way back machine once again. I am now going to set aside a day to listen to all of my seven Tull LPs – in order. Luckily, there are a few rainy days on the horizon. I can’t wait!

I then drop further into the time machine and think of their live performances. I saw them at least several times in arenas- with 15,000 of my closest friends. They always pulled it off, with perfectly balanced sound and excellent lighting.

But– they almost stole the show at the best concert I ever saw. July 7, 1970, with It’s a Beautiful Day, Tull and The Who- playing Tommy for the last time. All three were favorites of mine, and I didn’t miss a note. Tull’s sets stole the show.

Bill Capps

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Bob in 1979 I was living in Toronto with friends, I had just got out of the army. We went to see The Who in Buffalo at the old Aud, yes this was the show after the infamous Cincinatti concert. Daltrey apologized for the Cincinnati show.
Next week we went to see Tull in Toronto Maple Leaf Gardens. We only got in because at the last moment they released seats behind the stage. We were so close to Ian from there, we saw all his stage antics up close and personal. That’s why I miss the Toronto concert scene The Who one week Tull the next, can’t beat that.
I know it’s heresy but War Child is my favourite Tull album, listening to Thick as a Brick right now, it’s growing on me.

Doug Gillis

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Thank you for even mentioning Jethro Tull! Pretty daring move!
I think Ian Anderson and Tull are quite underappreciated, and in certain circles, are treated as a joke. It’s unfair.
I am a lifelong fan, particularly all their albums up to Stormwatch. I have enjoyed seeing their tours over a dozen times. No matter who is in the lineup, they ALWAYS deliver a tight, entertaining, disciplined show, with stellar musicianship.
Their reissue program of their albums with the remixes by Steven Wilson are setting the standard for how a catalog can be expanded and improved. Both the the stereo and surround mixes are beautifully done. The albums sound better than ever.
Critics, both professional and otherwise, love to dismiss them, but he/they have given me years of great entertainment. I appreciate you coming to their defense. Somebody had to say it!
Kyle Peterson/Seattle

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As a 13-year-old flute-playing boy in 1968, I was a fan. Thick As a Brick was the first LP I bought.

Later, as a young news guy at WXRT in Chicago in the’80s, I brought my flute into the station so Ian Anderson would have something to play for promos like this: www.meyersonstrategy.com/2012/09/ian-anderson-played-my-flute.html

Charlie Meyerson

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Ian’s become a master salmon smoker….did you know that? BTW: “This Was” was more than anything a Rahsaan Roland Kirk tribute…Ian’s clear flute mentor.

Michael Fremer

P.S. My friend Mike Hobson released “Aqualung” on Classic Records cut from the original tape. Ian had it under some stuff in his garage. It never was a particularly good recording. Analogue Productions just released it as a double 45 on UHQR 200 gram hand pressed vinyl cut from tape in a deluxe box for $125 and is close to selling out the 5000 copy run.

Even I don’t get that…

Michael Fremer

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Hey Bob,
Holy Shit!!!
Look at these responses!
I have never seen anything like this from a band or an album you’ve written about.
Let’s do some more Tull,
let’s talk about some more albums,
these guys deserve it,
all day long!

Jeffrey Scott,
Minneapolis

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I used to love this one when I was discovering the classics in my teams. Gonna cue up the new mix and listen.

Well done on championing this record while Ian is alive, as you say.

Todd Carey

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When I was 9 I took “Heavy Horses” (1978) out of the library. I fell in love with it so hard I made my dad buy it for me. It is still one of my favorite records of all time.
From there I went backwards through their catalog. One of the most distinctive and accomplished bands of all time. Thanks for championing their music! Feels good to know I’m not alone.

Peter Cole

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Thank you for the inclusion Bob.
Sent me back to discogs to rebuild the vinyl library
when you bust open those cobwebs of greatness.

btw, I taught myself how to play guitar to the tunes of Locomotive breath and Aqualung.

Can’t wait til your next pic from he past..they are loved.
sincerest regards from us all
plen

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Thanks for writing about “Thick as a Brick,” Bob. Like hearing the music itself, your essay didn’t just make me think about Jethro Tull or the time I saw the band in a packed midwestern hockey arena. It also reminded me of the last time I saw an old friend — someone I’d known since we were 12, someone I now haven’t seen for over 40 years.

He and I first formed our friendship in grade school based on our mutual love of the Beatles. We saw “Let It Be” and “The Concert for Bangladesh” together in old movie theaters when the films were new. And we played in a band together that almost never got out of his garage but gave us a reason to sing Beatle songs.

We fell out of touch after high school, when my folks moved away from my hometown.

But a couple years later, I was back for a visit, and some mutual friends and I went over to my old friend’s house for a small party. At one point during the festivities, my old friend motioned me to an adjoining room. He got a really old guitar case out of a closet and pulled out a very cool antique Martin acoustic, a small parlor-sized guitar. My friend sat down opposite me, started playing, and sang, “Really don’t mind if you sit this one out.”

From there, my old friend sang and played the whole damn thing. The funny thing is, my old friend wasn’t a guitarist — he was a drummer. But he sure knew how to play “Thick as a Brick” on the guitar.

We must have sat there for over a half hour as he sang that long song, but it seemed like five minutes — a tribute to the beauty of the original composition and to the feeling in my friend’s performance — very different from the original recording, of course, but with the same spirit.

Thanks for reminding me of that unexpected and most memorable performance of “Thick as a Brick,” Bob.

Kurt Schroeder

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Nice to see Tull get their due. Thanks.

When I interviewed Ian Anderson in 1990 for the San Diego Union (now Union-Tribune) , here’s what he had to say about Tull beating out Metallica for that controversial Grammy:

“It seemed strange to me at the time, being nominated, because that category did not reflect what the band is about in my eyes,” said Anderson, who co-founded Jethro Tull in 1968. “The new category was meant to reflect the alternative and harder end of the spectrum, which it did. But, to the consternation of the Grammy organizers, it was not a good move, retrospectively, to embrace metal and hard rock. Because it became a catchall for anybody not in the pop categories.

“However, I’m pleased we won since it’s an accolade given to us by our peer group of 6,000-plus members in the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, and that’s something you can’t influence.”

Critics charged that Jethro Tull’s victory was attributable to two factors: The veteran English band was more familiar to Grammy voters than the other nominees; and its victory was more for a 20-year body of work than for “Crest of a Knave,” the album for which the band had been nominated. Anderson agrees.

“That was what I felt uncomfortable with,” he said. “It was not just an album or a category people were recognizing, but 20 years of Jethro Tull. The only casualties were Metallica, who were convinced they would win when everyone told them they would. Well, tough luck. If they’re that good they ought to last another 19 years.”

Anderson chuckled. “Metallica now has the honor of being among the many influential, successful and creative groups of all time who have not won, because there are a lot of them.”

Metallica was considered such a likely winner that Jethro Tull’s record label, Chrysalis, not only discouraged the European-based Anderson from attending, but also refused to provide tickets to Tull’s Los Angeles-based drummer, Doane Perry.

“I don’t think Chrysalis wanted to shell out the air fare,” Anderson said. “And maybe it’s all for the best. Given the booing and the disgruntled behavior from the press backstage, I would have found it difficult to walk away clutching a Grammy Award.”

George Varga

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I was with Alice at that Grammy Awards when he had to announce the winner. At the afterparty, he reached into his pocket and handed the Metallica guys the actual envelope with the Jethro Tull wording inside. Now that’s a memento.

Toby Mamis

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I don’t share your enthusiasm for exactly this (I’ll bet it’s great, never heard it) but it’s great to see onetime critics ease up and dig things.

Art Fein

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I was in a band on Chrysalis in 86 called “The City”, but I knew about as much about labels and the biz as I know about building a rocket ship…I don’t think I even knew Tull was on that label…

Wade Biery

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I remain un-moved. (It’s why we started punk rock).

Hugo Burnham