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Popular Culture 20120928 — Jethro Tull Thick as a Brick Side 2

(9 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Last time we covered the first side of the 1972 album.  The link in that piece goes to the history of the record and has a link to the wonderful album cover and you should look at that if you have not already.

Since this is one long (21:06 minutes) song, we shall do like we did the last time and break it into chunks.  Just hit the pause button after each chunk and we shall discuss.  For your convenience I have also posted the entire lyrics before the embed.  Here we go!

LATER.

See there! A man born and we pronounce him fit for peace.

There’s a load lifted from his shoulders with the discovery of his disease.

We’ll take the child from him

put it to the test

teach it to be a wise man

how to fool the rest.

QUOTE

We will be geared to the average rather than the exceptional

God is an overwhelming responsibility

we walked through the maternity ward and saw 218 babies wearing nylons

cats are on the upgrade

upgrade? Hipgrave. Oh, Mac.

LATER

In the clear white circles of morning wonder,

I take my place with the lord of the hills.

And the blue-eyed soldiers stand slightly discoloured

(in neat little rows) sporting canvas frills.

With their jock-straps pinching, they slouch to attention,

while queueing for sarnies at the office canteen.

Saying: “How’s your granny?” and good old Ernie:

he coughed up a tenner on a premium bond win.

The legends (worded in

the ancient tribal hymn)

lie cradled in the seagull’s call.

And all the promises they made are ground beneath the sadist’s fall.

The poet and the wise man stand behind the gun,

and signal for the crack of dawn.

Light the sun. Light the sun.

Do you believe in the day?

Do you? Believe in the day!

The Dawn Creation of the Kings has begun.

Soft Venus (lonely maiden) brings the ageless one.

Do you believe in the day?

The fading hero has returned to the night

and fully pregnant with the day,

wise men endorse the poet’s sight.

Do you believe in the day?

Do you? Believe in the day!

Let me tell you the tales of your life

of your love and the cut of the knife

the tireless oppression, the wisdom instilled

the desire to kill or be killed.

Let me sing of the losers who lie

in the street as the last bus goes by.

The pavements are empty: the gutters run red

while the fool toasts his god in the sky.

So come all ye young men who are building castles!

Kindly state the time of the year

and join your voices in a hellish chorus.

Mark the precise nature of your fear.

Let me help you pick up your dead

as the sins of the father are fed

with the blood of the fools

and the thoughts of the wise and

from the pan under your bed.

Let me make you a present of song

as the wise man breaks wind and is gone

while the fool with the hour-glass is cooking his goose

and the nursery rhyme winds along.

So! Come all ye young men who are building castles!

Kindly state the time of the year

and join your voices in a hellish chorus.

Mark the precise nature of your fear.

See! The summer lightning casts its bolts upon you

and the hour of judgement draweth near.

Would you be the fool stood in his suit of armour

or the wiser man who rushes clear.

So! Come on ye childhood heroes!

Won’t your rise up from the pages of your comic-books

your super-crooks

and show us all the way.

Well! Make your will and testament.

Won’t you? Join your local government.

We’ll have Superman for president

let Robin save the day.

So! Where the hell was Biggles when you needed him last Saturday?

And where were all the sportsmen who always pulled you through?

They’re all resting down in Cornwall writing up their memoirs

for a paper-back edition of the Boy Scout Manual

OF COURSE

So you ride yourselves over the fields

and you make all your animal deals

and your wise men don’t know how it feels

to be thick as a brick.

From the opening to 4 minutes is the opening number of the side.  The lyrics are:

LATER.

See there! A man born and we pronounce him fit for peace.

There’s a load lifted from his shoulders with the discovery of his disease.

We’ll take the child from him

put it to the test

teach it to be a wise man

how to fool the rest.

QUOTE

We will be geared to the average rather than the exceptional

God is an overwhelming responsibility

we walked through the maternity ward and saw 218 babies wearing nylons

cats are on the upgrade

upgrade? Hipgrave. Oh, Mac.

The first paragraph goes back to the theme of society making people conventional as they pass through the socialization process that everyone has.  Anderson correctly observes that part of that process involves learning deception.  In addition, it seems to become easier to deceive as one gets older and learns to understand that deception often gets one some of their goals faster than honesty does.  As LeRoy Jethro Gibbs once said on NCIS, “You know why I get along so well with children?  Because they do not have the guile to lie to you effectively.”.

The second paragraph is the hard to understand spoken part which I find fascinating.  Speaking from the point of society, Anderson also correctly indicates how the system is designed for the average and not special needs children, whether gifted or otherwise.  I guess all of us who have had children have played God to a lesser or greater extent, and society does it on a grand scale.  I have no idea what the reference to the nylons and the cats means.  Anyone have any ideas?

From 4:00 to 11 minutes or so is what I call “Believe in the Day”.  This is a strange piece.

In the clear white circles of morning wonder,

I take my place with the lord of the hills.

And the blue-eyed soldiers stand slightly discoloured

(in neat little rows) sporting canvas frills.

With their jock-straps pinching, they slouch to attention,

while queueing for sarnies at the office canteen.

Saying: “How’s your granny?” and good old Ernie:

he coughed up a tenner on a premium bond win.

The legends (worded in

the ancient tribal hymn)

lie cradled in the seagull’s call.

And all the promises they made are ground beneath the sadist’s fall.

The poet and the wise man stand behind the gun,

and signal for the crack of dawn.

Light the sun. Light the sun.

Do you believe in the day?

Do you? Believe in the day!

The Dawn Creation of the Kings has begun.

Soft Venus (lonely maiden) brings the ageless one.

Do you believe in the day?

The fading hero has returned to the night

and fully pregnant with the day,

wise men endorse the poet’s sight.

Do you believe in the day?

Do you? Believe in the day!

This sounds like that the poet and the wise man are observing the conformists at an office setting, comparing them to military members in that they are regimented without being regimented (“…they slouch to attention.”).  The part about queueing for sarnies would read in American English as “lining up for sandwiches at the cafeteria”.  I think that there is also a reference to Tommy by The Who here, with Ernie and coughing up the tenner (a ten pound note).  Since this is the ultimate sendup of concept albums, that makes sense.  Adding to that is the guitar rift that sounds very much like that from “Pinball Wizard” that follows very shortly thereafter.

The rest of it I just can not fathom.  Perhaps I am thick, but it just does not make any sense to me.  Hopefully those of you more versed in Tull can help us out here.

There is a very nice transitional instrumental part that goes until 13:15.  Then what I call “Come all ye Young Men” starts and runs until 18:06.  This is a profound piece of thought, and the music is just outstanding as well.

Let me tell you the tales of your life

of your love and the cut of the knife

the tireless oppression, the wisdom instilled

the desire to kill or be killed.

Let me sing of the losers who lie

in the street as the last bus goes by.

The pavements are empty: the gutters run red

while the fool toasts his god in the sky.

So come all ye young men who are building castles!

Kindly state the time of the year

and join your voices in a hellish chorus.

Mark the precise nature of your fear.

Let me help you pick up your dead

as the sins of the father are fed

with the blood of the fools

and the thoughts of the wise and

from the pan under your bed.

Let me make you a present of song

as the wise man breaks wind and is gone

while the fool with the hour-glass is cooking his goose

and the nursery rhyme winds along.

So! Come all ye young men who are building castles!

Kindly state the time of the year

and join your voices in a hellish chorus.

Mark the precise nature of your fear.

See! The summer lightning casts its bolts upon you

and the hour of judgement draweth near.

Would you be the fool stood in his suit of armour

or the wiser man who rushes clear.

Anderson sort of makes his central point in the first paragraph.  I believe that is that because of social conditioning and the way society works, there is by necessity a need for winners and losers.  He also gets a jab at organized religion in at the same time, and it is a fact that organized religion does often seem to be in collusion with other societal institutions in making it easier to accept the status quo.

I believe the reference to building castles actually refers to the young people just starting out in professional or trade life, and the castle is the career.  It is very interesting imagery to say that the the sins of the father (society) are fed from the blood of fools and the thoughts of the wise, and then to say also from the contents of the pan under your bed, almost certainly referring to human excrement since historically the pan under the bed was the chamber pot, used in places that do not have proper sanitary facilities nearby.  Thus, the wise man farts in your general direction (remember the Monty Python connexion we mentioned time before last), the fool watches the clock as he digs himself more deeply into the hole that he had already dug, listening to nonsense for guidance.

I do not get the part about stating the time of year and the hellish chorus, but maybe some of you do and will share it with us.  I do like the metaphor about the lightning and the fool in armor and the wise man who just gets away from a dangerous situation.

At about 18:05 it transitions back to “Comic Book Heros” like on the first side from last time.

So! Come on ye childhood heroes!

Won’t your rise up from the pages of your comic-books

your super-crooks

and show us all the way.

Well! Make your will and testament.

Won’t you? Join your local government.

We’ll have Superman for president

let Robin save the day.

So! Where the hell was Biggles when you needed him last Saturday?

And where were all the sportsmen who always pulled you through?

They’re all resting down in Cornwall writing up their memoirs

for a paper-back edition of the Boy Scout Manual.

Now I get the “Biggles” reference.  He was a fictional larger than life character in youth oriented books written by W. E. Johns from 1932 to 1968.  He is sort of like Indiana Jones in a way, or at least that is the gist of the character.  Biggles was the nickname of the fictional character James Bigglesworth.  Since he was not there, Robin has to do.

Finally, at 20:33 it resolves back to where we started.

So you ride yourselves over the fields

and you make all your animal deals

and your wise men don’t know how it feels

to be thick as a brick.

Whilst I do not understand the meaning of all of the lyrics, I think that I got a fair handle on them.  Even though the words may be a bit obscure, the music is just wonderful.  It can be powerful, gentle, dissonant, and beautiful depending on the movement.  I find this album to be extremely enigmatic but a masterpiece nonetheless.  I am not the biggest Tull fan who draws breath, but this album is way up on my list of favorites (everything by The Who and the canonical Moody Blues belong in a separate place).

Dear readers, with this I must depart.  It is almost time to publish, and I have a date to visit The Woman as soon as The Little Girl goes down to bake cupcakes with her and enjoy each others’ company for the rest of the evening.  I will be around for only a little while for comments, but I shall come back later when she conks out for the night.  It will be nice tonight, because her dad is gone to work and her mum is fading fast from fatigue.  It will just be the two of us.  Please do not get the wrong idea, but it is nice when we are able to share our time together alone because we can laugh, joke, and have tender moments that are not possible with an audience.  Her words earlier were, “I would LOVE to spend the evening with you tonight, as soon as Dad goes and The Little Girl is down.”  Life is good!

Please keep on commenting whilst I am gone, and I promise that I will read all of them and respond later!

Warmest regards,

Doc, aka Dr. David W. Smith

Crossposted at

The Stars Hollow Gazette,

Daily Kos, and

firefly-dreaming

2 comments

  1. Translator

    a masterful piece of music?

    Warmest regards,

    Doc

  2. Translator

    I very much appreciate it.  Tomorrow morning The Woman and I will visit.  Wish us both luck in the fairy land of love?

    Warmest regards,

    Doc

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