It's been over six years since we played Jethro Tull's Thick As A Brick in its entirety on Rockin' in the Days of Confusion, so I figured it was about time to do it again. Of course that doesn't leave a whole lot of time for anything else, but we did manage to fit in four (considerably) shorter tunes.
Artist: Steely Dan
Title: Any Major Dude Will Tell You
Source: 45 RPM single B side
For a while it looked like Steely Dan would, like many other early 70s bands, start strong and then slowly fade away. Their debut single, Do It Again, got a lot of airplay on AM top 40 radio, which actually worked against them when it came to the more album-oriented FM stations that were starting to pop up all over the US. Despite the fact that their second LP, Countdown To Ecstacy, was much more suited to FM, it was pretty much ignored by FM rock stations at the time. However, it all came together for the group with the release of their third LP, Pretzel Logic, in 1974. In addition to a big hit single (Rikki Don't Lose That Number), Pretzel Logic included several FM-friendly tunes, such as Any Major Dude Will Tell You, and was a favorite of the rock press.
Title: Prelude-Nothing To Hide
Source: CD: Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus
Writer(s): Randy California
Spirit's first few albums had generated good reviews but poor sales. Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus was considered at the time to be their last chance to reach a larger audience. The pseudo-polygamous lyrics of the album's opening track, Prelude-Nothing To Hide, are actually about the band members' commitment to their music, a commitment that is apparent throughout this classic album. Unfortunately even that level of commitment did not translate to commercial success, leading vocalist Jay Ferguson and bassist Mark Andes to split from Spirit to form Jo Jo Gunne soon thereafter.
Artist: James Gang
Title: There I Go Again
Source: CD: James Gang Rides Again
Writer(s): Joe Walsh
Label: MCA (original label: ABC)
The two sides of James Gang Rides Again sound like two entirely different albums. As it turns out, this was somewhat intentional. According to bassist Dale Peters, guitarist Joe Walsh had written a set of acoustic tunes while the band was recording what would become side one of the album. Rather than try to hastily come up with another side's worth of tunes, the band decided just to let Walsh record the songs he had already written with a minimum of accompaniment. Among those tunes on side two of James Gang Rides Again is There I Go Again, a catchy number that features Walsh on both acoustic and (overdubbed) steel guitar.
Artist: Jethro Tull
Title: Thick As A Brick
Source: CD: Thick As A Brick
Writer(s): Ian Anderson
Label: Chrysalis (original label: Reprise)
By the early 1970s, concept albums from progressive rock bands were becoming a bit of a cliche. In a few cases, such as Jethro Tull's Aqualung, the label was applied without the permission, or even the intention, of the artist making the album. In late 1971 Tull's Ian Anderson decided, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, that if the critics wanted a concept album so badly he would give them the "mother of all concept albums". In the early 1970s a type of humor known as parody was in vogue, thanks to magazines like National Lampoon and television shows like Monty Python's Flying Circus. Anderson, taking his cue from Monty Python in particular, decided that the next Jethro Tull album would combine complex music with wry humor targeting critics, audiences and even the band itself. To begin with, all the album's lyrics were credited to a fictional eight-year-old schoolboy named Gerald Bostock, whose "epic" poem was stirring up controversy in the small village of St. Cleve. Anderson created an elaborate backstory for the piece, fleshing it out with a 12 page small town newspaper parody, complete with local news, TV listings, and a sports section (among other things) that folded out when the album cover was opened. Thick As A Brick itself is one continuous musical work consisting of several sections that tie together thematically to lampoon modern life, religion and politics in particular. The piece, which lasts nearly 44 minutes, goes through several tempo and key changes, resembling classical music in terms of sheer complexity. The band also utilized a much greater variety of instruments on Thick As A Brick than they had on previous albums, including harpsichord, xylophone, timpani, violin, lute, trumpet, saxophone, and a string section. Recording took about three weeks in late December, with another month spent putting together the newspaper itself. The entire package was so well presented that many record buyers were under the impression that Gerald Bostock was indeed a real person. Although the album initially received mixed reviews from the rock press, it has since come to be regarded as a progressive rock classic. Indeed, many (including me) feel that Thick As A Brick is Jethro Tull's greatest accomplishment.
Title: A Horse With No Name
Source: Stereo 45 RPM single
Writer(s): Dewey Bunnell
Label: Warner Brothers
In early 1967 my dad, a career military man in the USAF, got word that he was going to be transferred from his post as liason officer to Fitzsimmons Army Hospital in Aurora, Colorado, to Lakenheath, England. Before the move could take place, however, his new posting got changed to Lindsay Air Station in Weisbaden, Germany. Of course we were all a bit disappointed with the change, but, as any enlisted man will tell you, you go where they tell you to go, period. If we had gone to England, however, I probably would have attended high school with three other Air Force brats who went on to form a band called America shortly after graduation. As it turned out, however, I did not hear of any of them until after I returned to the US and graduated from high school myself, when I first heard A Horse With No Name on the radio. It was the first of many hits for America in the 1970s.