"Thick as a Brick (Parts 1 & 2)" as written by and Ian Anderson....
Really don't mind if you sit this one out.

My words but a whisper your deafness a SHOUT.
I may make you feel but I can't make you think.
Your sperm's in the gutter your love's in the sink.
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.

And the sand-castle virtues are all swept away in
The tidal destruction
The moral melee.
The elastic retreat rings the close of play
As the last wave uncovers
The newfangled way.
But your new shoes are worn at the heels and
Your suntan does rapidly peel and
Your wise men don't know how it feels
To be thick as a brick.

And the love that I feel, is so far away
I'm a bad dream that I just had today and you
Shake your head and
Say it's a shame.

Spin me back down the years
and the days of my youth.
Draw the lace and black curtains
and shut out the whole truth.
Spin me down the long ages, let them sing the song.


Lyrics submitted by azkm

"Thick as a Brick" as written by Ian Anderson

Lyrics © CHRYSALIS MUSIC GROUP INC DIGITAL ONLY

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Thick as a Brick (Parts 1 & 2) song meanings
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  • +5
    General CommentOne common theme in most of Tull's lyrics is an implied narrator, akin to a medievel court-jester, whom tells absurd jokes riddled with hyperbole to humour his audience while hinting toward specific similarities of actual circumstances or events. Since he is considered a fool and not to be taken seriously, the jester's jokes can be either safely dismissed for their absurdity or thoughtfully pondered for the meaningful questions they pose depending on the audience's mindset. Examples of Tull’s narrator/jester theme can also be found in the lyrics of Minstrel In The Gallery, A Passion Play, Skating Away, Solitare, Wind-Up, Lick Your Fingers Clean and Sealion to name a few.

    Over-analyzing is of course exactly that — by definition ”over” means too much.

    After decades of listening to Tull & reading interviews from old magazine articles found on the Jethro Tull Press website, I believe the following quotes by Ian say the most regarding Thick's lyrics.

    "'Thick as a brick'; it really is a slang phrase from the north of England, where I spent my (well, some of my) growing-up years. To describe someone as being 'as thick as a brick' meant to describe them as being stupid, basically. You know, to be 'thick', as in 'thick-headed'; thick as a 'brick' being a small, dense object. So I was really talking about people being intellectually incapable of absorbing whatever it might have been put across in those slightly spoofish, bombastic terms in the lyrics of the album."
    (Excerpt from Ian's 12/23/91 interview on the US radio show, 'In The Studio - Thick As A Brick')

    "The way that I write allows a lot of people to interpret in their own fashion. I am not just saying one thing. I am saying a lot of things to a lot of people. The music means different things to different people." "I want to insist that every listener makes a tiny bit of effort to reach the music and interpret what I am saying. My words put out feelers. It's up to listeners to pick up on them and get from them what they wish - I'm not attempting to be clear-cut. I want to deal in terms that invite questioning. Balm for the masses is no use whatsoever." "We do tend to judge music on its rhythms and whether you can tap your foot to it. But most of our music deserves to be listened to several times. I'm still listening to Beethoven and I still don't understand what he is doing, but I'll get there some day. God knows that whatever I ultimately make of Beethoven I will never derive the same interpretation as what was intended - and I hope he respects my right to my interpretation - but at least I have a willingness to try to understand it." "I don't really want to get into specific comparisons and explanations, especially about Passion Play and Thick As A Brick. I don't want to start people off trying to figure out where the new album is in relation to the last two. Believe it or not, they all mean something." "It's distinctly worrying, because I know that the last few records have been difficult to listen to. WarChild, so I'm told, is a lot more accessible. I don't know if I like that or not. I've started to worry that perhaps people will think it's a simple record and they'll play it at parties and they'll play it when they're stoned and they'll play it in their car - instead of actually sitting down and making an effort to listen." (Excerpts from Ian's interview with Melody Maker magazine published in their 12/07/74 issue)
    gstormcrowon October 09, 2009   Link
  • +4
    General CommentThis isn't a song about nothing. The 'story' behind the song about a 12-year-old writing was made up to illustrate the song's meaning.

    It's sort of a mix between a play and a fable, with the moral(s) being:

    Never blindy follow anyone else, especially if they say they know better than you, because they most likely don't. Think for yourself.

    Take responsibility for your own life and actions; God (or anybody else) won't save you from your own stupidity or ignorance.
    Entity79on February 11, 2006   Link
  • +3
    General CommentRemarkable -- every time I'm astounded. Restraint is the deepest quality of the song. It's not like the classical model of slow buildup to climax and denouement. No, every word is key and there are four or five different musical themes that denote miniature climaxes.

    The poetry is astounding in its severity and also in its restraint; it is the most scathing of rock social commentaries yet it only sinks in over the period of 45 minutes; it doesn't "blow it's load" in the first stanza. The music is at times slow, and there is really no defining lead in the song except for the flute at the beginning, but it can be forgiven this weakness in that it is solid throughout. If one thinks of it as the score for a play rather than the background of a Rock song, it follows the story very well. There are also a bunch of solos that give buildup, introduction, and conclusion to the various poetic stanzas.

    How Tull pulled off a 45-minute song that rocks all the way is unknowable. It's like Pink Floyd's "Dogs" times 3; it's what every jam band tries to accomplish but they're too lazy. This may be the least known of the dozen or so true rock anthems, but it doesn't take away from its brilliance.
    ballzofsnoon July 13, 2002   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThis song is an awsome song!!! My Marching band is playing it this year! its gonna be great....
    soad127on July 04, 2002   Link
  • +2
    General CommentIn his own words, Ian insists that listeners try to interpret what he is trying to say in Tull’s lyrics. How can someone who desires his listeners to analyze his music critique them for doing exactly that? Ian even puts himself in his listener’s shoes by stating he’s still trying to understand Beethoven and that it’s ok for listener’s to not have the same interpretation as was intended - it’s the “willingness to try to understand” the work that is important. In fact, Ian actually shows genuine concern that Tull’s listeners may be taking the music too lightly and not making enough of an effort to listen to what he is trying to say in the lyrics.
    gstormcrowon October 09, 2009   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI think this song could be the anthem for Jethro Tull and Ian's view of the world, for it is about his concern with conformity, something i've seen he talking about numerous times in interviews. He talks about children being labled by their parents religion. The progRock and conceptAlbum labels as well, of course. I remember him saying he chose the flute mainly because it was different, and that he likes to use different words, and even a different accent while singing, as you can notice, etc... it's all about non conformity, being yourself. You can se him talking this stuff on interviews on Youtube easily.

    This music and album being about this, it was the biggest irony ever when many people regarded it as the best concept prog rock album of all time.

    And I must say, not only this is one of the best music ever, you guys did a hell of an interpretation, I can't add a thing... inpraiseoffolly and murphymurphy, I'm with you.. and gstormcrow's quote from Anderson's interview just wraps it all up for me.. unlike Yes lyrics (like Close to the Edge), Tull's lyrics had much to say, although not being "clear-cut" and inviting people to think for themselves. Like he says about Beethoven, you can make your own meaning, but that does not mean he wasn't thinking of one when he wrote it!

    But this whole thing can get very messy, I recommend you check Close to the Edge by Yes, here in songmeanings, if you like the music.. that for sure is a hell lot less clear, but nontheless people make a lot of interpretations upon it.
    erickerickon October 21, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI don't have time to do the full thing now, but I am going to attempt to interpret this song.

    Here goes:

    Ok, the song opens with just a little bit about the poem. It says that he doesn't mind if you don't read it (sit it out). His poem (words) may not say too too much (whisper), but your inability to access it, to learn from it (deafness), hear it's message, that says a ton (shout) about you. He says that the poem may make you feel, but it can't make you think, that's something you have to do for yourself. As if to illustrate this, he gives an image of you going out and acting on impulse (sperm in gutter, love in sink).

    Thus, you ride out into the fields to act like animals (as opposed to people), and the people who guide you (wise men) cannot empathise, because they don't know how it feels to be thick as a brick.

    Well, that's all for now, the rest to come when I have time (which be in a week, given my current schedule).
    inpraiseoffollyon September 25, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI'm back:

    The sand castle virtues refers to entreprenurial morality (an interesting concept), but in the confusion caused to religion (and other factors), making up the moral melee, cause this morality to be washed away, in favor of immorality. As the moral melee makes it's "elastic" retreat, it leaves behind a "newfangled" conformism.

    BUT!, adherents to this conformism wear out their shoes, and get sunburned, and the whole wise man deal from before.

    Now we get to his lover, who is far away, and so he sees himself as being unreal (a bad dream that I just had today). Society's response is one of indifference (shake your head/said it's a shame).

    He wishes (odd for an eight year old, albeit a mature one) to go back to his toddler days, where he had no worries and did not have to deal with TRUTH, and people would sing him songs, and everything was wonderful.

    And yet again, I have to go. I hope to finish soon. I hope...
    inpraiseoffollyon September 28, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentNow we move on to society's involvement. When he was born, they saw not a child, but a soldier, even though he is still young (as evidenced by such signs of immaturity as pimples and bed-wetting). They chew him up, teach him how to succeed in our fake world (make a man of him), and spit him out, and none the better for it.

    Next, he grows up, and goes off to war. The next lyrical bit talks about how when he comes back, poets write about him, and painters paint him. He is the do-er, they are the think-ers, and society does not have room for both. As the last rays of hope (failing light) give light to (illuminate) the victory of the do-ers (mercenary's creed). The next bit is slightly unclear (sorry all).

    However, the poet lifts his pen while the soldier sheaths his sword, meaning that society makes one last attempt to live by the pen rather than the sword (think: "the pen is mightier than the sword").

    Referencing back to entreprenurial morality, the son (youngest of the family) takes control and attempts a moral life, daring society to make him conform (tardy tide... wash them all aside).

    Got to go... again. But at least I'm making progress now.
    inpraiseoffollyon September 28, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe next part (yes, I am getting tired here, and will be less specific here on out), gets us to the point where we see the poet sheath his pen, and the soldier lift his sword (violence over politics). However, the son then puts it to his old-fashioned, violence oriented (or something like that) father.

    Now the father dies, and the son is on his own. He now has to decide what he wants to do with his life (does he want to be his father, or right his father's wrongs).

    Later we learn that he is upper class, bringing his upbringing to the lower classes, trying to mend them to be like him. He has become his father. He is going to teach the criminals that they are wrong, like he did with his dad (back when he "put him to the run."). He feels, however, that he is above judgement himself ("judge you all... no one judges me").

    Then we get a third person view of what he did, silently watching him be the very person he abhorred in his father. We then get some examples of his upper-class status, and watch and let him bend the rules.


    The next paragraph is distinct, speaking of how society is looking for a hero, a superman, to come lead them out of their troubles. It is set apart, and I'm not sure quite how it relates to the story of the son.


    Then we get back to the son, how he had all the advantages, and was always treated as superior. BUT, because of this, he can no longer call on anyone to save him, because he sees himself as better than everyone.

    And now I understand, he is calling on superman and the like to save him, because they are the only figures he sees as being above him.

    Biggles is a fictitious pilot. Biggles and the sportsmen, who were his childhood idols, are all too self-occupied to be his role model, and so he is alone in society

    AND I FINISHED PART 1!!!!!!!! Part two to come.
    inpraiseoffollyon September 29, 2006   Link

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