Whatever Happened To Gerald Bostock?
In 1972, I wrote and recorded the Jethro Tull Progressive Rock classic album Thick As A Brick. The lyrics were credited at the time to the fictitious child character, Gerald Bostock, whose parents supposedly lied about his age. The record instantly became a number one Billboard Chart album and enjoyed considerable success in many countries of the world.
We then, somewhat dutifully, took the quaintly theatrical show on the road in the UK, USA and a few other countries. Since 1972, the album has never been performed in its entirety although a few minutes of the material have been a regular repertoire staple in both Tull and Ian Anderson solo shows over the years.
Now, scheduled for performance again in 2012, I will take the original album and this follow-up recording, TAAB2, to a theatre near you.
So, forty years on, what would Gerald Bostock – aged fifty in 2012 – be doing today? What might have befallen him?
The theme of this anniversary “part two” album is to examine the possible different paths that the precocious young schoolboy, Gerald Bostock, might have taken later in life and to create alter-ego characters whose song-section identities illustrate the hugely varied potential twists and turns of fate and opportunity. Not just for Gerald but to echo how our own lives develop, change direction and ultimately conclude through chance encounters and interventions, however tiny and insignificant they might seem at the time.
In the development of the piece, the divergences of life’s infinitely forked roads finally give way to an almost gravitational pull which results in convergence to, perhaps, a pre-ordained, karma-like conclusion.
As we baby-boomers look back on our own lives, we must often feel an occasional “what-if” moment. Might we, like Gerald, have become instead preacher, soldier, down-and-out, shopkeeper or finance tycoon?
And those of more tender years - the social media and internet generation - may choose to ponder well the myriad of chance possibilities ahead of them at every turn.....
Odd chap, life.....
If someone had suggested that I might release a Prog concept album in the year 2012, I would have thought him seriously, dangerously even, off his trolley. But that is precisely what happened. A few years ago, Mike Andrews and Royston Eldridge, two ex-Chrysalis Records gents pressed me to consider a follow-up to Thick As A Brick. I gave it some dutiful deliberation - for a couple of minutes - and politely declined. Nice idea, nice chaps but, after reflection, no-oooooo.
Then, in 2010, a re-aquaintance with seventies Prog Rock vocalist-turned-record exec Derek Shulman - yes, he of Gentle Giant fame - restarted the old refrain. Yes, but.... no, but, and finally - OK, I'll give it some more dutiful deliberation (four and a half minutes, this time) eventually produced, in February of 2011, the synopsis of the idea. Derek's enthusiasm and gauntlet-challenge plus two weeks of dedicated, fast and furious music and lyric writing combined to produce a flurry of material. And - blow me down with a Dodo's tail-feather - the whole thing was completed ready for scoring and arranging by the beginning of March. There were a couple of pieces prepared earlier which were bent into new shape and fitted into the scheme of things, so they too were popped into the bubbling saucepan.
It was a little daunting to consider the impact – or perhaps lack of – which this release might have on old and new fans alike but I eventually decided that I would embark on this for my own benefit and enjoyment rather than trying to please anyone else at all. To find the balance of interesting musicality and more accessible content too was not the main issue. The conceptual and heavily lyrical nature of the beast, however, might be out of place in the attention span-deficit world which we seem to occupy these days. But, having toured in 2010 and 2011 in Italy, Latin America, Australia and other countries where passions run high, I decided that maybe the world – or our little corners of it – was, in fact, ready for a bit of more substantial and weightier fare.
The era of professional media Prog-bashing seems to have given way to a more appreciative appraisal of the genre and newer bands such as Dream Theater, Porcupine Tree and Spock's Beard have possibly prompted a new and younger audience to re-examine the seventies originators' seminal albums too.
So, it's not such a cold and lonely place after all. The elements of Folk, Classical and Jazz Music are still to be found in today's more Rock-oriented Progressive Rock. You will certainly find them subtly present in TAAB2 but along with a rather more acoustic feel than many of our peers, past and present. Not the only flute in town but......
Actually, I played much more acoustic guitar than usual on this record having written most of the music on that instrument. But there are still sections conceived on the flute and sometimes – quite often, in fact – the lyric writing preceded all the melodies and harmonic structures. Starting with lyrics and then thinking of the music is not normally the way I work but it was here. A title, a few words or a verse or two and then the acoustic guitar was immediately to hand to conjure up a full song section out of the growing lyrics. Having a plan was important. Stories to tell made it all easier. The imagination-filled process of thinking how things might have turned out for the young and older Gerald kept me fascinated. Maybe you will be too. And maybe not.
Ah, well – you can always go and watch The X Factor and the Eurovision Song Contest.
Ian Anderson January 2012