MONDAY, MARCH 30, 2015
WEEK 13: PROGRESSIVE ROCK
The freedom of expression and lack of self consciousness engendered by every conceivable aspect of the psychedelic experience, led to a challenging of the norm in which it was clear music could be more than chart fodder or copies of American R&B. In the late sixties, the phrase ‘progressive pop’ gradually entered the language of music culture in an attempt to describe a more ambitious, cerebral, experimental approach. Pop became rock, rock became art, and as the sixties turned into the seventies, prog rock was born.
More than anything, prog wanted to be serious music that transcended any vulgar, trivial aspects of the past by aspiring to the giddy aesthetic heights of the opera and the symphony, the improvisational virtuosity of jazz, and lyrically to the complexity of poetry and legend. It was also music that could only be English, reflecting as it did the eccentricity, mythology and landscape of this once green and pleasant land.
So it’s not in the least bit surprising that prog’s recognised aristocracy of Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Jethro Tull, Yes, Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Genesis were all very English. What’s more, apart from Gong’s Australian uber hippie leader Daevid Allen, the proggy underground and dimmer lights like Gentle Giant, Peter Hammill’s Van Der Graaf Generator and Camel were all English too, Canadian’s Rush only appearing once prog had infiltrated North America and the continent began breeding its own bands in the same image.
Prog started as an attitude and grew into a movement dominating the album charts, the colleges and the university halls where incredibly, mooching around with Close To The Edge or Brain Salad Surgery tucked ostentatiously under your arm was considered as cool as fuck! But it didn’t take too long before the genres stereotypical nature, its airy fairy Tolkeinism’s, 20 minute song suites, pretentiously titled sub sections and ludicrous stage shows began to sharpen the critical knives.
Offering nothing apart from musical virtuosity and technical innovation, progs biggest crime was that it failed to perpetuate the myth of rock as revolution. Lording it up in tax exile, touring less frequently, and tossing off (in more sense than one) increasingly meaningless albums, bands became pompous, overblown and out of touch, preferring to exist in their own self-created, mythological worlds than the grimy reality of strike hit seventies Britain. A music culture that had once been the tempestuous diary of western youth had become the equivalent of a cold, calculated thesis.
01 KING CRIMSON ‘The Court Of The Crimson King’ (In The Court Of The Crimson King LP October 1969)
02 VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR ‘House With No Door’ (H To He Who Am The Only One LP December 1970)
03 GONG ‘Fohat Digs Holes In Space’ (Camembert Electrique LP December 1971)
04 JETHRO TULL ‘Thick As A Brick (Excerpt)’ (Thick As A Brick LP March 1972)
05 YES ‘And You And I’ (Close To The Edge LP September 1972)
06 GENESIS ‘Dancing With The Moonlight Knight’ (Selling England By The Pound LP October 1973)
07 EMERSON, LAKE AND PALMER ‘Karn Evil 9 1st Impression Pt 2’ (Brain Salad Surgery LP December 1973)
08 GENTLE GIANT ‘Playing The Game’ (The Power And The Glory LP October 1974)
09 CAMEL ‘The Snow Goose’ (The Snow Goose LP May 1975)
10 PINK FLOYD ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond Pts 1-5’ (Wish You Were Here LP September 1975)
11 RUSH ‘2112 Overture/The Temples Of Syrinx’ (2112 LP June 1976)