The saga of a giant, weaponized armadillo
June 16, 2017 6:27 AM   Subscribe

The New Yorker - The Persistence of Prog Rock "Even more than most musicians, the prog rockers aimed for immortality. “We want our albums to last,” Robert Fripp, the austere guitar scientist behind King Crimson, said. In a literal sense, he got his wish: although the progressive-rock boom was effectively over by the end of the seventies, it left behind a vast quantity of surplus LPs, which filled the bins in used-record stores for decades."
posted by GamblingBlues (140 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
 
Jesus, what did Keith Emerson ever do to this guy?
posted by Naberius at 6:36 AM on June 16 [9 favorites]


Fripp may be a prog rocker, but his riffery on Larks Tongues in Aspic, is some of heaviest metal ever.
posted by jonmc at 6:50 AM on June 16 [13 favorites]


And your wise men don't know how it feels to be thick as a brick.
posted by flabdablet at 6:57 AM on June 16 [12 favorites]


From the start, King Crimson was the kind of band that musicians love—as opposed, that is, to the kind of band that non-musicians love.

"So, what kind of music does your band play?"
"You know the kind of music people like?"
"Uh....yeah...."
"We play the other kind"
posted by thelonius at 6:58 AM on June 16 [38 favorites]


"Prog rock" is sort of the punchline to a joke now, isn't it? I tried listening to Court of the Crimson King recently, an album I loved as a teenager, and it was nearly impossible. Such cringy pretentiousness. The whole of the King Crimson performance at Hyde Park is online; here's the Holst Planet's at the end.

I thought the quote from Radiohead was really telling: "we all hate progressive rock music". They are exactly the 1990s+ equivalent of ELP, they doth protest too much.

Metafilter: The purple piper plays his tune, the choir softly sings
Metafilter: I chase the wind of a prism ship to taste the sweet and sour
Metafilter: The yellow jester does not play but gently pulls the strings
posted by Nelson at 7:02 AM on June 16 [8 favorites]


In place of a guitarist, Emerson, Lake & Palmer had Keith Emerson, a keyboard virtuoso who liked to wrestle with his Hammond organ onstage, and didn’t always win: during one performance, he was pinned beneath the massive instrument, and had to be rescued by roadies.

Michael Chabon's Telegraph Avenue has a character who suffers a similar mishap. Those things are heavy.

I thought the quote from Radiohead was really telling: "we all hate progressive rock music". They are exactly the 1990s+ equivalent of ELP, they doth protest too much.

Yeah, I honestly thought this was tongue-in-cheek. Sure, even their obtuse stuff is miles less obtuse than ELP, but that would be a pretty high hurdle.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:10 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]


I tried listening to Court of the Crimson King recently, an album I loved as a teenager, and it was nearly impossible. Such cringy pretentiousness.

Close To The Edge came out 45 years ago and still makes me want to turn it up loud enough to make me unpopular with family and neighbours.

Also, people who genuinely experience no desire to have their ears battered to death by Alan White's drumming on Anne Of Cleves are people I will never really understand.
posted by flabdablet at 7:11 AM on June 16 [14 favorites]


Nice to see Gentle Giant get a perfunctory mention at the end, but the author sells them short. Every member was a multi-instrumentalist, and despite their many musical quirks they rocked hard live. I still enjoy their albums today, as pretentious as some of it may seem.
posted by MrKellyBlah at 7:15 AM on June 16 [7 favorites]


I personally don't see other genres of music as any less "pretentious" than prog rock. Consider the indie rock fan's attitude that they listen to "bands that matter". It's like a weird parody of classical music calling itself "serious music", taking a narrow configuration of instrumentation, songwriting conventions, vocal styles and an increasingly cliched, off-the-shelf, post-punk attitude as somehow normative and superior to pop or country etc.
posted by thelonius at 7:18 AM on June 16 [19 favorites]


Another funny thing is just how often the standard accusation of pretentiousness gets wheeled out against prog rockers by people who have no chance at all of matching their raw technical skill.
posted by flabdablet at 7:19 AM on June 16 [7 favorites]


Another funny thing is just how often the standard accusation of pretentiousness gets wheeled out against prog rockers by people who have no chance at all of matching their raw technical skill.

Well, that is part of the point of the accusation really, where the prog rockers are seen as trying to be something they're not, classical musician wannabes basically, where "real' popular music isn't caught up in such nonsense and instead values "honest emotion". Or some such.
posted by gusottertrout at 7:23 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]


OTOH, it could be argued that the difference between prog rock and post-rock is capes.
posted by acb at 7:30 AM on June 16 [38 favorites]


I must admit, you especially see that attitude with guitar and bass players, like the point of music is, it's difficult to play on guitar or bass. I've been to a bunch of shows - not necessarily prog, you get this with fusion, or even someone like Eric Johnson - where everyone there is eitther a guitar player, or the SO of a guitar player dragged along.

But that's not universally the case.....my second rock concert was The Dregs (who had just dropped the "Dixie" from their name, in a futile effort to appeal to more people), and the audience was pretty diverse, good ol' boys in Molly Hatchet and Lynard Skynard T-shirts among the Yes and Rush shirts.
posted by thelonius at 7:33 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]


classical musician wannabes

Feh. Mastery is mastery.
posted by flabdablet at 7:33 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]


I found the linked article to be surprisingly good given the little amount of space allowed to address prog rock history. It managed to convey both the proper amount of ridicule for some of the worst elements of prog rock, while not shorting notice of the better elements.

That prog rock stage shows grew as they did serves as an interesting juxtaposition to the much the same effect occurring in funk at around the same time. The two styles shared some grandiosity of vision and, of course, sound, but their appeal was largely on separate ends of the racial spectrum at the time. Prog rock indeed was pretty solidly white boy music, something that bears further examination I think, while funk was solidly seen as black music for much of seventies, at least until Earth, Wind and Fire started breaking through on radio right before punk/new wave and disco rearranged everything again.


On preview: Feh. Mastery is mastery

Hey, I'm a King Crimson fan, and had more prog rock albums than I can even fully recall anymore, so I'm not throwing stones exactly, just trying to take in the phenomenon and the reaction to it.
posted by gusottertrout at 7:37 AM on June 16 [3 favorites]


Not having a go at you. Just saying that anybody who has ever committed to print the view that pretentiousness is the defining (and by implication contemptible) characteristic of prog rock (and by implication prog rock alone) needs to go take a good hard look in the mirror.

It's not pretentious if you can actually, you know, do it.

I Was Made For Lovin You: now that's pretentious.
posted by flabdablet at 7:48 AM on June 16 [3 favorites]


What a coincidence...I just saw King Crimson perform, last night...
posted by littlejohnnyjewel at 7:49 AM on June 16 [5 favorites]


Jesus, what did Keith Emerson ever do to this guy?

Lester Bangs had some kind of weird grudge against Keith Emerson. As a fan of Bangs' writing, it felt to me like when you have two personal friends from different social circles, and when they finally meet in person they really-hate-each-other. Bangs pushed much of the attitude that Prog had to be torn down in order for punk to flourish, and I felt conflicted about it myself.

The Keelah Sanneh essay glances at most of the main touchstones in the story, and ironically it almost seems too short for such a bulbous subject. I would agree that 'Close To The Edge' is a good archetype of the genre.
posted by ovvl at 7:50 AM on June 16 [2 favorites]


Prog rock indeed was pretty solidly white boy music, something that bears further examination I think, while funk was solidly seen as black music for much of seventies, at least until Earth, Wind and Fire started breaking through on radio right before punk/new wave and disco rearranged everything again.

Prog was also predominantly British (with a few exceptions), whereas funk was mostly American (the British exponents were predominantly library-music/soundtrack composers like Alan Hawkshaw).

There was also krautrock, which some have categorised as the German form of prog rock. The key difference between prog and krautrock was that the former was maximalist and the latter was minimalist. This probably helped the likes of Can, Neu! and Faust survive the triumph of punk rock and/or the rockist “authenticity” dialectic.
posted by acb at 7:52 AM on June 16 [5 favorites]


i'm not a great fan of ELP, but it's only fair to point out that the knives keith emerson used to assault his hammond with were given to him by lemmy, which is much cooler than anything you or i will ever do

also if you take a combination of rousseau's extreme romantic view of the primitive, sophomoric art school fiddling around with instruments badly as "art", a rather determined view to carry out gus debord's situationist ethics and a slowed down version of led zepplin's communication breakdown, you get something more pretentious than anything yes, ELP or king crimson put together ever did - you also get malcolm mclaren, the sex pistols and "god save the queen"

good thing they fucked up and got a singer who was really pissed at the world and hadn't taken all that art school crap seriously, because they'd be insufferable otherwise

also, i grew up in this era and progressive rock encompassed a lot more than it does now - the radio stations that had shows featuring this music played blues, funk, jazz and folk oriented stuff - it wasn't just the groups this guy mentions - you could hear fleetwood mac's "oh well pts 1 and 2", weather report, funkadelic and neil young's "cowgirl in the sand", too

progressive meant something that hadn't been done before not bunch of english guys with capes showing off their second rate classical technique

would you believe that commercial fm radio stations actually played genesis' "supper's ready" and all three songs off of yes' "close to the edge"?
posted by pyramid termite at 7:54 AM on June 16 [13 favorites]


Bangs pushed much of the attitude that Prog had to be torn down in order for punk to flourish, and I felt conflicted about it myself.

The recent history of the 4AD label, Martin Aston's Facing The Other Way, makes the case for Ivo Watts-Russell's 4AD being a Hegelian synthesis of the thesis and antithesis of prog and punk.
posted by acb at 7:55 AM on June 16 [5 favorites]


The key difference between prog and krautrock was that the former was maximalist and the latter was minimalist.

not always - amon duul ii could be pretty maximalist at times - and there were bands like eloy and nektar which were trying to copy english prog
posted by pyramid termite at 7:57 AM on June 16 [2 favorites]


i'm not a great fan of ELP, but it's only fair to point out that the knives keith emerson used to assault his hammond with were given to him by lemmy, which is much cooler than anything you or i will ever do

Were they WW2 Nazi daggers with SS runes on the hilt?
posted by acb at 7:58 AM on June 16


also, it was journey, foreigner, boston and a zillion other AOR bands and their record companies and a ton of coke shoved up program directors' noses that killed prog

punk had nothing to do with it
posted by pyramid termite at 7:58 AM on June 16 [7 favorites]


punk had nothing to do with it

It killed pub rock though!
posted by thelonius at 8:04 AM on June 16 [3 favorites]


punk had nothing to do with it

Maybe, but I'm not so sure. I mean your point is taken about Journey and the rest that found crossover success on radio, but that actually makes me wonder about some of the exclusivity in listenership and intensity of emotion put behind arguing for certain movements in music that seem to be so particularly important to young white men. Punk, in that view, became the music of defiance and difference from that which was more popularly acclaimed. So when bands like Kansas hit the charts, perhaps the hardcore exceptionalists found new music that was as challenging to pop sensibilities, just on the raw side instead of the more maximal. It's music listening more as social marker that carries some possible continuation in that perspective.
posted by gusottertrout at 8:07 AM on June 16 [2 favorites]


Fripp also played on one of Daryl Hall's solo albums and had nothing but high praise for him. Music's music.
posted by jonmc at 8:08 AM on June 16 [6 favorites]


yes, gusottertrout, that's pretty much as i recall it - punk being a rebellion against corporate radio and not prog rock, which was dead by that time anyway

(this is a US perspective - things were different in the UK)
posted by pyramid termite at 8:12 AM on June 16


"It's not pretentious if you can actually, you know, do it.

I Was Made For Lovin You : now that's pretentious."

I'm slow, could you explain? Is Kiss miming along to a studio recording, and is that what makes it pretentious?
posted by floppyroofing at 8:14 AM on June 16


Kiss is pretending to be a band. They're not in it for the music, they're in it for the money.

Gene Simmons, in particular, is pretending to be a worthwhile human being.
posted by flabdablet at 8:17 AM on June 16 [8 favorites]


Gene Simmons, in particular, is pretending to be a worthwhile human being.

No, he's not.

posted by dortmunder at 8:18 AM on June 16 [8 favorites]


I do not know the genre well, but was interested to read about how at least some Prog outfits explicitly rejected the approach of imitating African-American blues, in favor of something more aligned with their own backgrounds. Also, the print edition of this piece has the headline "Prog Spring", which: teehee
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 8:18 AM on June 16 [3 favorites]


But when a reporter asked one of the members whether Radiohead had been influenced by Genesis and Pink Floyd, the answer was swift and categorical: “No. We all hate progressive rock music.”

"Yes," said the gullible youth of America, "if Radiohead said they suck then I must hate them as well."

Which might explain why I have never really warmed up to Radiohead.

I'm reading this article and hearing the keyboard solos in my head. I will happily rock out to EL&P, or ELO for that matter, and while I am much more familiar with the post-Syd Barrett Pink Floyd, the band is one I've long enjoyed. Never listened to much King Crimson but Jethro Tull is just fine by me (the flute IS TOO a legitimate rock instrument!).

Some have said that punk killed prog... but those dustbins full of records wouldn't still be in stock if nobody is still buying them. And - even just based on the breadth of the stuff in my own personal music library - it is clearly perfectly possible to like (and listen to) all of the bands I just mentioned and STILL be down with punk. Because if not giving a fuck what you are supposed to like and just listening to what hits you right in your own personal sweet spot isn't punk, then I don't know what is.
posted by caution live frogs at 8:25 AM on June 16 [9 favorites]


Most of the prog rockers were nerdy musically minded white boys from England. They played music partially influenced by old folk music, classical, themes from British lore, etc. They grew up in post-war england with ~4 radio stations (Brian May of Queen has said Doris Day was a favorite of his), and whatever records their parents had laying around.

I don't see why that is an objectively bad thing. Black musicians regularly revive, explore and reinvent black/African music styles and that is almost universally celebrated.

The Sex Pistols were joking about "hating" Pink Floyd... they got baked and listened to Dark Side of the Moon just like everyone else.

Punks are annoying assholes not because of their music or dress. They're narrow minded musical elitists who need to fade away.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 8:35 AM on June 16 [5 favorites]


Wouldn't it be better to burn out?
posted by Naberius at 8:42 AM on June 16 [10 favorites]


Prog Rock is almost invariably defined by it's fanbase as much as by the music and bands themselves.

Who hasn't been subjected to a tirade by a Rush/King Crimson/Peter Gabriel Genesis/Beefheart superfan? And when you level a complaint about X you basically get subjected to a 2deep4u argument.

In general the argument that technical mastery or virtousity automatically corresponds to artistic merit rings false to me but almost all defenses of prog rock seem to center on technical mastery being the ultimate measure of artistic value.
posted by vuron at 8:56 AM on June 16 [4 favorites]


I still listen to Genesis, Yes, Rush as staples in my playlist rotation for my general workouts, my ski playlist, running, etc. I guess some of the lyrics are a little ridiculous, but there isn't any music out there that comes close to the sheer grandeur of it and fuck it, I have some great memories tied up in all of it. Explosions in the Sky owes their existence to prog rock in my opinion, as do many other bands.
posted by docpops at 8:59 AM on June 16 [3 favorites]


and Radiohead can get fucked. They're a jam band that doesn't know it yet.
posted by docpops at 9:01 AM on June 16 [6 favorites]


(Note to self: figure out some angles to monetise a prog rock revival among the 55+ demographic once Canada's new pot laws kick in... man, there's gotta be a certain number of folks out there who'll be getting baked for the first time since the Lamb lied down on Broadway.)
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 9:04 AM on June 16 [6 favorites]


another perspective...(bear with me I had Invisalign installed yesterday and my jaw feels like a motherfucker)...I discovered Genesis like a lot of kids, as a misfit suburban teen when butt-rock was all there was to listen to. We didn't have Instagram or a million other outlets to help us understand that we were normal, at least normal to someone somewhere. Prog-rock was perhaps the single biggest clue that our weird brains and thoughts and ruminations must be normal somewhere if music like this existed and resonated with us. That emotional connection doesn't simply disappear as you age, and in fact may become even more poignant and relevant.
posted by docpops at 9:05 AM on June 16 [12 favorites]


Prog is not dead. Allow me to introduce you to Umphrey's McGee, currently touring.
posted by scalefree at 9:13 AM on June 16 [2 favorites]


Punks are annoying assholes not because of their music or dress. They're narrow minded musical elitists who need to fade away.

"Forty years of fuckin' prog rock!" -- Captain Sensible describing the music of The Damned, 2016.
posted by Devoidoid at 9:14 AM on June 16


. . . as if anything could have been more pretentious than punk rock.

Almost no one hated progressive rock as much, or as memorably, as Lester Bangs

I stand corrected.
 
posted by Herodios at 9:17 AM on June 16 [2 favorites]


The border between jam bands and prog rock has always been fuzzy to me - technically-gifted musicians playing dense, potentially quite long songs. The divide between prog rock fans and non-fans (anti-fans?) reminds me of Harris Wittels' essay on Phish:
I've found myself having the following exchange many times throughout my life: Some person will see my Phish T-shirt and say, “You like Phish?” Then, I say that I do and then they—without being prompted—let me know they, in fact, do not like Phish. What’s weird is 98 percent of these people will even admit they “haven’t heard much Phish.” They just don’t like ‘em. They don’t like “45 minute guitar solos” and they like “songs.” “Hey, me too!” I’ll say.

[...]

Phish fans can be dicks. By that I just mean that many of them think there is a “right” way to like Phish. By the same token, I received copious amounts of criticism from Phish fans saying I wasn’t playing Scott the “right” stuff. Many people were upset I didn’t just play him a full 20-minute “You Enjoy Myself” or “Harry Hood” or whatever."
The dynamic where non-fans who might actually like a thing if they tried it but are soured on the experience by encounters with gatekeeper fans is hardly unique to prog rock. Anything where geeky dudes make up the most visible faction of fandom has had to deal with this dynamic. Maybe I would have liked King Crimson more if a guy hadn't played 3 different versions of a 10+ minute song as his initial pitch?*

Unrelated note: the current season of Bob's Burgers features Bob taking Gene to the planetarium for the final laser rock show for the concept album, General Inzanity by his favorite band, the very prog-rocky Zentipede. Roll a rock to save rock-and-roll, y'all!

*-this actually happened to me
posted by palindromic at 9:19 AM on June 16 [6 favorites]


Some have said that punk killed prog...

Well, yes and no, if you believe some mid-70's music journalism. But what actually happened was more complicated, several music trends shifted around at the same time, sometimes coincidentally, as mentioned above.
posted by ovvl at 9:20 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]


For me, it's not about the technical mastery per se; it's about being taken on a ride through emotional states that I have never experienced other than through the good graces of musicians who can play this insanely intricate and complex and beautiful stuff while staying completely in its moment. Because when they do that, they take me along with them.

Players like Yngwie Malmsteen who shred like they're in some kind of Olympics for fastest fingers are undoubtedly technical wizards, but listening to them doesn't do much for me that I actually want done. Give me Roback over any of these can=must types any day of the week.

...and then there's this. Which just leaves me grinning like a loon, every single time.
posted by flabdablet at 9:21 AM on June 16 [4 favorites]


A little sadder, a little madder, someone get me a ladder.
posted by parki at 9:29 AM on June 16


A little sadder, a little madder, someone get me a ladder.

Lake was a pretty respectable guitarist and singer and an able bassist in a pinch, but lyrically, he was the King of Clams. The observation that teaming with Peter Sinfield for Brian Salad Sugary was an improvement is telling.
 
posted by Herodios at 9:34 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]


"Prog Spring" was also the title of the 2012 Slate series from whence this book, uh, sprung.
posted by whuppy at 9:42 AM on June 16 [2 favorites]


Neither the article nor this thread makes much mention of Jethro Tull, but of all the prog rockers, the Tull probably holds up best all these decades later. Hey, Aqualung...
posted by tommyD at 9:43 AM on June 16


It's weird for me...I went through a huuuuuuge classic rock phase in high school, and during that phase probably my absolute favourite band was Pink Floyd for 2-3 years (which is a long time at that age). But I never really got into any other prog rock bands. There were a few tracks I dug here and there, but Yes, EL&P, King Crimson, Jethro Tull, Rush...none of them were my thing at all for some reason.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:47 AM on June 16


and Radiohead can get fucked. They're a jam band that doesn't know it yet.
Jam bands have better singers, like Jerry Garcia.

Neither the article nor this thread makes much mention of Jethro Tull
Lester Bangs hated them too. But he also despised Lou Reed, so he was a man of catholic distates, I guess.
posted by thelonius at 10:10 AM on June 16 [2 favorites]


The prog/funk comparison is interesting, to take musicality from different sides of the Atlantic and different ethnicity. But I find pretension to be a concept that applies much more to one side than the other. Why? The addition of humor, and the tendency to take oneself too seriously. Fair or not, prog earned the rep toward humorlessness and seriousness. I found the more funk took itself seriously, the less appeal it had. Some of the best examples of funk at the time were notable for taking themselves not very seriously at all, and a kind of parody of prog excess. Humor is something I value more than technical chops.

Technical chops, musical erudition, lineage to greatly respected works of the past impress me none when the result demands that I understand where it's coming from to enjoy. It only works if the result holds me in itself. Which didn't happen enough for me to be a blanket prog fan. The concept of prog was something I did not object to. Mostly it was just the result of prog musicians/acts.

The tendency of prog toward meandering compositions is also something that turned me off. The traditional ability of rock/pop to express a musical point in a concise, economical composition, without necessarily relying on extremely accomplished musical training or ability, is a great strength, not a point of scorn. It's unfortunate that prog seemed to sometimes take the position that one could take a good thing, and just add more and more to end up somewhere great. More musicianship, more complexity, more tonal palette, and you end up with... ? Sure sometimes it could be great. Too often it was just more... stuff.

It's interesting that Weather Report was brought up. I think the fusion era was a weird jazz side of prog rock. Plenty of jazz at the time of peak prog was quite good, taking quite well from the prog musical world. But the jazz fusion world had some roads that fell off the deep end, too. People like Stanley Clark, Chick Corea, Al DiMeola, were hugely respected people in jazz, yet combined in a fusion supergroup to make music that sounds almost like a soundtrack to a frantic 70s porn flick. While there was some fantastic music to come from the fusion world, it bred a kind of musician that sadly seems to fit in that prog pretension framing to this day.
posted by 2N2222 at 10:14 AM on June 16 [7 favorites]


"Prog Spring" was also the title of the 2012 Slate series from whence this book, uh, sprung.

Links to the original articles are in this post, if anyone wants to read them. They're easily the most entertaining thing ever published on Slate.
posted by dortmunder at 10:15 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]


However, Lester Bangs did love Blue Cheer, ZZ Top, and Wet Wille, which is in his favor.
posted by jonmc at 10:20 AM on June 16


What I want to know is why does Gene Simmons want to claim he's from UT - Austin?
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:26 AM on June 16 [3 favorites]


Pink Floyd . . . Yes, EL&P, King Crimson, Jethro Tull, Rush

Rock writers love to do this, but I don't think of Rush, K____s, S_x, and the other US/Can bands sometimes labelled prog as being part of the same movement or sub-genre or fan-bloc as these others at all.

For one they weren't English.

For two, they came later; subjectively, much later if you were the right age at the time.

I mean:
Sgt. Peppers: 1967
Days of Future Passed: 1967
"America" (single): 1968
"The White Album": 1968
Electric Ladyland: 1968
Court of the Crimson King: 1969
Ummagumma: 1969
The Yes Album: 1970
Aqualung: 1971
Foxtrot (?): 1972
Octopus: 1972
- - - - - - - -
2112: 1976
Leftoverture: 1976
* : ?

* I honestly don't know enough about S__x to say when they had their 'break-out' song or album, but I don't recall hearing them before 1977.

The English groups, until you get to later albums like Tail from Pornographic Oceans** or Five Bridges or A Passion Play seemed to wear their pretensions fairly naturally. The North American groups all to my ear all sound like trying too hard from jump.

**Or God Help Us, Olias of Sunhillow
 
posted by Herodios at 10:41 AM on June 16 [5 favorites]


Fair or not, prog earned the rep toward humorlessness and seriousness.

A WELL-KNOWN BOGNOR RESTAURANT OWNER DISAPPEARED EARLY THIS MORNING
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:41 AM on June 16 [4 favorites]


Wait, Borowitz wrote that? Sigh. I'm going to have to make time to see if it's a read, a hate read, or a no-read (which is my usual Borowitz response).
posted by fedward at 10:45 AM on June 16


That prog rock stage shows grew as they did serves as an interesting juxtaposition to the much the same effect occurring in funk at around the same time.

Let's face it, Funkadelic/Parliament and Earth Wind & Fire are basically prog rock made danceable. Bombastic stage shows, concept albums, self created cosmologies & mythologies and all.

Not to mention that War was created by proto-progger Eric Burdon

Prog rock indeed was pretty solidly white boy music

There was however the sadly obscure British, Afro-Caribbean Demon Fuzz, who released one album, Afreeka, in 1970, which was pretty solid prog rock.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:47 AM on June 16 [2 favorites]


K____s, S_x

Herdios won't even type the name, for fear of summoning them! Or because he's too big of a Saga fan?

I use that video as my own personal rickrolling brand, these days
Saw Saga opening for Tull on "The Broadsword and the Beast" tour
posted by thelonius at 10:48 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]


strictly speaking, MUCH of Led Zeppelin (post 1972) is the poster child for prog rock.
posted by shockingbluamp at 10:51 AM on June 16


at least normal to someone somewhere

Peter Gabriel in 1973 appeared to span the breadth & width of gender's tapestry, often in a single concert. A single seven-part suite. For some, that was an education. For some, that was a revelation. Even if you don't like the solos, this means something. This was important. Not many genres of human endeavour had the space to express such things, though many would soon. I wish for a spark like that to be available to any soul who needs it, wherever or whenever they are.

dad diddley office, mom diddley washing, you're all full of ball
posted by tapesonthefloor at 10:52 AM on June 16 [6 favorites]


Lester Bangs . . . also despised Lou Reed

Well I don't really do despise, but it's interesting that we that thing in common.

Whenever I read Robert Christgau, I want to like him, and I think we approach pop music from a similar intellectual angle. But he seems to disdain an awful lot of music that I like or at least think is okay.

Later: I find that Wilson and Allroy unapologetically dislike a lot of the same acts as me. Interesting.
 
posted by Herodios at 10:53 AM on June 16 [2 favorites]


Fair or not, prog earned the rep toward humorlessness and seriousness.

I really don't mind if you sit this one out.

Speaking of humour in prog rock, glad the original article mentioned the Canterbury scene, which did have its fair sheer of humourless twiddlers *cough*SoftMachine*cough*, but also had Robert Wyatt, who kicked out of the Softs, called his new band Matching Mole aka Machine Molle which of course is the French for Soft Machine ... nobody ever claimed prog humour was good humour.

But apart from dodgy puns you also had people like Kevin Ayers or bands like Caravan who always had and kept their sense of humour. Or Henry Cow, as pretentious a band you could imagine and their album Leg End.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:57 AM on June 16 [3 favorites]



Canterbury scene . . . dodgy puns . . .

Ruth is Stranger Than Richard.
 
posted by Herodios at 11:00 AM on June 16


K____s, S_x

Herdios won't even type the name, for fear of summoning them


Well, y'know between the iron gates of fate the seeds of time were sown and watered by the deeds of those who know and who are known.

As for those who do not know and are not known, I would make it as difficult as possible for them to find and read such poisonous scrolls.
 
posted by Herodios at 11:10 AM on June 16 [3 favorites]


I use that [Saga] video as my own personal rickrolling brand, these days.

Nevertheless, I took the chance. Oh dear, that is awful anonymous corporate rock. But when they got to the 'chorus' it sounded vaguely familiar. I must've heard it somewhere. (Another of my superpowers is differentiating nearly identical Pantone shades of beige.)

Saw Saga opening for Tull on "The Broadsword and the Beast" tour

Younger siblings dragged me off to a few regrettable shows in the 1970s. That is why I have seen Starcastle and Nazareth in concert.

NOW you're messin' with . . .
posted by Herodios at 11:27 AM on June 16 [3 favorites]


Let's face it, Funkadelic/Parliament and Earth Wind & Fire are basically prog rock made danceable.

I saw The Tubes and P-Funk in concert for the first time approximately the same year (1975).

I'd say it was a tie in terms of a) theatricality / costumes / props and 2. the number of people on stage when they took their bows.
 
posted by Herodios at 11:36 AM on June 16 [3 favorites]


Controversial opinion: Court of the Crimson King is King Crimson's worst album. It is a dreary Moody Blues clone that goes on and on without ever going anywhere.

Thrak. Now that's a good album.
posted by egypturnash at 11:38 AM on June 16 [3 favorites]


Another funny thing is just how often the standard accusation of pretentiousness gets wheeled out against prog rockers by people who have no chance at all of matching their raw technical skill.

I like King Crimson but isn't this pretty much exactly the stereotype of prog fans? That they think "hard to play" is the same is "good?"
posted by atoxyl at 11:44 AM on June 16 [4 favorites]


The 80s triptych was the best Crimson, perhaps coincidentally their least flashy albums, though Lark's Tongue holds a special place to me. Other than that, I can pretty much dispense with the genre. I was in school band and I played drums for most of my schooling, I know how classical-informed arrangements go, and a lot of it is as interchangeable as a lot of people say dance music is, or folk.
posted by rhizome at 11:46 AM on June 16


Be sure to check out the Sanneh-curated Spotify playlist, also called "Prog Spring." It comprises more than 100 songs, which means there's roughly (doing the math) three months of music on it.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 11:54 AM on June 16 [5 favorites]


isn't this pretty much exactly the stereotype of prog fans? That they think "hard to play" is the same is "good?"

I addressed this upthread. "Hard to play" is not the same as "good".

However, "good and hard to play" can reach levels of completely fucking awesome that e.g. Pretty Vacant (not that there's anything wrong with that) just can't touch.
posted by flabdablet at 11:58 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]


> NOW you're messin' with . . .

Man, I love Hair of the Dog. That's an all-time "cruisin' in my Trans Am" song.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:19 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


shameless self-link

because it is relevant ... the key point being that prog or progressive (or whatever you want to call it) had five genuinely transcendent years ... and then ... ?
posted by philip-random at 12:21 PM on June 16 [2 favorites]


even their obtuse stuff is miles less obtuse than ELP, but that would be a pretty high hurdle

ELP was obtuse? Always seemed pretty transparent to me, but maybe that's just me.
posted by e1c at 12:27 PM on June 16


the 1980s and all that was ever good and/or relevant about the Solid Time of Change were/are/will always be incompatible

Damn straight.
posted by flabdablet at 12:32 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


Fair or not, prog earned the rep toward humorlessness and seriousness.

A less serious band than Gong I find hard to imagine.
posted by solarion at 12:45 PM on June 16 [6 favorites]


Another unabashed fan of prog rock here. I think it's fair to say that prog rock is a niche best appreciated by other uncool musicians. I've been a musician my whole life, and have a weird music-theory brain that feels the need to annotate the chord progressions of any music I happen to be listening to. So one of the things I prize most in music is surprise. I love when music goes where you don't expect it to - weird chords, weird rhythms, whatever.

I too was fascinated by the article's description of prog rockers as being content with their own nerdy Englishness rather than trying to be something they're not, i.e. black American bluesmen (*cough*RollingStones*cough*). No prog rocker will ever be cool, but what's more pretentious -- to be true to yourself, silly as that may be, or to pretend to be something you're not?

As someone who has actually put effort into being a better musician, I've always bristled at the suggestion that music should be "raw", or that three chords and a "stick it to the man" attitude is more rock-and-roll than a synthesizer and a 13/8 time signature.

NB: My band in college used to cover "Roundabout" in the 90s, and it was always one of the biggest hits of the evening.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 12:50 PM on June 16 [11 favorites]


I'm shocked, shocked I tell you, that no one has yet cited The Greatest Prog Rock Song Of All Time, Including When You Were Fifteen And Were Really Starting To Get Into It, produced for the National Lampoon Radio Hour; one of its creators would go on to co-create another classic of the genre.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:02 PM on June 16 [4 favorites]


or that three chords and a "stick it to the man" attitude is more rock-and-roll than a synthesizer and a 13/8 time signature.

It is. That's pretty much the definition of Rock and Roll. Listen to whatever you want, you don't need to rebrand it.
posted by bongo_x at 1:14 PM on June 16 [4 favorites]


It is. That's pretty much the definition of Rock and Roll. Listen to whatever you want, you don't need to rebrand it.

It's not though. Rock and roll is a big tent that includes a lot of sub-genres, and I feel like I've spent my entire life having to defend what I like against those who think it's "lame." The fact that I'd rather crank "I Know What I Like" by Genesis or "Starship Trooper" by Yes in the car than "Beat on the Brat" by the Ramones doesn't make my tastes worthy of derision.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 1:41 PM on June 16 [5 favorites]


> The dynamic where non-fans who might actually like a thing if they tried it but are soured on the experience by encounters with gatekeeper fans is hardly unique to prog rock.

In my first year of university I met a friend of a friend at a party, and when I admitted to not knowing much about Rush beyond the radio hits he enthusiastically insisted on making me a mix tape of their "best shit." Well, he did, and named it The Essential Rush. I got about halfway through the first side and spent the next two years trying to let him down easy when I ran into him at other parties.
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:46 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


I love prog rock. I love punk rock. I love funk. I love the blues. I love grunge and alternative and R&B and house and drum and bass and... I love Yes. I love Radiohead. I love Gorillaz. I love TV on the Radio. I love Alt-J. I love Galactic. I love M.I.A. I love The Crystal Method. I love Pearl Jam. I love Prince. I love Bowie. I love Adam F. I love Frank Zappa. I love Peter Gabriel. I love The Prodigy. I love Marvin Gaye. I love Jack White. I love Alison Krauss. I love Wolf Alice. I love Smashing Pumpkins. I love Jane's Addiction. I love The Who. I love The Pretenders. I love Florence and the Machine. I love Lana Del Rey. I love Alabama Shakes. I love Beck. I love Bon Iver. I love Bruce Springsteen. I love Courtney Barnett. I love the Dropkick Murphys. I love Kurt Vile. I love Led Zeppelin. I love Massive Attack. I love Rhiannon Giddens. I love Rancid. I love St. Vincent. I love Talking Heads. I love Tame Impala. I love The Clash. I love Funkadelic. I love the Ramones. I love the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I love Rodrigo Y Gabriela. I love Devotchka. I love Air. I love Guns N' Roses. I love... no, the list is too long. We could just be listening to music.

I love music. I hope you love music, too. Any music. I see no point in being exclusive. Music is a conversation, and the moment it all reduces to a single voice, is the moment it all becomes pointless.

For anyone who cares to complete the exercise, the first 7 minutes of this recording of this song is what it feels like to live inside IRFH's skull most days. The first 7 minutes of this song has been playing in a perpetual loop in my head for 40 years (the linked version contains an extra 4 minutes of noodling around that I've never heard before). I think the sound must perfectly match my brainwave activity or something. A sympathetic vibration. This recording will be played at my wake, and people will say, "Oh, now I get it. He was insane. Shit, I even listened to him that one time." The next song will be, "School's Out," by Alice Cooper. Then they will laugh and drink and forget how uncomfortable they just were there for 7 minutes.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:33 PM on June 16 [16 favorites]


you could do far worse than have Asbury Park stuck your in head for forty years ... about as groovy as the 70s phase of King Crimson ever got. For your interest, the additional noodling at the end is the rest of the original improvisation (recorded live in Asbury Park, 1974 sometime) which was left off the original vinyl pressing of USA. Can't say I ever missed it.

I know all this because I was just researching Asbury Park for last week's radio show -- #99 on the list, if memory serves
posted by philip-random at 2:54 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


Rock and roll is a big tent that includes a lot of sub-genres

I guess in my head I always make a distinction between 'rock & roll' music and 'rock' music. The farther divorced something is from the blues/r&b roots of the music, the more it veers away from rock & roll and becomes simply rock. By my reckoning, funk and punk and glam are all rock & roll, while prog and metal are mostly just rock.
posted by Atom Eyes at 3:10 PM on June 16 [3 favorites]


It's not though. Rock and roll is a big tent that includes a lot of sub-genres, and I feel like I've spent my entire life having to defend what I like against those who think it's "lame." The fact that I'd rather crank "I Know What I Like" by Genesis or "Starship Trooper" by Yes in the car than "Beat on the Brat" by the Ramones doesn't make my tastes worthy of derision.

I didn't say anything about better or worse. "more Rock and Roll". Charlie Parker is more Jazz than Santana.

Citing huge stars who had multiple Top 10 albums and singles as underdogs fighting against the oppression of The Ramones, who's first album took almost 40 years to sell half a million copies, is a unique take though.
posted by bongo_x at 3:14 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


just FYI when this discussion about What Is Rock and Roll Music, Really reaches the point of invoking Bob Dylan I am going to start setting things on fire and running around screaming and flipping tables just FYI
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:19 PM on June 16


And that is Rock and Roll.
posted by bongo_x at 3:23 PM on June 16 [2 favorites]


"All Along the Watchtower," as played by Jimi Hendrix, is both Rock-and-Roll and Rock music. Discuss (and/or flip over tables).
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:25 PM on June 16 [3 favorites]


I guess in my head I always make a distinction between 'rock & roll' music and 'rock' music. The farther divorced something is from the blues/r&b roots of the music, the more it veers away from rock & roll and becomes simply rock. By my reckoning, funk and punk and glam are all rock & roll, while prog and metal are mostly just rock.

a famous definition of "rock & roll" is "a white country guitar player trying to play R&B"

I have also carried around some vague rock/rock & roll distinction for many years, but I haven't put enough thought into that to have like a critical position.

Funk is a complicated genre to try to classify on that axis. It also grows from R&B and soul music (check out early James Brown and The Parliments) but made it heavier by going in some very different directions from rock (especially the drum groove). But , as noted above, George Clinton and others then very intentionally assimilated a lot of rock aesthetics and values, particularly from acid rock and psychedelic rock, but also the spectacle of the stacks of Marshalls and elaborate stage shows, with costumes and lights and spaceships landing and shit. I read an interview with Bootsy where he was saying that they were the first Black musicians to do that, and I see no reason to doubt him.

Hendrix is probably the seminal figure that inspired this. Hendrix had an impact that is almost impossible to imagine today. He was like, "you stole Black music and made it rock n' roll, and I am here to take it back". His music has been assimilated to the familiarity of classic rock, and we've been hearing guitar players imitate him all our lives, but consider how completely novel his playing was when he hit England. How completely beyond what anyone else was even attempting. He wouldn't even talk to any guitar players, except Eric Clapton. I think he said something nice to Robert Fripp about his playing, and he'd deal with The Beatles, but he treated the rest of them with aloofness. And Clinton went for heavily Hendrix-influenced players, like Eddie Hazel.
posted by thelonius at 3:45 PM on June 16 [3 favorites]


a) Fripp produced Daryl Hall's solo record Sacred Songs.

b) I tried jamming as the bass player with my best friend drummer and his buddy organist on some ELP in high school. They never came back for a second session.
posted by billsaysthis at 3:47 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


However, "good and hard to play" can reach levels of completely fucking awesome that e.g. Pretty Vacant (not that there's anything wrong with that) just can't touch.

If you'd said different kinds of awesome I'd be right with you.
posted by atoxyl at 3:51 PM on June 16 [2 favorites]


Hi Nelson! I'm going to see King Crimson tonight. I can't really listen any more to the ELP or Yes that I used to like either, but the Larks' Tongues era still does it for me.
posted by enf at 4:09 PM on June 16


a famous definition of "rock & roll" is "a white country guitar player trying to play R&B"

sadly, going the opposite direction didn't seem to fix a damn thing in the long term (good album, though)
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 4:11 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


a distinction between 'rock & roll' music and 'rock' music

a while back I was trying to figure out how to make cultural sense of Queen II, a 1974 album in which Queen, still not even close to being household names, pulled out all the stops in terms of pop, opera, rawk, music hall, everything (basically, an entire album's worth of Bohemian Rhapsody) ... and it occurred to me ...

Rock Around The Clock had hit it big in 1954, twenty years previous, and thus was a whole new era unleashed upon the culture. So it suddenly made perfect sense that something like Queen II would show up one generation later. Still Rock, not even pretending to Roll (except for maybe the sole Roger Taylor track that got stuck onto the end of Side One). The same probably applies to Punk. Was 1996-97 a dead phase for Punk? I certainly wasn't paying attention.

My whole point being, I guess, that as The Who once put it (rather well, I think), Music Must Change. Which is one thing you cannot hold against the peak of the prog era (1969-74 in my book). Post 1974, some of the various tricks and conventions would start stratifying into an identifiable form/genre (rather the antithesis of progression really), but up until then, it really was (as a guy named Jedd Beaudoin put it in PopMatters a while back) a time when all kinds of people were experimenting with "… a broadened harmonic palette, large-scale forms, polyphonic textures, avant-garde sensibilities, virtuoso technique, and the use of the latest advancements in instrument and studio technology".

What the hell's wrong with that?
posted by philip-random at 4:19 PM on June 16 [5 favorites]


Not a damned thing.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:33 PM on June 16 [2 favorites]


Lester Bangs . . . also despised Lou Reed.

Lester Bangs had a complex relationship with Lou Reed, I think it was quasi-love/hate. Bangs wrote quite a bit about peeling the perception of the persona of the artist away from the real person making the art, it's one of the interesting themes in his various sharp-edged essays about Lou.
posted by ovvl at 5:00 PM on June 16 [3 favorites]


the whole thought that english people did prog rock and americans didn't is somewhat odd - frank zappa was as prog as any of them and he was there years before the english bands were and was every bit as musically advanced - the grateful dead were doing all sorts of prog rock things in 68 and 69 and never seem to get much credit for it

i don't think the narrow definition of prog helps much and some people who deserve credit don't get it

once the 70s came, the problem with american bands is they wanted to make money at it, so they toned it down

also, perhaps it is absurd for english bands to pretend to be african american musicians - but to me, it's just as absurd for rock musicians to pretend they're not playing african american music

and phish ARE a prog band - it's amazing that people don't notice that
posted by pyramid termite at 5:08 PM on June 16 [3 favorites]


also i think it's ridiculous that technical proficiency is looked down upon by a lot of people, even musicians - remember the lead guitar is self-indulgent crap controversy that was going on in the 90s and 00s? - it can also be said that lack of technical proficiency does not mean the music being played is bad or awful

but technically proficient people can get away with things that non-proficient people can't

also, anyone who thinks johnny ramone wasn't technically proficient has never tried to play like him - that guy was a total bad ass in technique
posted by pyramid termite at 5:18 PM on June 16


What was called Progressive Rock* wasn't a genre, it was a scene. The same thing is true of Punk, Trip-Hop or (early) Dubstep. Actually, those bands had a lot less in common than is (lazily) thought. A number of them had Mellotrons, I suppose, but that was basically what was available in 1970 - Mellotrons, Hammond and Farfisa organs, Rhodes or Wurlitzer pianos. Some of their songs can get quite long.

The thing is, all those musicians knew each other, played on the same bills as each other. Yes went to the Marquee and saw King Crimson (the importance of 1969 Crimson wasn't so much ITCOTCK as their performances, which were devastating), realised they needed to work a lot harder and turned into the monsters of endless twiddle we all - or at least I - know and love. But Yes sound nothing like King Crimson, they sound like the sum of their own individual musical obsessions. And neither of them sound like Genesis. Who sound nothing like Van Der Graaf Generator. Who resemble Emerson Lake and Palmer not a jot. By the time I came across all this music in the late 70s writing a twenty minute song was a deliberate stylistic choice and a rejection of the other options. When Pink Floyd did Echoes or Genesis did Supper's Ready, I get the impression it was just a logical extrapolation of what they had been doing already. They didn't know where they were going, they just knew that they had to keep moving.

I'm sure I've posted this before, but I discovered this music by accident. A lot of what I'd listened to was what, in 1977 and 1978 I was supposed to listen to - punk and post-punk, particularly filtered through what turned up on John Peel. I also used to buy packages of ex-juke box singles. You could only see the top label, so it was a bit of a gamble. One of these records was the single edit of Going For the One by Yes. I immediately thought (and still think) that it sounded fantastic. On the b-side was the first few minutes of Awaken, the long track on side two of the Going For the One album. After the greyness of the regulation two-minute thrashes I'd been hearing, it was like wandering into a rainforest - this was something unpredictable, colourful and alive. Basically, I went from punk to progressive rock, generally considered the wrong way round.

Anything in the genre that emerged after about 1973 is, to me, a bit self conscious. That doesn't mean I don't like it - I was a huge Twelfth Night fan, for example, and quite enjoyed Marillion at the time. And Cardiacs are my favourite band of all time - but there is a kind of purity to what the first Progressive Rock bands were doing - driven by curiosity and a desire to do more of what worked last time.

I know Robert Fripp a little bit, by the way - a really tiny, glancing bit. But I do want to state that an awful lot of bollocks is said about him - the Austere High Priest of Prog or whatever. He's very kind, very funny and completely unlike the rather mean-spirited stereotype Rock Fanboys seem to want to impose on him.

Anyone who has the opportunity to see the currently touring King Crimson who likes early Crim music really, really should go. At the very least, it might change your mind about drum solos.

*I don't think a single person who actually made those records wanted it to be called that - the naming was a Journalist thing, the same as Krautrock, which is a dreadful genre name. It might have been laudable for Faust to wear what was effectively an racist NME sneer proudly, by naming one of their tracks after it. I don't see why Kraftwerk or Can have to carry it around with them, too.
posted by Grangousier at 5:49 PM on June 16 [6 favorites]


Soured on Kraut, eh?
posted by Chitownfats at 6:22 PM on June 16


Finally!

A MetaFilter thread where I can post King Crimson playing Elephant Talk live on TV simply because it is incredible!
posted by subliminable at 6:37 PM on June 16 [7 favorites]


I know you humans might call it prog, but Magma is really something else entirely.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 7:24 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


I got Weigel's book yesterday and am really enjoying it.

And it has been referenced in the comments, but here is video of Keith Emerson stabbing his Hammond organ
posted by munchingzombie at 7:43 PM on June 16


Wow, Grangousier! Going for the One was my gateway album, too. I feel like I have a lot more that I want to say about this - things that I've wanted to talk about since Squire and Wetton passed, but I'm on my phone, and later there will be pizza and beer. Maybe tonight if I can't sleep. Which is most nights, really.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 7:51 PM on June 16


Robert Fripp produced and played on the Roches' first and third albums. Yep, the three urban folkie sisters from New Jersey, those Roches.
posted by tommyD at 8:41 PM on June 16 [4 favorites]


Whenever I see discussions about prog rock it reminds me of growing up listening to death metal (a genre I love), and I imagine "prog rock" could be replaced with any genre of music really in these discussions.

Someone up above asked about something that's three chords being more rock-and-roll than playing a 13/8 synth line. It's like, was crying onstage more punk rock than cutting oneself with a broken bottle in 1988? The big thing about that question that I find interesting is when I was 16 I totally thought that math rock (let's try to ignore the ridiculousness of the genre name) was so much more punk than punk music for that same reason: a person playing a two-handed tapping solo in 9/4 while the drummer played some strange polyrhythms over it was more assaultive and anti-establishment than someone screaming into a microphone over a I-V-IV guitar riff. But that's just the metrical aspect. Ignoring that, some band playing intensely dissonant music that sounded like nails grating on a chalkboard always seemed more punk than punk music. But then again, there's probably something pretentious about a band playing atonal, metrically complex music over high-pitched screaming.

But there's always this weird back and forth when it comes to fans of weird music genres. A lot of prog rock fans are definitely people like myself who understand some sort of beauty in the music and they want other people to understand the underlying complexities and feeling that is there. I use to experience this a lot. I can't count how many times I've been stoned with a bunch of hipsters (ppl like me) and thrown on Don Caballero, or the second Into the Moat album, and had them recoil in horror and get pissed at me (this response is so much more hilarious when on hallucinogens, btw). It's like, don't y'all get it? It's crazy! It's out there! It's weird!
posted by gucci mane at 9:24 PM on June 16 [3 favorites]


Wow, Grangousier! Going for the One was my gateway album, too.

Me too! It just didn't lead very far. I never got into the album past that song, and just ended up liking random scattered Yes songs. Yes, at times, seemed to be able to mix pop songwriting and prog in a way that worked for me.
posted by bongo_x at 9:59 PM on June 16


Well, this thread got me listening to 801 Live for the first time in years.
posted by jjwiseman at 10:33 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


Whenever I see discussions about prog rock it reminds me of growing up listening to death metal (a genre I love), and I imagine "prog rock" could be replaced with any genre of music really in these discussions.

Hmm, I think it really depends on what element it is being discussed. I'm fairly luke warm on attributing too much importance to tight categorical definitions over genre, but I do think there are, in a more general sense, some markers for appreciation that splits listeners over some genres.

Looking at prog rock, for all the early talk about groups like ELP having a classical bent, or in celebrations of technique/ability of those who play prog, it strikes me that the interest is more attuned to technique as virtuosity rather than as necessary craft alone. In classical music there is some notice of virtuosity in playing, particularly in solo or lead performance, but it isn't given the same kind of pride of place as it is in prog rock. It's the compositions that are the central element of classical music generally, so the construction of the piece, its expressive effect come are noted first, with orchestration and individual performance conducting and play considered as interpretive elements, again, generally speaking.

Prog rock sort of reverses some of that order, where mechanical/physical mastery is often celebrated first by fans, followed by difficulty or complexity of individual elements of performance, the overall construction of the piece, perhaps, and only in the end the more emotionally driven expressive effect. It's more head than heart music in that sense. That isn't to say there is no emotional effect or that technique isn't directly involved in creating it, but that the balance is one of more emotional distance/mental appreciation. In the focus on the skills of the performers, it seems closer to the free jazz/post bop/avant garde than classical, another genre that creates intense divide between listeners.

When talking about death metal, math rock, art rock and some other genres, there is often, it seems, some of the same kinds of factors in play, mostly in how the music is appreciated and its limits in or distance from more direct emotional expressiveness. With prog rock, it isn't that there is no emotion in the music, more that it sort of seems to sit as background environment for the more coolly cerebral elements in the fore. It was mostly in streamlining or finding some more direct emotional connection in lyric and voice that prog started breaking through to more mainstream appreciation. (Where mainstream only means outside the narrower in group that already liked the music, not necessarily mass popularity.)

Looking at some of the lists of "best" prog rock songs, I see a lot of choices where the prog is more leveraged to some other popular style or pared down and provided a more direct lyrical emotional hook than in most of the proggiest of prog offerings, which seem to define the central ideal of genre. Of course that could be a selective bias in play, where my sorting is pre-influenced by my conclusion, but I only mean it to suggest there seems to be some boundary in place that separates the music between prog fans and wider audience, and that appears to be linked to method of expression and preferred mode of appreciation.


Well, this thread got me listening to 801 Live for the first time in years.

Jesus this thread is a weird experience, reminding me of so many albums I once owned and haven't thought of in decades. I can't tell if this is making me feel old or young again...
posted by gusottertrout at 2:11 AM on June 17 [2 favorites]


The older I get (I'm a Gen Xer), the more catholic my tastes get. Prog is great. I don't listen to it super often, but it's great stuff. Radiohead, also great. Hell, Katy Perry and Kesha I also dig.

I suppose my music snobbery comes out with those who look down on an entire genre like prog.
posted by persona au gratin at 4:18 AM on June 17 [2 favorites]


I'm digging this 801 Live.
posted by persona au gratin at 4:21 AM on June 17 [1 favorite]


Ok. Yeah. What It's Raining FH said above.

There is so much good music out there. And via Spotify and their ilk we have access to so much. What a great time to be a music lover.

I've been deep into the Stax-Volt and Chess catalogs the last six months. So brilliant.
posted by persona au gratin at 4:25 AM on June 17


Jesus, what did Keith Emerson ever do to this guy?

What an odd comment given that the article is not on the whole negative at all. But is rather apologetic for Prog-Rock, and pokes holes in many of the main criticisms. The connection with late The Beatles and Beach Boys really indicts the mainstream dismissal of the pretentiousness of Prog.

The late Beatles albums, which is often seen as their most enduring legacy, is also their most pretentious.

The references to Marxism were also really illuminating, as it was also in that mid-century period that "Critical Theory" flourished, as a kind of intellectual representative of the "common man".
posted by mary8nne at 6:39 AM on June 17


A MetaFilter thread where I can post King Crimson playing Elephant Talk live on TV simply because it is incredible!

I was watching that night and have since watched the clip many, many times. I love everything about that performance.
posted by davebush at 6:45 AM on June 17 [1 favorite]


Is there a joke to "Prog Spring" beyond just "'prog' sounds like 'Prague'"?
posted by Ian A.T. at 8:09 AM on June 17


the key point being that prog or progressive (or whatever you want to call it) had five genuinely transcendent years ... and then ... ?

I mean, it seems obvious, but prog rock never went away as a genre, it just shifted to progressive metal, which has been cranking out bands for decades. Listen to early Opeth, then listen to the current album, which besides the heavier guitars could have been recorded in the Prog Rock heyday, organs and flutes and all. Mikael Åkerfeldt lists metal and prog bands as his influences and seems to be working steadily backwards through them.
posted by Huck500 at 8:23 AM on June 17 [1 favorite]


Is there a joke to "Prog Spring" beyond just "'prog' sounds like 'Prague'"?

no. though I've known a few people who heard prog rock as "Prague Rock" and went looking for Czech bands that rocked that exotic sound. Who knows what they found?
posted by philip-random at 8:25 AM on June 17


The joke is often that the women in the audience were dragged there by their boyfriends. There seems to be a lot of truth in that. Which is one of the things that's bothered me a bit about prog specifically, and lots of genre rock, is that it often reads to me as "boy rock". With the general exception being "chick band", perhaps unsurprisingly, which I find to be often treated as a genre in itself.

I think this is what bothers me most. The idea that someone is more a fan of genres rather than music. To me this reads that such a fan is more interested in creating, belonging to, and strengthening a community. Which in turn creates a dynamic where a musical style limits its own audience by action/association of its fans. Genre as social marker. No doubt, this is often seen as a feature rather than a bug. However, I take a dim view of music being used as a way to demark and limit non musical social networks. That ends up in the same crappy place where music gets pulled into use as a tool for all kinds of bullshitty ideas and causes.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:47 AM on June 17 [2 favorites]


801 Live is one of those rare albums that remains pretty constant in my rotation. There's so much new music that I like that I may not dig an old favorite out for a relisten for years. Decades even, in some cases. But I get an itch for 801 Live if it's been too long. Such an amazing set.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:00 AM on June 17 [1 favorite]


no. though I've known a few people who heard prog rock as "Prague Rock" and went looking for Czech bands that rocked that exotic sound. Who knows what they found?

the plastic people of the universe? toxika
posted by pyramid termite at 1:01 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


If your opinion of a band or a type of music is based primarily on the fans rather than the music, you don't really give much of a shit about music as much as you do about your identity and being part of a particular clique. (No doubt certain exceptions exist.)

though I've known a few people who heard prog rock as "Prague Rock" and went looking for Czech bands that rocked that exotic sound. Who knows what they found?

Uz Jsme Doma.
posted by Saxon Kane at 1:27 PM on June 17 [2 favorites]


Music criticism needs a touch more nominalism in its mindset, imho.
posted by Saxon Kane at 1:33 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


Is there a joke to "Prog Spring" beyond just "'prog' sounds like 'Prague'"?

no. though I've known a few people who heard prog rock as "Prague Rock" and went looking for Czech bands that rocked that exotic sound. Who knows what they found?


Probably this. Their productions of Faust and The Little Prince are apparently off the chain.
posted by chainsofreedom at 2:38 PM on June 17


If your opinion of a band or a type of music is based primarily on the fans rather than the music, you don't really give much of a shit about music as much as you do about your identity and being part of a particular clique.

While that certainly sounds reasonable in theory, I don't think it actually tends to work that way in practice for many people, judging by how they talk about music and fans, and even more importantly, if you look at the fans of things you enjoy and see only other white men, you might want to examine the thing you like a bit more closely to understand why that might be.
posted by gusottertrout at 2:57 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


also, anyone who thinks johnny ramone wasn't technically proficient has never tried to play like him - that guy was a total bad ass in technique

A lot of New Wave era music is pretty tough to perform. Like go play the bass line to Talking Heads "Cities" for 5 or 10 minutes - it's no big deal playing it once or twice, but over and over and over, perfect every time, is a different story.
posted by thelonius at 4:24 PM on June 17 [2 favorites]


Also in Fripp: he played on Bowie's "Heroes", which is a little proggy (mostly on the B-side), and on Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps), which isn't very proggy at all, although I'm not sure what genre it would fit in, if any. (Wikipedia labels it as "Art rock - new wave - post-punk", which sounds suspiciously like "fuck if we know.")
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:41 PM on June 17


I'm shocked, shocked I tell you, that no one has yet cited The Greatest Prog Rock Song Of All Time, Including When You Were Fifteen And Were Really Starting To Get Into It

I've never heard that, and it was pretty great.
I never listened to National Lampoon for some reason, probably hippy related in my young mind.
I feel there is some sort of kinship between Prog fans and Monty Python fans though.
posted by bongo_x at 9:55 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


Supporting anecdata: the Rush fans in my high school marching band were the biggest Holy Grail quoters.
posted by rhizome at 9:59 PM on June 17 [8 favorites]


Which is one of the things that's bothered me a bit about prog specifically, and lots of genre rock, is that it often reads to me as "boy rock".

yeah those people who self-define as prog fans who go on about how boring and dumb punk was like to very tactfully leave out a very relevant factor in that emotional reaction, which is that punk was full of women. and no it is not lost on me that plenty of punks hated disco for the very same reason. but you can always find a genre with more women in it to hate, whereas there is a certain point where you cannot find one with fewer. so, the genre with the least women in it is going to have a certain holy aura about it.

as to technical proficiency, you can buy yourself a very fine hammer and practice hammering nails into two-by-fours all day every day for years until you are as technically proficient at your manual skills as a man can be. doesn't make you an architect. and the reason few people of discernment wish to go live in your heap of two-by-fours with technically proficient nails hammered into them at very complicated intervals is not because they don't know what houses are for. rather, it is because they do. this is a metaphor. like, fans of genuinely great performers in any genre don't enthuse about how fast they can play their scales and how well they understand polyrhythms. it's kind of...taken for granted.

and a lot of good punk and rock music in general is a lot more like classical music than prog rock is in one respect, which is that it has an understanding of sprezzatura. even within classical performance there is an aesthetic divide between those who like to project a casual, even hostile and contemptuous grace and ease, and those who like to project a sweaty and labored tweedling so everyone can see how HARD the piece is. there is something about dedicated and exclusionary boy art spaces, whatever the medium and whatever the era, that is deeply hostile to the idea of making hard things look easy. but how else are you to approach the sublime? then again, that is not everyone's concern.
posted by queenofbithynia at 10:02 PM on June 17 [3 favorites]


There is a divide between people who see music as craft (a vehicle to show off your chops), and people who see it as art. I remember having a discussion on a forum about how a certain DAW did not have a good mechanism for VSO (where you record at one speed and play back at another, or some simulation of such) which was a big creative obstacle, and ridiculous not to include. There where several people that were very concerned, and thought this was a good thing because people mostly used that to appear to play something faster than they actually could. It was hard to wrap my head around. From their point of view this was the main reason to use it, and their main concern. I had to point out that the Beatles used it all the time, and that it was mostly a creative effect, used all the freakin time, and who the fuck cares!

But people's ideas about how records are made are generally weird and unrealistic, and musicians are not exempt from this.
posted by bongo_x at 10:29 PM on June 17


While that certainly sounds reasonable in theory, I don't think it actually tends to work that way in practice for many people, judging by how they talk about music and fans, and even more importantly, if you look at the fans of things you enjoy and see only other white men, you might want to examine the thing you like a bit more closely to understand why that might be.

Yeah, that was my point.
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:59 AM on June 18


Nelson: I thought the quote from Radiohead was really telling: "we all hate progressive rock music". They are exactly the 1990s+ equivalent of ELP, they doth protest too much.

Hmmm. Radiohead : prog :: King : Lovecraft?

Ben Trismegistus
: I've been a musician my whole life, and have a weird music-theory brain that feels the need to annotate the chord progressions of any music I happen to be listening to. So one of the things I prize most in music is surprise. I love when music goes where you don't expect it to - weird chords, weird rhythms, whatever.

Same here, especially with "following along" any song that's playing. All I want from a song is something novel, some reason for the song to exist, and I tend to classify those as "prog moments", fairly or not. Joni Mitchell's Court and Spark is not prog, but is full of those great turns of musical phrase that make you want to sit down at the keyboard or guitar and play them. (Then you realize that "Help Me" has a bit of overlap with "Starship Trooper".)

A bit of a paradox is that finding a non-prog artist with prog tendencies can be more interesting than finding a new prog artist.
posted by kurumi at 10:05 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


"Jesus, what did Keith Emerson ever do to this guy?

What an odd comment given that the article is not on the whole negative at all."

That was my immediate reaction to that comment, too! But then I went back to the article and did a search, and... yeah, every mention of Keith Emerson specifically falls somewhere between neutral and poking fun.
posted by floppyroofing at 5:35 AM on June 19


Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps), which isn't very proggy at all, although I'm not sure what genre it would fit in, if any. (Wikipedia labels it as "Art rock - new wave - post-punk", which sounds suspiciously like "fuck if we know.")

More like fuck if anybody knows.
posted by blucevalo at 8:28 AM on June 19


It's easy, though. The Genre is "Bowie". Needs no other descriptor.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:46 AM on June 19


All the good threads hit MeFi on a weekend I'm out of town.

I've got more than a little prog in CDs, vinyl, and stored on my hard drive. I've only dabbled in Krautrock and Canterbury and Gentle Giant is just too twee for me but I have loads of the rest. I just annoyed my wife with some Rush this weekend while we were driving (she can usually tolerate Rush but she wasn't feeling up to it then).

Yes, there are some fans that equate technical proficiency with greatness but some of those guys still listen to Pink Floyd and really, only Gilmour was a god on his instrument. In my mind, to be prog, is to look forward in creating music. Some refer to this as small "p" progressive but no one following this genre agrees on what prog is anyway. The thing to do is enjoy it.

Time for some Future Kings of England.
posted by Ber at 11:10 AM on June 19 [1 favorite]


The Greatest Prog Rock Song Of All Time, Including When You Were Fifteen And Were Really Starting To Get Into It

Only 8:57?

Pfffft.
posted by flabdablet at 10:27 AM on June 21


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