Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Progressive Rock Returns

Image Source: caseymongoven.

Just as 1990s' grunge is back, so is a pocket in pop music which reached its high point roughly from the 1970s to early 1980s - progressive rock. The Independent reported on 30 June 2013:
Clubbers who have made "Get Lucky" this summer's dance-floor anthem will be shocked to hear that Daft Punk aren't the robot-friendly sound of the future – but revivalists of Seventies progressive rock, once the most derided of genres.

Prog, a bombastic mutation of rock and classical genres typically performed by highly skilled musicians in outrageous capes, could once be heard echoing from student halls and stadiums across the land. Supergroup Emerson, Lake and Palmer sold 40 million copies of their symphonic rock while Genesis, Pink Floyd, Yes and Rush became prog's most commercially savvy flag-bearers.

In the end it was punk that swept away those highly designed concept albums with their epic or medieval themes and ostentatious, lengthy, and, some would say, self-indulgent displays of musical proficiency.
Long dismissed as laughably self-important and pretentious by critics, progressive rock combined classic rock and hard rock with more complex classical and jazz musical styles. It also amalgamated some of the wild lyrical images from Psychedelic rock and the Canterbury scene. Wiki notes that it was "an attempt to give greater artistic weight and credibility to rock music." Progressive rock was rooted in no-nonsense electric guitars, but it embroidered upon classic riffs with gorgeous, elaborate layers and florid lyrics with loaded metaphors. Using a bigger and bigger sound, it overlapped with the big sound and themes of stadium rock favoured by groups such as Queen, Journey, Foreigner and Styx. This style also influenced power ballads produced by hard rock groups.

Progressive rock was a style conceived as high thinking for the masses, for the isolated or downtrodden, for the little man. It took everyday, depressing, banal situations and blew them up to epic levels, to the realms of myth, karma, mystery and eternity. Moments of individual alienation (being unpopular in high school, romantic break-ups, losing a job) were gnostic triggers, doorways to more profound and exalted levels of thinking. This probably made prog the most conceptually complex form of rock music.

This is Spinal Tap Stonehenge sequence. Image Source: This Blog Goes to Eleven.

This style was mainly a British, European and Canadian phenomenon. Kansas became the most famous American progressive rock band. The Genesis News forum lists newer American prog bands: "Djam Karet, Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, Glass Hammer, Timothy Pure, Echolyn (very Genesis influenced), Discipline, Enchant, Spock's Beard." There is a longer list of American progressive rock groups here. A global list of prog bands is here.

Aspects of prog were parodied in the Druids-and-Stonehenge sequence in the film, This is Spinal Tap (1984) as progressive rock became commercialized. By the 1980s, progressive rock was swept aside by punk, and the anti-punk, glitzy, synthesized New Romanticism. But new prog music was revived around the turn of the Millennium. Subsequent progressive rock genres are progressive metalneo-prog, and new prog, also known as nu prog or post-prog music.

Below the jump, some famous progressive rock pieces from the early 1970s to the mid-to-late 1980s. Several of these videos are not pure examples of the genre, but they all contain prog aspects.

Genesis: Selling England by the Pound LP cover (1973). Image Source: Classic Rock Review.

Dancing with the Moonlit Knight by Genesis. LP: Selling England by the Pound (1973). Video Source: Youtube.

Yes: Relayer LP cover (1974). Image Source: Wiki.

Soon (single excerpt from The Gates of Delirium) by Yes. LP: Relayer (1974). Video Source: Youtube.

Caption for the above video: ""The Gates of Delirium" is the first track on Yes’s 1974 album, Relayer. Based on Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace, the song begins with a prelude, which leads into a lengthy instrumental section (beginning at about the 8 minute mark) representing the battle. The final section (entitled "Soon"), occurring about 16 minutes in, released as a single in 1975, is a very gentle, soothing prayer for peace and hope which represents the aftermath of the battle. Before the re-issue of Tales from Topographic Oceans, In a Word: Yes (1969 - ), or their most recent release Fly From Here, this was the longest officially released studio recording by the band with almost 22 minutes, taking up the entire first side of the LP."

Peter Gabriel: Peter Gabriel 1 LP cover (1977). Image Source: Wiki.

Solsbury Hill by Peter Gabriel. LP: Peter Gabriel 1 (1977). Video Source: Youtube.

Rush: A Farewell to Kings LP cover (1977). Image Source: Prog Rock Little Place.

Closer to the Heart by Rush. LP: A Farewell to Kings (1977). Video Source: Youtube.

Closer to the Heart single sleeve. Image Source: Wiki.

Dust in the Wind by Kansas. LP: Point of Know Return (1977). Video Source: Youtube.

Another Brick in the Wall by Pink Floyd. LP: The Wall (1979). Video Source: Youtube.To see the 1982 film that was inspired by this album, go here.

Let Go the Line by Max Webster. LP: A Million Vacations (1979). Video Source: Youtube.

Journey: Dream After Dream LP cover (1980). Image Source: Birkenhead Erky.

Moon Theme by Journey. LP: Dream After Dream (1980). Video Source: Youtube.

Rush: Moving Pictures LP cover (1981). Image Source: Cygnus-X1.

Tom Sawyer by Rush. LP: Moving Pictures (1981). Video Source: Youtube.

Rush: Signals LP cover (1982). Image Source: In the Studio with Redbeard.

Subdivisions by Rush. LP: Signals (1982). Video Source: Youtube.

After the Fire: Der Kommissar LP cover (1982). Image Source: Youtube.

Der Kommissar (English prog cover of Falco's lighter 1981 Neue Deutsche Welle pop hit of the same name (listen to it here)) by After the Fire. LP: Der Kommissar (1982). Video Source: Youtube.

Asia: Asia LP cover (1982). Cover art by Roger Dean. Image Source: 80s American Music.

Only Time will Tell by Asia. LP: Asia (1982). Video Source: Youtube.

Eminence Front single sleeve. Image Source: The Hypertext Who.

Eminence Front by The Who. LP: It's Hard (1982). Video Source: Youtube.

Peter Gabriel: Peter Gabriel IV - Security LP cover (1982). Image Source: Wiki.

Songfacts: "The San Jacinto Mountain range in California runs along Palm Springs, a very exclusive resort community. This [song] explores the contrast between the artificial world of Palm Springs and the Indian communities on the other side of the San Jacinto Mountains who have spiritual ties to the land. Gabriel was influenced by an Apache Indian he met who told him of the ritual where the Medicine Man takes a young Indian boy to the mountains, allows a rattlesnake to bite him, and leaves the boy to find his way down the mountain, where he will either die or learn courage." San Jacinto by Peter Gabriel. LP: Peter Gabriel IV - Security (1982). Video Source: Youtube.

"The song's working title during the recording sessions was Jung In Africa. The song was inspired by the experiences of noted psychologist Carl Jung while he was in Africa with a group of drummers." Rhythm of the Heat by Peter Gabriel. LP: Peter Gabriel IV - Security (1982). Video Source: Youtube.

Toto: Toto IV LP cover (1982). Image Source: Willy's Rock.

Africa by Toto. LP: Toto IV (1982). Video Source: Youtube.

Sister Christian by Night Ranger. LP: Midnight Madness (1984). Video Source: Youtube.

The Brazilian by Genesis. LP: Invisible Touch (1986). Video Source: Youtube.

Pink Floyd:  A Momentary Lapse of Reason LP cover (1987). Image Source: Paste.

All rights and copyrights belong to the owners, record labels and authorized distributors of this music; these videos are reproduced under Fair Use for non-commercial discussion and review only.


  1. That photo used at the top of the post is one I've seen before (I'm pretty sure it was used as an album cover in the past decade). While much of it (the carpeted rec room, the wood paneling and the relatively enormous headphones on the baby) all recall 70's progressive rock, the thing that should be the key element in the photo-- i.e., the actual album the baby is holding-- is a 1981 album by a Southern California soft rock out fit called Sneaker. Here's an interview with the lead singer:


    The weird thing is, I was listening to Be-Bop Deluxe when I read this.
    For something truly shocking, I suggest trying the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame site. The number of inductees with little or no association with rock far outnumbers bona fide prog rockers in particular and, to a lesser degree, British musicians generally. The inclusion of Rush in this year's ceremonies came only after an aggressive nomination campaign that's been going on for years and was comparable in scale to the Arab Spring (and at times nearly as violent). I spent much of 2011 grousing about this on my music blog (so much so it remains one of only two dozen tags I've ever used there). I made individual arguments on behalf of 120 musical acts who had all been slighted, in alphabetical order, and gave up at 'S' (just listing them after that). Among the ignored were: Argent; John Cale; Emerson, Lake & Palmer; Peter Gabriel (as a solo artist); Hawkwind; Horslips; Jethro Tull; King Crimson (and Robert Fripp as a solo artist); The Moody Blues; Bill Nelson; Mike Oldfield; Rare Earth; Roxy Music (and Brian Eno and Bryan Ferry); and Yes. Those were just the groups pulled at random. The site Not In The Hall of Fame maintains an ongoing poll of 500+ acts to gauge their popular support at any given time. Unfortunately they don't have a prog tag; that's a shame, because there's a large number of such bands in their survey.

  2. Thanks as always for your comment pblfsda; yes, while researching this post I came across a lot of stuff about the effort to see Rush into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Here is a list of inductees:


    I started to wonder, looking a that list, who makes the decisions about inductees? It looks generationally-driven.

  3. Oh, it is. It's kind of like the MPAA in that their methodology and personnel (beyond their chairman) are kept secret, yet the commercial implications of their approval/endorsement are such that there is a built in motive for corruption. In both cases the argument for secrecy is purportedly to address this, of course. You can't game the system if you don't know the methodology and you can't bribe or threaten the personnel if you don't know who they are. The flipside of a secret process is that there's no avenue of redress or appeal. On what grounds could you appeal a decision? Flawed process? You don't know how they reached the decision. Conflict of interest? For who, exactly? You don't know who made the decision.

    On my music blog I ranted about this at length from Sept. 2011 to Jan. 2012. Basically Jann Wenner and people he gets on with have the final say. A few years ago they brought in Warren Zanes (ex-Del Fuegos, currently holding a doctorate) as an adviser to stem the escalating criticism and there were some improvements. Ultimately, however, no amount of advice can hide the fact that they presume to have a wider breadth of knowledge and understanding of the topic of rock music than they actually do. No one listens to everything; there's not enough time in the day. By declaring themselves to be the ultimate authority and arbitrator of rock history they've simply bitten off more than they can chew and, being Baby Boomers, refuse to admit it. Personal prejudices: for California, against England; for rap, against punk; and most bizarrely (to me anyway) favoring black jazz artists over black rock artists by a wide, wide margin. The posts started here:


    1. You know, I think a lot of things run that way these days. I noticed your mention of Kate Bush. I really like her.

      BTW I had a feeling you would catch the image on that album cover the kid is holding.