Prog Rock Episode

I loved ELP’s version of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.

I loved Yes. I liked the Moody Blues. Fucking King Crimson.

Kelefah Sanneh wrote about prog rock in the New Yorker earlier this year. You can read his excellent piece here.

I loved much of this music. Virtuosity was important, but so was a big bottom. In my memory this was music that pounded was aggressive, like rock, but also exulted in notes and playing, and felt really good.

Sanneh gets that, which is why I’m here.

One thing I remember was that Scott Muni, the program director of WNEW as well as DJ, would often put on a whole side of Yes or the Moody Blues in order to take meetings while DJing. That usually worked, though WE knew.

There are lots of good suggestions about what you should listen to in Sanneh’s story, so go and listen to them. I’ve had three conversations in recent weeks about the Mahavishnu Orchestra. As Sanneh says, not prog, but passing.

And more than anything, you should listen to Bitches Brew.




10 thoughts on “Prog Rock Episode

  1. I read the Sanneh article and others. It seems prog is under reevaluation these days. Even my 22 year old daughter started to ask me questions about it. It is the most under-represented genre in the RnR HOF, but Yes was inducted this year. Maybe things are about to change.

  2. I was never against prog on principle, I just didn’t like most of it. To me, Yes is by far the best of them but I was disappointed with Close to the Edge and after that they just went off the deep end…ELP, I bought their first album, loved the synth on Lucky Man like everybody else, and never listened to it of my own volition….Jethro Tull made some great music but before they went prog. The first two albums would make a great one album.

    The Moody Blues are another kettle of fish. I guess if you use an orchestra that makes you prog, but then again so did Barry White, not to mention Metallica. But the Moodies were a psychedelic pop band. I don’t know where they stole their melodies from but they had several great ones. Soft, yes, but there’s a place for that. This is them at their best. Another song I wouldn’t mind punking up.

  3. I can’t write long comments, the “post comment” button gets buried. So anyway, I was into the first King Crimson but it was a long wait and a big disappointed to hear their 2nd album, which was a completely different band. The songs were gone. I saw a later version of them in Central Park, where they opened for the James Gang or the other way around, I forget. Boring and self-indulgent. I think Fripp later did some great stuff with Eno, but not what I would prog, it’s more sonic experimantation. Fripp played the great e-bow guitar on Bowie’s Heroes, which you guys probably know…Pink Floyd was never prog to me, their music is not complex at all…Mahavishnu and that period of Miles Davis ain’t prog either but jazz/rock fusion. Every once in a while I get in the mood for it. But I have to admit, the best part is when they break into the blues.

    The complexity here has cohesion and musical purpose:

  4. Was gonna be polite and keep my trap shut. Blame Gene.

    1) I’ll argue glam as the most RnR HOF under-represented. No T.Rex and New York Dolls? A travesty. And if it’s not American-success-only, throw Slade in there too.

    Maybe it’s poor man’s prog, but prog has Rush as well as Yes. (And we know Rush isn’t in there based on their excellent early days as a Zep ripoff band.)

    Glam has only Bowie and Bowie was 100 other things as well as glam.

    Knowing the way this works the next inductee they’ll count as glam will probably be Lady Gaga.

    2) Developing rock into “a higher art form?” Well la-di-da. Could anything be LESS rock and roll?

  5. Higher art form indeed. They didn’t get it, because they still don’t get it. To a lot of people, technical excellence is an end in itself. Whaddya gonna do?

    Yeah, Rush kept the prog popular tradition going. To a great extent Metal took over the precision market, adding the bonus of being badass. Beats the shit out of “I chase the wind of a prism ship.”

    • Good story, though somewhat confused about motives and skills. Most of the big prog groups had a few great catchy songs (that went on for a really long time). Sanneh notes this and says the problem was they had nowhere to go after that. The concept offered no place to progress. Parker claims the music is hookless, which isn’t right, but he does finish with an excellent line about the Ramones.

      I think Sanneh is proved more right by the pop success of many of the prog titans. The ones who were able to leave the concept behind found other successes.

  6. I will say this – while watching Gene’s Yes video, there was a youtube sidebar video of Geddy Lee playing “Roundabout” with Yes that interested me enough to watch it.

    Old man Rick Wakeman was still wearing his traditional cape. Some might consider that the ultimate pretention fuel for the anti-prog fire.

    For me, kudos to anyone who has the balls to wear a cape.

  7. Was a huge Moody Blues fan. They were my fave band from Days of Future Passed to Children’s Children’s…Saw them even with the Face and the Grease Band and they were great. Agree with Gene’s assessment.

    Never a huge Yes fan, and thought Wakeman’s solo shit was shit. Overblown but I too liked ELPs Pictures and Tarkus, too, and was late to the party to Rush, but like em a lot.

    As far as glam and the HOF, aside from the fact that the inclusion is bullshit (KISS, Deep Purple, blah blah blah), I thought the criteria “should” be the greatest and most influential bands, not genres? Not that Bolan wasn’t great or influential, but if inducted because of genre then the whole HOF thing becomes jokier.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.