Prog rock: the sound of history's future



I was only a child when prog rock was at its peak. I really got into it later, as disco was taking over the pop charts.

Only been in the last couple of years have I been hearing that “progressive rock” is a derogatory term. I think it’s mainly music bloggers who make the claim, since I’ve never heard it used that way in the wild. Anyway, my response is, “So, what do you listen to, and how is it better?” Musical taste is a personal thing, or at least it should be.

“Prog rock”, like “liberal,” is a derogatory term only in the eyes of its detractors.


Yeah, the average casual music listener tends to think of prog as pretentious and needlessly complex. I disagree, of course (if you couldn’t tell by my avatar). I just hate when people think a certain type of music is crap, solely because they don’t like it. I don’t really like gospel, rap, or electronic music, but I don’t think it’s crap. It’s just not interesting to me.


I like crazy jazz, early, tape-music era Stockhausen, minimalism, and 20th-century string quartets, but for the most part I don’t like prog (Pink Floyd I like; King Crimson minus most of their first album, etc.).

So it goes.


Maybe in your neck of the woods, prog rock was a derogatory term but in the 70s and 80s, all the big prog rock bands were very, very popular in Montreal and the rest of Québec and still are.


A few years ago, the BBC produced Prog Britannia, part of a series on popular music styles, which provides a good overview of the Genre


Actually, It’s Carl Palmer, not “Greg Palmer”


I’ve been a fan of ELP since the early 70s and loved all of their albums up to (but not including) “Love Beach”.

My wife can’t stand listening to ELP since there are “too many notes!”. :stuck_out_tongue:


There are many broad-brush generalizations about prog in this article, but the one this long-term lurker has bothered to log in to strongly dispute is this:

“Prog-rock’s roots, being in European music rather than American traditions like the blues”

If you are unable to parse the influence of Jazz muic, which is most decidedly an American tradition, in prog going back to its origins (arguably) in the late 60’s – then you are, I am afraid, not listening very closely. Of many examples I would point at least to King Crimson and Yes for this, particularly in many of the guitar solos.


it seems like prog is really trending lately! revivalist articles all over the place. at least, and I am genuinely thrilled about this, there is no mention of the flaming lips in this article. one starts to wonder if wayne coyne’s prog band is lighting the meme fire for prog lately?

I bought Wakeman’s Journey to the Center of the Earth at Goodwill recently for a laugh. I could barely make it to side two and I never laughed once. It was terrible! That said, I do like and listen to the first couple Yes albums. Crimson is hit or miss, but their misses are still sort of okay. Is Pink Floyd really “prog”? they seem soooo their own thing (at least until Dark Side). In the extremely rare sentimental mood, I might put Permanent Waves on, or even Caress of Steel… but that’s as close as I get to prog; Krautrock or jazz work better for me.


I’m a big Yes fan and love a lot of their solo work – Jon Anderon’s first few solo records are fantastic, as are Steve Howe’s, and Chris Squire’s “Fish Out of Water” is brilliant stuff – but I can’t take any of Rick Wakeman’s solo stuff seriously. His album about King Arthur is just about the goofiest keyboard stuff I’ve ever heard.

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that series is amazing. so well done. highly recommended!

i was a huuuuuge prog fan back in the early 80s, especially of Yes and King Crimson. i also loved ELP, but i was more a casual fan of them [side note: i don’t think you have to look really closely at Giger’s cover for Brain Salad Surgery to see the penis… it’s pretty damn obvious, haha]. Roger Dean’s art was one of the reasons i went into art and design in the first place, and i would be thrilled to this day to meet him. contrary to other people here, i even liked Rick Wakeman’s solo stuff – his “Six Wives of Henry VIII” is one of my favorites, but it’s true that “Journey to the Center of the Earth” is pretty overdone, even from a proggy standpoint. the term really did become derogatory after awhile, that’s for sure. it’s why prog went away for awhile. i’m happy to see it coming back a bit through bands like the Decemberists and Fleet Foxes.

it’s funny how whenever long discussions of the history of prog rock come up, nobody ever seems to mention early Genesis.


I can take or leave the music, but Roger Dean, yeah, that’s the ticket, man. If he did disco album covers, that would justify the entire musical movement (as never before).

Anyway, there’s another artist similar in some respects to Dean who did fantasy album covers, posters, etc. back in the 70s too, but I can’t remember his name, and searching for “artists like Roger Dean” doesn’t help much. Anyone have any idea who I’m talking about?


Perhaps you’re thinking of Mati Klarwein. Probably my most favorite album cover artists ever (and top fav artists).


I was relistening to many of these tracks a couple months ago, For dense stuff like ELP, you really have to be in a very specific mood for it since it demands quite a bit of attention. I guess that’s how classical music was meant to be approached since live performances were a pretty special event. But once you’re in that mood, the ELP album often suffers a jarring change of mood when they toss in some throwaway track. I kept thinking maybe they should have gone a little bit more in the direction of jazz, like Zappa. And Zappa was never too highbrow to toss in a track of stupid garage music just to change things up, except even those tracks usually had something extremely interesting going on musically. The problem for Yes was that most often it seemed like they simply refused to write memorable or coherent lyrics and instead apparently lifted them from a junior high school literary magazine.

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Thanks! I like Mati Klarwein’s work now that I’m looking at it, but that’s not who I was thinking of. Style seems rather different.

Yea, that was a stinker! Got it when I was in college in the cut-out bin for like a $1.00, regretted the purchase after listening to it the first time.

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Or really, really stoned!

Just sayin’.

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This brings back so many memories; please excuse me while I wax rhapsodic.

I majored in music at Brown University, and was the first student to show up there with a synthesizer of his own – a cranky, monophonic ARP 2600. It was the fall of 1973, and two albums that were released shortly afterwards – ELP’s Brain Salad Surgery and Yes’s Tales From Topographic Oceans had an enormous impact on me.

Over 40 years later, I’m still learning from those two albums; Steve Howe’s acoustic work on side 3 of TFTO inspired me to pick up guitar myself. I started listening to Todd Rundgren in 1974, and I quickly became a huge fan, and have eagerly awaited each new album ever since. Todd hasn’t slowed down one bit, and has continued to release pioneering work on a regular basis.

If you’ll forgive me for a bit of self-promotion, more recently I’ve been playing an amazing new instrument called the Seaboard GRAND. Its pressure-sensitive surface allows you to add vibrato or bend notes the same way a guitarist or violinist can – directly with the fingers, right on the playing surface. It’s incredibly fun – and challenging! – to play.

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