PROG ROCK 101
How to recognise progressive rock?
- The band’s first four albums are all about a blind albino who takes over the world
- There are three drummers in the band
- Each track is over 50 minutes long with a 10 minutes mellatron solo
- You have to listen to it 12 times before you finally ‘get it’.
Progressive rock is a much parodied but important genre in the history of rock, one that emerged from the psychadelia of the 60’s and became enormously popular in the 1970’s. Prog rock is essentially a mix of classical music and rock, characterised by virtuoso solos, frequent changes in time signatures, concept albums, and less reliance on the guitar than in hard rock.
The first prog rock bands were lesser known British artists like Soft Machine (1966), Gong (1967), The Nice (1967) and Caravan (1968). By the 1970’s, however, prog was a major force, fronted by the Big Six; Emerson Lake and Palmer, Pink Floyd, Genesis, King Crimson, Yes and Jethro Tull.
In the late 70’s prog rock came under attack by punk and disco, both serving as an alternative to the seriousness of this genre. Prog did not die, however, but became commercialised at this time. Bands like ELO, Supertramp, Styx, Marillion and Kansas all demonstrated that prog could retain it’s appeal by getting rid of it’s perceived excesses.
The 1990’s saw a renaissance of prog, that has remained to this day. Bands like the Flower Kings, Porcupine Tree, Spock’s Beard, Mars Volta and Coheed and Cambria have retained the principles of the original first wave of prog. A new genre, prog metal, has also emerged since the 1990’s. Dream Theatre, Opeth, Queensryche et al. quote both Rush and Black Sabbath as influences and are helping prog reach a new audience in the Metal Nation that is the United States.
Some significant albums in prog history
In the Court of the Crimson King: King Crimson
Close to the Edge: Yes
Selling England By the Pound: Genesis
Brain Salad Surgery: Emerson, Lake and Palmer
Dark Side of the Moon: Pink Floyd
The Power and the Glory: Gentle Giant