Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Prog rock Britannia

First came the blues, then along came rock and roll, and then soul arrived, and then - in Britain at least - it all went wrong: progressive rock arrived. Instead of an exciting two minute single, we were inflicted with pretentious ten minute tracks on LPs which bored the pants off us. BBC4's Prog Rock Britannia didn't pull its punches and made it clear that this peculiarly British phenomenon was something of an aberration, with groups such as Yes, King Crimson, Genesis, Egg, Pink Floyd and ELP doing their best to show that a little bit of musical ability could go an awful long way if the audience was prepared to believe in it.
I'll be honest - I hated this music. Prog rock's first hit A Lighter Shade of Pale was, I admit, quite a decent record. And I could just about tolerate the Crazy World of Arthur Brown and even Jimi Hendrix up to a point. But it was all downhill from then on. Pop music sunk into a morass of self congratulatory pomposity and pretentiousness. I just turned off at this point.
I don't think I ever went to a prog rock gig and probably my closest encounter to this over indulgent exercise was in 1972. I was living in Wigan, which is close to Bickershaw, where possibly the wettest ever pop festival took place (see line up). The acts, in this mass of mud, were actually quite impressive in retrospect, but there was little there that appealed to me and I made only a fleeting visit.
Today certain prog rock records fetch high prices and I make a point of buying them at boot sales so that I can sell them on eBay. But I certainly wouldn't want them in my collection.


At 9:10 am , Blogger Private Beach said...

They're not all bad - there are some that can hold your attention, like Supper's Ready by Genesis. But surely many of them were made to listen to when stoned - if you're not, they can get tedious. Others were just showing off, like all of ELP's output (I preferred Keith Emerson's work with the Nice, who knew when to stop).

Nothing wrong with long tracks if they're good - Dylan, Roy Harper, Beethoven...


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