June 12, 2017

"This music, so self-consciously English, sounded different in America, where its rather nerdy creators were greeted as exotic rock stars."

"That summer [1971], Yes played its first U.S. concert, at an arena in Seattle. A fan who approached Jon Anderson before the show remembered that Anderson was nervous. 'I don’t know what is going to happen,' the singer told him. 'I’ve never been in a place like this.' When Anderson sang, 'I’ll be the roundabout,' most American listeners surely had no idea that he was referring to the kind of intersection known less euphoniously, in the U.S., as a traffic circle... Why, then, did this music seduce so many Americans? In 1997, a musician and scholar named Edward Macan published 'Rocking the Classics,' in which he offered a provocative explanation. Noting that this artsy music seemed to attract 'a greater proportion of blue-collar listeners' in the U.S. than it had in Britain, he proposed that the genre’s Britishness 'provided a kind of surrogate ethnic identity to its young white audience': white music for white people, at a time of growing white anxiety. Bill Martin, the quasi-Marxist, found Macan’s argument 'troubling.' In his view, the kids in the bleachers were revolutionaries, drawn to the music because its sensibility, based on 'radical spiritual traditions,' offered an alternative to 'Western politics, economics, religion, and culture.'"

From "THE PERSISTENCE OF PROG ROCK/Critics think that the genre was an embarrassing dead end. So why do fans and musicians still love it?" by Kelefa Sanneh in The New Yorker.

I've never liked prog rock, but I've never thought about it in relation to white anxiety. The author of the New Yorker article appears not to be white (and used to edit a journal of race and culture). He's bouncing off a new book, "The Show That Never Ends/The Rise and Fall of Prog Rock," which is by David Weigel, who appears to be white. Based on my fiddling with the "look inside" function at Amazon, I don't think Weigel gets into the whiteness of prog rock or even says anything about race at all, but obviously others have.

130 comments:

Achilles said...

Attaching themselves to something that seems un-trendy and counterculture in order to signal their individuality and moral superiority and maintain status in the group seems to be the progressive/hipster core motivation.

Gahrie said...

I used to listen to Yes in high school, and to be honest I never thought of it as either progressive or White. I just considered them to be the British version of ELO.

Annie C said...

I don't know about the whiteness of it. I just always thought it was fantastic sounds for the stoned. I loved them. Pink Floyd too.

Tom said...

I was born off in 1975 and grew up with Classic Rock. Prog Rock was all over the Rock station I grew up with. Everything from Pink Floyd to Jethro Tull to Yes to Rush to Edger Winter - even The Who's Rock Operas. For me, the complexity and execution was appealing. I like a lot of other types of music. The simplicity and energy of punk. The jam bands like the Grateful Dead. The lyricists of Simon and Garfunkle or Bobbie Dylan. A little jazz and some cool standards. The bounce of Hip Hop and the angst of Grunge. Prog Rock wasn't better or worse than these other genres. But it is unique.

Michael Fitzgerald said...

Where do they call it a traffic circle? Where I'm from they call it a rotary.

AReasonableMan said...

I never thought of Pink Floyd as prog rock, which tends to be more technique focused. I like Starless.

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

Gahrie said...
I used to listen to Yes in high school, and to be honest I never thought of it as either progressive or White. I just considered them to be the British version of ELO.

There you go, YES as a "British" version of an already British band! The ultimate in Whiteness!

Limited blogger said...

and the album cover artwork by Roger Dean was really trippy

Yancey Ward said...

I don't understand why it is a mystery of why Yes might find a blue-collar audience- how can anyone listen to a song like "Owner of a Lonely Heart" or "Roundabout" and not get it?

CWJ said...

Oh, hell. It's just tunes I liked in college. But Annie C has the right of it. They sounded great stoned. Prog rock? Not everything needs a label or a critique. My only surprise was that Yes had not toured the US prior to 1971.

Bill Peschel said...

I remember my first encounter with Yes. I had visited a friend's house after school, and his bedroom had a beanbag chair and black light posters and he played the album for me.

I don't remember any feeling of white superiority, just a style of music I had never heard before (I had similar feelings hearing "Sultans of Swing" and some of XTC's music), and imagery of fantastic worlds opening before me. This was without drugs, too.

Roger Dean's cover art helped, too.

I suppose this was about the same time that the black kids in the high school's theatrical department made me an honorary [racial slur when uttered by whites] over my fondness for Parliament / Funkadelic. Sadly, I have long since lost the membership card.

madAsHell said...

When you can see race in everything, then maybe you're the racist.


I think progressive rock was an FM radio phenomenon. Progressive rock offered a new format, and abandoned the 3 minute song that was prevalent on AM radio.

The early 70's was the advent of stereo FM radio. In the beginning, FM stations had very few advertisers, and a longer format recording helped fill the gap between the scarce commercials. By the end of the 70's decade, the difference between AM, and FM radio had vanished.

rhhardin said...

Viewing it on youtube, the right hand margin offers me Nisi Dominus - Cum Dederit, which as an audio track in Spectre 007 was described in closed captions for the deaf and hard of hearing as "women singing opera."

CWJ said...

Sorry. One other thing Mr Sanneh and critics. British roundabouts are also carousels and the playground spinny thing that children love. The lyrics such as they are work with all three interpretations.

samsondale said...

ARM - Starless is great. I never cared for the live versions with the fiddler playing the theme that Fripp plays on the studio version. I saw them do it a couple of years ago with the three drummer line up and the theme was back where it belonged - on guitar.

This lower middle class '70s era teen loved Yes because their music had different sounds and was more challenging than most other rock of that era. And they all could really play and sing. It wasn't just 4/4 and three chords. Their live shows were visually fun as well. I also loved Sabbath, who was more progressive than one might think.

Unknown said...

I'll bet pretty much every fan considered the lyrics to be nonsense and didn't care. There's no deep significance i the lyrics are nonsense, or if they're perceived to be nonsense.

Joan said...

madAsHell, for sure that was a part of it. I was born quite a few years before Tom, and my older brothers and sisters listened mostly to 'regular' rock -- it was my friends and boyfriends who introduced me to prog. Prog is musically interesting whereas all pop songs (and most rock songs) just keep serving up I-IV-V over and over. Thematically, prog was always about something more than your own personal pathetic romance or lack thereof. Plus, it had a sense of humor... entire albums were written just spoof the genre. I still love it, for a lot of reasons. It's good listening.

Jim Nicholson said...

I grew up in the 70s. My black neighbor played Yessongs for me one day, and I was hooked. I went back to my Hispanic guitar teacher and had him teach me how to play "Mood for a Day."

"Whiteness," indeed.

Idiots.

Virtually Unknown said...

The only lyric I remember from that song is "roundabout" and something about a lake. I didn't care, I liked the synthesizers.

I had an album called Tarkus that I listened to a lot and only remember the cover art, not even who made it. Not a good vector for political ideology.

St. George said...

What did Bob Dylan just say in his Nobel lecture?

"If a song moves you, that's all that's important."

Maybe people just liked this music, and that is all there is to it.

Pseudo-classical with a hard-driving tempo

Earnest Prole said...

Its album-cover art was more interesting than the music itself.

Darrell said...

Play some funky music, white boy.

Will Cate said...

Big Yes fan and prog rock in general (King Crimson, Jethro Tull, et al.). But it had nothing to do with white angst. It had much to do with young-teen anxieties growing up in a redneck southern town. It was a way of setting myself apart from the cretins.

Mike said...

Most of my friends who liked prof rock were classically trained musicians and appreciated the artistry of it all. Although I really enjoyed Genesis and Floyd I never gave a second's thought to any whiteness at all. I think the race obsessed author fails to understand that white people buy all the music. Rap would never have sustained without white kids buying it.

mezzrow said...

It's about what other musicians want to hear, including the ones in the band. Chops are required, and almost all these guys had 'em.

We don't want to dance, and we're not listening to the words, actually. Keep us interested.

I'm going to listen to some King Crimson now. Thanks.

Bob Loblaw said...

I guess there's a big difference between the fan and the Fan. I never really ascribed deep meaning to liking this or that particular song or group. I liked Yes in the '90s, but I never thought "Finally! A counterculture for white people." It was more like "Nice music."

The only Music that had any cultural resonance for me was grunge. By then I was just so sick of Rap I was ready for something, anything to displace it.

Darleen said...

I was in high school in 71 and Yes was another Brit band with a unique sound. I was more of a CCR, Doors, Santana fan, but appreciated the sound.

What the heck does "white" have anything to do with it, anxious or not?

Sheesh, sometimes music is just music.

Paul Zrimsek said...

The attitude of the critics was basically "Leave the pretentiousness to us."

Bill, Republic of Texas said...

All you lying racist acting like you don't remember the whiteness if prog rock.

Remember all the skinheads and neo-nazis at the concerts. How many white power riots started right after a Yes concert. I can still remember the fear and anxiety the black community suffered for weeks before an ELO concert. Remember Jethro Tull biting the head off a young black child. Or the lynching a black man because he went to the concert with a white woman.

Your white privilege in forgetting how this country is literally worse than Hitler is showing.

eddie willers said...

"If a song moves you, that's all that's important."

Yeah....anything more than that and you're just angling for a grade in some 101 course.

My first memory of Yes was driving high in the hills on the way to my girlfriend's family for Thanksgiving in Oak Ridge Tennessee. I heard "Move me on to any black square / Use me any time you like"....something something..."White Queen" and I thought, "Cool...chess....and with a great bass line!"

If you remember where you were when you first heard a song...it's a good one.

JLScott said...

Yeah, those Americans are so dumb. There's no way they'll know what a roundabout is.

Bill, Republic of Texas said...

The attitude of the critics was basically "Leave the pretentiousness to us."

The critics had to out pretentious the prog rock bands. That could not have been easy.

Will Brown said...

Yes was a group of talented people who made great music, and to steal from Shaw, "those who can, make music, those who can't criticize".

Left Bank of the Charles said...

I remember being tortured in the mid 1989s by too many playings of Owner of a Lonely Heart. I posit that the prog rock fans became Trump voters.

Rene Saunce said...

I'll take Yes over some talent-less American boy band.

Rene Saunce said...

Bill @ 5:51 -

Yes.

George Grady said...

Michael Fitzgerald said...

Where do they call it a traffic circle? Where I'm from they call it a rotary.

It's pretty much only called a rotary in New England.

Rene Saunce said...

More modern racist leftists mining the past for grievances.

Rene Saunce said...

Mountains come out of the sky... and they stand there.

It's all true, you racists.

LakeLevel said...

madAsHell: "When you can see race in everything, then maybe you're the racist."

yes, prog rockers committed the unforgivable sin of letting their rock and roll wander too far from its African roots. they must be shunned.

virgil xenophon said...

madAsHell@4:59 nails it...

Lucien said...

@Virtually Unknown

Tarkus was Emerson, Lake & Palmer.(tracked Armadillo with cannons)

Elizabeth Crain said...

"Penny Lane" mentioned a roundabout and we Beatles fans knew what it was. That was 1966.

My husband loved "Tarkus," wore out the grooves. :-)

JLScott said...

I wonder what the author makes of The Friends of Mr Cairo.

robother said...

White people: either they're appropriating Black and Latin music or they're doing their White Power thing.

Night Owl said...

"I don't think Weigel gets into the whiteness of prog rock or even says anything about race at all, but obviously others have."

Race-mongers will find racism in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

I mentiond this idea of prog rock and race to my Gen-X husband and he summed it up thusly, (I'm paraphrasing): If you're white and like the Rolling Stones, you're guilty of cultural appropriation. If you're white and you like Yes you're a white supremicist. *

As to why do people still love prog rock? Here's a clue: ever heard of nostalgia? People born in the 60s and 70s grew up listening to this music on FM radio, as DBQ pointed out. Hearing it reminds people of their youth. There's nothing more complicated about it than that. As for the lyrics- as a kid I just enjoyed the songs played on FM because they were catchy and you could-- sorta-- sing along, by employing creative and amusing mondegreens.

The generation that came of age in the 60s were all about revolution and changing the world, and their music reflected that. Their younger siblings weren't called slackers for nothing. Music wasn't about a revolution, it was just good tunes and good times and, for some, a good high.

*I see robother and my husband think alike!

Crimso said...

"I'll bet pretty much every fan considered the lyrics to be nonsense and didn't care. There's no deep significance i the lyrics are nonsense, or if they're perceived to be nonsense."

Anderson once said that their lyrics weren't always supposed to "make sense," but rather were (in some cases) words chosen for the sounds. IOW, using the voice as an instrument.

I once heard him doing some sort of radio show where music stars played an hour or so of whatever they wanted. It was then I heard him say that Stevie Wonder was his "all-time favorite recording artist." Although he actually said "favourite."

Crimso said...

"There's no way they'll know what a roundabout is"

"We all know what the name is..."

tds said...

I've heard 'Roundabout' for the first time in a recent Anime series. Probably a good example of an appropriation of white culture by the Japanese

Fernandinande said...

Prog rock is a genre of the popular art of arranging sounds in time so as to produce a continuous, unified, and evocative composition, through melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre, which originated as "rock and roll" in the United States in the early 1950s, and developed into a range of different styles popular especially in the 1970s and characterized by classical influences, the use of keyboard instruments, and lengthy compositions. The End.

Fernandinande said...

If you haven't listened to Thick as a Brick lately, please do so.

Bill said...

You like what you like, and self-consciousness ruins it. I'm a Person of Pallor and still love Curtis Mayfield's work from the Seventies ("Fred Is Dead", etc.) and can't explain why.

Crimso said...

I realized that one thing I absolutely loved about it was the Mellotron. When Fripp disavowed music referred to as "prog rock" was I think when he quit using them. Of course, everyone who ever played one had a love-hate relationship with them, more so if using it live. Not all of them were into it. Can't recall if Gentle Giant ever resorted to it. If not, then that was the only musical instrument in human history they didn't use in the course of a live show. Sadly, never got to see them.

Will Cate said...

Fernandinande:

Among my useless talents: I can air-drum all 45 minutes of Thick As A Brick.

Night Owl said...

Correction to my comment above: It was madAsHell at 4:59 talking about FM radio, not DBQ. Sorry about that.

eddie willers said...

"Penny Lane" mentioned a roundabout and we Beatles fans knew what it was. That was 1966.

I didn't know what it was...but I knew where it was.

It was where the 'reddieness' was selling poppies from a tray. Had no clue what a 'reddieness' was until I read a biography of Paul McCartney and found out he was singing about his mother...the 'pretty nurse'.

eddie willers said...

I just enjoyed the songs played on FM because....

No static at ALL!

Earnest Prole said...

It didn't mean a thing cause it didn't have that swing.

ALP said...

I think this white anxiety is the kissing cousin to female anxiety. No matter how stable or affluent one's life is, you can always make room for anxiety.

jerpod said...

When I was in high school, I LOVED Jethro Tull. The worm turned for me with the punks/new wave/etc in 1977+. But I did, seriously, love Jethro Tull back then. And I never once considered them as prog rockers. Yes (who I liked in that period), yep, prog rockers. ELP, yeah and they sucked, always and every time. Gentle Giant and that bunch....yes. Hated em.

Anyway, the big news here for me is that Jethro Tull is considered by many to be prog rockers. I did not know...

Crimso said...

Yeah, Jethro Tull is thought by some (not me) to be heavy metal...

jerpod said...

@Crimso -- I just thought of JT in that era as another rock and roll band. A little artier maybe, But definitely peers with The Rolling Stones, let's say. Of course I was all if 15 years old, so who's to say?

Curious George said...

A friend of mine took another friend of mine to a Jethro Tull concert. The latter assumed it was a country band. He was very, very, disappointed.

MaxedOutMama said...

Most attempts to make popular music political are doomed to failure. I suspect this falls into that rather large class. The sound's the thing. For the rather large group of aging boomers, they like this music because they liked it in their formative years.

JLScott said...

eddie willers, that's someone else's favorite song.

Crimso said...

The flute on most songs was not terribly common in what would be called a mainstream rock band. As to the David Cross negativity upthread, I thought the Cross/Fripp/Wetton/Bruford King Crimson was absolutely brilliant. A violin? In a band playing some pretty hardcore rock? It worked beautifully. I've heard some critics refer to that lineup as a "proto-metal" band. I tend to agree. Remember, KC (more the Belew/Fripp/Levin/Bruford version) is cited as a major influence by...Tool. And I hear it.

Crimso said...

JLScott, ISWYDT.

Crimso said...

Sorry, commenting too much. Got the "pick all the squares containing a sign" Turing test. It's like Steve Martin: "Damn your drunk tests are hard."

Night Owl said...

eddie willers said:

"It was where the 'reddieness' was selling poppies from a tray. Had no clue what a 'reddieness' was until I read a biography of Paul McCartney and found out he was singing about his mother...the 'pretty nurse'. "

There are websites dedicated to mondegreens, which are quite amusing. It goes to show that for many people the lyrics didn't really matter when it came to enjoying the music. As maxedoutmamma said, "The sound's the thing."

It was "the sound" that was the attraction. The lyrics were just whatever we thought we heard in the sound, and we would make up our own interpretations, if we cared to. It was an era of lots of synthesizers and electronic sounds that dominated the lyrics.

It seems as though the 70s weren't like the 60s where listeners paid attention to wordsmiths like Bob Dylan. He was rarely played on FM radio in NYC in the 70s, when I was a kid. Working-class kids didn't buy albums or even 45s much because we couldn't afford them. So we grew up on FM radio, and thus I have no connection to someone like Dylan. But Motown and R&B were played big time on FM radio in the 70s, so I have fondness and nostalgia for that sound as well as prog rock and so-called classic rock.

jerpod said...

@MaxedOutMama -- Yes. This isn't complicated. And anyone who sees a racial angle is looking too hard and projecting. Things become popular, things fade, and some lucky things enjoy a second round of popularity. I liked the Supremes when I was a kid. I like them even more now. Why? Because as I got older, I realized how great the songs and performances were.

BDNYC said...

Anything that is true of downscale whites is also proof of their racism.

samsondale said...

Crimso: I hope it wasn't my comment about not liking the Starless theme being played by the violin in live versions by the Red-era band that you were referring to when you mentioned David Cross negativity. I like what he brought to that great formulation of the mighty crim. It is just that the tone and sustain Fripp got on his Lester on that track is one of my favorite all time guitar sounds.

Mary Beth said...

I think my favorite Yes song is "I've Seen all Good People".

One attraction of these kinds of bands is that they were playing songs that were unlike what was on AM radio. (This was the same time, at least where I live, when young people stopped listening to AM and started listening to FM. Before that AM had been for popular music and FM for classical.) The FM DJs would play whole albums. Even if they only played one song, a lot of the songs were 5 minutes or more so the DJs had time for a bathroom break or a smoke. That's got to be a plus when you're figuring out your programming.

Scott said...

I first heard Roundabout while I was in high school. It's romantic and episodic and hard driving, like a number of Yes hits.

And Chris Squire, the bass player for Yes, was the best rock bass player, ever. EVER. Nobody was or is better than he was. Do you know of anyone who has the technical competence (or even the ENDURANCE) to play Roundabout? RIP Chris, you were the greatest!

Alex said...

King Crimson was the best of them, but lost in the shuffle of 70s prog is the 1980s Crimson which sort of married a New Wave sound to prog chops. Adrian Belew was something else back then. 'Discipline' and 'Beat' are great albums and 'Three of a Perfect Pair" has a couple of standouts as well.

Alex said...

Also 'Owner of a Lonely Heart' came out in 1985 right? Has nothing to do with early 70s prog rock.

Just a tip for those who are interested in truly modern prog music - KScope is a fantastic label.

Robert Cook said...

"I used to listen to Yes in high school, and to be honest I never thought of it as either progressive or White. I just considered them to be the British version of ELO."

As another commenter noted, ELO were British...in fact as British as British can be. I will note here that YES preceded ELO as an existing band. (ELO did, however, evolve from a prior band that had been around since the mid-60s, THE MOVE.)

I was not a prog-rock fan, as such, but the very first concert I attended was YES on their CLOSE TO THE EDGE TOUR. The Eagles were their opening band(!). I thought YES were great! Four years later I saw them on their TALES FROM TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS tour, and I thought they were dire. Maybe it was just an off night for them. Maybe that album sucked. Maybe Patrick Moraz was a poor replacement for Rick Wakeman. Maybe all three.

By then, though, I was more interested in the coming new thing, the bands coming out of the underground NYC scene at CBGB, and the "punk" movement they inspired nationwide and in the UK.

Robert Cook said...

"...Chris Squire, the bass player for Yes, was the best rock bass player, ever. EVER. Nobody was or is better than he was. Do you know of anyone who has the technical competence (or even the ENDURANCE) to play Roundabout? RIP Chris, you were the greatest!"

John Entwistle.

Squire was great, though.

Henry said...

"white music for white people"

Compared to what? The Beach Boys?

CWJ said...

"This music, so self-consciously English, sounded different in America, where its rather nerdy creators were greeted as exotic rock stars."

How is this NOT an equal description of The Kinks.

CWJ said...

Robert,

I was thinking the exact same thing. Also, RIP.

Biff said...

Interesting. Prog rock much more often is mocked and criticized for its fans nerdiness or maleness than for their ethnic makeup. Sure, the prog rock audience also tends to be overwhelmingly white, but that's true of almost every rock genre. The gender balance of prog rock's fan base is far more unusual than its ethnic balance.

PS. I listened to Renaissance's "Ashes are Burning" album just last week. Good stuff.

jerpod said...

@Robert Cook - My first thought was, the commenter meant ELP. But that makes just as little sense.

I was with you. After just a couple of years of prog rock popularity, I was reDy and waiting for a band like the Ramones or the Sex Pistols.

Henry said...

@CWJ -- My thought also. Elvis Costello. The Clash. The Ramones. The punks hated prog rock and wanted to destroy it. It was antithetical to white working class rage.

Feste said...

Brain Police everywhere, looking for the white connection, “what will you do when the label comes off? .. if the people you knew were the plastic that melted? And the chromium too?"

Henry said...

Shouldn't prog rock be the most woke rock because it appropriated the least amount of blues?

Michael Fitzgerald said...

George Grady said...
Michael Fitzgerald said...

Where do they call it a traffic circle? Where I'm from they call it a rotary.

It's pretty much only called a rotary in New England.

6/12/17, 6:09 PM

Thanks, George. That was a cool link. We used to call water fountains "bubblers" too!

Crimso said...

samsondale: yes it was, but I was teasing a bit. Not about my love for that lineup, though. Some of Cross' playing sounded a lot like a guitar. And I like how he and Fripp each had a Mellotron and they'd switch off, sometimes in mid-song. Red always seemed to have a mournful quality for me, and Starless was the centerpiece of that mournfulness. And then Collins' sax blows it wide open before they pull it back together again to end with some flair (and, appropriately, prominent Mellotron). When the sound fades, you feel like you just witnessed a band die. Which, you did.

At least that's how it hits me. And the recent KC has been excellent. Haven't seen them, but have some of the live releases. Definitely worth seeing if they come nearby (I think Chicago was the closest they came to us. I live about 40 mi. north of Huntsville AL, and thought about it).

Mike said...

Joan said...
Prog is musically interesting whereas all pop songs (and most rock songs) just keep serving up I-IV-V over and over.

Left Bank of the Charles said...
I remember being tortured in the mid 1989s by too many playings of Owner of a Lonely Heart


Pretty sure that's a classic I IV V to start that song too!

Todd Roberson said...

Mike -

Actually Owner of a Lonely Heart is based on a l - flat lll - IV riff. Similar to Sgt Peppers Lonely Heart Club Band. In the key of A that's A - C - D. Just power chords ... No third.

Todd Roberson said...

Also the basic chordal structure of "Deuce" by KISS.

Robin Eatmon said...

In the early seventies I went to a Pointer Sisters concert in a smallish venue in Indianapolis. The opening act was Yes. I had no idea who they were and had not heard their music before that day. They were incredible musicians. Everyone there was blown away by how good they were. I think their sound has aged well.

chickelit said...

Robert Cook said...Squire was great, though.

Squire seemed like a decent sort of chap, too, though highly "white." He related an entertaining story of being the (unintended) opening act for Jimi Hendrix's British debut, here. His professional dig at Noel Redding is priceless.

Valentine Smith said...

Hey, when you're charcoal complected everything is black and white.

Todd Roberson said...

Two bands that were actually quite deep into prog rock early in their careers ... But later became generic yacht rock: Journey and Ambrosia. Check out "Somewhere I've Never Traveled" by Ambrosia or "Kahoutek" by Journey.

veni vidi vici said...

God, what tedious asininity. Yes and prog rock from the 70's is now all about race and whiteness? Who are these fucking moron writers, and who are the jackasses who pay them for this utter twaddle? It's pathetic.

madAsHell said...

@chickelit
Thanks for linking the Chris Squire video.

Known Unknown said...

Prog rock ain't for me. I like some songs here and there, but it feels like they're using too many notes all. the. time.

Mary Beth said...

Known Unknown said...

Prog rock ain't for me. I like some songs here and there, but it feels like they're using too many notes all. the. time.

6/12/17, 9:41 PM


Who are you, Emperor Joseph II, or something?

Scott M said...

Oh FFS! And I suppose Rush and Tool are also propping up fragile whites everywhere...for the last couple decades?

FFS!!!!

For what it's worth, I've have always been a huge prog rock fan and I became so (especially in the cases of Rush and Yes) because the music was extraordinary, the lyrics were smart, and the live shows were unbelievable. They were some of the finest musicians of their time and their complete dedication to their craft showed.

Alex said...

Why nobody talks about 1980s trash metal as being something mostly white working class males liked? All the bands were 100% white and so were the audiences.

Alex said...

Sorry I mean THRASH metal.

Phil 3:14 said...

I loved and still love prog rock. Does it help if I say I loved Stevie Wonder in the '70s along with Earth, Wind and Fire and Sly and the Family Stone. I found them all musically full and intricate.

PS Never could stand the Grateful Dead. they bore me.

Clyde said...

100+ comments and no mention of Kansas?!

Alex said...

Kansas was literally the only American prog band in the 1970s. I remember listening to their debut album a bit 15 years ago or so, it was noodle-y sounding.

Robert Kramer said...

Kansas. Wonderful syncopation, the beauty of a violin, two distinct voices.

Lightning's Hand on Point of Know Return is my personal favorite. Have never heard it on the radio. Mysteries and Mayhem on Masque.

It was easy to put up with Kerry Livgren's christianity, they were so good.

Mountain Maven said...

No one more full of it than a rock music critic.

JIG K said...

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Mark Nielsen said...


The race angle was at least one of the explanations that was offered for keeping Yes out of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame until just this year -- sadly too late for Chris Squire to enjoy the recognition. Sad.

I'm really glad I got to see Yes perform live -- though I didn't see them until 2000 -- but they were still good and still making good music. The most striking thing was the end of the concert. Most bands choose a real rocker for the final number. Yes chose their semi-religious opus "Awaken", which ends with an ethereal pianissimo section. As the final chord faded, they put down their instruments, bowed, and walked off stage -- amazing. (To be fair, they came back for more upbeat encores -- but it was the most "classical" ending you'll ever see to a rock concert.)

Mark Nielsen said...

By the way, prog still thrives in parts of the world. It's apparently big in Scandinavia and Japan. And there are some really good bands putting out stuff now. I'd recommend anyone interested check out Big Big Train, a current British prog band. Their "Underfall Yard" has to be one of the best prog recordings ever made. The title cut has an extended instrumental section in a fast 11/8 time -- and I've seen them perform it live and somehow all stay together. Amazing musicians.

The Wasp said...

Grew up on the stuff and love it as much as the ska and hardcore I listened to in high school. This summer my wife and I are seeing both the Steve Howe and Jon Anderson versions of Yes, Robert Fripp with his current version of King Crimson, and Carl Palmer - twice!

Pat said...

Yes, the whiteness is irrelevant. The same kids who liked prog rock (mostly) also flocked to Mahavishnu Orchestra, Weather Report and Return to Forever, bands that were very diverse in their lineups. The thing that was consistent was the musical virtuosity. Nobody turned away from Stanley Clarke or Lenny White or Billy Cobham or Alphonso Johnson because they were black; the fact that they were among the greatest in the world on their respective instruments was what mattered.

I am glad to hear that Ann never cared for Prog Rock.

Virtually Unknown said...

I liked Yes, I also liked Billy Preston and don't get me started on Thelonius Monk. I once heard a critic on NPR say of Monk's early career "I cahnt underrstaand why he is wasting his time on Boogay Wuhgay..."

If fans and musicians like it, they are just x number of morons, because it is inconceivable that the critics are wrong!

Virtually Unknown said...

I am glad to hear that Ann never cared for Prog Rock.

Sort of validates it, doesn't it?

Virtually Unknown said...

Does it help if I say I loved Stevie Wonder in the '70s

"Some of my favorite musicians are black!" It's no defense buddy. Don't you know that people who listened to Prog Rock, first time I have heard the term, BTW, listened to it exclusively and nothing else, despite the fact that not that many vinyl albums were produced in that era, certainly not enough to fill a collection exclusively, facts don't matter! We all set Spotify and Pandora to Prog Rock and listened to nothing else with. our 1200 baud modems!

Stevie was another great one for keyboard fans. Even Ray Charles, in a way, but that might have just been his overwhelming coolness pouring over onto his piano.

Mr. D said...

I listened to prog rock, but it was never my first choice. Growing up in the Fox River Valley in the late 70s and early 80s, it was more about flannel shirts and Lynyrd Skynyrd, with some Foghat as a chaser. I was also right in the middle of the key KISS demographic when they came around. The Skynyrd still stands up, but I don't have much time for the rest these days.

samsondale said...

Crimso- I saw the 3-drum lineup a couple of years ago and it was excellent, not least because they broke out non-Belew material (including Starless). If you have a chance, go.

sparrow said...

I prefer blues and heavy metal over Yes but I liked Yes. Roundabout is beautifully fluid, back when music was transporting. It has nothing whatever to do with race or politics even if it's labeled progressive. It's not as if the audience understands the lyrics of many songs, or cares to decode them. Rather it's the music, back before voice become the only focus. Loved ELP too.

urbane legend said...

Paul Zrimsek said...
The attitude of the critics was basically "Leave the pretentiousness to us."

Pretentiousness is the first requirement for a critic of anything, not just music.

jerpod said...
Anyway, the big news here for me is that Jethro Tull is considered by many to be prog rockers. I did not know...

I didn't think JT was a progressive rock band, either, just a great rock band with a flute in addition to the normal instrument list. Well, that and a brilliant song writer.

Never cared for prog rock. Way too complicated.

Char Char Binks said...

Cultural identity may very well be a reason white Americans listen(ed) to Yes and other bands of that type. Sure, they're British, but many white Americans are of British descent, and even those who aren't of of European descent, and speak English. It is, or was, a way to connect to a tradition while partaking in a then-current pop music trend. It may have been particularly true of prog rock, because so many were English, but it was true of other rock and pop styles, from the Beatles to metal and hard rock to punk to Duran Duran style pop, and may still be for all I know.

Affinity counts for a lot in pop music, in rancheros and cumbia, rap, etc., and it's nothing necessarily sinister. This may account for Country music at least partly replacing rock for many younger Americans, even though it's Southernism and coutry-boy-isms, laid on thick, are no more authentic to many Americans than Britishness.

Michael Gazonymous said...

I had an out of body experience once listening to "And You and I". I don't remember what color I was.

Roger Sweeny said...

Like Ann, I never cared for Prog Rock. But I live in shorts during the summer.

Virtually Unknown said...

I saw an old guy wearing shorts yesterday. It was like getting an accidental peek into a loaded casket.

Meade said...

If you're listening to and enjoying The Beatles' “A Day in the Life,” you're liking prog rock.

antiphone said...

Alan White on the drums White was a session player as well as one of Yes' drummers. He played on the recording of Instant Karma by John Lennon.

Anthony said...

Some critic once called Rush 'Tragically Unhip'.

David Lee Roth once said 'Critics like Elvis Costello because he looks like they do.'

Critics are mostly dumb faux intellectuals.

Love prog rock and we never really called it that. It was complicated music that still rocked. Was borne of the head rather than the crotch.

Kansas, Rush, Yes, Tull, Floyd......even Styx. Loved em all.

James Lileks said...

I realized that one thing I absolutely loved about it was the Mellotron.

Me too. Genesis used it best, I think.

What set Prog apart from most rock of the era was the proficiency of the musicians - and great interludes of quiet beauty when they weren't afraid to not rock. And it wasn't all English blokes; the Dutch had Focus, the Italians PFM, and so on.

EMyrt said...

Bah, Proggies, in the 1970s I was busy memorizing Wagner's Ring of the Nibelungs. There, that white supremacist enough for you?

Lawrence Person said...

Theatricality, complexity and virtuosity were three of the cardinal virtues of progressive rock. It was hated by advocates of disco and, later, punk rock, and thus was never a critic's darling.

I suppose that critics who accuse it of "whiteness" failed to notice all the Afrobeat elements and musicians Peter Gabriel was making use of in the early 1980s, or that Genesis acquired a black touring drummer (Chester Thompson) in 1977.

Lawrence Person said...

For a comparative genre, see Shoegaze. Though a very different sensibility, it started out as a very white, very British style of music that came to be deeply maligned by critics. But it spoke to people, and now there are Shoegaze bands all around the world, and Slowdive has reunited and is performing before giant festivals and packed audiences. (And their new album is great!)