Saturday, November 22, 2008

Is it time to rethink my views on prog?



Soft Machine, above.

For many years, I've been fairly opposed to the whole concept, never mind the music, of progressive rock. Many years ago, a friend's dad played me Pictures At An Exhibition by Emerson Lake and Palmer, and it put me right off. (And I do like classical music).

Added to which, as someone who felt that punk was what had led to his beloved indie scene, it was a feeling that progressive rock's sole function was to be so damn hideous that punk had to happen. With the exception of Pink Floyd -' They're not prog, they're good!' I snapped at someone one time - I saw the early seventies as a wasteland, with a few notable exceptions -Bowie, Roxy, Nico, Reed etc.. and American soul and funk. I bought a Yes best of a few months ago, it ended up being returned fairly quickly. I love much of Peter Gabriel's solo stuff, yet find much of the Genesis stuff hideously self-indulgent. I have of course since discovered Richard Thompson and John Martyn. I don't see them as prog, but they have helped me realise that there was great music there in the first part of the seventies. I'd always loved Kraftwerk; in the last few months Can, Faust, Neu, Amon Duul II and Harmonia have shown that Germany was producing weird and wonderful stuff, and in the case of these, it influenced some of the more open-minded punks. (See here for more about that Johnny Rotten show on Capital Radio. Not a Stooges or Dolls track in sight).

Perhaps it's time to be a little less blinkered. I suppose Steve at Teenage Kicks must take the credit for pointing me in the direction of both of these tracks, they are fabulous. I've posted them before but I figure these are definitely worth hearing again.

Matching Mole -'O Caroline.' mp3

Roy Harper -'When An Old Cricketer Leaves The Crease.' mp3 (both cropped up here, no less!)

And these two tracks are pretty cool, too:

Soft Machine -'I Should Have Known.' mp3

Kevin Ayers -'Oh! Wot A Dream.' mp3

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bananamour LP by Ayers is a great record i must say. His single 'Caribbean Moon' is a fave of mine aswell. Regard to last post flaming Lips coverd Bowie in 1992, tried to send you it but something wrong with it.
SW

Ed said...

Caribbean moon I think you did send me, must check...Will try and get that Bowie cover off you sometime!

Ed

david said...

Some nice stuff there Ed but prog rock? Not how I'd describe it really.

I'm a huge Kevin Ayers fan, and he's a man of many talents - raconteur, romantic, avant-garde, eccentric -but prog? Can't see it myself.

Shooting At The Moon is probably the man at his experimental best, but it's the acoustic songs that do it for me. If you don't know 'Clarence In Wonderland', give yourself a treat and check it out. Mmm, that red wine_soaked voice....

Ed said...

It's certainly not the hideous pretentious stuff, at any rate!

Simon said...

That whole post could have come from my own head. I hate the idea of 'prog', mostly because I do consider Floyd to be prog, and I can't stand 'em. And yet, I love Talk Talk and how much of their stuff sounds like Floyd. And Sigur Ros for that matter...

Ken Hare said...

By some strange coincidence, a fortnight ago, I bought a CD of the first two Soft Machine albums which I had enjoyed the first time round. "I should have known" was recorded as a single (very LONG for a 60s single!) but I don't think ever released. It reappeared in a less-rough form on Soft Machine 1 as "Why am I so short?"

The Soft Machine albums were all segued so difficult to take a sample track. If you wanted the 2 MP3s I have (ie side 1 and 2) I would be happy to beam them your way (fairly massive files).

Soft Machine were quite groovy initially (Supporting Hendrix on tours... see the first review on this Amazon site www.amazon.com/Vols-1-2-Soft-Machine/dp/B0000004F9) but got much more serious (read boring to some) after that. Andy Summers played with them briefly in 1968.

Was a huge fan of Roy Harper, and as a consequence of this blog have spent a rather nice afternoon at Harper's website (www.royharper.co.uk) listening to old chums I had forgotten about.

I started buying records in the mid 60s: sadly, as a consequence, many are now clapped out, unplayably scratched vinyl... and not in any digital form. Suppose I'll have to spend some more money then!

The crap that was flushed out by punk needed to go. The trouble is, "progressive" music (the full handle is never used nowadays) WAS exciting initially. Not many years before, a guitar solo, if you had one at all, was probably a couple of bars long at best. Suddenly you could break out, distort, loop, hey... anything! Things really did progress. However, it did do the dinosaur eventually, but even some of the worst bands had had sublime moments early on before limitless excess got a hold.

It's nice to revisit old stuff sometimes, but thank goodness for the constant supply of great new stuff; thanks Ed for feeding us tasters all the time.

Ed said...

Simon -haven't heard 'Laughing Stock' but I do love Talk Talk's four other albums, and I suppose that the Colour Of Spring and Spirit Of eden could be considered prog. Sigur Ros? possibly? And what about Godspeed or Tortoise? Or much 'post-rock' for that matter? Hmm...

Ken - the only Soft Machine album I have is Third, I would love to hear more. That's got to be one of the best bits of feedback I have ever had!

ed

Ken Hare said...

What a nice thing to say, Ed. I shall get back to you re SM1. Gotta go sing in my choir (wrong kind of music, but good doing it!)

Ken

Ed said...

Oh I don't know, Ken...I met Mrs. 17 Seconds through singing in a choir. At our wedding it was music by Parry and Faure not the Cure or Black Sabbath.

BTW - Simon, I don't know why I put so many question marks in my reply to you, it makes it look like I was questioning you, I wasn't; I was thinking to myself and fudged what I was trying to say.

Teaflax said...

ELP were one of the worst acts of Prog, guilty of all the sins usually aimed quite unfairly at the genre. How can you hate a genre of music that genuinely tried to expand on the vocabulary of Rock music? To me, Punk and Prog are in their early incarnations embodiments of the same ideal; why should we do it THIS way? I find an act like early Genesis easily as breathtaking and vital as The Sex Pistols, The Residents, or - indeed - Talk Talk or Squarepusher; acts that refused to do it the way it had been done before. Even if you don't want to listen to it, you at the very least have to admire that.

Qaro said...

I can't believe I never even thought of Pink Floyd as being 'prog'! But they totally are, aren't they? If I start thinking about it... Even the Beatles are sort of proggy at points, aren't they? My world is all rocked now... Golly...

: )

Ed said...

Teaflax - like I say, I'm rethinking my views. And you are right, they were both trying to challenge the concept of what was the norm at the time. Bought Foxtrot by Genesis a few months ago, there are a lot of great ideas on there, and I do think Peter Gabriel was and is a genius. For people who get into music at a certain time, the history of rock music has a cut off point. For me it seemed to mostly be with the emergence of the Pistols; for the fifteen year olds I teach today it generally seems to be Nirvana.

Qaro - The Beatles proggy? I guess Abbey Road would be their prog album...

Anonymous said...

Also some more modern prog is worth considering. David Sylvian's "Brilliant Trees" has it all -- tricky time signatures, pastoral interludes, oriental wind instruments, squalling feedback and impenetrable lyrics :)

cheers, Craig

Ken Hare said...

well, you had to be there at the time...

At ANY stage in the history of music, someone has pushed the loop a bit further. At the time, many people will have shaken their heads and wandered off in disgust; others will hang in there because the new stuff is great.

Innovation will always produce winners and losers (ok, who's got a Sinclair C5?) I suppose the prog rock losers hung in with their Sinclair C5's a bit longer than most, and sadly, that is what gets remembered, not the excitement of breaking new ground.

Ed said...

Craig - not that au fait with Sylvain's solo stuff, but I do love Japan. Maybe I should investigate...

Ken - I think you're right on the breaking new ground aspect. It's hoping that there are folk who push the loop and that we feel the benefits. Thanks for the Soft Machine stuff, BTW!

Ed

Simon said...

I'll second that David Sylvian solo stuff. Sits nicely alongside Talk Talk and Sigur Ros and the whole post rock thing.

Ed said...

I'll get on it...Ed

entrailicus said...

If I were to write a diary about my musical inspiration, this week's entry would read almost word for word like this post.

Ed said...

Wow...

robert said...

"Laughing Stock" is completely different from Talk Talk's other works (well, "Spirit of Eden" is a signpost, but the road hadn't really been taken yet). It's composed of long, languid songs that are among the most mood-inducing in all of rock. There's a stillness to them that is quite unlike anything else out there. IMO, it's one of the two best albums of the 1990s, along with MBV's "Loveless". Both albums get you to the same state, but "Loveless" does it by being louder than anything else, and "Laughing Stock" does it by being quieter...

Ah, prog. I'm in my 50s, so I was around when prog was in its heyday. And you know what? I loved it. Well, Genesis, King Crimson, Yes, and Camel, anyway. I always disliked ELP, not only for the pretentiousness, but for the fact that they had one or two decent musical ideas per album, and then ran them into the ground. "Supper's Ready" has more inventiveness than ELP's whole catalogue.

Prog turned out to be a dead end. But I tend to give points for trying. You're a teacher - wouldn't you rather have a student overreach and stumble than one who just sits there and goes along with what everyone else does? I think Genesis were a truly great band, at least until Steve Hackett left, up there with The Beatles, The Cure, Kate Bush, Richard Thompson, The Smiths, Neil Young, Joy Division/New Order, Big Country, The Go-Betweens, Death Cab for Cutie, and The Clash in my personal pantheon.

And if you really want to think about it, couldn't you call parts of "Hate" and "The Great Eastern", if not inspired by prog, then at least coming at music from the same angle?

Just my opinion, of course...

Ed said...

Wow - i've had some of the best postings ever on this topic. Points for trying - I take your point! As for The Great Eastern, my favourite ever Scottish LP, I hadn;t thought of it like that, but I guess it is. Like I said i am rethinking my views on prog, and many readers are inspiring me to do the same, so thank you!

Ed said...

...and I suppose Flaming Lips are quite progressive too, aren't they?!