This is a history of progressive music, written by a fan who was born in 1980. It is mainly a story of the bands themselves, based on various memoirs, interviews, and journalism of the time. It starts with the Karn Evil cruise, where a ship sets out from Miami with 3,000 fans and various musicians, some revivalists, and others from the golden era. This leads Weigel to an entertaining history of what was once one of the most biggest forms of popular music, to becoming one of the most criticised, which at the same time maintained a loyal following and attracted new players and fans along the way.
Like almost any musical or artistic genre, it can almost to dissolve if you think about it too closely. It’s a pretty broad church that can include both ELP and Kevin Ayres, both in musical and commercial terms. And it’s hard to define the dividing line between the progressive acts and others – was Bowie on its fringes when we worked with Fripp and Eno? I also don’t remember anyone at the time being a fan of only Prog – albums by Genesis might be found on a shelf alongside some by Randy Newman, Joni Mitchell or Led Zeppelin. But there was something there – an adventurousness, an attempt to make the most of instruments technique and the new possibilities of recording.
A number of people on this site will probably be familiar with the story Weigel tells and the music. I was never the biggest fan of the genre, and sort of lost interest after the eighties, partly because Prog had got me interested in other music. But this book made me go back and listen to the albums I have and listen to others on Spotify. What struck me above all was a kind of optimism and energy about a lot of the music.
I think one point he doesn’t cover, perhaps because of his age, is the social context. This music was as big as anything, how did it get that way, and why did the tide turn against it? And I suppose – did that matter? Journalists and people like John Peel might have criticised it by comparison against the, to me, bogus authenticity, of punk, but the fans kept listening.
Length of Read:Medium
Might appeal to people who enjoyed…
Any of the music itself – if you’ve got an old Caravan album hanging around that you haven’t listened to for ages, this might get you dusting it off.
One thing you’ve learned
Robert Fripp, surprisingly, is a friend of Darryl Hall, and they made two albums together in the seventies – unfortunately neither released due to contractual problems.