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re-progressive

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Last week a Mojo Magazine Special Edition came out, on the subject of Prog. The title should have given the game away: as I’m fond of saying, “Prog is a style, Progressive is an attitude”. The Mojo articles, on most of the major groups, all cut off the Prog period at the end of the 70’s. With one exception: Marillion, who started off aspiring to early Genesis, had some success in the early 80’s before singer Fish left and the band moved forward.

Unusually, one of the Mojo staff involved in producing the magazine came on to The National Midday Sun, the European Rush fan forum to promote it, and has lingered to answer queries. I asked why the articles concentrated on the 70’s, and received the following reply:

We took a decision at the start to focus on the so-called prog rock era of the bands involved – when they made the music that best defined that sound, and that is in the ’70s. In the case of Rush, Crimson and Marillion you have three unwieldy careers to condense into, say, 4000-word articles. And I’d say all three acts had moved away from the typical ’70s prog sound once the ’80s were underway. We did make a point of acknowledging that these groups’ careers didn’t stop in 1979, and the recommended tracks all acknowledged material from their later careers. That was our reasoning anyway. But, sure, I take your point…

… to be brutally honest, we just preferred the hair and clothes from the ’70s, so decided to stick with that. Love Moving Pictures, Grace Under Pressure etc… but couldn’t bring myself to run those pics of the chaps with micro-ponytails, split-end mullets and baggy leather trousers.

This confirmed my concerns about focusing on Prog as a style or a sound, as opposed to a movement, and I replied explaining my position:

I don’t feel that way at all – maybe it’s because I’ve always been into the technology used to create music. The way I see it, Progressive music has always been technology-driven, starting with 4-track recording, Mellotrons and Moogs, moving on to digital recording, PPG, DX7 and Fairlight Series III. The 80’s seem to me to be just a natural progression from ihe 70’s, and the objections people have relate to how some people went too far with technology that wasn’t yet up to the job. Blame Phil for the gated reverb, that was all him!

It didn’t have to be that way as Trevor Horn and others showed, and we Rush fans certainly don’t dismiss the 80’s either. Say what you like about the way Geddy’s Steinberger bass looked, but it was a case of “form follows function” and the sound was (and still is) worth it. And what about King Crimson’s Discipline or Three Of A Perfect Pair? I honestly feel that no discussion about the progression of Prog could be complete without them.

Maybe I’m slightly overconcerned, and I appreciate what was in the magazine, but lesser rags look to Mojo for details they can’t be arsed to research themselves. Look to the tabloids for more of the usual “Marillion ended when Fish left” bollocks, and more jokes about Rick Wakeman’s fondness for onstage curry.

It’s just too convenient to make easy generalizations about, well, anything. It saves you from facing the actual complexities involved. It’s why I laugh at Radiohead’s aversion to the term Progressive, when it should be seen as a compliment. Even Rick, who should know, thinks they are. How can they argue with that?

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Written by brian t

July 21, 2005 at 10:02 pm

Posted in music

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