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Getting History Straight!

Jerry Lucky Commentary October 2008

Copyright Jerry Lucky © 2008 All Rights Reserved

 

Every once in a while, I hear the comment the progressive rock movement of the seventies was killed by the punk movement.

It’s a comment that I’ve heard made by people inside the prog movement and outside in the general music world. Now it would be

an intriguing idea, if it weren’t so wrong headed.

 

Here, let’s recap. The progressive rock movement came about towards the end of the sixties and peaked for the first time in the mid seventies. This was the era of the big concert tours that some still insist were bloated and excessive. How anyone can say such a thing after seeing the current pop-rock extravaganzas from bands such as U2 or pop icon Madonna has got to have their head examined. These shows make the prog big budget shows look quaint by comparison. But that’s another story.

 

By the mid-seventies disco was starting to gain a foothold on the music charts and got widespread exposure with the movie Saturday Night Fever…and then a couple years later it was punk rock that was getting the coverage with its nasty behaviour and outrageous antics. The other thing that was happening was that the media itself was changing and becoming less inclined to focus on music and more inclined to become a vehicle to make money. New formats were created, left, right and centre. In a way it was the start of our incessant worshiping at the alter of celebrity and in that regard the nastiness of punk rock really began to satisfy our voyeuristic cravings.

 

While all of this was going on and gaining the headlines, the progressive rock movement, continued making music but now it was more and more behind the scenes. Don’t forget that as late as 1979 or 1980 there were plenty of interesting prog albums being released, albums like: PINK FLOYD - The Wall, CAMEL - I Can See Your House From Here, THE ENID - Touch Me, UK - Danger Money, TRUE MYTH -True Myth, ANYONE’S DAUGHTER - Adonis, TONY BANKS - A Curious Feeling, YES - Drama, GENESIS - Duke, BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST - Eyes Of The Universe, ELOY - Colours, and plenty of others. Then by the early eighties we started seeing the releases from the new prog bands like Twelfth Night and Marillion which carried right on through to the present. My point is that if you actually begin to list the releases, as I have done, you very quickly begin to see that the progressive rock movement never went away, let alone was it “killed” by the punk movement. That’s just laughable if that’s what you think.

 

Now here’s what really happened. And it’s quite simple. While prog was carrying on its merry way, the media moved on to other things…like disco and punk and AOR and Stadium Rock. If you think that all those people who were buying prog albums and going to prog concerts woke up one morning and said, “you know what I’ve made a terrible mistake, the music I really like is Punk Rock”, then you really need to give your head a shake. They didn’t wake up one morning and decide to start spending their hard earned cash on Disco music. What really happened is that all those people who liked prog woke up one morning and couldn’t find a station playing the music they liked and it quickly disappeared from the record store shelves and they THOUGHT that prog had simply gone away and nobody was creating that kind of music anymore, simply because they couldn’t find it anywhere. The media had moved on.

 

“Wait a minute” you say “how can you say that?” Well I was managing an FM station at the time and saw first hand what was happening on both the radio industry side and the music business side. I was doing a progressive rock radio show and saw first hand how the label reps were trying to force us to play the latest and greatest pop or punk while they terminated or never signed another prog band. That worked for them because they were never sure how to sell progressive rock anyway. Witness what happened to Echolyn even in the nineties. Progressive rock never went away, and it certainly wasn’t killed by punk rock. What happened was that a music industry, that never could come to grips with how to package and market progressive rock did it’s best to grab onto something they could make money with, leaving prog in the dust as fast as it could.

 

So the next time someone tells you, or you read that punk killed prog you may want to set the record straight. At least that’s that I think you should do.

 

Jerry Lucky

(10/1/08)

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