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The State of Prog Journalism

Jerry Lucky Commentary November 2009

Copyright Jerry Lucky © 2009 All Rights Reserved

 

This past week I was interviewed for a small piece in the mass-market U.K. magazine entitled

Classic Rock Presents PROG and it got me thinking about how far weíve come regarding prog print journalism.

And to coin a phrase weíve come a long way baby. What follows is a very brief history of the English speaking publications

that Iím personally aware of in particular those from the U.K. There were of course magazines, journals and fanzines in other countries

but thatís for another time.

 

There was a time, and Iím referring to the mid-eighties here, where anything to do with progressive rock in print came in the form of lovingly crafted fanzines. These hand-made print pieces usually took the form of roughly photo-copied pages stapled together but some like the nicely produced Afterglow looked much closer to a Ďrealí magazine. As indicated by their names, these fanzines started life devoted to specific bands but then as the prog revival of the mid-eighties took hold they expanded their coverage to include many of the up-and-coming prog bands of the day. In addition to Afterglow there was Court Jester, Exposure, Slogans, Relayer and quite a few others. Perhaps the best mass-produced commercial publication of the time was Zig Zag magazine famous for Pete Frameís Family Trees.

 

By the early nineties English speaking prog fans could look forward to reading about their favourite genre in Expose and Progression. Expose, uniquely printed throughout its publication life on cream-coloured stock provided readers with a wider definition of prog, covering the fringe styles of electronic and RIO, while Progression stuck a little closer to the trunk of the symphonic tree and resembled a more traditional magazine, even moving to perfect binding with free compilation CDs at times. Both magazines covered the gamut of a genre that by the late eighties had taken new life as a thriving underground industry. It was around the same time that the first prog festivals began happening allowing for more exposure. Both of these magazines continue to this day although if you read the interviews elsewhere on this site you will no doubt have read that Expose will be going strictly on-line in the coming year.

 

But to get back to our storyline, in November of 1998 a new mass-market magazine hit the newsstands in England entitled Classic Rock with the goal of covering bands who were being shunned by the media at the time and that included prog artists old and new. True to form each month you could find any number of articles, interviews and reviews with a decidedly positive slant, rather than the usual vitriol many of us had become familiar with. Over the years as Classic Rock grew they began putting out special issues devoted exclusively to the prog genre, the first one in my collection dates from September of 2006. Another Special issue came out in 2007 and the response must have been good because by April of 2009 they began producing a quarterly publication entitled Classic Rock presents Prog, a high-quality, full colour magazine devoted exclusively to the genre we all know and love.

 

So as it stands, prog fans have never had it so good. Whatís changed you might ask. While chatting with journalist Malcolm Dome he made the very cogent observation that prog is no longer considered a dirty word. Itís interesting because as reviewers have changed, many no longer harbour the same ill-will towards the genre that was readily apparent by journalists whoíd come up through the seventies. Many of the new journalists donít carry the same baggage, but rather see prog as yet another potential influence on the music being made by bands today. What a healthy change. Personally I wonder if the fact that word has been shorted to just prog has allowed a new generation to take ownership with a more positive view of the musical history behind the name. I think yes. This generation likes its own version of prog that incorporates all of whatís gone before and adds to it.

 

So what does this mean for us old timers? Well Iím of the opinion we should get with the program. Every generation has its own heroes, so for us, we can still like old Yes but we can also like new Muse, or we can appreciate old Greenslade and appreciate new Mew. As for me, I want to keep an open mind. Iím all for listening to new bands inspired by the classic prog bands. At least thatís what I think.  

 

Jerry Lucky

(11/1/09)