Jerry Lucky Commentary May 2011
Copyright Jerry Lucky © 2010 All Rights Reserved
I was reading the article/interview with Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree in a recent issue of Classic Rock Presents Prog
and it got me thinking to a time where all this proggy business was only a hopeful dream. I’m talking the mid-eighties …
a time when you promoted yourself with cassette tapes and handwritten letters or poorly photocopied one-sheets…
Actually this all started while I was talking to my daughter’s boyfriend. He wants to be in a band in the worst way and the music he plays is as much a niche genre as prog or perhaps even more so. I was telling him about things I’ve seen and read over the years and what it takes to be successful in the music business. My dad after all was a full time touring musician right up to the day he died. One of the points I was making was that was that not very many musicians are able to make music their day job. It takes a lot of dedication and persistence if you choose that route.
Which brings me back to Steven Wilson and waxing nostalgic. Way back in April of 1985 Steven wrote me a few times at the radio station I was managing at the time. It’s neat to look back and see his hand written messages of then, knowing what a success he’s made of his career today. At the time Wilson’s band was called Karma and he sent me a cassette with as he said, “rough vocals which have to be recorded properly.” He goes on to say; “our average age is 17 years old and as soon as I leave school we’ll be touring heavily to promote the LP.” From his earliest days you got a sense, here was a boy who had a dream and he was committed to doing what it takes to make it happen.
Wilson’s second letter was mostly consumed with the details of a progressive rock compilation LP that was going to be entitled Exposure. Here he was not only still promoting his band Karma, but also seemed to be spearheading the promotion of the genre. The LP was going to feature bands such as Haze, Coltsfoot, Twice Bitten, Quasar, LaHost and others. He was hoping I could provide some promotion for the LP on the prog radio show I was doing at the time.
There is even a sense of urgency in the letter when he says; “You have supported these bands for so long and the new progressive movement is dying out with the loss of Mach One, Gothique, Tamarisk, Liaison, As Above So Below, Moriarity and also (it’s rumoured) Solstice. To avoid the complete death of the movement it is important that this compilation does well…” I remember reading those words and thinking I had to do my part and I was quite taken by the fact he would share this news with me, dire as it seemed at the time. So I made sure I talked about it on the radio. Looking back I doubt that I had much impact. I can’t recall how many listeners I had to the radio show at the time, I doubt many, and I doubt any of them did anything about this impending doom.
Time passed and I received a third letter from Wilson explaining that they were still working on the compilation LP and were even in the process of finishing off some tracks although the list of bands had changed and so had the name of his own band. They were no longer called Karma but instead had taken the ironic and short-lived name And Many More. In the letter he goes on to mention there were “several people in Europe and the rest of the world [who were] attempting to establish a network of contacts, distributors, promoters, independent record labels, bands and fans to help promote progressive rock bands” and he asked if I wanted to be a part of that loose knit group.
Remember this was all before the advent of computers on everyone’s desk, cell phones, the internet and email. That was an analogue world. But he was on a mission. Turns out that compilation eventually did come out with most of the band’s he originally included, but by that time I had moved on to a different position and never received a copy. And then the internet came along and changed everything.
During those early days Steven Wilson stayed single-minded and focused and today is a shining example for young musicians who want to make a career of music. I’m sure he would say what many others have said; it’s not easy, but if music is in your blood, the pros certainly outweigh the cons.
At least that’s what I think.