Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Prog rock: The alien of pop music

Must Read

Symphonic , lyrical , complex : all these words are rarely associated with rock. “But that was before,” before progressive rock . Landed in the late 60s , this music shared center stage with its hard rock and pop-rock cousins ​​for fifteen years.

How did this pop UFO come about? What made the success of this particular style, which some called “ art rock ”? How come “ prog ” disappeared overnight? At the end of this article, all this will have no more secrets for you.

The spiritual son of psychedelic rock

Pet Sounds and Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band : the two masterpieces of psychedelic rock

May 1966: The Beach Boys release Pet Sounds . This avant-garde album is so ambitious that it is likened to baroque music .

For their part, the Beatles played their last concert on August 29, 1966 in San Francisco, exhausted by the hysteria accompanying their passages on stage. So here they are freed from the constraint of having to compose songs that can be played in public. Their creativity knows no bounds, resulting in several incredibly inventive albums.

The first in this series was released on June 1, 1967: Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band .

With this record, all the codes of the music industry are shattered. Now, pop enters a new dimension by telling a story and sharing a universe ( Sergeant Pepper is probably the first concept album ).

Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is the concept idea before the term concept album became an insult. We sat down to listen to him, saying to ourselves: “For fifty minutes, I’m going to go somewhere else.” From that point of view, it was very new. (Phil Collins, 1991)

By integrating different types of cultures and instruments (Indian in particular), the Beatles also affirm their desire to associate rock with other musical styles.

These two albums will be an inexhaustible source of inspiration.

The birth of prog rock

From then on, musical creation entered a new era. Artists as innovative as Frank Zappa or Procol Harum reveal themselves to the general public. Each brings his stone to the edifice of rock music (jazz for the former, classical lyricism for the latter).

The golden age of a new musical genre called progressive rock is fast approaching. And as a symbol to proclaim this advent, on October 10, 1969,  In ​​the Court of the Crimson King was released , often considered one of the founding albums of the genre.

The 8 characteristics of the so atypical style of progressive rock

image concert prog

1. Mixture of musical influences

Like their precursors, many progressive rock artists have integrated very different styles into their music: from classical for the Moody Blues to free jazz for King Crimson, passing through medieval music for Gentle Giant.

Do you want to learn to play an instrument (know that it’s never too late, this article will prove it to you)? So I advise you to stretch your fingers on the prog directory. It’s the best way to expand your musical palette.

2. Use of unusual instruments for rock music

What is certain is that we are moving away from the traditional guitar-bass-drums combo! From the transverse flute, present on the first Genesis albums to the most sophisticated synthesizers of Pink Floyd, everything is designed to surprise the listener.

3. Compositions freed from the traditional verse-chorus

If you listen to progressive rock albums, expect to be surprised by the structures of the songs. Long instrumental tracks (on which you can listen to the greatest electric guitar solos) and improbable harmonic sequences are commonplace.

4. Music with rhythm changes

It is common to have to deal with several rhythmic structures during the same song. Watch this live version of  Dancing with the moonlit knight . It will give you an idea of ​​what it makes…

5. Endless Songs

But what about the traditional 3-minute radio format? This is the question we would like to ask Peter Gabriel, former singer of Genesis, and composer of Supper’s ready (22 min 58) or Pink Floyd for Echoes   (23 min 32).

That said, if you believe many studies about the health benefits of music, listening to this kind of songs is not at all a waste of time. Think of it more like a triple dose of music therapy!

6. Artistic vision beyond the musical framework

Often referred to as highbrow music , prog rock sometimes alludes to literature. Thus, Pink Floyd’s Animals album is a nod to George Orwell’s Animal Farm . The song Advent of Panurge by Gentle Giant, on the other hand, evokes Pantagruel and Gargantua by Rabelais.

image that gives a good idea of ​​the importance given to visuals in progressive rock

The visual aspect is also very neat among artists of the genre. Some album covers like In the court of the Crimson King, to your right, are pop culture references.

7. Sometimes complex measures

Are you looking for a hit that is not played in 4/4? So go dig into the progressive rock discography . With Money by Pink Floyd, or even Solsbury hill by Peter Gabriel, both in 7/4, you will find what you are looking for.

8. Albums concept

In line with Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band , most prog artists have appropriated the model. It has practically become a standard of this musical style with references to the genre such as Thick as a brick by Jethro Tull or The Wall by Pink Floyd.

These eight key ingredients can be confusing. That’s why I recommend this to you: choose a record from this list of the 50 best progressive rock albums you don’t know and listen to it three times. It is at this price that you will appreciate it at its fair value.

A major movement in seventies rock culture

LP 70s

During the 1970s, many English bands recorded the best progressive rock albums : Close to The Edge by Yes, Red by King Crimson, not forgetting The Dark Side of the Moon . Released in 1973, this jewel of Pink Floyd remains to this day the third best-selling record in the world. He alone embodies the apogee of this style.

The other land of progressive rock

If the “prog” owes its success above all to English artists, Germany is also experiencing a craze for the genre called there ” Krautrock “.

The leaders of this movement are Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk . Their music is often instrumental and electronic.

In France, only three groups of this style have had success: Ange , Magma and Taï Phong , a formation in which a certain Jean-Jacques Goldman has played .

An influence beyond the prog scene

Have you ever heard Stairway to heaven by Led Zeppelin or Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen?  These two songs, counted among the best of all time , were certainly composed by groups assimilated to other styles.

However, you have two rock classics here:

  • easily exceeding 5 minutes;
  • mixing several styles;
  • presenting a structure with several changes of rhythm and without verse-chorus alternation.

Wouldn’t that be the ingredients of a good piece of progressive rock ? The example of these two planetary hits gives you an idea of ​​the impact of this musical genre at the time.

A musical style condemned by the codes of the record industry

At the dawn of the 80s, the world of pop was changing. After punk, it’s time for new wave and FM rock.

Bad times for progressive rock

Never has the record industry been so flourishing, to the point of becoming all-powerful. The radio format becomes the norm. With him, all the subversive spirit of the seventies is undermined. Here is the time of the compositions calibrated to measure for the first places of the charts.

Already weakened by the surge of punk, the prog style never recovered from the dictates of the music industry of the time. These are too much against his spirit. The 80s thus proclaimed the end of this music which had become brutally undesirable.

Towards a second wind?

Some dinosaurs of the genus will nevertheless manage to survive. They will owe it to their notoriety, but also to a few concessions made to the big majors (mean a few sold-out tours or a few bankable hits such as Land of confusion or Sledgehammer ).

Meanwhile,  neo-prog and progressive metal hit the music scene. These two styles claim to be the descendants of progressive rock. Nevertheless, they never knew the success of their illustrious elder.

The prog is therefore gone, for lack of worthy successors. However, the discography of this unique genre is still accessible to you. Whether on MP3, or at a garage sale near you, the legacy of progressive rock is at your fingertips. Thus, the most nostalgic will always be able to pass a good old Yes or King Crimson album and say to themselves: “That was music! And for you, dreaming of awakening your “inner Phil Collins”, learn with this article how to sing well. As for those who start from afar, they can also discover how to progress quickly by joining a choir.

Latest News

Obese people live in a different sensory world

While sedentary lifestyles and overeating continue to be selectively blamed as the sole determinants of the obesity...

More Articles Like This