A Personal Journey through Prog
This blog is intended to reflect the influence prog has had on my life. Over the last four years I've attempted to write what started off as about 1000 words each week on a progressive rock-related topic, taking in politics, sociology and history as well as straight forward commentary in an attempt to spark debate; I now write around 1500 words for each blog and the frequency of the output varies. I came into prog near its beginning in 1972 and I’ve spent every year since filling in the gaps in what I’ve come to realise is a vast and varied subject with all manner of sub-genres, so I've included a 'comments' section at the end of each blog post for readers to interact, knowing that fans of the genre are liable to contest and discuss points in minutiae.
My wife and son really don’t understand prog, but are nevertheless quite understanding of my condition. My brothers do understand, and the torch has been passed through me down to my younger brother Richard, who put together a prog band in 2008 playing cover versions of songs by Focus, Camel and PFM in Cumbrian pubs to anyone who would listen. Almost all of my school friends had similar musical tastes, but at university, after the demise of punk and the rise of synthesizer pop, very few of us kept the candle burning.
The rise of the CD format has helped the genre enormously, so that obscure releases have been saved from extinction though the recent resurgence in vinyl has been particularly helpful to prog, where the gatefold sleeve and detailed artwork make the experience of listening to prog truly immersive. On-line music stores like Amazon have proved invaluable in providing access to this treasure trove, yet there is a strong argument that corporate on-line retailers are killing record stores. In 2009 Zavvi and Borders were closed down by the effects of the recession despite being household names and former successful brands. If the multinationals come under pressure, what is to become of the specialist independent retailer? It’s good that HMV was able to stave off foreclosure and with online stores such as Burning Shed and BTF in Italy who understand the requirements of the musicians and the audience, creating something of an alternative business model, there’s no reason for any prog, new or old, to become consigned to a footnote in the history of music.
There’s nothing quite like a trawl through music stores in Florence, Rome, Vicenza, Berlin, New York, Melbourne, Sydney, Auckland and even Croydon where the music waits for the prog aficionado to come along. I have been very fortunate to live within walking distance of Beanos, one of the most famous second-hand record shops in the country, sadly now closed down. Beanos had a section devoted to progressive rock and it was there that amongst other gems I came across the rather obscure Dedicato a Frazz, the only release by Italian band Semiramis and U Vreci Za Spavanje (In the Sleeping Bag) by Yugoslavian group Tako.
There’s a whole world of progressive rock out there, waiting to be discovered.