So recently I’ve been reading David Wiegel’s The Show That Never Ends: The Rise and Fall of Prog Rock and enjoying it immensely. Things I’ve learned:
–It’s evident that a few members of Yes either quit or were canned due to insufficient pretentiousness levels. Tony Kaye was an adequate keyboardist that didn’t play flourishes and got the boot early on. Rick Wakeman quit out of boredom, and the fact that he had no frigging idea what Jon Anderson was singing about half the time. Steve Howe actually kind of likes Tormato, their 1978 album that nearly no one else likes, including the rest of the band. Chris Squire’s bass was, not surprisingly at all, mixed loud, front and center on their first albums.
–Van der Graaf Generator were well-loved, even if their music made no damn sense at all. The same goes for The Soft Machine.
–Robert Fripp is a genius guitarist…but no one knows what the hell he’s trying to play.
–Greg Lake had an ego about the size of Great Britain. Keith Emerson not as much, but close. Carl Palmer just wanted to play his drums.
–Keith Emerson’s famous stage shtick of sticking knives in his keyboard to get sustained sound was originally courtesy of some old Army knives from a roadie named Lemmy Kilmister.
–The guys in Rush write great songs, but they’re kinda sorta meatheads. Singer Geddy Lee didn’t always know what the hell drummer Neil Peart’s lyrics were going on about, just that they were virulently Libertarian. [This political bent seems to have faded into the background around the same time Geddy started playing synths on the albums, interestingly enough.]
–The more members Genesis shed, the poppier and more famous they became. Keyboardist Tony Banks said if they’d called it a day when Peter Gabriel left, they’d have had a significantly smaller fanbase.
–Most bands, when interviewed by Creem magazine in the 70s, would make these wildly erudite but utterly vacuous proclamations about how progressive rock will change the world.
–Marillion singlehandedly brought back prog in the 80s by saying ‘Screw you, we’re going to play this stuff anyway.’
Seriously, though, it’s a fascinating (if slightly sarcastic) read if you’re a fan of the genre. One of the pleasant surprises is that he does briefly touch on the less famous prog bands, including a handful of non-English bands from Italy and elsewhere.