My journey through progressive rock.

prog rock album covers

As you know if you’ve read a few of my posts, the word “progressive”, when applied to politics or religion, is a dirty modifier, but when applied to music, specifically rock music, it’s a beautiful thing. My very first listening experience with prog rock was in 1969, when my mother, of all people, sent four cassette tapes to me in Vietnam. I guess she got advice from a record store clerk, but however, I loved the albums–the Jefferson Airplane, Santana, Blind Faith and The Cream. Just incredible. I wore the tapes out, and now, 49 years later, I still listen to those groups. But the real prog rock royalty were the British groups like Emerson Lake and Palmer, King Crimson, Deep Purple, Colosseum, The Cream, Jethro Tull, the Moody Blues and my favorite, the Mahavishnu Orchestra!

Until today, I secretly thought that this kind of musicianship and creativity was inherently superior to what passes for rock today, but I never confessed (what I thought was a personal preference prejudice) to my grown children or other young people. Now I am convinced I was right all along. Why? I watched separate interviews with Greg Lake, Carl Palmer and Keith Emerson on YouTube, and clips of the Regis and Kathy Lee show with Emerson Lake and Palmer, and another with Jethro Tull. Greg Lake said “in our day, you had to be original, or you wouldn’t have a following. These days, because of how corporate music companies make decisions, you have to sound like someone who is popular to get any airplay.” Keith Emerson said his two sons are in bands, and one day he came home to find his albums all out, and his son and friends were all listening to his music. His son said, “dad, we’ve listened to your music, I never knew it was that good.” Carl Palmer talked about classical musicians in his family going back three generations. Kathy Lee said she can’t listen to modern rock, after growing up with ELP and groups like that, like I did. I gleaned from other YouTube videos that professional and classical training was the norm for many of the prog rock musicians! Even guitarist Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple, the loudest musician of the loudest of the groups!

So I guess I’m not a snob after all, I am discerning. Thankfully, with Amazon Music or Spotify, I can listen to those greats, even though some of my favorites–Jack Bruce, Greg Lake, Keith Emerson–have died. LONG LIVE PROG-ROCK!