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boo boo 01-12-2006 12:42 AM

The Prog Education Thread
A Short History Of Progressive Rock

written by Bryan Russell

Progressive rock or prog (As it is commonly known) is a diverse genre of music which can be traced back to the early days of pyschedelic rock and avant garde music, with strong roots from classical music, jazz and other forms of music outside of standard rock n roll music, basiclly a more progressive form of rock music, hence it's name. Prog has many typical characteristics, but rarely are these essential for every prog band...Though styles and forms of progressive rock may vary, the majority of what is considered progressive rock has the following characteristics...

Complex musical arangements, virtuoso musicianship (Though this is not always a requirement, as in the case of Pink Floyd), exotic and precise musical scales, odd time signatures, alternate tunings, prominent use of instruments not common in rock music, solo passages for almost every instrument, unusual vocal styles and complex harmonies, alternatives to the "verse-chorus-verse" format, lengthy compositions and epics with multiple parts, which can sometimes be considered songs in their own right (The Yes hit "Soon" was released as a single even though it was originaly a final section of "The Gates of Delirium") and sometimes these songs can take up a whole album side or in some cases be split into seperate tracks (Pink Floyds "Shine On You Crazy Diamond parts 1 & 2"), obscure and sometimes fantastical lyrics, with complex and often intricate narratives and themes dealing with issues ranging from war, religion, history, literature, human mentality, spirituality and even science fiction and fantasy, concept albums (Sometimes refered to as "Rock Opera") that are often meant to showcase these narratives, linking of music with visual art with the use of surreal album covers and elaberate stage shows, imagery that can sometimes be used to illustrate the stories and themes that are discribed in the music and great dynamic range going from quiet to loud often in the same piece of music. Other common conventions in progressive rock include the inclusions of classical pieces in the music, multi instrumentalism and the use of strange sound effects and samples.

Progressive rock in it's earliest form arose in the 60s around the same time as pyschedelic rock, both genres came from the same era and musical movements at the time, though the psychedelic movement began in both England and America around the same time (Liverpool and San Fransisco were the key locations of the growing movement), while the progressive rock movement was primarly in England and to a lesser extent, other regions of Europe. Early pyschedelic bands included Jefferson Airplane, The Doors, The Grateful Dead, Love, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Spirit, United Staes Of America, Iron Butterfly and Country Joe & The Fish from the U.S.A. and Cream, Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Animals, Small Faces, and The Zombies from the UK....The earliest progressive rock bands included The Nice, The Moody Blues, Procol Harum, Pink Floyd, Vanilla Fudge, The Arthur Brown Band and Giles, Giles and Fripp...Some bands like Vanilla Fudge, The Arthur Brown Band and Pink Floyd are often labeled as progressive rock bands as well as psychedelic...Some primary influences on progressive rock included The Beatles, The Beach Boys and The Who for their progressive elements and innovations of the concept album, as well as Deep Purple for their use of classical scales and their grand approach....Frank Zappa and The Mothers Of Invention are also considered a very important influence on progressive rock, since they helped popularize many of the characteristics described above.

Prog at first was labeled as a sub-genre to pyschedelic rock, but eventualy outlived the pyschedelic era of the 60s and took on a life of it's own, it was rarely called "progressive rock" at the time but instead was often refered to as "art rock" until the 70s when progressive rock became the official term and art rock became more of a loose term. Unlike pyschedelic rock which already grew popular in America by the mid 60s launching it's own movement in that region, progressive rock didn't gain much popularity in the states until the early 70s, in the early stage, both genres were quite similar, both featured longer songs, unusual approachs to melody and strange lyrics. Only prog was more complex and precise, less acessible and with more influence from jazz and classical music, plus pychedelic rock still relied on catchy hooks and melodies which is one reason psychedelic rock had a wider appeal than prog and was much more mainstream, prog remained behind the spotlight until the 70s. Psychedelic rock was eventualy proven to be little more than a fad as it died out near the end of the 60s and the beginning of the 70s, progressive rock however was just beginning to spread, some of the most important progressive rock bands formed near the end of the 60s, primarly between 68 and 69, these bands included King Crimson, Yes, Genesis, Van Der Graaf Generator and Jethro Tull. Other important bands such as Camel, Gentle Giant and ELP came into the scene later on in the early and mid 70s...Soon north american acts such as Rush became involved. Progressive rocks mainstream popularity began with King Crimson and their debut album In The Court Of The Crimson King, their song 21st Century Schizoid Man became a hit on some british radio stations at that time, soon other bands began taking suit, and bands like Yes, ELP, Jethro Tull, Genesis and Pink Floyd found overwhelming popularity in the 70s. Progressive rock eventualy became quite popular in the US, and soon more obscure bands around Europe earned modest popularity, such as Focus, Magma and Goblin. Around 1973, prog had become huge worldwide, and was widely accepted as the dominant sub-genre in rock (Remember, this was before Metal and Punk became popular) throughout most of the 70s, however, as the 70s grew closer to it's end, many of the genres superior creative forces were finding themselves in career crossroads, short on material and with very few directions left to take, progressive rock was both losing popularity and was getting a lot of negative feedback from critics as well as the music going public, many of the strongest criticisms these bands received included the accusations that they were pretentious, overblown, self indulgent and pompous, the final blow to prog however, came in the form of the punk rock movement, which was more or less a reaction to prog which most punk bands dispised.

Punk rock was overall the exact opposite of progressive rock... The complex musical arangements replaced with basic and more traditional songs, the long compositions replaced with songs that are less than 2 minutes, the technical and precise musicianship replaced with a primitave and often agressive playing style and the complex narratives replaced with more coherent lyrics. Punk became a growing threat, and eventualy prog was dethroned and punk became the reigning force in rock. Prog almost completely disapeared from the public spotlight as a result. However, prog never died completely, there was somewhat of a prog revival in the 80s thanks to bands like Marillon and IQ, veteran bands like Yes, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Rush and Genesis regained some popularity in the 80s by introducing elements of pop, new wave and worldbeat into their music to gain more mainstream appeal. The 90s saw a new prog movement with bands like Spocks Beard, The Flower Kings, Ozric Tentacles and Porcupine Tree gaining modest popularity. And prog is still very active and popular today, though the days of media exposure and mainstream appeal it once had in the 70s is long gone. Still, many bands that are considered progressive have gotten quite popular, primarly Coheed and Cambria, The Mars Volta, Sigur Ros and Primus. If the good luck streak continues, prog may very well see a great rivival and even the kind of mainstream popularity it once had in the 70s, but only time will tell.

As noted since the beginning of this thread, prog is a very diverse genre, and what is and what isn't prog can often become the matter of debate. Bands like Tool, Radiohead and Queen are considered prog by some, while many others disagree. If you have a clear understanding of progressive rock and what it's all about, wheither or not these bands qualify as prog is really up to you. For example, King Crimson being prog is accepted as factual, Queen being progressive rock is accepted as subjective opinion...This is what seperates bands that are prog from bands that could be prog.

The sub-genres will be listed in the next 2 posts since i can't list them here due to the 10000 character limit.

boo boo 01-12-2006 01:09 AM

Art Rock

In progs earliest carnation, it was known simply as "art rock", once the term "progressive rock" was adopted "art rock" became the term to describe bands who obviously have many progressive elements, but do not fall into any of the other categories or sub-genres. Art rock is a very loose term, and very few art rock bands have much in common, and weither they qualify as prog or not is really a matter of opinion.

Examples: Radiohead, Queen, Roxy Music, Rush, Captian Beyond, Brian Eno, Family, Mars Volta, Muse, Uriah Heep, Utopia, Kansas, Curved Air, The Long Hello, High Tide, Babe Ruth, Vangelis, Kate Bush, Super Furry Animals.

Canterbury Scene

In the kentish town which is the home to the church of Englands archbishop, there was a small but influencial musical movement known as the canterbury scene, most of the musicians involved were part of fraternities and knew each other personaly, many of these musicians formed some of the most talented british bands from the post-pyschedelic era during the 60s and 70s. One of the early canterbury scene bands was The Wilde Flowers, featured many of the musicians which would form two of the most important bands later on in the movement, Caravan and The Soft Machine. The similarities between the canterbury bands are not overwhelming, but each band has a good dose of jazz influence, especialy The Soft Machine, which are seen by some as a prototype fusion band. Also, folk music is a major influence on some bands from the canterbury scene as well, though not as prominently. Canterbury is seen by many as one of the precursers to jazz fusion.

Examples: Caravan, Soft Machine, Gong, Hatfield And The North, Khan, Matching Mole, Egg, The Wilde Flowers, National Health, Supersister.

Jazz Rock/Fusion

Not all fusion is rooted in progessive rock, obviously, this paticular type of fusion however is the fusion of jazz with progressive rock. Blending two very technical styles together creates a genre composed of some of the most amazing musicians out there, The Mahavishnu Orchestra is a prime example. The music is extreamly complex, and features some of the best musicians in fusion.

Examples: Mahavishnu Orchestra, Weather Report, Brand X, Bauhaus, Colosseum, Dixie Dregs, Wigwam, Planet X, Area, Return To Forever.

Italian Prog

As bands like Yes and King Crimson were gaining media attention in their native England, Italian musicians took part in their own prog movement around the same time, and a lot of new progressive music still emerges from Italy today, and as one would expect, the lyrics are almost entirely in Italian. Some consider Italian prog a sub-genre of it's own, since it's quite different in style from most European and North American prog. Italian symphonic prog is different from the symphonic prog that emerged from England at that time, the compositions in Italian prog often follow traditional italian arangements and the composition style of italian classical music and folk music, the movement was nationwide, emerging from several different regions of the country rather than just certain cities. Because italian prog is very versatile and many italian prog bands are different from others, italian prog styles can and often do fall into other sub-genres of prog as well.

Examples: Premiata Forneria Marconi, Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso, Il Balletto Di Bronzo, Museo Rosenbach, Le Orme, Quella Vecchia Locanda, Semiramis, Goblin, Celeste, Maxophone.

Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

The 60s were some wild times, american culture was rapidly being influenced by the excess of pyschedelic drugs, LSD and cultures from around the world. Thanks in most part to the hippie counterculture, indian music was introduced to western audiances, The Beatles began to incorperate heavy indian elements in some of their songs and music festivals like monterery pop, woodstock and the concert for bangladash had indian musicians like Ravi Shankar performing alongside rock musicians and performing for rock audiances who were not familiar with indian culture or raga music, it was this new found interest in indian music that birthed the sub-genres Indo-Prog/Raga Rock. While The Beatles used indian elements in some of their songs (Such as Love You To and Within You Without You) more progressive bands began pushing the same dynamic to a more extreme level, instead of a song or two bands began using elements of raga in all their songs, with more use of indian scales and instruments (Sitar, Tabla, Tamboura, etc) and spiritual themes common in indian music. These bands featured several talented raga musicians, blending raga with progressive rock, and there were often jazz and pyschedelic elements as well. All these bands incorperate the common structures of indian music such as repetitive circular rhythms, the use of patterns, ornamentation and long endlesss improv.

Examples: Quintessence, Magic Carpet, Shaki, Flute & Voice.


The common term for the German prog movement of the 1970s, bands like Kraftwerk, Faust and Neu! pushed the limits of progressive rock and popular music as well...Showcasing the sonic possibilities of synthesizer's, sampling, overdubs and electronic music as we know it. One of the first innovators in this movement was Can, who are one of the earliest examples of electronic music....The amazing impact and influence of krautrock is not limited to prog...Krautrock helped give way for new wave, techno, industrial rock, ambient music and even post rock. Krautrocks roots are mostly in avant garde and pop music.

Examples: Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Can, Faust, Neu!, Grobschnitt, Amon Duul II, Ashra, Kraan, Birth Control, Agitation Free.

Math Rock

Math rock is a sub-genre to prog which is usually made up of independent bands and musicians, it is known for it's sheer complexity, unusual rhythmic structures, angular and dissonant riffs and stop/start dynamics. Though bands like Rush and No Means No are considered math rock by some, the true movement began in the 90s, the most active movements took place in Chicago, Minneapolis and Buffalo. And math rock was and still is mostly exclusive to independant labels only, though some big label bands such as Tool and System Of A Down use math rock elements. The music isn't rooted in just progressive rock however, the actual movement grew from the noise rock scenes in Chicago and other midwestern towns during the 80s and 90s, several japanese rock bands are also influencial to math rock. Among the biggest influences on math rock include John Cage, Igor Stravinsky and other avant garde musicians, as well as the super complexity of King Crimson and Frank Zappa. Math rock is never in 4/4 time. Common time signatures in math rock include 7/8, 11/8 and 13/8.

Examples: Slint, Polvo, Don Caballero, Lynx, Shellac, Craw, Dazzling Killmen, Zeni Geva.

Neo Progressive

The term to describe the great prog revival of the 80s. Neo-prog (As it is often called) is very retro in style but with more pop elements than the progressive rock of the 60s and 70s... And most neo-prog bands can fall into any other sub-genre in prog, such as symphonic prog or space rock.

Examples: Marillion, IQ, Pendragon, Arena, Satellite, Collage, Pallas.

Post Rock

Post rock is avant garde rock music with a lot of ambient and electronic elements. Weither or not post rock is a true genre is often the matter of debate, those who dont consider it a genre of it's own consider it experiemental rock with some similarities but not enough to be put into one category, still, some disagree. Post rock is very hard to describe, the term "post rock" was invented by music journalist Simon Reynolds to describe a new form of music that was emerging during the 90s, which "used traditional rock instruments for non rock purposes" as he described it. Post rock bands use their instruments as facillitators of timbres and textures rather than riffs or chords, favoring drones and ambient soundscapes over scales and rhythm...One of the founding bands of the movement was Tortoise, bands like Sigur Ros and Godspeed You Black Emperor! have since defined the modern movement.

Examples: Tortoise, Mogwai, Sigur Ros, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Explosions In The Sky, A Silver MT.Zion, Magyar Posse.

Prog Folk

Folk music took the world by storm in the 60s, on both sides of the atlantic. While innovators like Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and others fused rock with North American folk music. British progressive rock musicians began to do the same, but with English folk instead. The most important of these bands was Jethro Tull, tull began as a blues rock band before focusing their attention towards traditional English folk music and other styles...Their defining moment was with Aqualung, with proto metal anthems like the title track and Locomotive Breath mixed with softer ballads all with a strong social message. Tulls sucess continued with Thick As A Brick and A Passion Play. Other prog folk bands include The Strawbs and Traffic, these bands rarely share the same influences, these prog bands can take elements of everything from bluegass, jazz and blues to renaissance music and other forms of traditional European music. Prog folk is still active today. Bands like Blackmores Night and Mostly Autumn have had some success.

Examples: Jethro Tull, The Strawbs, Traffic, Aphrodites Child, Blackmores Night, Mostly Autumn, Gryphon, Los Jaivas, Comus, Mezquita, Fairport Convention.

boo boo 01-12-2006 01:10 AM

Progressive Metal

Is just that, progressive rock and metal blended into one super genre of sorts, the loud agressive intensity of Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath and Judas Priest is blended with the complexity and precise composition of Yes, Genesis and ELP. Rush are sometimes credited for the innovation of the genre, for the use of progressive elements but with a heavier sound than that of their peers. However others point to King Crimson, Robert Fripp himself described the sound of crimson as "Metal with a brain" and songs like 21st Century Schizoid Man, The Great Deceiver and One More Red Nightmare clearly have a proto metal sound. In reality, progressive metal didn't become a genre of it's own until the mid-1980s. The important bands in this movement included Queensryche, Fates Warning and Dream Theater. While other progressive metal bands like Tool have little in common with typical prog metal bands, they still qualify. Progressive metal could be broken down into several sub-genres in it's own right, primarly because bands that are considered prog metal like Tool, Dream Theater, Kings X and Opeth are completely different from each other stylisticly and sonicly. Other artists like Mars Volta, Buckethead and Primus could possibly fall into this genre as well, though it may be too subjective to be certain.

Examples: Dream Theater, Tool, Opeth, Symphony X, Fates Warning, Pain Of Salvation, Queensryche, Kings X, Liquid Tension Experiment, Nightwish, Rhadsody, Shadow Gallary, Meshuggah.

RIO/Avant Prog

RIO (Rock-In-Opposition) is a very unique and diverse genre (Or Anti Genre, as it is sometimes known) which began in the 60s and it is inspired by the avant garde classical stuctures of composers like Igor Stravinsky. The leader of this musical movement was non other than the mother himself, Frank Zappa. Common characteristics in RIO are dissonant chords, odd time meters, polyrhythms, abstract melodies and often oblique lyrics. Avant prog, is rooted in two different prog movements, one is in the rock-in-opposition movement and the other is the canterbury scene...Because of this, avant prog is a much looser term, not a actual movement but a style that clearly draws inspiration from the 2 aforementioned musical movements. While RIO and canterbury have geographical and temporal limits, avant prog artists come from all over the world.

Examples: Frank Zappa, The Mothers Of Invention, Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band, Mr Bungle, Primus, Phish, Buckethead, Yeti, Henry Cow, Fantomas, The Residents.

Space Rock

Sometimes called pyschedelic prog, since it basiclly fuses elements of both genres, the complexity of progressive rock and the surrealism and the other worldly state of consciousness of pyschedelic rock. The term "space rock" was first used to describe the bizarre sound of Hawkwind and Pink Floyd, common characteristics include unusual production techniques, sound effects, electronic instrumentation and science fiction related themes. Space rock bands can both compromise and improvise, and often do both...Space rock still lives on in the oddball soundscapes of Porcupine Tree and Ozric Tentacles.

Examples: Pink Floyd, Hawkwind, Jade Warrior, Eloy, Galaxy, Nektar, Porcupine Tree, Ozric Tentacles.

Symphonic Prog

Many of the most successful and important prog bands belong in this category, symphonic prog first emerged in the late 60s with the arival of bands like The Moody Blues and Procol Harum breaking all the rules when it came to traditional rock music, symphonic prog follows most of the conventions of prog as described shortly after the introduction, including uncoventional instrumentation, long compositions with multiple parts, extended solos, drastic time and tempo changes, odd vocal harmonies, multi instrumentation, a variation of moods and tones and classical music influence's and structures. The top bands in symphonic prog are King Crimson, Yes, ELP, Genesis, Gentle Giant, Camel, Van Der Graaf Generator and Renaissance. While these bands dont sound very much alike, they all follow the main principles of symphonic prog. The hammond organ and moog synthesizer were popularized by these bands.

Examples: King Crimson, Yes, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Genesis, Gentle Giant, Camel, Renaissance, Van Der Graaf Generator, Focus, Barclay James Harvest, Greenslade, Mike Oldfield, Happy The Man, Triumvirat, Marsupilami, Spocks Beard, Flower Kings.


The name "Zeuhl" comes from the Kobaïan language, a fictional language which was invented by Christian Vander, the drummer and founder of Magma, a progressive rock band from France. The meaning of the word is "Celestial". Zeuhl is the self appointed genre of magma. Magma were a bunch of oddballs who came up with a concept that has been called both brillant and pretentious, inventing their own mythology, claiming to be aliens from the planet Kobaja and giving each member their own name in Kobaïan, all their albums are cronicles of this mythology, and the lyrics are all in Kobaïan. Though magma never had much success, they had a huge cult following, with many bands taking influence from their unique style and even using the Kobaïan language, yes believe it or not, what began as a strange concept has since become a musical genre in it's own right. While critics refused to take Zeuhl seriously as a genre, many bands demanded attention with their music. Zuehl is a mix of pretty much everything, avant garde, jazz, classical music, folk music, pyschedelic rock as well as neoclassicism, romanticism, imressionism and modernism. Brass instrumentation, recuring melody lines and chanted vocals are common in Zeuhl. The Zeuhl movement began in Magmas native France, though bands from Japan eventualy got involved as well.

Examples: Magma, Dun, Happy Family, Ruins, Kultivator, Eskaton, Far Corner, Weidorje.

Proto Prog

Bands who were involved in the development of progressive rock but dont really belong in any of the aforementioned categories.

Examples: The Moody Blues, Deep Purple, Vanilla Fudge, The Nice, Procol Harum, The Arthur Brown Band, The Beatles.

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