The place The Troggs had for me in the 60s and Sweet in the early 70s was taken by Marillion in the early 80s.
Marillion have been forever tagged with the Prog Rock label and while their first songs – especially the 17 minute long Grendel and most of the debut album Script For a Jester’s Tear – fit that bill (which was why I got into them in the first place) by the time of Fugazi they had mainly moved on to a more guitar based rock sound.
Their initial success, though, shows that Prog wasn’t as moribund a genre as its detractors would have had it.
I think I first saw them on television on The Oxford Road Show (who remembers that!) when this was one of the songs they played. Despite it being from Fugazi there is still a hint of Prog and echoes of Genesis.
This clip, though, is from Top of the Pops. Check out Fish – with hair!
This is probably the track which really switched me on to prog rock. I had been softened up by Procol Harum and had, I think, a few Moody Blues LPs by this time but this was something different.
I heard The Court Of The Crimson King for the first time on Pick of the Pops. Alan Freeman did not just play the top twenty but other more eclectic stuff. I particularly remember the name Rabbi Abraham Feinberg.
Anyway, one day this came on and I thought “Wow. What is that?”
The video here shows, for some bizarre reason, bits of one of Ian Stewart’s geology programmes for the BBC.
Fair enough their drummer Carl Palmer went on to become ⅓ of those highpriests of the overblown, ELP, but Atomic Rooster themselves were more or less straightforward rock (even if the Wiki link above does say they were a “progressive” rock band.)
As witness Tomorrow Night, the track played on the programme (by which time Palmer had already left):-
I must have been one of the last to catch up with the news of the death last month of “Woolly” Wolstenholme, one of the founders of prog rock group Barclay James Harvest. I almost skipped the Guardian’s obituary page on Friday. I’m glad I didn’t now. (Though the picture does the band no favours, making them look like a bunch of effetes. Still, it was the seventies, a lot of bands looked like that then.)
BJH were one of the main purveyors of the branch of prog rock that took the adjective “symphonic” and Wolstenholme was perhaps the main driver of these leanings towards classical music.
They were famous notorious for touring with a live orchestra – though they gave that up pretty quickly as being too expensive.
While not providing the bulk of the group’s songs – John Lees and Les Holroyd did that – Wolstenholme’s contributions lent the band a distinctive tone.
The fullest extent of Wolstenholme’s classical extensions to their work is probably the track Moonwater from the Baby James Harvest album.
A more typical flavour of his songwriting can be gleaned from listening to Beyond The Grave from the album Time Honoured Ghosts or Sea of Tranquility from Gone To Earth though Harbour from XII (of which this is a performance by successor band John Lees’ Barclay James Harvest) is more folkish. A have a sneaking regard for Ra from Octoberon but haven’t found a net-playable version.
XII was the last BJH album to which Woolly contributed. It featured the track below, which seems to be the favourite of those devotees who have posted on You Tube.
Barclay James Harvest: In Search Of England
Woolly’s death is even sadder in that as a sufferer from depression, he took his own life.
Stuart John Wolstenholme. 15/4/47-13/12/10. So it goes.
I happened to hear this song by the Kinks on the radio the other day. I thought (again) how strange it is. It seems to have as many galloping hiccoughs as “Bohemian Rhapsody” and sounds as if it has at least three different melodies. As a result I began to wonder if there were different time signatures involved and if perhaps it could be claimed as a progenitor of prog rock. After all, the Kinks songwriter and éminence grise Ray Davies has been credited with inventing heavy metal with the riff driven “You Really Got Me” and “All Day And All Of The Night” so why not prog too? Note here that his song writing skills undoubtedly rank as high as anyone in the rock/pop pantheon – and I mean anyone.
So listened to it again more carefully and, yes, there are key changes, but, to my ears anyway, it follows a resolute 2/2 throughout. (Either that or it’s a quick 4/4.)
Despite the apparent complexity, it’s actually very simple rhythmically.
I mentioned Procol Harum a few posts ago. When I wrote about America by The Nice I said, under the influence of a programme I’d seen on the history of the form on BBC 3 or 4, that it seemed that was where Prog Rock began. However it is arguable that Procol Harum’s A Whiter Shade Of Pale, with its debt to Air On A G String, is a truer progenitor.
Among other reasons, A Whiter Shade Of Pale is famous for the opacity of its lyric. I confess to a soft spot for the follow up single, Homburg, (based more on Sheep May Safely Graze) where the lyric is not quite so opaque. The verses are a shade apocalyptic but not the refrain.
Verse 2 runs like this: The Town Clock in the market square stands waiting for the hour,
When its hands they both turn backwards and on meeting will devour
Both themselves and also any fool who dares to tell the time,
And the sun and moon will shatter and the signposts cease to sign.
SF/fantasy imagery or what?
But then we get a refrain dealing with (a lack of) sartorial elegance. Your trouser cuffs are dirty and your shoes are laced up wrong,
You’d better take off your homburg cause your overcoat is too long.
I couldn’t find a version where the first few notes are not omitted.