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Reelin’ In the Years 162: Locomotive Breath

Tull in their pomp. An acknowledgement of their bluesy origins in the intro leading into a complete rock-out and then one of Ian Anderson’s trademark flute solos. The mix of blues and rock also pointed to Prog Rock leanings but Tull always denied they ever purveyed Prog.

Edited to add. This video has the LP track overdubbed onto concert footage.

Jethro Tull: Locomotive Breath

Not Friday On My Mind 29: Shine on Brightly

Not a single but Procol Harum were one of the forebears of Prog Rock. As this track, among many others, evinces.

Procol Harum: Shine on Brightly

Friday on my Mind 112: Painter Man

A small hit in the UK (no 36) but a no 8 in Germany. The track has echoes of The Troggs and The Who of I’m a Boy and prefigures the Roy Wood era Electric Light Orchestra. The video features “guitarist” Eddie Phillips playing his instrument with a violin bow – reputedly the first to do so – a major contributor to the record’s sound. Another antecedent of Prog Rock?

Phillips had also used this technique on their previous single, Making Time.

The Creation: Painter Man

Not Friday On My Mind 20: Never Comes The Day

Tuesday Afternoon was followed as a single by Voices in the Sky (with its flute flourishes and distinctive vocal from Justin Hayward) which, like its follow-up, the hard-driving perennial favourite Ride My See-Saw, featured on the next LP, the even more pretentious concept album, In Search of the Lost Chord. That was the first Moody Blues LP I bought – possibly my first ever and there’s barely a dud on it – with the possible exception of the spoken passages and the final track Om. Its standout is the Ray Thomas song Legend of a Mind embedded within the House of Four Doors sequence with its classical pretensions placing the group’s output firmly in Prog territory.

By this time the Moodies were firmly established as my favourite band.

Then we had this song – later to feature on On The Threshold of a Dream – which I remember in its review of the single the NME referred to as “beautifully constructed.” Here the group plays it live.

The Moody Blues: Never Comes The Day

Not Friday On My Mind 19: Tuesday Afternoon

I didn’t buy the Moodies’ next single, Tuesday Afternoon, a song which – like Nights In White Satin – appeared also on the LP Days of Future Passed but I remember hearing it on the radio and thinking it was almost as good. It seems the single version was edited down to a ludicrous 2 minutes 16 seconds – missing out the repeat of the opening riff and “Tuesday Afternoon” chorus.

This is how it appeared on the LP and so contains the orchestral afterpiece tagged on by conductor Peter Knight. Knight’s “classical music” interludes linked all the songs on the LP – supposedly to demonstrate the record label Deram’s new “Deramic Sound System.” The story that the band were asked to record an album based on Dvorak’s New World symphony but instead recorded their own songs without the label’s knowledge has been disputed.

Edited (7/6/14) to add:- Those orchestral interludes and the fact that it was a concept album probably make Days of Future Passed one of the first prog rock albums.

The Moody Blues: Tuesday Afternoon

Reelin' In The Years 57: The World Became the World

I’ve not had any prog rock for a while so here is Italy’s finest, Premiata Forneria Marconi (or PFM,) with a beezer. (Just wait for the hook about one and a half minutes in.)

Thank God if sometimes your oyster holds a pearl.

PFM: The World Became the World

And for added value here’s a video of the band performing Celebration on The Old Grey Whistle Test.


Prog? Really?

I was watching “Prog at the BBC” last week. It featured the usual suspects – except for me Soft Machine always tipped too far over into seemingly improvised tootling to be prog.

But they also showed Atomic Rooster.

Atomic Rooster?

Fair enough their drummer Carl Palmer went on to become a member 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):-

Atomic Rooster:€“ Tomorrow Night

Woolly Wolstenholme

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. I 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 “Woolly” Wolstenholme. 15/4/47-13/12/10. So it goes.

Autumn Almanac

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 I 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.

The man was/is a genius. Hear for yourself.

Imagery

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.

Utterly bizarre.

I couldn’t find a version where the first few notes are not omitted.

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