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The origins of progressive rock (proto-prog)

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    Posted: June 06 2018 at 02:09
AN INTRODUCTION TO THE ORIGINS OF PROGRESSIVE ROCK (PROTO-PROG).

Part one: Proto-prog and fullblown prog.

‘Progressive’ as a cultural phenomenon was first expressed in recorded popular music around 1964 via ‘progressive’ segments of songs (for instance, Animals, Beatles, Yardbirds, Who, Beach Boys) followed by entire progressive songs in 1966 (Soft Machine, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Doors, Beatles) and entire progressive rock (a.k.a. prog) albums in 1968 (such as The Nice ‘Ars longa vita Brevis’, East Of Eden 'Mercator Projected', Moody Blues 'On the Threshold of a Dream', Caravan 'Caravan' (?), HP Lovecraft 'II' (?)). However, on the live scene Soft Machine and Pink Floyd were playing entire prog gigs as early as 1966.

In Denmark and other countries outside the UK and the US, progressive rock often developed at a slower pace.

In can be helpful to describe the development of progressive rock and any of it’s genres on a song and album basis by a stage model including research, ideation, conceptualization, realization, commercialization and operation. The three former stages define proto-prog, the latter fullblown prog.

On the song basis, Pink Floyd, Procol Harum, The Doors and others successfully reached the commercialization stage around 1967 while as an album genre, prog would not reach the realization stage before 1969’s ‘In the Court of the Crimson King’ by King Crimson and the commercialization stage a year later.

(Part 2 and subsequent parts deal with advances in technology and societal changes that supported the early development of progressive rock.)


Part two: The musical instruments, the instrumentalists and the producers.

Integration of musical instruments from jazz (brass instruments, the Hammond organ etc.), European classical music (string and woodwind instruments e.g. the clavichord and harpsichord but also the harmonium), Indian classical music (e.g. the sitar), electronic music (the Theremin, Clavioline, electroacoustic tape music, Musique Concrète, electronic generators etc.), blues and folk music (e.g. the 12-string guitar) into popular music in the 60s i.e. R&B, beat and rock, as well as the introduction of new (electronic) musical instruments such as the mellotron and moog synthesizer are prominent features in the development of progressive rock. (An example of instrument integration: the use of Harpsichord by Jimi Hendrix in 'Burning of the Midnight Lamp'.)


In addition, the use of the recording studio as a musical instrument (recall Joe Meek and Abbey Road Studios) plays an important role.

The producer would also become an important component of and have a significant effect on the music. In passing we mention Joe Meek, George Martin, Brian Wilson, Chris Blackwell, Teo Macero, Norman Smith and Johnny Reimar.

Also, the players or instrumentalists such as the keyboardist (Keith Emerson), the guitarist (Steve Howe) and the bassist (Chris Squire) would fill larger roles resulting in less lyrics (and perhaps melody) oriented music with increased focus on instrumental passages and the proficiency of the instrumentalist. By adding instrumentalists from genres outside popular music the group would become enlarged by musicians from e.g. jazz (e.g. Burnin Red Ivanhoe) and classical music (The Beatles).



Edited by earlyprog - June 07 2018 at 03:22
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote earlyprog Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 06 2018 at 02:12
Feel free to suggest references (songs, albums, musical instruments, instrumetalists, producers etc.) and add comments Hug

Edited by earlyprog - June 06 2018 at 02:41
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Cristi Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 06 2018 at 02:20
maybe Vanilla Fudge?
Zappa?
Deep Purple (Evans era)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Mortte Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 06 2018 at 02:24
while as an album genre, prog would not reach the realization stage before 1969’s ‘In the Court of the Crimson King’ by King Crimson and the commercialization stage a year later.
 
Procol Harum released Shine On Brightly over year before, there is "In Held Twas In I" that I think is fullblooded prog epic, also prog elements on the other songs in album. Also, there is mention about 1968 as a year of prog albums (specially the Nice Ars Longa Vita Brevis also has one side long epic), but not anything about that Procol Harum great album.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote SteveG Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 06 2018 at 04:28
I would definitely mention Zappa/s (MOI) "Freak Out" as well as the Moody Blues "Days of Future Passed" from proto as well as the studio experiments of the Beatles. There is a lot to canvas. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Mortte Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 06 2018 at 05:15
^Also Zappa´s Absolutely Free, it´s maybe the first prog album (specially first side).
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote dr wu23 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 06 2018 at 09:12
Certainly Procol Harum as Mortte mentioned but the first two both qualify....and the first Nice...Emerlist Davjack also...Moody Blues of course.....early Traffic imo.....and there are many obscure and one hit wonders that released very interesting things from 68-70...like East Of Eden that was mentioned above....the PA proto prog page lists some of them.
Spirit were doing interesting things even before 12 Dreams was released.
I always enjoyed Touch...sadly they only did the one LP.
And many of the Brit psych-rock things were crossing over into early prog back then....The Move...Pussy Plays....Moonkyte...Andromeda....


Edited by dr wu23 - June 06 2018 at 09:25
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Mortte Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 06 2018 at 11:26
Also really much proto-prog on great Love´s Forever Changes-album. I like much Spirit 60-70 begin albums too!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote earlyprog Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 06 2018 at 12:42
Originally posted by Cristi Cristi wrote:

maybe Vanilla Fudge?
Zappa?
Deep Purple (Evans era)

'Renaissance' by Vanilla Fudge contains a variety of genres including R&B ('All in your Mind', 'Look of Love'), US Psyche ('The Sky cried- when I was a Boy', 'Thoughts') and a mixture of symphonic and psyche (the remainder of the album). Hence, not a fullblown prog album IMO.

Evans-era DP albums: proto-prog although there nmay be a few fullblown prog tracks that slip my mind at the moment - will have to check.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote AFlowerKingCrimson Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 06 2018 at 15:19
I think most people on here would agree that for the most part full blown prog didn't really happen until the KC debut. There were possibly a few exceptions before that such as the Nice but as a full blown genre I think it's safe to say that ITCOTCK is the one that kicked the doors down. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Atavachron Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 06 2018 at 16:15
To me the question is why rock 'n roll?--  why did rock progress so fully when pop and blues and folk and even jazz were generally stagnant and fixed in place.   What properties did rock have that allowed such growth?   And was it the era, or the music itself?   It's easy to say this artist or that artist were the "first", "pioneering", "seminal", all the recorded evidence is there to be analyzed and noted as influential.   But what caused the incredible rise of rock as art and its unexpected triumph, both commercially and creatively? ~


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote fredyair Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 06 2018 at 16:44
Like they say, you hit the nail on the head. There was a stirring revolution in many areas of society, sexual, civil liberties, anti war movements, women liberation, etc, people were experimenting with mind bending drugs and at the same time the transistor revolution in electronics was connecting the world more closely than ever, creating new ways of communicating and expressing itself. Music couldn't stay away from it, and rock was the new kid in the block, eager to separate itself from the rest of popular music. I think that's the cocktail that brought us prog music.
Long live Progresive music!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Atavachron Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 06 2018 at 18:10
^ I've also considered the possibility that the rock format, in its simple and untrained structure and nature, was primed for growth and ripe for a big shot of creative energy.   Of course, marijuana didn't hurt, either.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote siLLy puPPy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 06 2018 at 18:36
Originally posted by Atavachron Atavachron wrote:

To me the question is why rock 'n roll?--  why did rock progress so fully when pop and blues and folk and even jazz were generally stagnant and fixed in place.   What properties did rock have that allowed such growth?   And was it the era, or the music itself?   It's easy to say this artist or that artist were the "first", "pioneering", "seminal", all the recorded evidence is there to be analyzed and noted as influential.   But what caused the incredible rise of rock as art and its unexpected triumph, both commercially and creatively? ~



I would guess that jazz and the blues had been around for several decades and were entering their later life stage of creativity whereas rock was young, full of energy and was the music that attracted the creative youth to express themselves. Pop, jazz and blues didn't really go away, they were simply vacuumed up and inserted into rock's DNA in order to create all kinds of interesting musical monsters that we all love today Star


Edited by siLLy puPPy - June 06 2018 at 18:36

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Atavachron Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 06 2018 at 19:37
^Exactly--  blues and folk and pop and jazz (and let's not forget classical) didn't incorporate rock, rock incorporated them.   But rock 'n roll seems a wholly unlikely depository for all the music forms that came before it.





Edited by Atavachron - June 06 2018 at 19:38
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote HackettFan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 06 2018 at 20:11
I’m always one to give Zappa and the MOI credit as being the first, but determining the first is not the same as determining the “origin”. For that we need to know who was influenced by who. Zappa was a long way from the center of Prog. He did play at least once over Interstellar Overdrive with post-Barrett Floyd. He did do some work with the LSO (I’m not actually sure when). What other influence did Zappa have on the English underground? Zappa’s band members after leaving the MOI tended to go back to Jazz, Chamber Music or other obscurity. Few bands other than Beefheart were an offshoot of the MOI. The Genesis folks were heavily influenced by the Nice. I myself am not sure what other acts were. Tull influenced a segment of Prog, but not more than a segment. The Wild Flowers and Soft Machine were early occupiers of the underground and yielded numerous offshoot bands. King Crimson seem to have influenced many. On the other hand, much like the MOI, in spite of the number band members who came and went, they did little to expand the number of bands.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote siLLy puPPy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 06 2018 at 20:56
Originally posted by Atavachron Atavachron wrote:

^Exactly--  blues and folk and pop and jazz (and let's not forget classical) didn't incorporate rock, rock incorporated them.   But rock 'n roll seems a wholly unlikely depository for all the music forms that came before it.




I would say it was a matter of convenience. It was what was popular so therefore it simply became the musical canvass to paint upon. If rock was put head to head with every genre on the planet without being popular at the time, then perhaps some other genre would've been the fertile breeding ground. I would think it was simply a crossroads of coincidences where rock was a popular genre at the time when musical globalization went viral.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote cstack3 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 06 2018 at 23:11
Originally posted by Cristi Cristi wrote:

maybe Vanilla Fudge?
Zappa?
Deep Purple (Evans era)

Clearly, Deep Purple (Evans era) were remarkably progressive!!  Check them out in this 1968 video....


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote earlyprog Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 07 2018 at 02:41
Originally posted by Mortte Mortte wrote:

while as an album genre, prog would not reach the realization stage before 1969’s ‘In the Court of the Crimson King’ by King Crimson and the commercialization stage a year later.
 
Procol Harum released Shine On Brightly over year before, there is "In Held Twas In I" that I think is fullblooded prog epic, also prog elements on the other songs in album. Also, there is mention about 1968 as a year of prog albums (specially the Nice Ars Longa Vita Brevis also has one side long epic), but not anything about that Procol Harum great album.

It's always debatable whether an early PA listed album is full blown prog. 'Shine on brightly' has full songs and segments of songs that are prog (successful genre integration) the rest is R&B, blues. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote earlyprog Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 07 2018 at 03:03
Originally posted by dr wu23 dr wu23 wrote:

Certainly Procol Harum as Mortte mentioned but the first two both qualify....and the first Nice...Emerlist Davjack also...Moody Blues of course.....early Traffic imo.....and there are many obscure and one hit wonders that released very interesting things from 68-70...like East Of Eden that was mentioned above....the PA proto prog page lists some of them.
Spirit were doing interesting things even before 12 Dreams was released.
I always enjoyed Touch...sadly they only did the one LP.
And many of the Brit psych-rock things were crossing over into early prog back then....The Move...Pussy Plays....Moonkyte...Andromeda....

Agreed. Of the latter, Touch and Spirit are certainly worth analyzing for their prog worthiness. I will investigate Pussy Plays and Moonkyte further, thanks.
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