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Social Commentary in Prog-Rock

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Heart of the Matter View Drop Down
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    Posted: December 06 2020 at 08:23
There's a place for Social Commentary in Prog?

I, for example, think I can hear it on Genesis' Harold The Barrel & Get'em Out By Friday, and that mades the listening even more interesting to me.

You are kindly invited to debate, to contribute examples (or counter-examples), and, of course, personal opinion is in order too.    
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Tapfret Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 06 2020 at 09:28
When is it not, at least metaphorically, some sort of social commentary?

Other than instrumentals.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote The Dark Elf Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 06 2020 at 09:52
The excrement bubbles, the century's slime decays,
And the brainwashing government lackeys would have us say
It's under control and we'll soon be on our way
To a grand year for babies and quiz panel games
Of the hot hungry millions you'll be sure to remain.
The natural resources are dwindling and no one grows old
And those with no homes to go to, please pick yourself holes.

There's any number of Tull songs with political statements/social commentary included, from the anti-clerical, anti-religious sentiments of Aqualung and A Passion Play, and the environmentalism of Heavy Horses and Storm Watch.


Edited by The Dark Elf - December 06 2020 at 09:53
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (2) Thanks(2)   Quote Manuel Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 06 2020 at 11:03
Pink Floyd’s music, specially the songs written by Roger Waters, have a high content of social commentaries, and as mentioned before, Jethro Tull’s music had a lot too, including criticisms to the religious influence on British society.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Snicolette Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 06 2020 at 11:05
Definitely was thinking of Jethro Tull as a prime example of this.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AFlowerKingCrimson Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 06 2020 at 11:09
Selling England comes to mind. The Trees by Rush is another good example but they have others I'm sure.
When you list all the qualities that you despise and you realize you're describing yourself.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote dougmcauliffe Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 06 2020 at 11:20
King Gizzard has really dabbled in it with their two 2019 releases. I love Infest the Rats Nest, more of a Thrash Metal/Stoner Metal album with some prog elements though. Based on global warming, pollution, headbanging and the rich fleeing to mars

The Great Debate by Dream Theater is another good one
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Awesoreno Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 06 2020 at 12:32
Zappa. 'Nuff said.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote octopus-4 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 06 2020 at 13:01
Featured in RPI but unfortunately with lyrics in Italian: Fabrizio De Andre' is the best example. He was a sort of poet and it's a pity that his lyrics can't have the same strength when translated into English.
Even what is apparently a mainstream love song: "La Canzone di Marinella" (Marinella's song) Is about a prostitute found killed into a canal. 
He sang about war years before Roger Waters, his anti-religious invective is in the concept album "La Buona Novella", released before Aqualung. He sang about the French rebellion of the '68 in "Storia Di Un Impiegato e Di Un Non So", another concept album is "Non Al Denaro, Non All'Amore Ne' Al Cielo", based on Edgar Lee Masters book "Anthology Of Spoon River". There are songs like "River Sand Creek" about the Massacree of Native Americans. So I suggest grabbing a translation and listen to the albums. The two live albums with PFM added good prog arrangements to his singer-songwriter material.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote lazland Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 06 2020 at 13:41
Originally posted by AFlowerKingCrimson AFlowerKingCrimson wrote:

Selling England comes to mind.

Selling England is most definitely social commentary, an entire album dedicated to an England (it was England, not Britain) quickly disappearing in every social sense.

It was not political at all. Others here have mentioned Floyd with Waters as the main protagonist lyrically, but his lyrics were primarily political, not social. I have commentated on my Floyd reviews, especially Animals, how much he influenced me politically for many years, but, in all honesty, I find it tiresome as I have gotten older, especially his anti-Israel rants.

Ironically, the Genesis lyrics on their social commentary influences me far more politically now as a middle aged man.

Another exceptional example, btw, is Martin Orford’s exceptional lyrics (and music) on The Old Road, especially the title track and The Endgame. Jim Garten provided this site with the finest interview we have seen when he questioned Martin about the events which led to his retirement from the music industry, and whether you agreed with him, or not, you feel intrinsically bound to him when listening to the lyrics on this fine work.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote dr wu23 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 06 2020 at 14:00
Lots of songs  here and there but 2 that come quickly to mind are 21st Century Schizoid Man and Epitaph from KC's  first LP....



Edited by dr wu23 - December 06 2020 at 14:00
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote MortSahlFan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 06 2020 at 14:27
Pink Floyd (tons)

The Doors - Five to One
https://www.scribd.com/document/382737647/MortSahlFan-Song-List
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Snicolette Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 06 2020 at 14:29
Strawbs, with "New World," "Part of the Union," and even "The Hangman and the Papist," those three come to mind right off, with them.  And yes, to Zappa!  One of the best and brightest.

Edited by Snicolette - December 07 2020 at 08:52
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote octopus-4 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 07 2020 at 03:54
What about Marillion? Clutching At Straws and Brave. Also the first solo by Fish has Big Wedge and Family Business 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Ronstein Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 07 2020 at 03:58
Originally posted by lazland lazland wrote:

Originally posted by AFlowerKingCrimson AFlowerKingCrimson wrote:

Selling England comes to mind.

Another exceptional example, btw, is Martin Orford’s exceptional lyrics (and music) on The Old Road, especially the title track and The Endgame. Jim Garten provided this site with the finest interview we have seen when he questioned Martin about the events which led to his retirement from the music industry, and whether you agreed with him, or not, you feel intrinsically bound to him when listening to the lyrics on this fine work.

The Old Road is probably one of my favorite albums of all time. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Frenetic Zetetic Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 07 2020 at 04:20
Selling England by The Pound in general, Gentle Giant's Proclamation, Zappa in general, Captain Beefheart had ome very unique off the cuff commentary on social and political happenings.

"What is Prog?"-verslibre


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote SteveG Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 07 2020 at 05:42
Tbh, the social commentaries themselves do little for me. I've heard it all before in various guises of folk and folk rock. What I do like about it is that it forces the artists to create music as dramatic and moving as the lyrics. Just look at the usual suspects like Epitaph from KC and New World from the Strawbs. Moving songs that were custom made for the mellotron.

Edited by SteveG - December 07 2020 at 05:42
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Heart of the Matter Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 07 2020 at 14:48
The lyrics of The Court Of The Crimson King seems to represent well several of the apects pointed out until now: it's metaphoric, establishing some sort of parallel between that elusive medieval society and ours, it's acid with criticism, but also omitting any political/revolutionary agenda, and it works as motivation for the huge dramatic scope of the music (with the help of mellotron, of course).

Playing now the advocate of the devil, I propose a counter-example:
Genesis' "Visions of Angels" doesn't adress any social issue, does it? It's more about a romantic perception of nature, perhaps.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote The Dark Elf Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 07 2020 at 16:56
Originally posted by Heart of the Matter Heart of the Matter wrote:

The lyrics of The Court Of The Crimson King seems to represent well several of the apects pointed out until now: it's metaphoric, establishing some sort of parallel between that elusive medieval society and ours, it's acid with criticism, but also omitting any political/revolutionary agenda, and it works as motivation for the huge dramatic scope of the music (with the help of mellotron, of course).

Actually, there is metaphor and allegory throughout The Court of the Crimson King, but the poem by Peter Sinfield is about Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II and his long antagonistic relationship with Popes Innocent III and Gregory IX, interspersed with allusions to Frederick's own writings regarding alchemy, religion and his acquaintance with Thomas Aquinas, along with other 14th century concerns.

For instance, the line "The Gardener plants an evergreen whilst trampling on a flower" is a reference to St. Francis of Assisi, the "Little Flower" whose ideals of charity and poverty were trampled by the pope and the Church. If you've ever read Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose, the Spiritual Franciscans who advocated poverty as a Christlike ideal were supported by Emperor Frederick against the papal forces who were far more interested in the wealth and power of the Church in the 14th century.


Edited by The Dark Elf - December 11 2020 at 18:28
...a vigorous circular motion hitherto unknown to the people of this area, but destined
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Catcher10 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 07 2020 at 17:25
Originally posted by lazland lazland wrote:

Originally posted by AFlowerKingCrimson AFlowerKingCrimson wrote:

Selling England comes to mind.

Selling England is most definitely social commentary, an entire album dedicated to an England (it was England, not Britain) quickly disappearing in every social sense.

It was not political at all. Others here have mentioned Floyd with Waters as the main protagonist lyrically, but his lyrics were primarily political, not social. I have commentated on my Floyd reviews, especially Animals, how much he influenced me politically for many years, but, in all honesty, I find it tiresome as I have gotten older, especially his anti-Israel rants.

Ironically, the Genesis lyrics on their social commentary influences me far more politically now as a middle aged man.

Another exceptional example, btw, is Martin Orford’s exceptional lyrics (and music) on The Old Road, especially the title track and The Endgame. Jim Garten provided this site with the finest interview we have seen when he questioned Martin about the events which led to his retirement from the music industry, and whether you agreed with him, or not, you feel intrinsically bound to him when listening to the lyrics on this fine work.

I miss Jim's PA contributions...
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