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Was prog actually popular in the 70s??

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fudgenuts64 View Drop Down
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    Posted: April 22 2013 at 23:28
Hi, I'm curious to know whether the most well known prog had some popularity at it's peak. Like, was stuff like Close to the Edge or Foxtrot commonly known during that time or just a mere niche? This was before my time so I'm very curious to know exactly what prog significance was during it's peak.  
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Atavachron Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 22 2013 at 23:40

here's an article I wrote on the matter -


When Prog Ruled the World


It did, y'know, for a brief and shining moment. When released in the U.S. in early 1971, Emerson, Lake and Palmer's first record peaked at number 18 on the Billboard charts. Yes's Close to the Edge (1972) reached #3. Jethro Tull's monster child Thick as a Brick -- one continuous cut that spanned both sides of an LP, something almost unheard of even then –- made it to #1 during 1972. As did A Passion Play in '73. That's right, numero uno for an album many consider to be the most overblown and pretentious piece of music ever put to record. Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here, too, in '75.

It barely seems possible. Was this the same planet we currently reside on? A place where today such albums would be considered by the general public more as theater than modern rock music, seen as a novelty, or worse, a gimmick. A selfish overindulgence by groups who thought rock had become high art, and with the temerity to actually sell it to people. What was occurring in the post-psychedelic landscape of the early 1970s, and what had happened to individual perception that caused such ambitious breakthroughs to become marketable?

In many ways, it isn't terribly surprising when one considers the sheer quality of the music; Thick as a Brick with its catchy melodies, storybook lyrics, clever cover, and very digestible mix of acoustic folk with hard rock and classical. A winner before it was it was ever heard. The newness and palatable art-pop on ELP's first, sophistry and challenging structures in Close to the Edge, and the elegance and crystal waters of Wish You Were Here. All pinnacles of where rock had been and how far it had come, and each one further inspired and improved upon. A true progression of both form and of quality. As well, other smaller prog artists were able to follow on the coattails of these successes, eking out a living if only in their own countries. That's not to say The Stones, McCartney, Simon & Garfunkel, Chicago and Elton John weren't the undisputed kings of sales, but the British Invasion hadn't ceased with The Beatles' break-up. No, it had expanded, morphed seemingly overnight into something altogether new and extraordinary that took not only from rock's past, but from the best the western world's entire musical history had to offer. The rules had exploded, the sky was limitless and people seemed ready for an era both marvelous and maddening in its creative spirit. It was clear: Progressive Rock was a movement, and by the time it was over would produce some of the most startling, meticulous and difficult popular music the world has even known. And all during the course of about ten years.

And people were buying it, listening to it. A few even seemed to be enjoying this masturbatory nonsense, apparently lauded only by beard-stroking academics with no girlfriends and a little too much time on their hands. Even more unexpected was that this new 'art rock' was an extension of what had come just before, a much further push into territory The Beatles, Jefferson Airplane, Moody Blues, Doors, The Who and others had only hinted at. It was unusual because most new musical forms are a reaction against their siblings of the old guard, a turning away of the past fueled by a desperate need to be expressively different. But a few mavericks in Britain, Europe and North America, some of whom had formal musical backgrounds and larger visions of what was possible within a rock format, decided to raise those stakes, not change them. It was a time when the bigger the concept, higher the ambition and finer the skills - the more a musician was willing do and farther able to go - the more people seemed interested. The audience had grown-up and instead of rejecting its history, wanted more. The timing was right and the artists were ready-- a fleeting convergence when everything that had been accomplished in the previous decade, the inventive and free spirit of those times, had set the stage for something far greater.

The record-buying public weren't the only ones charmed. Commercial music, that pool of anonymously recorded and publicly owned stuff you hear slapped on a cheap TV show, pasted to endless radio spots or piped-in at the local mall had suddenly adopted a space age & synthesizer motif, sounding remarkably like a watered down ELP. Pretty soon everything from the local news to the new season of In Search Of sported music undeniably influenced not by Pop, Rock 'n Roll, Folk or the other popular genres, but by what the Prog musicians had been offering for years.

Then things changed. Some say Disco killed Prog with its polyester, new haircuts, and hijacking of symphonic arrangements. Others think it was Punk, its 'rebellion' against the rock establishment and bloated acts that system supported. In fact the truth isn't so simple and frankly neither Disco nor Punk had much hand in progressive rock's recession. Time moves on, generations grow out of their past and new replaces old. And though music journalism's passionate love affair with Punk rock and tenuous relationship with Prog probably hastened its demise, the press wasn't the culprit. All three musical styles developed around the same period, paralleling one another much of the time. Each provided a unique voice in modern music and an alternative to the massive Pop market, and each eventually succumbed to its own weight.

Thankfully progressive rock survived. Just barely. A handful of bands scattered around the world didn't give-in to the pressure and kept making rock for the thinking person, playing to an oblivious world caught up in the Reagan era. A few veterans like Yes and Pink Floyd re-emerged in the 80s and offered some quality music to a thankful if tiny audience. Still others such as Rush just kept going, some feel at the price of their artistry, making many more albums and even getting a few radio hits along the way. Luckily in our time, the internet has saved Prog from going under and offers not only an easy way to find the music of these new and old bands, but a worldwide community filled with likeminded lovers of the rock progressive. So enjoy, and Prog on!



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Post Options Post Options   Quote Dean Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 23 2013 at 00:26
Yes.
 
 
....next!


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Post Options Post Options   Quote richardh Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 23 2013 at 01:11
King Crimson,Yes , ELP, Genesis, Rush, Pink Floyd, Camel,Jethro Tull were all big sellers. Rush and Genesis actually sold more records during and after punk.

Gentle Giant not so much so. VDGG never had a big selling album in the UK although were big in Italy and other continental countries. There were loads of prog bands whose sales were modest to say the least. The Seventies was the decade of the so called 'Supergroup' and prog was in a good position to exploit this. Add the synthesiser and suddenly you have a succesfull  commercial formula that lasted a good while until people just got bored with it.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Hercules Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 23 2013 at 04:16
Of course it was.
 
Look at the album charts of the time.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Gerinski Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 23 2013 at 05:50
Sure it was. But you have to consider that the offer of pop-rock music and entertainment in general was much more limited than now, so any music released had automatically more chances of exposure and of becoming popular.
Nowadays pop-rock music is an element of the young generations culture and entertainment but only one of many, along with computers and tablets, video-games, tons of movie releases and TV offer, social networks, phone texting and so many others, so except for the really big mainstream hits, most of the music released is nearly by definition a niche entertainment. Exposure as such has become easier with the internet, YouTube etc, but the chances of becoming really popular among such a dense offer of entertainment is actually smaller, and the cultural importance of pop-rock in the young generations culture has become rather marginal.

In the 1970's rock music was the predominant cultural expression and artistic entertainment for young people and the quantity of music released was more limited. Of course much music remained obscure, but the chances of exposure and of getting some success were much bigger.
Many people would actually favour more pop-oriented rock such as Bowie, Lou Reed, Peter Frampton, the albums by the ex-Beatles, Iggy Pop, The Who, ELO etc or the heavier side with Purple, Zeppelin, Sabbath etc, but they would almost surely be also exposed to proper Prog and would likely have in their discographies some ELP, Yes, Genesis, Camel, Pink Floyd, Supertramp, KC etc, at least their most famous albums (even some Zappa was quite common to be present in most people's discography, even if fewer people actually listened to them Wink).

If Prog would have only come into existence today, I doubt that it would have become as popular as it did in the 70's, if only because the offer of alternatives for the young is so much bigger. Conversely any other new rock style having popped up in 1969-1970 instead of Prog would likely have become popular too. Timing played a role.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Stool Man Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 23 2013 at 06:19
Looking in my book of British Chart hits,  Yes had Number One hit albums in 1973 & 1977, and six other Top Ten hit albums in the 70s.  Pink Floyd had Number One hit albums in 1970 & 1975, plus four more Top Ten hit albums.  ELP had a Number One hit album in 1971, plus another six Top Ten hit albums.  Genesis had seven Top Ten hit albums.  Jethro Tull had four Top Ten hit albums.
That's a total of thirty two Top Ten chart albums in the 1970s, just for those five bands. 
Pink Floyd  Dark Side Of The Moon stayed on the charts for fourteen years without dropping out.  Mike Oldfield's  Tubular Bells was on the charts for over five years. 
 
Success is measured by lots of people buying the music, and that's measured by the charts.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote HolyMoly Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 23 2013 at 06:51
Originally posted by Atavachron

here's an article I wrote on the matter -

......


Great article!  thanks for sharing that.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote chopper Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 23 2013 at 06:54
Originally posted by Hercules

Of course it was.
 
Look at the album charts of the time.
Exactly, and the Annual Melody Makers awards were pretty much a clean sweep for Yes, ELP and Genesis for best musician awards. It was certainly the biggest music genre at my school (until punk came along).
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Cactus Choir Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 23 2013 at 07:45
I think Yes, ELP, Jethro Tull and Pink Floyd were the most commercially successful prog bands internationally in the "golden era" (1970-74). At least they were the ones getting into the US Top 10 which was the biggest and most lucrative market. Gabriel era Genesis were popular in the UK but didn't get really big in the US until they started going "pop" (And Then There Were Three). I just checked and Invisible Touch was their biggest album (6x Platinum). There's no accounting is there....

Edited by Cactus Choir - April 23 2013 at 07:49
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Moogtron III Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 23 2013 at 08:38
Years ago I made a thread about an Italian chart of best selling albums in a certain month in 1972, which I found in Armando Gallo's book "I Know What I Like" (about Genesis, obviously). This is the chart I'm talking about

  1. Van der Graaf Generator – Pawn Hearts
  2. Premiata Forneria Marconi – Storia Di Un Minuto
  3. Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Pictures At An Exhibition
  4. Genesis – Nursery Cryme
  5. King Crimson – Islands
  6. Fabrizio De André – Non Al Denaro, Non All’Amore Né Al Cielo
  7. George Harrison – Concert For Bangla Desh
  8. John Lennon – Imagine
  9. Mina – Mina
  10. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV
  11. Yes- Fragile
Pretty amazing, isn't it? Imagine that that would be the actual chart of best selling albums in your country.


Edited by Moogtron III - April 23 2013 at 08:41
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Josef_K Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 23 2013 at 08:56
Originally posted by Moogtron III

Years ago I made a thread about an Italian chart of best selling albums in a certain month in 1972, which I found in Armando Gallo's book "I Know What I Like" (about Genesis, obviously). This is the chart I'm talking about

  1. Van der Graaf Generator – Pawn Hearts
  2. Premiata Forneria Marconi – Storia Di Un Minuto
  3. Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Pictures At An Exhibition
  4. Genesis – Nursery Cryme
  5. King Crimson – Islands
  6. Fabrizio De André – Non Al Denaro, Non All’Amore Né Al Cielo
  7. George Harrison – Concert For Bangla Desh
  8. John Lennon – Imagine
  9. Mina – Mina
  10. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV
  11. Yes- Fragile
Pretty amazing, isn't it? Imagine that that would be the actual chart of best selling albums in your country.

Wow, Pawn Hearts at #1 along with Islands and Nursery Cryme that high up? :S Three albums which really didn't matter at all on an international level, but also three of my favorite albums.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote twosteves Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 23 2013 at 09:34
Yes, very very popular---Yes selling out 4 nights at Madison Sq Garden kind of popular. Who can do that today but a handful of artists. And across the pond---just or more popular in it's overall impact---
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Post Options Post Options   Quote progbethyname Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 23 2013 at 10:19
Prog sure was quite popular. Found out that even Goblin's PROFUNDO ROSSO album sold over a million copies in 1976. The prog message was clearly out there. It was massive. :)
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Post Options Post Options   Quote lazland Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 23 2013 at 10:40
Yes.

And, verily, it shall become so againWink


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Post Options Post Options   Quote moshkito Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 23 2013 at 10:42
Originally posted by fudgenuts64

Hi, I'm curious to know whether the most well known prog had some popularity at it's peak. Like, was stuff like Close to the Edge or Foxtrot commonly known during that time or just a mere niche? This was before my time so I'm very curious to know exactly what prog significance was during it's peak.  
 
YES.
 
At least as far as KLOS and KMET in Los Angeles and KNAC ... Yes was probably the best known of these as Genesis did not quite take off until "Selling England By The Pound", though they were one of those "darling" imports!
 
AFAIK, in London the term "progressive" was already used, but in California it was still considered "art rock", though I already considered these folks the modern composers of my time and yours ... and did not separate rock, jazz and bullmerde from any other music, like everyone else does and states that it is not worth of discussion in order to make music history ... IT IS ... or our generation is a bunch of worthless geeks that never learned anything ... except to copy "the master" ... and both you and I have an issue with that, I'm sure!
 
Unffortunately, for the record, Genesis became even more famous after Peter Gabriel and the work that we DO consider "progressive", which tends to distort the equation! Pink Floyd was already seminal and important in these stations, and SPECIALLY the FM radio (these were) because they were STEREO as opposed to the regular radio ... and this IS ... the great wakeup time about music ... since before the fidelity was next to nill and poor.
 
It is VERY important that we understand that ... since in many ways the advent of "stereo" helped a lot of this music seem a lot more important than before ... and this is something that we do not consider enough. Go check out the rinky dinky AM band and listen to a few songs played there and then go listen to a big name FM station on the same radio ... that difference is MASSIVE to differentiate the VALUE of the music itself, and "progressive" music made FULL use of that ability ... like the top ten was not doing at the time! This is a lot LESS visible and an issue today, as the lowest level mp3 or iTunes is even better than most olf FM station signals in those days!
 
It's easy to say ... you had no idea!
 
I do think that a few years later in America, FM radio went commercial and the value of these bands dropped some, to the point where the big sellers were more important ... and this had a tendency to hurt the whole process and create the glamour thing and then the louder still thing (like the Rolling Stones at 125 decibels were not loud!), and then ... anything else!


Edited by moshkito - April 23 2013 at 10:49
... none of the hits, none of the time ... you might actually find your own art, or self, and forego lousy heroes or Guru's!

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Post Options Post Options   Quote moshkito Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 23 2013 at 10:50
Originally posted by Dean

Yes.
 
 
....next!
 
Profound!
 
Clap
... none of the hits, none of the time ... you might actually find your own art, or self, and forego lousy heroes or Guru's!

www.pedrosena.com
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Post Options Post Options   Quote brainstormer Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 23 2013 at 10:54
Not just prog but at least on Long Island radio in the 1970s, one could hear Tangerine Dream. 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote octopus-4 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 23 2013 at 11:01
If I'm not wrong the fist sold out date achieved by Genesis was in Rome and I think Italy is the country where VdGG have been more successful than in any other country in terms of charts.  
From what I personally remember, in the early 70s in Italy we had no TVs or radios other than the national ones which were used to apply censorship. Aqualung was censored for its anti-christian contents. The media offer was sticking on the popular artists coming from the 50s. Even though some of them were good (Gaber, De Andre, Tenco) the majority was very poor, so whenever anything "new and fresh" arrived on the shops it became a cult counterposed to what was considered mainstream.
Prog in Italy became very popular (but not under this name) thanks to home taping and to very few TV and radio shows. 
Local political issues had a positive effect as left winged bands like Area and Stormy Six became representative of a way of making music and made their listeners used to more challenging sounds. 

This scenario started to change in 1976/77 and the 80s were in Italy poorer than in other countries, I think.
The above is my personal perception of how I have lived these years. History can be different.



Edited by octopus-4 - April 23 2013 at 11:02
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Post Options Post Options   Quote moshkito Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 23 2013 at 11:16
Originally posted by Moogtron III

Years ago I made a thread about an Italian chart of best selling albums in a certain month in 1972, which I found in Armando Gallo's book "I Know What I Like" (about Genesis, obviously). This is the chart I'm talking about

  1. Van der Graaf Generator – Pawn Hearts
  2. Premiata Forneria Marconi – Storia Di Un Minuto
  3. Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Pictures At An Exhibition
  4. Genesis – Nursery Cryme
  5. King Crimson – Islands
  6. Fabrizio De André – Non Al Denaro, Non All’Amore Né Al Cielo
  7. George Harrison – Concert For Bangla Desh
  8. John Lennon – Imagine
  9. Mina – Mina
  10. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV
  11. Yes- Fragile
Pretty amazing, isn't it? Imagine that that would be the actual chart of best selling albums in your country.
 
Only 3 of these albums were "played" on the big stations in Los Angeles. I know that KNAC did play at least 3 more, but KNAC did not have the signal that the big 2 did, that covered almost ALL of Southern California ... and you can learn some of this in Radio Kaos which was about KMET! Jim Ladd was in those stations!  There was a reason why PF sold out the Hollywood Bowl in the fall of 1972!


Edited by moshkito - April 23 2013 at 11:26
... none of the hits, none of the time ... you might actually find your own art, or self, and forego lousy heroes or Guru's!

www.pedrosena.com
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