A-Z of Dead Man Singing: Y

A-Z of Dead Man Singing: Y

36 days ago

Y is for Yes, cited here as a representative of Progressive rock in general. Prog gets a few mentions in Dead Man Singing (manager Tony has a particular fondness for it, even if main character Dave isn’t so keen).

I was a teenage prog rock fan, and I still listen to bands like Yes, Genesis and Camel from time to time. Despite that, ruling out prog was a decisive moment in my process of finding Dave’s musical identity. He’s not a fan of pretention and bombast, even if he would admire the playing ability of many prog musicians. His country rock influences mean that with Dave it’s all about the songs; virtuoso tendencies have to be used in service of the song rather than taking the lead for their own sake. That’s a tendency that isn’t entirely alien to prog, but possibly one that sometimes gets obscured.

As a teenage prog fan in the 80s, I had to put up with snidy comments (usually from my friend Chris) about the irony that ‘Progressive Rock’ was anything but progressive; it was regressive: it looked back to the 70s rather than forging a new way forward. Prog is far more than the 20-minute songs, lengthy instrumental passages and fantasy lyrics that Dave associates with the genre. The neo-prog boom of the 80s (Marillion were the populist flagbearers, though I also retain a soft spot for Twelfth Night, who I saw at the Marquee club in 1984) is now often dismissed, but was enjoyable for those of us who rode the wave at the time. Nevertheless, prog itself refuses to die. Like the many-headed hydra that inevitably crops up on a prog lyrics sheet (remember those? Loved them), it occaionally bursts out into the mainstream, refusing to die. For example, it was wonderful to see Elbow, who seem to me to have the word 'prog' running through them like a stick of seaside rock, conquer the world ten or more years ago, but there are many more less celebrated acts who still carry the prog gene.

Favourite prog acts of the past? More recently, who has at least one foot in the world of prog, even if they (maybe) get away without being branded that way?

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