Friday, December 15, 2017

A Lesson Learnt

So, I've just finished reading THE SHOW THAT NEVER ENDS, a history of Progressive Rock by David Weigel. I started it not knowing what 'progressive rock' was, exactly, having heard the term for years without ever getting a satisfactory definition. Well, I still don't have a good definition, other than apparently 'bands like KING CRIMSON and EMERSON, LAKE, AND PALMER, but not PINK FLOYD for some reason'. Drawing on and reworking classical music was one tentpole, marking ELP but not, for some reason, ELO. Experimentation was another, lauding anything Robert Fripp* worked on but not Gilmour and Waters (or Page and Plant). Still, it was good to get some background on groups that peaked and faded before my day, like JETHRO TULL** or early GENESIS, even if it meant finding out more than I wanted to know about YES.

The best passage by far in the whole book is this brief account, which I have slightly paraphrased, of the day Keith Emerson had a very bad idea. He was in Nassau (the Bahamas) finishing up EMERSON, LAKE, AND PALMER's WORKS, VOLUME ONE when, one day,

he looked across the water and decided to swim for England.
'We realized that it was quite a long way', Emerson would say,
'but we had a compass'. The effort failed. Keith Emerson
was pulled wheezing from the water. January 14, 1977:
the last day he would use cocaine.


--John R.

*who's always just been a name to me, not someone whose name conjured up any actual music in my inner ear.
**whose earlier music I knew mainly through my cousin Sam's having played their albums a lot in the long ago.


David Bratman said...

I think your attempt at a definition is stumbling over Weigel's personal tastes. I've certainly seen both ELO and Pink Floyd classified as progressive rock.

John D. Rateliff said...

Hi David
Yes, I think you're right. Of course an author can't cover everything in a single book, but mostly ignoring Pink Floyd seems an odd choice.
--John R.