Friday, March 1, 2013

Punk N' Prog: Two Genres In Opposition

In the late 1970's Punk and Progressive rock were bitter enemies locked in a war between street attitude musical ineptitude and bloated sci fi lyric circle jerk opuses, so far at the opposite sides of the musical spectrum you'd be hard pressed to find any common ground between the two am I right? Nope. The punx had some prog in their closets whether they liked to admit it or not. The punk/post punk musicians tried so hard to distance themselves from the pompous progressive rock they were rallying against but in reality were clearly influenced by them. Some went so far as to write themselves manifesto's of what they would not do in their music (looking at you Wire) and then did it anyways. When punk came knocking on the record company's door, execs started to either dump progressive rock bands or have them change their style into something more accessible. So herein is a little incite into how punks soaked in that prog rock and the prog soaked in that punk rock. No Krautrock in here, thats a whole other article!

I know two friends who went to see King Crimson back in the day and both said they fell asleep during some 20 minute mellotron solo. Sooooo besides his tendency to cruise into snooze ville Fripp's unique take on progressive rock had a lot of the early punks scratching their heads. All King Crimson records have at least ONE amazing hard rocking masterpiece that scrapes the enamel off yer teeth and have greatly influenced bands like This Heat, Scritti Politti, The Fall, etc. Lets not forget Fripps contributions to Eno's records (especially that white hot lick on Baby's On Fire) that everybody in the pre punk days listened to. But the one awesome record that gets dismissed by long time by KC fans that I think fits right at home next to Metallic KO is EarthBound. The shambolic take on "21st Century Schizoid Man" has that brutish Stooges like ineptitude where the whole thing feels like it could fall apart at any minute but still begrudgingly trugs along.

Van Der Graaf Generator doesn't get enough credit from the punx even though Johnny Rotten and Howard Devoto did a fantastic job of nick'n old Hammill's vocal style pretty good. Heck even Mr Bowie picked up a few things from Hammil's solo output... SHEE-IT do I hear a little Iron Maiden too?  Gawd damn the whole U.K punk "sound" is entirely indebted to this mans vocal pipes.

Need further proof? Look no further than Mister Hammil's solo work. Sex Pistol's blue print right here folks:

Gong, a space rock, prog rock and even jazz rock leaning group hated by punks and non punks alike (The Radio Gnome albums are fantastic doods, especially You, just delete those jazz rock songs off your ipods!)  but man did founder Daevid Allen love the punks. So much so he's got two records informed by the punk movement. One that is super obvious and one more subtly so.

New York Gong is Daevid  trying hard to be punk even donning a black leather jacket. Its a weird uneven album.

Planet Gong's Live Floating Anarchy is the one I adore. Its that sweet spot mix of prog rock played with punk energy. Daevid's sneering like a punk too!

If you dig Planet Gong you should check out Here & Now the backing band behind Daevid Allen who have the punk prog thing down pat. A lil like The Stranglers no?

Hate on Yes all you want but hey wasn't PIL's Keith Levene a big fan of them.... hmmm well I'm not going to go out n out and say that a 1977 Yes album was informed by punk, but I think its entirely feasible that some music executive who spent a lot of money on the band over the years and heard the rally sound of the punk drums thought it might be a good idea to have Yes hone in their sound and push some Chuck Berry guitar riff'n high up in the mix for a single. What came out was "Going For The One." Still progressive rock but you can't not hear that C Berry riff without the context of what was happening in music at the time!

Is Hawkwind too easy for this article? Are they prog? A lot of genres get thrown at Mr. Brock and company including progressive but in all honesty they really are their own thing that had a huge influence on the early punkers. Without "Brainstorm" their would be no Sex Pistols said one Johnny Rotten and hey reformed karaoke Sex Pistols love to cover "Silver Machine"

The Stranglers 70's and early 80s output in 2013 sounds more like a sneering progressive rock band than a "traditional" punk band. Just listen to the keyboard player, and don't give me that pub rock hub bub, there is some serious Rick Wakeman virtuoso playing going here. By the time they recorded The Raven they weren't hiding it anymore just listen to the intro for "Ice".

Another favorite of  J. Rotten and Julian Cope is Magma, a progressive rock band from France. Their music sometimes referred as Zeuhl, is dark, heavy and brooding that sometimes dips into Jazz rock. I love the fuck out of this band and had to include them.

Henry Cow has the reputation amongst punkers for the mere fact that Mark E Smith, tried out for them before he formed The Fall. Luckily for us all he was not admitted!

The Damned, the quintessential U.K. punk band have lasted so long and changed their musical style so many times its difficult for me, someone born way after their peak, to understand that by the time they wanted to record their second album why were the punks in an uproar over the fact that a Pink Floydian was producing their album? I mean who gives a fuck right? But back then Pink Floyd was the enemy and everyone had forgotten about lil old acid casualty Syd Barrette when punk came clanging through, everyone except The Damned who originally wanted him to produce their second LP. Except they got Nick Mason instead who didn't give a flying fuck about them and produced a pretty tame boring record called Music For Pleasure. Womp wahhh.

The years between punk and progressive rock are pretty slim and sheesh rock n roll was only 20 some odd years old at the time these two genres clashed. Now in 2013 its ponderous that these guys didnt just join forces and create some far flung punk prog masterpiece but the stigmas held strong then.  Thanks to time the barriers have slowly withered away you can hear common ground between the two. A punk can learn to love prog if he knows where to listen. To conclude, listen to Wire do their best pompous progressive rock impression:

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