The Fall and Rise of Progressive Rock
When progressive rock reached a nadir in the 1980′s and 1990′s, everything was indicating that the genre was just an experiment with a short shelf life. The press, in particular, were pretty hard on it, judging it for its stylistic bloat. Artists that established the foundations of the genre and brought it to the heights, were now retreating by embracing the new fashion for shorter song-based writing. Progressive rock, once distinctive for its odd time signatures and lengthy suites, had fallen under the influence of popular culture, changing complex for simple, long for short, jazz for pop.
But this attempt to become mainstream wasn’t received well by the legion of fans. The genre was jeopardized and in threat of being wiped out. But then legions of fans, labels, bands, and media stood as one, determined to re-establish the scene that once was blooming. The 21st century schizoid people gathered together, the bands started to regroup and reunite along with herds of new talented artists. Media started to pick up on progressive rock again, with internet playing an important role up against printed magazines and although some festivals ceased to exist, tens of new ones came into life.
The vinyl as progressive rock’s main medium during the 1960′s and 1970′s was revitalized, and both major and independent labels, along with the bands, started using it, usually in limited amounts as part of special deals.
However, the popularity and growth of progressive rock gives rise to common (and perhaps warning) questions. Is progressive rock becoming mainstream? Is social media a double-edged sword? The genre lived its golden years in the time span of 6 years from1969 and 1975, and what we deal with now could possibly be characterized as a carbon copy of that era, with the addition of the internet (social media, digital media stores,…). But, the organic of the 1960′s and 1970′s and its new millennium derivatives feel dissimilar due to the business factor. Although there are many great new bands, (true) labels, festivals and media, I cannot help but feel short-changed, as some bands seem to operate with the intention of recreating the era’s past glories, almost to a set of rules. This is the antithesis of the original progressive rock, a beast that freed itself from the rules of popular music, being completely libertarian by nature.
I’m not implying something nor do I feel like a grand messiah, but as a fan and someone who is an infected devotee, I wouldn’t want to see another throwback to the abyss progressive rock was faced with in the times of – with all due respect – New Wave, pop or punk.
But hey, the fact is that as it is now, progressive rock is healthy. It has been failing for some time, but it’s back, thanks to devoted fans, devoted artists, devoted labels and devoted media. Its antique value is priceless and its historical heritage is here to remind us how to take care of it. Long live Prog!