Progressive or Just Prog

If we want to encourage new blood of the highest ability into the genre we need to be able to call a spade a spade.


If music, progressive or otherwise, is only ever entertainment, then I need to shut up. For one such as I, who introduces content into the music which ends up going over the heads of the "entertainee" might be regarded as being self indulgent, elitist or pretentious.   But if at least some music can be reagarded as "Art", then elitism becomes a virtue and anything goes. The price is that the creator must often accept rejection from those looking to be entertained by his efforts. Neither can he expect investment and support from the entertainment industry, but instead rely on his relationship with his fans.

Understanding this point has both set me free as an artist and prevented me from otherwise ending up as a bitter or frustrated old man. I might own up to a degree of arrogance as my one guilty pleasure, in the certain knowledge that I have used my life to create something which will last. Otherwise I am quite sweet.


Now well into my sixties, I find myself to have been one of the founding fathers of the progressive movement which sprang to life in the late sixties. This stems first from my work with Dreamland Express whilst I was still at The Royal College Of Music to the later more successful work I did with Barclay James Harvest (EMI).

Whatever the term “prog” means now, then content was king. Then it  meant thinking and acting outside the box; an activity carried out by clever well educated composers and song writers with big conceptual ideas and intelligent imaginative music in their hearts intent on pushing the envelope.

This progressive turn of events gave rise to an explosion of creativity in the other performing and visual arts as well as in fashion, film and graphic design.


Whether we like it or not, Prog in the UK is now perceived by many from outside the genre as nothing more than mindless intellectually barren regurgitated nonsense.  One reason for this might be that it is actually in part true.  There are bands that have through sheer hard work and persistence, come to occupy positions they wouldn’t occupy on merit and at the expense of the far more gifted who need all our encouragement. I urge the experts - the editors, journalists and producers who write about prog to be more robust. They should wake up to the fact that by “not wanting to rock the boat” is exactly what may sink it.   Because allowing the naff to flourish without critique is stifling the production of the new and the wonderful and occasionally even the miraculous.


Until someone has the balls to separate the wheat from the chaff, up and coming accomplished musicians and composers  will stay away.

I want something better for the future of prog and we owe it to the next generation to put our house in order. I am fed up with the fact that prog continues to be seen from without as a mildly homophobic tribal fringe pursuit of an aging demography: The Jehovah's Witness denomination of the music business.  Music for geography teachers and train-spotters; the repository for the weird, the old fashioned and the eccentric.


Prog has become a tale of two cities with innovative and exciting bands living cheek by jowl with all that is naff.  Of course this was always the case but unlike the past, now there appears to be no critique being applied . Clever youth is doing something else - probably something progressive; certainly not prog. Pity! If we want to encourage new blood of the highest ability into the genre we need to be able to call a spade a spade.


I believe the thing which has given progressive music such a bad reputation in the wider world is this. Too much “prog”  is produced in homage to the glory days of the past.  Too many of those doing it are people who have failed to develop the necessary compositional skills needed. The music they produce tends to be no more than a shallow parody of the great music of yesteryear and is to my ear largely meaningless unstructured drivel. Hardly progressive! Should we really be giving these sorts of band any encouragement when there are so many other more obvious candidates for our love?