Over The Edge 2nd Impression 1971 – 1972
01 JETHRO TULL / Aqualung / Aqualung March 1971
02 YES / Starship Trooper / The Yes Album March 1971
03 CARAVAN / Winter Wine / In The Land Of Grey And Pink May 1971
04 EMERSON LAKE AND PALMER / Bitches Crystal / Tarkus June 1971
05 ATOMIC ROOSTER / Black Snake / In Hearing Of / August 1971
06 GENTLE GIANT / Black Cat / Aquiring The Taste August 1971
07 CURVED AIR / Piece Of Mind / Second Album September 1971
08 KINGDOM COME / Eternal Messenger / Galactic Zoo Dossier October 1971
09 FOCUS / Janis / Moving Waves October 1971
10 HAWKWIND / Master Of The Universe / In Search Of Space October 1971
11 VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR / Lemmings (Including Cog) / Pawn Hearts October 1971
12 YES / Long Distance Runaround / Fragile November 1971
1971 – 1972
01 PINK FLOYD / One Of These Days / Meddle November 1971
02 LED ZEPPELIN / The Battle Of Evermore / Led Zeppelin IV November 1971
03 GENESIS / The Musical Box / Nursery Cryme November 1971
04 GONG / Fohat Digs Holes In Space / Camembert Electrique December 1971
05 STRAWBS / New World / Grave New World February 1972
06 JETHRO TULL / Thick As A Brick (Excerpt) / Thick As A Brick March 1972
07 URIAH HEEP / The Wizard / Demons And Wizards May 1972
08 KHAN / Space Shanty / Space Shanty June 1972
09 PINK FLOYD / Obscured By Clouds / Obscured By Clouds June 1972
10 APHRODITES CHILD / Altamont / 666 June 1972
11 EMERSON LAKE AND PALMER / Living Sin / Trilogy July 1972
12 BO HANSSON / Black Riders - Flight To The Ford / Lord Of The Rings September 1972
13 NEKTAR / Desolation Valley / A Tab In The Ocean September 1972
14 GENESIS / Watcher Of The Skies / Foxtrot October 1972
Progressive rock started as an attitude, grew into a movement and by 1971 had coalesced into a genre. The record industries attempts to embrace it led to a proliferation of ‘underground’ labels. They realised that having a specialised separate label was a way of serving fans who didn’t want to think ‘the man’ was selling them records. EMI went first with Harvest followed by Philips (Vertigo), Pye (Dawn), Decca (Nova) and RCA (Neon) as they all came to terms with the fact they were no longer looking for bands boasting traditional pop values. Slowly progressive rock became the most dominant genre in British music. No matter that Glam ruled the singles chart, prog endured, dominating the album charts (which we were all solemnly told was where the real money was), university halls and secondary school playgrounds, where mooching around with Fragile tucked ostentatiously under your arm was almost de rigueur. It’s hard to imagine now but once upon a time to be a prog rocker was to be cool.
Jethro Tull, Yes, Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Pink Floyd were already stars while Genesis would soon follow into the stratosphere. Most had already hit the album chart heights, not least Jethro Tull, who sold over a million copies of Aqualung, helped no doubt by singer Ian Anderson’s image as the one legged, flute playing vagrant. The mother of all concept albums Thick As A Brick followed a true testament of the times. Meanwhile Yes crystallised their sound with the complex arrangements and symphonic rock on The Yes Album. Then came the cape wearer himself, Rick Wakeman. Having already transformed The Strawbs from olde tyme folkies to shiny new electric folk rockers he took Yes to a whole new level of skill and showmanship on Fragile, singer Jon Anderson’s lyrical mysticism and Roger Dean’s artwork encapsulating the fractured world at its heart. Emerson, Lake and Palmer continued their focus on the more classical side of prog with Tarkus, an odd concept piece based around a battle between a Manticore (a mythical beast apparently) and a mechanised armadillo! Ever pretentious us Brits took it to the top of the album charts but it was Trilogy a year later that would prove their most enduring work with no concepts in sight. Thankfully not all prog dealt with sci-fi fantasy, fairytales, silver capes and air brushed art. The anonymous Pink Floyd machine rumbled ominously on, pushing the progressive envelope initially with Meddle and then with another film soundtrack, Obscured By Clouds. Genesis were lagging way behind but by 1971 had discovered a more elaborate sound. They arrived at their strongest line up for Nursery Cryme, adding ultimate tosser Phil Collins and guitarist Steve Hackett. Foxtrot took that progression even further, expanding on Nursery Cryme’s blend of the whimsical and macabre. It was also an evocative soundtrack to Peter Gabriel’s ever expanding wardrobe and provided their first album chart entry.
While the big boys sold all the records, won all the awards and made their fortunes, they were soon considered the mainstream by discerning connoisseurs and critics alike. Inevitably others became the new underground, led by Canterbury graduates Caravan who with their jaunty, ever so English tone, were always considered ‘prog light’. Another branch of the Canterbury tree were Gong, formed by ex Soft Machine guitarist Daevid Allen. The original uber hippies, they revolved around his fantasy world of anarchic gnomes, pothead pixies and stoned innocence. Steve Hillage would also become synonymous with Gong but before that played his self-composed odes of love, peace and spirituality in Khan. Many, many times during the late seventies, in my eternal quest for enlightenment, I tripped out on fields of mushrooms to Gongs innovative space grooves, pouring over dog eared copies of Siddhartha and Jonathan Livingstone Seagull.
Throughout the early seventies progressive groups made significant advances in fusing various musical styles into new forms. Much of it was a challenging listen resulting in immediate cult status although Curved Air, Atomic Rooster and Arthur Browns Kingdom Come all flirted with the album and singles charts. In contrast Gentle Giant became one of the most celebrated and cerebral bands of the era but with dismal sales. However, no prog band fits the cult identikit more than Van Der Graaf Generator. Pawn Hearts was their existentialist and gothic masterpiece that sold almost nothing. It’s interesting that these days they are one of the hip prog names to drop, everyone likes them. Back then no one did! Not so Led Zeppelin, Hawkwind, or even Uriah Heep who were never truly prog rock though I thought so at the time. All flirted with mystic imagery, particularly Zeppelin, their IV often referred to as the Runes album. Uriah Heep were slaughtered for plagiarising Page, Plant and Co but Demon’s And Wizards was more fairytale than Aleister Crowley. Hawkwind were different again, In Search Of Space full of hippy spiel, sci-fi mysticism, Stonehenge and naked breasts.
Naturally as its influence spread, progressive rock filtered into mainland Europe, the spiritual home of all things classical and symphonic and Holland’s Focus, Greece’s Aphrodite’s Child, Sweden’s Bo Hansson and Germany’s ex English art rockers Nektar emerged. And so the dinosaur rolled on, approaching its peak in popularity and creativity. This was the golden era and none could deny progs domination…for a few more years at least.