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Living in the Past - Progressive and Art-School Rock

Duration:
57 minutes
First broadcast:
Wednesday 13 November 2013

Coming at the end of the '60s, Living In The Past was one of the first hit singles of what was to become known as Progressive Rock, a genre of music which is thought to have come into full fruition with the release of King Crimson's In The Court Of The Crimson King. Marrying poetic, esoteric lyrics with deft, knotty arrangements and virtuoso musicianship, it proved that rock music could be arty, thoughtful and grown up. Although it became a dirty word, "progressive" was a positive thing, the desire to want to try and push the boundaries of rock to almost breaking point. It was something for any musician to aspire to. It was also, from around 1969 to maybe 1975, a regular staple of the pop charts. In fact Living In The Past was a top ten hit despite being in the slightly tricky time signature of 5/4, and thus not so easy for the kids to dance to.
Prog Rock was very much a British creation, and very much the product of well-educated kids; at the very least grammar school educated but more likely kids from private schools. This was thoughtful, intelligent music made by thoughtful, intelligent young men (and it was almost always young men). As such, the criticisms of the music being elitist could have been as much to do with the class system as it was to musical snobbery. But there was also a second group of bands that were more likely to be loved and championed by regular working class kid, and they were the art-school bands like Roxy Music, Gang Of Four or Talking Heads, bands that were also cerebral and considered, but less tricky, less self-important and much easier to dance to.
According to rock folklore the likes of The Sex Pistols and The Clash came along and destroyed all of the Prog bands, but in truth this was blatantly nonsense.

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    • Were you a Prog fan? What was the appeal?
    • Or did you hate Prog... and if so why?
    • What's the most self indulgent thing you've seen or heard?
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