Main content
This programme is not currently available on BBC iPlayer

When Pop Went Epic: The Crazy World of the Concept Album

Film exploring the history of the concept album, a musical format usually based around a structured narrative, that developed to become the equivalent of rock 'n' roll theatre.

It's possibly one of the most denigrated inventions in the history of music, the greatest signifier of rock star pomposity. Indeed, in some quarters, the very mention of it is likely to provoke sniggering derision, conjuring up images of quadruple-gatefold album sleeves, songs that go on for weeks and straggly-haired rockers prattling on about mystical lands, unicorns, goblins and dystopian futures. But - back when people actually took the time to sit down and listen to records from beginning to end - for many, nothing delivered a more rewarding experience than the concept album. And for some, it's still a format that provides rock music with its high watermark moments.

This documentary explores the history of a musical format - usually based around a structured narrative, though sometimes tied together by a loose theme - that developed to become the equivalent of rock 'n' roll theatre, often on an operatic scale. The legendary cape-wearing keyboardmeister Rick Wakeman - himself the creator of several of history's most, ahem, 'elaborate' long players - presents this insightful and playful exploration of the greatest examples of the art form.

From social commentary to collected songs of loneliness, heartache and introspection, from tales of intergalactic rock stars to anthems of isolated youth, the film takes us on a journey - examining the roots of the concept album in its various forms, unpacking some of the most ambitious - and ridiculous - projects of the past fifty years, from Woody Guthrie's Dustbowl Ballads to Tales from Topographic Oceans by Yes; the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds to George Clinton's Mothership Connection; The Wall by Pink Floyd to The Flaming Lips' Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots.

Some of the mavericks who made the maddest and most memorable big ideas happen are here to provide their own perspectives, including Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull); Laura Marling; George Clinton; Wayne Coyne (Flaming Lips); J Willgoose Esq (Public Service Broadcasting); Fish (Marillion); Tony Asher (co-writer of lyrics on Pet Sounds); graphic artists such as Roger Dean (designer of Yes album sleeves) and Aubrey Powell of design partnership Hipgnosis (Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon and Animals, and Genesis's The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway).

1 hour

Last on

Fri 19 Jun 2020 23:55

Clip

Music Played

Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes

  • Rick Wakeman

    Arthur

  • Rick Wakeman

    Merlin The Magician

  • Rick Wakeman

    Sir Lancelot and the Black Knight

  • Genesis

    Hairless Heart

  • Woody Guthrie

    Dust Bowl Refugee

  • Woody Guthrie

    The Great Dust Storm (Dust Storm Disaster)

  • Ludwig van Beethoven

    I. Allegro Con Brio

    Orchestra: City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.
  • Frank Sinatra

    You Make Me Feel So Young

  • Frank Sinatra

    Only the Lonely

  • Frank Sinatra

    One For My Baby (And One More for the Road)

  • The Beach Boys

    Don't Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)

  • The Beach Boys

    Pet Sounds

  • The Beatles

    Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

  • The Who

    Pinball Wizard

  • The Who

    Overture

  • The Who

    Christmas

  • Marvin Gaye

    I Heard It Through The Grapevine

  • Marvin Gaye

    What's Going On

  • Marvin Gaye

    Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)

  • David Bowie

    Ziggy Stardust

  • Pink Floyd

    Speak To Me

  • Pink Floyd

    Breathe (In The Air)

  • Pink Floyd

    Any Colour You Like

  • Pink Floyd

    The Great Gig In The Sky

  • Pink Floyd

    Money

  • Pink Floyd

    Eclipse

  • Yes

    Long Distance Runaround

  • Rick Wakeman

    The Battle / The Forest

  • Genesis

    The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway

  • Genesis

    Fly on a Windshield

  • Genesis

    The Colony of Slippermen (The Arrival / A Visit to the Doktor / The Raven)

  • George Clinton

    Mothership Connection

  • Pink Floyd

    Another Brick In The Wall, Part 2

  • Marillion

    Kayleigh

  • Public Enemy

    Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos

  • Public Enemy

    Rebel Without a Pause

  • The Flaming Lips

    Are You A Hypnotist?

  • The Flaming Lips

    Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Part 2

  • The Flaming Lips

    Fight Test

  • The Flaming Lips

    Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon (Utopia Planitia)

  • Lady Gaga

    Poker Face

  • Kanye West

    Power

  • Kendrick Lamar

    Alright

  • Eric Whitacre, Stephen Layton & Polyphony

    Master Hunter

  • Laura Marling

    I Was an Eagle

  • Ian Anderson

    New Blood, Old Veins

  • Ian Anderson

    Doggerland

  • 00:09

    Ludwig van Beethoven

    Symphony No 5 In C Minor, Op 67: I. Allegro Con Brio

  • 00:10

    Frank Sinatra

    One For My Baby (And One More For The Road)

  • 00:15

    The Beatles

    Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

  • 00:17

    The Who

    I Can See For Miles

  • 00:19

    Marvin Gaye

    I Heard It Through The Grapevine

  • 00:22

    David Bowie

    Ziggy Stardust

  • 00:25

    Pink Floyd

    Breathe (In The Air)

  • 00:45

    Sex Pistols

    God Save The Queen

  • 00:47

    Michael Jackson

    Thriller (Single Version)

  • 00:49

    Marillion

    Kayleigh

  • 00:54

    The Flaming Lips

    Approaching Pavonis Mons By Balloon (Utopia Planitia)

Credits

Role Contributor
Presenter Rick Wakeman
Executive Producer Paul Bullock
Executive Producer Ryan Minchin
Producer Marc Edwards
Director Marc Edwards

Broadcasts

Featured in...