The Solid Time of Change is our overlong yet incomplete history of the so-called Prog Rock era – 661 selections from 1965 through 1979 with which we hope to do justice to a strange and ambitious time indeed, musically speaking.
Part Thirty-Five of the journey went as follows:
Emerson Lake + Palmer – from the beginning
Isaac Hayes – Theme from Shaft
Deodato – Also Sprach Zarathustra
Beatles – across the universe
Rolling Stones – 2000 light years from home
Queen – ogre battle
Queen – the fairy feller’s master-stroke
Queen – nevermore
Jesus Christ Superstar London Cast – Overture
Manfred Mann’s Earth Band – father of night father of day
Frank Zappa – Big Swifty
Steve Hackett – spectral mornings
Steve Hackett – land of a thousand autumns
Steve Hackett – please don’t touch
Steve Hackett – the voice of Necam
Steve Hackett – Icarus Ascending
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A comparatively un-heard Beatles track (found on Let it Be), and one that John Lennon (its composer) wrote off as ‘a piece of garbage’, and yet it still made it to that famous rooftop concert. “What it is, is kind of loose, kind of incomplete, kind of confusing. In other words, it’s the truth about the Beatles as things were all falling apart. I’ll take it over Long And Winding Road any day, or Yesterday for that matter.” (Philip Random)
Even at their least essential, the Beatles couldn’t help being a great f***ing rock and roll band, particularly if John Lennon was unleashing his inner bulldog. Originally found on the soundtrack to Yellow Submarine.
The Electric Light Orchestra still had a few things to work out come their third album On The Third Day, starting with that cover. What’s with the exposed navels, gentlemen? Which isn’t to say thing weren’t coming nicely together in other ways, with a track like New Day Rising offering a tight, smart Beatlesque way forward. Even John Lennon was proving a fan.
In which ex-Beatle John cries foul at the imprisonment of his friend John Sinclair (artist, shit-disturber, manager of the MC5) who was busted for two joints of marijuana, thrown in jail for ten years. Welcome to Richard Nixon’s America. Found on 1972’s Sometime in New York City, an album which was not well received at the time. Or as Philip Random puts it, “Definitive proof that Yoko really can’t sing and John, for all his musical genius, still has to try for a record to be even half-way good.”
Paul McCartney (and Wings) still seemed to matter in 1974. No, he wasn’t cranking out Hey Judes anymore, but the stuff was still sounding better than most of the other pop dreck on the radio. Picasso’s Last Words, the last song from Band on the Run, is a loose stumble through various angles and forms which is probably supposed to reflect the great painter’s cubist form. “As with pretty much any post-Beatles McCartney or Lennon track, I can’t help thinking it would be better if the other guy was involved, calling bullshit, throwing in ideas and whatever. But it’s still fun in a sad sort of way. Feel free to play it at my funeral.” (Philip Random)
Imagine was the big deal John Lennon song of the moment (all that pie-in-the-sky god-free utoptianism). But I Don’t Wanna Be A Soldier was selling a harder, louder 1971 truth. The Vietnam war was still dragging on, and even if it was going to end soon, everybody knew there’d soon be another one coming along to keep all the young boys busy tearing each other apart, so they wouldn’t have time to wise up, turn on the old men who kept conjuring the evil things.