The Solid Time of Change is Randophonic radio’s current focus — a countdown of the 661 greatest records of the so-called Prog Rock Era, an overlong yet incomplete history of whatever the hell happened in not all music, not even most of it, but definitely in a bunch of it between 1965 and 1979, particulary the five years in the middle (1969-74).
What is Prog Rock, and does it somehow differ from Progressive Rock, or for that matter, rock that merely progresses? These may seem simple questions but they are in fact doors that open unto some of the most complex enigmas of this split-atomic age, and thus as good an argument as any for a year’s worth of radio.
Why do this now, better part of forty years since the era in question ended? Because memories are fading, key figures are dying, the epic tale is in danger of getting lost. Also, many of the selections are coming from Philip Random‘s very many boxes of cassette tapes, which aren’t just fading in theory. They need to be digitized now, not eventually.
So yes, a long strange journey it shall be – the intention being to err on the side of inclusiveness, which isn’t to say there aren’t any boundaries and/or guidelines (some would call them rules). In fact, our justifications for inclusion/exclusion are as complex, overblown, intricate, pretentious and (occasionally) annoying as the music in question.
THE SOLID TIME ITSELF
The Solid Time of Change is defined as 1965 through 1979, but anything that was released between 1969 and 1974 is immediately more essential because it tracks:
- the first incarnation (however multi-headed it may have been) of King Crimson,
- those years in which Yes continued to actually progress,
- those years in which Peter Gabriel remained a member of Genesis (he actually quit in 1975 but he gave notice in 1974 and the last album he appeared on was 1974’s Lamb Lies Down on Broadway)
- the years in which Jethro Tull were still decidedly a prog outfit.
NOTHING AT ALL POST 1979 …
Because every page needs its margins, every nation needs its borders, every continent needs its shorelines, every ocean needs its floor, every body needs its skin. And 1979 seems as good a place as any to draw a line because:
A. the 1980s and all that was ever good and/or relevant about the Solid Time of Change were/are/will always be incompatible. And past the 1980s – well that’s a different project, somebody else’s list. Which is not to say there wasn’t any relevant progressive music in the 1980s. Of course there was. But it was different then. It was strictly lower case progressive. It contained no dragons or space ships, and precious few mellotrons or grand and heavy concepts, almost no visions of angels (other than whatever U2 may have been on about). Indeed, pretty much all of the prog-heroes of yore went rather emphatically AWOL (either literally or figuratively) in the 1980s. Or as Rick Wakeman recently put it, “That decade just wasn’t very good to us veteran progressive rockers, and we probably deserved it.”
B. come 1980, cool music was progressing quite nicely on its own and didn’t need all that heavy capital “P” Progressive baggage. Look no further than what Peter Gabriel was up to as a solo artist (until 1983 anyway), what Brian Eno was doing with the Talking Heads, what Robert Fripp was up to solo, and what he would very soon be up to again with an outfit called King Crimson (rock, definitely; progressive, beyond doubt; but a whole other discipline).
As with all of Randophonic’s lists, it doesn’t matter how critically acclaimed a record may have been back in the day, how many top ten lists it topped, how many copies it sold – if we’ve heard it too many times, we’re probably sick of it, and if we’re sick of it, it’s either not on the list at all, or it’s been marked down. So yes, be warned now. Nothing from Dark Side of the Moon has been listed, not even the ticking a clock.
The important thing is to listen to the radio programs themselves. Which, in case you haven’t already got it figured, air pretty much every Saturday night at 11pm (Pacific Time) c/o CiTR.FM.101.9. If you miss them live, we’ll do our best to post them to our Mixcloud for streaming. Or if you prefer, you can download podcasts via Randphonic’s ever growing archive.