Saturday, December 8, 2012
For me, as a teen who loved music, I found the emergence of the Prog Rock bands as a revelation. Finally, rock musicians seemed to be taking bold new chances and actually learning to compose, arrange and perform as serious musicians. I was introduced to the genre by my friends Rob Fraser and Dave Jack. Rob had 8 tracks ( ! ) of the Moody Blues' album "Seventh Sojourn" and Dave was a fan of Yes. Dave had me listen to Yes' "Close To The Edge", and, because of these musical exposures, I was hooked.
For some unknown reason, I find myself looking back at the genre not only with much nostalgia, but also a longing. I watched the half time show at the recent Grey Cup and didn't know whether to laugh or cry. A cadaverous Gordon Lightfoot made me wish for musical legal euthanasia, and the modern artists Carly Rae Jepson and Justin Bieber made me cringe. So, back through the vaults I went looking for salvation. I found it in my old discs of the Prog Rockers.
Just what constitutes Prog Rock is highly debatable and entirely subjective. My definition of Prog Rock has evolved through the years, and puts the genre into three categories: True Prog Rock, Semi-Prog Rock, and Wannabe Prog Rock. Here is the break-down:
True Prog Rock takes its form in the pioneer bands of the genre. The emphasis is on long, convoluted, thoughtful and original compositions, often arranged into symphonic movements. Inspiration for these compositions often comes from classical and jazz music, literature, philosophical treatises, classical and Biblical sources, and, to be sure, pharmaceuticals. Virtuousity in the instrumentation is essential: these people aren't three-chord guitarists, skiffle drummers, or honkey-tonk pianists. They are among the most gifted players, both technically and creatively, ever heard by the human ear. They eagerly embraced the technical advances of the time: this is the heyday of electronic sound. Most importantly, they displayed complete courage and audacity in their music : these bands were not afraid of anything, and didn't seem to worry about putting out material that flew in the face of established rock music. They had their detractors, for sure, but they won over a legion of followers who knew they were listening to something significant and wonderful.
The bands in True Prog Rock category include the Moody Blues (who learned to move beyond their "Go Now" blues rock of the mid 60's ) , Yes ( perhaps the best practitioners of the genre ), Emerson, Lake and Palmer, King Crimson, Jethro Tull ( of the "Thick As A Brick" era ), and early Genesis ( featuring Peter Gabriel ) . It is interesting to note that all these bands were British.
Once the True Prog Rockers became fashionable, especially on newly formatted FM radio, and concerts on college campuses, other bands began to follow their lead, although with less pretentious overtones. These bands are what I call the Semi-Prog Rockers. Here's where the debate really heats up. Just how do you characterize something that is "semi" anything? For example, does Led Zepellin qualify as a Prog Rock band? Some say no, because of the heavy American blues influence in many of their songs, and in Robert Plant's vocals, reminiscent of Janis Joplin or Joe Cocker. For me, however, as Led Zepellin evolved, as their song writing became more sophosticated, as John Paul Jones' keyboards took on more electronic and haunting qualities, they sounded very much like True Proggers. But the blues never left them. So, for me, Led Zepellin becomes Semi-Prog, still to be ranked with the True Proggers, but perhaps a bit more palatable for main stream listeners. Other Semi-Proggers would include the Who ( outstanding compositions, but so bloody loud ! ), Uriah Heep ( lyrically impaired, but good players ), Supertramp ( great musicians, but with a Top 40 feel to their songs ) and Queen ( trending into Glam Rock, but still great virtuousos on their instruments).
As the mid-seventies rolled around, the Prog Rock genre became corrupted. Emerson, Lake and Palmer and the Moody Blues disbanded, Yes and King Crimson went through awkward and messy personel changes, and Peter Gabriel left Genesis, taking the creative heart out of that band. Proggers launched solo careers with mixed results: Gabriel became more mainstream, Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman stayed true to the genre but lost their following, and others turned in medicore efforts. But the influence of True Prog Rock continued to be felt in newer bands.
Then, along came disco and ruined everything.
Tuesday, December 4, 2012
The Sun, in its indignant and blustering style, devoted the front page to decrying the "BULLIES" in the union headquarters. A pinned list of the possible sanctions was boldly presented: nowhere did the list state that the most important things (classroom instruction, extra help within the stipulated time limits of the contract, essential supervision ) would continue to be performed. The apple with a worm in it was a nice touch, signifying that, somehow the entire profession of teaching has been corrupted by the worm of .... what ? Evil ? Poison ? Demogoguery ? Vitriol ? Hate ? Coersion ? The list goes on and on.
Wait a minute !! Isn't that the Sun imitating itself in those glowing terms? No, it couldn't be. Well, maybe ...
The truth is, the Sun got it wrong .... AGAIN ! The fact is, no union, and especially the teachers' unions, do anything, including job actions, without the members .... the teachers themselves .... voting. Yes, union executives make their recommendations known, but noone tells members how to vote. Voting is always done by secret ballot, and always after presentations are made to members and time allocated for members to question and, indeed, criticize the union executive. If a union follows the regretable route of establishing job actions, it is because the opposite party in the negotiations, in this case the provincial government, is simply not negotiating, and because the members realize that there is no other alternative to job action. Another fact is this ... it is always in the best interest of union negotiators to get a negotiated settlement. Failure to do so means that the executives risk feeling the anger of its members and being voted out of office. I've seen it happen.
Which brings me back to the Sun. To be fair, the Sun did indeed provide a useful backgrounder to the "BULLIES" headline ... in a small paragraph at the end of the article. One wonders how many of the readers were able to make it that far before they skipped ahead to the second to last page where today's Sunshine Girl posed in all her lovliness.
When there's boobs and booty, issues and truth be damned, eh Sun ??