River of Grass
Hollenbeck Canyon, San Diego, CA
Ultimately, all music acts on its audience through the same physics of sound, shaking the air and arousing curious sensations.
-Alex Ross, The Rest is Noise
Earlier, in August probably, with my birthday approaching in September, I was asked if there was anything in particular I'd like. I asked for a Joni Mitchell biography. I planned on spending a good bit of the remainder of 2020 reading about music and musicians, musicians as artists not celebrities.
Before Joni arrived I picked up a book on the 70s' era of progressive rock, prog-rock. Having lived thru the 70s I was oddly unfamiliar with the term. By that time I was in high school and well aware of the comings and goings of rock and roll and after seeing the blurbs on the book I recognized the bands referenced but still the term prog-rock was unfamiliar. To me it was all just, Rock.
The book, torn from an ELP lyric, The Show That Never Ends, accounts the time when music went from 3-minute love songs (boy meets girl, love lost, love gained, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, etc.) to 10-20 minutes orchestrated soundscapes. This was the era of Yes, Emerson Lake and Palmer (ELP), Genesis, The Moody Blues, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, and the ones who kicked it all off, King Crimson. Crimson's album, The Court of the Crimson King, was not on your typical AM radio station playlist. This was FM music played by college and underground stations with the freedom to cut loose 15 minute tracks with music unheard of 'til then. Prog-Rock groups used strings, mellotrons, massive synthesizers, timpani, long guitar riffs and equally long drum solos. It was new, it was played in large arenas with expensive light shows. It wasn't dance music which is what may have helped kill it.
Prog-Rock didn't last long. By the 80s it was on its way off the charts and into "Classic Rock" categories. Punk and Disco took center stage. Prog pops up on stations occasionally but it's rare to ever hear a cut from The Court of the Crimson King. My 8-track copy (Google 8-Track if you're unfamiliar) is long gone but I do have the CD so I can still visit the King's court now and then.
Joni's bio arrived and now sits on-deck in my to-be-read list. I just finished a bio of Beethoven that I'll comment on in my next post.