Skip to main content Accesibility Help

A many-headed beast: progressive rock as European meta-genre

  • Chris Anderton (a1)

There has been a marked resurgence of interest in progressive rock music both commercially and critically, with a number of articles and books now reassessing its styles, meanings, politics and appeal. Despite this, there has been a tendency to define progressive rock through a ‘symphonic orthodoxy’ which preferences a limited, albeit highly successful, number of British groups operating in a relatively narrow sonic landscape. This article questions that orthodoxy by drawing on the lay definitions and understandings of fans to extend the definitions and geographies of progressive rock, and to characterise it as a European meta-genre. It examines the meta-genre's formative years at the beginning of the 1970s, and argues that progressive rock was inspired by the explorations of a European youth counterculture whose music was influenced by local socio-political and economic contexts, as well as by the music and attitudes of the American counterculture and of European Romanticism.

Hide All
Agostini, R. 2007. ‘The Italian canzone and the Sanremo Festival: change and continuity in Italian mainstream pop of the 1960s’, Popular Music, 26/3, pp. 389408
Albiez, S. 2003a. ‘Know history! John Lydon, cultural capital and the prog/punk dialectic’, Popular Music, 22/3, pp. 357–74
Albiez, S. 2003b. ‘Sounds of future past: from Neu! to Numan’, in Pop Sounds: Klangtexturen in der Pop - und Rockmusik, ed. Phleps, T. and von Appen, R. (Bielefelder, Germany, Transcript-Verlag), pp. 129–52
Anderton, C. 2009a. ‘“Full grown from the head of Jupiter”? Lay discourses and Italian progressive rock’, in De-Canonizing Music History, ed. Kurkela, V. and Vakeva, L. (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Cambridge Scholars Publishing), pp. 97112
Anderton, C. 2009b. ‘Rethinking progression: progressive rock since the late 1970s’, presentation given at IASPM International Conference, Liverpool, 13–17 July
Asbjørnsen, D.E. 2000. Scented Gardens of the Mind. A Guide to the Golden Era of Progressive Rock (1968–1980) in More Than 20 European Countries (Wolverhampton, Borderline Productions)
Atton, C. 2001. ‘“Living in the past”? Value discourses in progressive rock fanzines’, Popular Music, 20/1, pp. 2946
Barotto, P. 1998. The Return of Italian Pop, 2nd edn (Milano, Vinyl Magic Books)
Bennett, A. 2004. ‘New tales from Canterbury: the making of a virtual scene’, in Music Scenes. Local, Translocal, and Virtual, ed. Bennett, A. and Peterson, R.A. (Nashville, Vanderbilt University Press), pp. 205–20
Borthwick, S., and Moy, R. 2004. Popular Music Genres: An Introduction (Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press)
Covach, J. 1995. Krautrock Sampler: One Head's Guide to the Great Kosmische Music – 1968 Onwards (Calne, Wiltshire, Head Heritage)
Covach, J. 1997. ‘Progressive rock, “Close to the Edge”, and the boundaries of style’, in Understanding Rock: Essays in Musical Analysis, ed. Covach, J. and Boone, G.M. (New York and Oxford, Oxford University Press), pp. 331
Covach, J. 1998. ‘The music's all that matters: a history of progressive rock [Book Review]’, Notes, 55/1, pp. 7780
Covach, J. 2005–2006. ‘The hippie aesthetic: cultural positioning and musical ambition in early progressive rock’, Philomusica-online, numero speciale. (accessed 29 November 2008)
Covach, J. 2008. ‘Jazz-rock? Rock-jazz? Stylistic crossover in late-1970s American progressive rock’, in Expression in Pop-Rock Music. Critical and Analytical Essays, 2nd edn, ed. Everett, W. (New York and London, Routledge), pp. 93110
Croce, A. 2008. Italian Prog. The Comprehensive Guide to Italian Progressive Music 1967/1979 (Milan, AMS)
Cutler, C. 1991. File Under Popular. Theoretical and Critical Writings on Music (London, ReR Megacorp and New York, Semiotext(e)/Autonomedia)
Fabbri, F. 1999. ‘Browsing music spaces: categories and the musical mind’, conference paper. (accessed 10 April 2009)
Freeman, S., and Freeman, A. 2007. The Crack in the Cosmic Egg: Encyclopedia of Krautrock, Kosmische Musik and Other Progressive, Experimental and Electronic Musics from Germany (CD-Rom) (Leicester, Audion Productions)
Frith, S. 1998. Performing Rites (Oxford, Oxford University Press)
Gill, A. 1996. ‘Krautrock’, Mojo, April. (accessed 23 July 2009)
Gracyk, T. 1996. Rhythm and Noise. An Aesthetics of Rock (London and New York, I.B. Taurus)
Holm-Hudson, K. (ed.) 2002a. Progressive Rock Reconsidered (New York and London, Routledge)
Holm-Hudson, K. 2002b. ‘Introduction’, in Progressive Rock Reconsidered, ed. Holm-Hudson, K. (New York and London, Routledge), pp. 118
Holm-Hudson, K. 2003. ‘Apocalyptic otherness: black music and extraterrestrial identity in the music of Magma’, Popular Music and Society, 26/4, pp. 481–96
Holm-Hudson, K. 2008. Genesis and the Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (Aldershot, Ashgate)
Holt, F. 2007. Genre in Popular Music (Chicago and London, University of Chicago Press)
Johnson, A., and Stax, M. 2006. ‘From psychotic to psychedelic: the garage contribution to psychedelia’, Popular Music and Society, 29/4, pp. 411–26
Josephson, N.S. 1992. ‘Bach meets Liszt: traditional formal structures and performance practices in progressive rock’, The Musical Quarterly, 76/1, pp. 6792
Kater, M.H. 1992. Different Drummers: Jazz in the Culture of Nazi Germany (New York, Oxford University Press)
Kawamoto, A. 2005. ‘“Can you still keep your balance?”: Keith Emerson's anxiety of influence, style change, and the road to prog superstardom’, Popular Music, 24/2, pp. 223–44
Keister, J., and Smith, J.L. 2008. ‘Musical ambition, cultural accreditation and the nasty side of progressive rock’, Popular Music, 27/3, pp. 433–55
Kravitt, E.F. 1992. ‘Romanticism today’, The Musical Quarterly, 76/1, pp. 93109
Looseley, D.L. 2003. Popular Music in Contemporary France. Authenticity, Politics, Debate (Oxford and New York, Berg)
Lucky, J. 1998. The Progressive Rock Files (Burlington, Collector's Guide Publishing)
Lucky, J. 2000. 20th Century Rock and Roll – Progressive Rock (Burlington, Collector's Guild Publishing)
Macan, E. 1997. Rocking the Classics: English Progressive Rock and the Counter-Culture (New York, Oxford University Press)
Macan, E. 2006. Endless Enigma. A Musical Biography of Emerson, Lake and Palmer (Chicago and LaSalle, Open Court)
Marshall, L. 2005. Bootlegging. Romanticism and Copyright in the Music Industry (London, Sage)
Martin, B. 1996. Music of Yes: Structure and Vision in Progressive Rock (Chicago, Open Court Press)
Martin, B. 1998. Listening to the Future: the Time of Progressive Rock (Chicago, Open Court Press)
McKay, G. 1997. ‘Introduction: Americanization and popular culture’, in Yankee Go Home (& Take Me With U). Americanization and Popular Culture, ed. McKay, G. (Sheffield, Academic Press), pp. 1152
Miles. 1977. ‘The 120 decibel dream – warning: this page is heavy’, New Musical Express, 16 July. (accessed 23 July 2009)
Moore, A. 2001. Rock: the Primary Text. Developing a Musicology of Rock, 2nd edn (Aldershot, Ashgate)
Moore, A. 2004. ‘The contradictory aesthetics of Woodstock’, in Remembering Woodstock, ed. Bennett, A. (Aldershot, Ashgate), pp. 7589
Moore, A. 2005–2006. ‘Gentle Giant's “Octopus”’, Philomusica-online, numero speciale. (accessed 29 November 2008)
Negus, K. 1996. Popular Music in Theory (Cambridge, Polity)
Negus, K. 1999. Music Genres and Corporate Cultures (London, Routledge)
Neville, J. 1971. Play Power (London, Paladin)
Palmer, J.R. 2001. ‘Yes, “Awaken”, and the progressive rock style’, Popular Music, 20/2, pp. 243–61
Pirenne, C. 2005–2006. ‘Romanticism vs. economy: technologies and the growth of progressive rock’, Philomusica-online, numero speciale. (accessed 29 November 2008) 2009. Prog – Your Ultimate Prog Rock Resource. (accessed 19 February 2009)
Reising, R. (ed.) 2005. Speak to Me: The Legacy of Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon (Aldershot, Ashgate)
Reynolds, S. 1998. Energy Flash: A Journey Through Rave Music and Dance Culture (London, Picador)
Reynolds, S. 2006. Rip It Up and Start Again: Post Punk 1978–84 (London, Faber & Faber)
Reynolds, S. 2007. ‘Kings of the cosmos’, Observer Music Monthly, 22 April.
Sheinbaum, J. 2002. ‘Progressive rock and the inversion of musical values’, in Progressive Rock Reconsidered, ed. Holm-Hudson, K. (New York and London, Routledge), pp. 2142
Smith, B. 1998. The Billboard Guide to Progressive Music (New York, Billboard Books)
Spicer, M. 2008. ‘Large-scale strategy and compositional design in the early music of Genesis’, in Expression in Pop-Rock Music. Critical and Analytical Essays, 2nd edn, ed. Everett, W. (New York and London, Routledge), pp. 313–44
Stump, P. 1997. The Music's All That Matters: a History of Progressive Rock (London, Quartet Books)
Walker, G. 2008. ‘Grand masters of vinyl’, Times Higher Education, 11 September. (accessed 19 September 2008)
Whiteley, S. 1992. The Space Between the Notes. Rock and the Counter-culture (London and New York, Routledge)
Whiteley, S. 1998. ‘Repressive representations: patriarchy and femininities in rock music of the counterculture’, in Mapping the Beat. Popular Music and Contemporary Theory, ed. Swiss, T., Sloop, J. and Herman, A. (Oxford, Blackwell Publishers), pp. 153–70
Zak, A. 2008. ‘Rock and roll rhapsody. Pop epics of the 1970s’, in Expression in Pop-Rock Music. Critical and Analytical Essays, 2nd edn, ed. Everett, W. (New York and London, Routledge), pp. 345–60
Amon Düül II, Phallus Dei. Revisited/SPV, 087-304182; CD REV, 050. 1969
David Bowie, Low. Virgin, 5219070. 1977
David Bowie, Heroes. EMI, 21908. 1977
David Bowie, Lodger. EMI 5219090. 1979
Buon Vecchio Charlie, Buon Vecchio Charlie. Akarma, AK1011. 1971
Can, Monster Movie. Spoon, 004. 1969
Can, The Peel Sessions. Strange Fruit, SFR CD 135. 1995
Cluster and Eno, Cluster and Eno. Caroline, GYR 6620-2. 1977
Miles Davis, In A Silent Way. Columbia, CS9875. 1969
Deep Purple, Concerto for Group and Orchestra. EMI, CDP-7-94886-2. 1969
Embryo, Opal. Materiali Sonori, MASO CD 90012. 1970
Embryo, Embryo's Rache. Materiali Sonori, MASO CD 90050. 1971
Brian Eno, Ambient 1: Music for Airports. Virgin, 7243 8 66495 2 2. 1978
Eno, Moebius, Roedelius (aka. Cluster & Eno), After the Heat. Gyroscope, 6621. 1978
Fairport Convention, Heyday: BBC Radio Sessions 1968–1969. Island, IMCD 290/586542-2. 2002
Faust, The Faust Tapes. Recommended Records, ReRF2CD. 1973
I Giganti, Terra in Bocca. RiFi, RDZ ST 14207. 1971
Hölderlin, Hölderlin's Traum. Spalax, 14297. 1972
Jethro Tull, 20 Years of Jethro Tull. Chrysalis Records, 303 418. 1988
King Crimson, The Great Deceiver: Live 1973–1974. Caroline, CAROL 1597. 1992
Magma, Magma/Kobaïa. Seventh, REX 4–5. 1970
New Trolls, Senza Orario, Senza Bandiera. Warner, 266112. 1968
New Trolls, Concerto Grosso N.1. Warner, 266022, 1971
Le Orme, Collage. Universal, 8425052. 1971
Osanna, Preludio, Tema, Variazioni, Canzona. BTF/Vinyl Magic, VM CD092 (released under the name Milano Calibro 9). 1972
Popol Vuh, Aftenstunde. Spalax, 14205. 1970
Popol Vuh, In den Garten Pharaos. Ohr, 70024. 1971
Premiata Forneria Marconi, Storia di un Minuto. SonyBMG, ND 74059. 1972
Premiata Forneria Marconi, Per Un Amico. SonyBMG, ND 71784. 1972
Rovescio della Medaglia, Contaminazione. SonyBMG, ND 74511. 1973
Tangerine Dream, Zeit. Castle, EMS 347. 1972
Tangerine Dream, Phaedra. Virgin, CDV 2010. 1974
Tangerine Dream, The Bootleg Box Set Vol. 1. Castle/Sanctuary, CMXBX770. 2003
Yes, Yes. Rhino, 73786. 1969
Yes, Time and a Word. Rhino, 73787.1970
Yes, Something's Coming: The BBC Recordings 1969–1970. New Millennium Communications Pilot, 25. 1997
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Popular Music
  • ISSN: 0261-1430
  • EISSN: 1474-0095
  • URL: /core/journals/popular-music
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed