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Progressive Rock Stereotypes Part 2: Continued Cliff Notes of Hate-o-rade

Welcome back to class students, as we continue to review the stereotypes that make up that most divine of musical genres, progressive rock. So far we’ve covered some of the most frequent habits that progressive rock is known for, but there are still some other common characteristics that you should be aware of before you can consider yourself a fully informed prog hater/enthusiast. So without any further delay (I think 6+ months was enough) lets dive back in…

Stereotype 5: Girls hate progressive rock

"Why must all of the men in my life be prog nerds!"

The key thing to recognize here is that girls don’t actually HATE progressive rock. They don’t HATE video games, sports, beer, farting, action movies, comic books, or Dungeons and Dragons either. It’s just very rare that you’re going to find a girl who, of her own free will, chooses to take part in any of these activities. If you see a girl at a progressive rock concert there’s usually about a 93.521% chance that she was dragged there by her nerdy boyfriend/husband/legally appointed guardian and that she will have absolutely zero idea who Chris Squire is (even if she’s heard “Owner of a Lonely Heart” before). In regards to the other 6.479% of the time, the majority of those girls are just as socially awkward as you, the average progressive rock fan. So go for it champ, and have that supremely awkward conversation! Try to segue into a pick up line after your conversation about which Frank Zappa keyboard player you thought was the best (example: “Did you know Bobby Martin created a program called ‘Look Great Naked At Any Age’? You know who else looks great naked? *point at yourself* This guy!).

Rarely, you’ll find a totally normal, attractive girl without any obvious mental issues who happens to like progressive rock. However the most this has ever lasted is 6 hours, because anyone who has ever met this elusive beast eventually wakes up in their own bed, cursing their dreams for tricking them once again.

Stereotype 6: You can’t dance to progressive rock

To dance in odd time signatures, sometimes your limbs have to do things they aren't supposed to do.

This stereotype is the result of a number of independent factors. First of all, the only ethnic groups who enjoy progressive rock are white people, Japanese people, and people from South America. Out of these three groups, only the South Americans are born with the ability to get their groove on. However, there has yet to be a samba, rumba, tango, salsa, or pasa doble designed to accompany a progressive rock epic (which I find shocking, considering that it’s been fifteen years since Spock’s Beard introduced us to Senior Velasco, who does in fact drink his milk with Tabasco). So really this stereotype stems more from the fact that no one who listens to progressive rock can dance, not that the music is un-danceable.

That being said, I’ve never seen a dance floor clear out as quickly as I did when a band I was in in college covered ‘Another Brick in the Wall’. And if Pink Floyd doesn’t get people bouncin in da club, I fear there may be no hope for the progressive rock dance craze (which is too bad, cause I already had moves figured out to half of Beardfish’s catalogue).

Stereotype 7: Progressive Rock Vocalists are Horrible

He does a GREAT cover of "Fly By Night"

The least important piece in the prog rock puzzle is always going to be the vocals. Even when you have a phenomenal vocalist like Russell Allen of Symphony X, people in the progressive rock community are going to focus on guitarist Michael Romero’s stupidly technical and ludicrously fast fret work instead. Thus when a vocalist isn’t exactly at the same level as the rest of the members of the band he or she will stick out like a lone straight man at a Jonas Brothers concert.

Another problem (or ‘prog-lem’, my newest addition to the prog dictionary) is that many prog vocalists, while talented, chose to sing in a style that most listeners aren’t used hearing and enjoying. In this category we have the extremely well documented ‘guy who sings far too high’ (see examples one, two, three, four, five, and six). There are also the less frequently heard ‘guy who is trying far to hard to sound mentally unstable’ and the ‘woman who sounds like a failed opera singer’. It’s no wonder that bands will simply write instrumental songs and avoid these problems all together. It’s got to be far less awkward to tell your vocalist to take a 12 minute piss while you and the other musicians wank on stage than fire him or her, right?

Stereotype 8: No one can actually define progressive rock

Some people just like to argue

Well then what the hell do you think all these stereotypes are for? I’ll be honest, any time someone asks me how I define progressive rock the answer is going to be pulled directly from my ass, and the longer I go on speaking the less I know what I’m talking about (to anyone who has asked me to define progressive rock, I’m sorry, but I probably said something completely absurd and false to you at some point in that conversation and I hope you saw through my bullshit).

Defining progressive rock is like trying to define what pornography is. Everyone knows it when they see or hear it, and most people have to hide it in a closet to keep it from corrupting their children. Yet no one can agree on a definition of what makes smut smut and and art art. Over time we’ve agreed on some common themes and put together some loose ideas, but we’ve never been able to perfect our unified theory of progressive integration assessment (UToPIA). The problem is that we keep finding new bands that don’t meet any of our previous criteria, but we still want to embrace them as part of the genre. At the same time new bands continue to spawn that fit nearly every progressive stereotype, and we chose to shun like illegitimate children. Until we learn to stop these practices and be happy with the bands we have I’m confident that we will never reach UToPIA.

Stereotype 9: Progressive rock is the product of way too many drugs

Yeah, gimme a beer, a preztel, a hot dog...and....some of that brown powder with a lighter and a spoon please.

This is basically true. Though drugs can also be credited with jam bands, jazz, and every single one of Terry Gilliam’s movies, so they can’t be all bad can they? (note: A Prog Blog does not endorse drug use). In fact prog bands are starting to creep back into the hippie-jam-band festival scene, and the High Voltage Festival in Great Britain has an entire stage devoted ENTIRELY to progressive rock.

Sure, there are some prog artists that are either straight edge or too old to be hardcore drug addicts, but there are just as many nerds who get their inspiration from a bong as there are reggae artists who…well, are reggae artists. And I’m sure Robert Fripp has done just as much acid as Jerry Garcia. Some how though there aren’t nearly as many tragic drug related progressive rock deaths as there are in other music genres. Sure, very few prog artists are high profile enough that they’ll even get a 10 line article on a random news website when they die of whatever ends up killing them (odds on favorite for cause of death for every prog artist ever: stroke caused by attempts at writing a song in in 4/0), but the fact is that prog artists don’t really die, let alone die of drug related issues. Nerds just know how to handle themselves when it comes to hardcore drug use, I guess.

So once again, I hope this helps provide a decent framework for understanding the progressive rock genre. If you don’t feel like actually learning anything, you can use these tools to at least pretend that you know what you’re talking about next time you encounter a progressive rock nerd (which will be any day now, I promise!). Keep on the look out for further installments whenever I can come up with new things to criticize about prog rock and its fans.


9 responses

  1. flavio

    robert fripp has stated that he is very opposed to drug use. Other than that funny article

    July 21, 2010 at 12:15 am

    • mikeeps

      Oh, I’m definitely aware. Doesn’t mean I can’t make fun of him for giving the world the opposite impression 🙂

      July 21, 2010 at 12:41 am

  2. EpsilonX

    so i laughed when I guessed every vocalist you put before i hilighted them. I was like “labie, geddy, tate, the dude from yes, tarja. who’s mentally unstable…..townsend?”

    July 30, 2010 at 11:04 am

  3. lily

    What? Radiohead prog??
    this is blasphemy!

    September 11, 2010 at 6:52 pm

  4. Ana Clara MacDowell

    man, thank god i know that the funny thing in this article is actually that there isn’t a verisimilitude with reality. I’m a girl and a, for god’s sake, I’m one hell of a progger and not socially awkward at all (or maybe just a lil bit — still healthy enough)xP Just like Fripp doesn’t like drugs (though, say, Discipline is HIGH AS FUCK stuff)… And that is WHY the article is actually really funny =)

    February 27, 2011 at 6:08 pm

  5. BSS

    Rock on Ana Clara! I too am a girl and am one hell of a progger. Have seen ELP, Rush, Moody Blues, Zappa, and YES; was never dragged to those shows by anyone. And for the record, always thought that Greg Lake’s vocals were exceptional. My knees turn to jello everytime I listen to either of the first two KC albums or any ELP album.

    October 19, 2012 at 2:45 pm

  6. A Prog Girl here

    Lord have mercy whoever said “girls hate prog rock” needs to see my record collection. Nothing but prog. From Supersister to Experience to Triangle to Egg, I’ve loved progressive since I was a little girl in 1970 and have loved tit ever, ever, EVER since. To kill a second, sub-stereotype: I am also not lesbian. There seems to be this “thing” if a girl is into things like prog, and especially, plays a guitar, bass or drums, she must also be gay. Gay women feed into this stereotype more than any other group of people and come on to me all the time at shows. I’m a bass player. I’m a drummer. I’m a cinematographer. And I’m straight. We’re out there, fellas! Send me a hot, long-haired prog boy to play air guitar to my air bass and air drums. Straight away. And his record collection. Anything he hasn’t got, I’ma STEAL 😀

    Progressive is the ultimate voice of rock. Progressive will rule and open minds forever.

    January 15, 2015 at 3:37 pm

  7. A Prog Girl here

    Make that whatever he’s got I AIN’T got, I’ma steal. And if it’s German or French, he can *especially* kiss it goodbye.

    And yeah I see “tit” up there instead of “it”. Typo. I’ll pass on the tit, thanks. Just pass me your Europrog, a quarter, and the tone arm!

    January 15, 2015 at 3:42 pm

  8. It’s no coincidence that cleaned-up musicians usually exhibit a SHARP decline in innovative songwriting. I mean, I’m a musician in his mid 40’s, and although moderation is my middle name, I can assert, without reservation, that one blast of herb turns a constipated and frustrating session into a 2001 spaceride. And usually results in MUCH more interesting sounds.

    As far as defining “progressive rock”, I think it’s important to draw the distinction between “Prog” and “progressive” music. Is Dream Theater “Prog”? No doubt about it. Are they “progressive”? Not in my estimation. If you aren’t pushing the genre forward into new and unexplored territory, you’re not “progressive”. I get into it with people when I suggest that “90125” is more “progressive” a record than “Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman & Howe”. It’s pretty obvious to me that there was a LOT more creative energy from the former. It presented a very unique and innovative leap into new territory, sonically speaking. ABW&H was pure retread. So, although the latter may have been more “Prog”, it was far less progressive.

    Indeed, in order to really embrace progressive sounds in today’s musical climate, you’d be well advised to steer clear of any band that brands itself as “Prog”. It’s one of the last genres to present you with anything new.

    October 1, 2015 at 3:07 pm

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