I like “Progressive Music.” It doesn’t mean to say that I like Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Yes, Genesis or (especially) Focus. That’s “Prog Rock.” In the 70s, not the 60s. No, I like “Progressive Music” which, to my mind, originated in the psychedelic era of the late 60s; sometimes it was called “Underground Music”. This was a time when new and experimental sounds, textures, lyrics and structures were seen as a good thing. Musical expertise was not unwelcome or a prerequisite of “Progressive Music” although it was deemed essential for “Prog Rock”.
These days, I get two “free” CDs every month when MOJO and UNCUT come through the letter box. I have hundreds of them by now and every now and then I play them and find something remarkable. Without an UNCUT CD containing “Single Father” by Jackie Leven, I’d never had got back in touch with Peter and my life would be much diminished. But, to be honest, I don’t play them very much – there’s so many of them. On the other hand, in the 60s, a “sampler” was very exciting. It was cheap (15/6) and contained lots of really great songs. I got a Decca sampler called “Wowie Zowie – The World Of Progressive Music” which, to be honest, had a much better title than collection of songs (although it had “Train To Nowhere” by Savoy Brown and “Where Did I Belong” by John Mayall, it also had “Computer Lover” by William R. Strickland). The Island samplers were the ones to get. I failed abysmally to buy “You Can All Join In” and “El Pea” but I still proudly own “Nice Enough To Eat” from 1969 and it contains a huge variety of musical genres performed by some truly imaginative musicians.
Side 1 Track 1 is “Cajun Woman” by Fairport Convention who, of course, are still going and their new album “Shuffle And Go” is much much better than you think it’s going to be. The song is written by Richard Thompson who is one of the very greats of British music. Wikipedia genre: British folk rock.
Side 1 Track 2 is “At The Crossroads” by Mott The Hoople. The song was written by Doug Sahm and is from their first album, recorded three years before “All The Young Dudes” brought them fame. Wikipedia genre: Hard rock.
Side 1 Track 3 is “Better By You, Better Than Me” by Spooky Tooth. The guitarist in Spooky Tooth was Luther Grosvenor who went on to play in Mott The Hoople under the name Ariel Bender. Different times eh? The song is written by Gary Wright who played on George Harrison’s album “All Things Must Pass” and recorded a song “Dream Weaver” that was featured in the 1992 comedy “Waynes World”. Mike Kelly played drums in Spooky Tooth and he went on to form The Only Ones with Peter Perrett. The bassist in Spooky Tooth was Greg Ridley who helped Steve Marriott form Humble Pie. The lead singer was Mike Harrison who released an album in 2001 called “Touch” with lyrics by Pete Brown who co-wrote (with Jack Bruce) most of the songs by Cream. What a small interconnected world it was. And what a fantastic band Spooky Tooth were. Wikipedia genre: Blues rock.
Side 1 Track 4 is “We Used To Know” by Jethro Tull. This is taken from “Stand Up” which reached Number One in the album charts. The song is written by Ian Anderson MBE. The engineer on this album was Andy Johns who later went on to produce “Exile On Main Street”, “Marquee Moon” and a series of albums by Led Zeppelin. He is the brother of Glyn Johns who had worked as an engineer on Spooky Tooth’s first album and subsequently worked on albums by , well, everyone (e.g. Bob Dylan, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Wings. Oh yes, and Fairport Convention). Wikipedia genres: Hard rock, Folk rock, Blues rock, Progressive rock.
Side 1 Track 5 is “Woman” by Free. A fantastic track. Free, of course, had a huge hit later with “All Right Now”. The song is co-written by Andy Fraser (the bass player who later went on to form Sparks with Chris Spedding (who had played in Pete Brown’s band)) and Paul Rodgers (the lead vocalist who went on to form Bad Company with Mick Ralphs who had been the guitarist in Mott The Hoople) Wikipedia genres: Blues rock, Folk rock.
Side 1 Track 6 is “I Keep Singing That Same Old Song” by Heavy Jelly. This wasn’t a real group but a pseudonym used by the band Skip Bifferty. The song was written by Colin Gibson (the bass player who went on to play with Ginger Baker’s Air Force). Other members of Skip Bifferty include Mick Gallagher and John Turnbull who went on to play in The Blockheads with Ian Dury. Wikipedia genres: Psychedelic rock, Pop.
What an amazing labyrnthian world British rock music was in the late 60s.
Now turn over for Side 2 track 1 which is “Sing Me A Song That I Know” by Blodwyn Pig. The album was produced by Andy Johns. The song (which is great) was written by Mick Abrahams (the lead singer who had previously been in Jethro Tull). The bassist was Andy Pyle, previously of Savoy Brown. Wikipedia genre: Blues rock.
Side 2 Track 2 is “Forty Thousand Headmen” by Traffic. This song is written by Jim Capaldi (who had been in Deep Feeling with Luther Grosvenor) and Steve Winwood (who later went on to form Blind Faith with Ginger Baker). Wikipedia genres: Blues rock, Art rock, Folk rock, Jam rock, Psychedelic Rock.
Side 2 Track 3 is “Time Has Told Me” written and performed by Nick Drake. Possibly the first time many people had ever heard Nick Drake. The track features Richard Thompson on guitar. Wikipedia genre: Folk.
Side 2 Track 4 is the magnificent “21st Century Schizoid Man” by King Crimson. The lead singer and drummer in King Crimson at this time was Greg Lake who later went properly Prog in Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Incidentally, Carl Palmer was in Atomic Rooster who later, briefly, counted Ginger Baker as one of its members. Wikipedia genre: Progressive rock.
Side 2 Track 5 is “Gungamai” by Quintessence. The album “Quintessence” was produced by John Barham who supplied all the orchestral arrangements for “All Things Must Pass” by George Harrison. In September 1971 Quintessence played a benefit concert for Bangladesh at The Oval in London. Also on the bill were Mott The Hoople and Atomic Rooster. Wikipedia genres: Psychedelic rock, Progressive rock, Jazz rock, Raga rock.
Finally and rather sadly we get to the last track on side 2 which is “Strangely Strange But Oddly Normal” by Dr. Strangely Strange. Like Fairport Convention, they are still performing. The album “Heavy Petting” featured Dave Mattacks from Fairport Convention on drums and Gary Moore on guitar who later joined Greg Lake’s band after Emerson, Lake And Palmer split. Wikipedia genres: Folk pop, Folk rock, Psychedelic rock, Freak rock, Experimental, Avant-garde.
And that’s it. What an amazing “scene” it was then. It was such that when I opened up my copy of Melody Maker every Thursday I knew most of the bands that were featured and was fascinated when new “supergroups” were formed. The different genres that Wikipedia has attributed to each band are fascinating, mainly for the absurd concept of trying to categorise music. (What on earth is “Freak rock” or “Jam rock”?) To me listening to this music was exciting, glorious, experimental, colourful, absurd, engrossing, absorbing, enchanting and beguiling. It was “progressive”. In every possible way it was the complete contrast to my real life.
“Time has told me you’re a rare rare find. A troubled cure for a troubled mind”