Part II.I of a discussion of Dave Weigel’s new book The Show That Never Ends, a history of Progressive Rock, which is getting all sorts of discussion on social media. A follow up where JCH actually reads a book (shock). Moody Blues. Definitions. What makes for a real Indian? Even more Fripp.
Roger CortonYou finally read it (laughs)?
JCHI did. So a couple of quick things I got WRONG and then off to the weenie roasts.
I create a long form piece of music that you might want to listen to all the way through. I want it to be interesting enough that you’ll want to hear it over and over. And every time you hear it, you might notice something new. And I want you to pay me for that experience. That’s pretty much all I got! (laughs) The only core agreement is that I make it worth your time and in return you give me some money (laughs). That’s the deal. Attention. Time. Money. Boom!
RCYou? Using the ‘W’ word?
JCHWell that’s what happens when you review a book you haven’t actually read! (laughs).
JCHI didn’t realize how much the thing reads like a history. Fact. Fact. Fact. Fact. Far less of an analysis then I expected.
RCI know. The way you were gassing on.
JCHWell in my defense all those reviews, the guy is giving all these long expositions
RCLike in that Libertarian magazine article. Ayn Rand and what not.
JCHRight! I figured the whole book was deep opinionated shit like that.
RC(laughs) Not so much.
JCHThere’s maybe one page on The Moody Blues. It just shocked me. It’s like that thing at the intro to The Lord Of The Rings where Tolkien says, “It’s too short.” Does that make me a mega-geek?
JCHAnd here’s the other conclusion.
JCHI’ve been thinking a lot lately about Indians.
RCOh, this will be good.
JCHWell you know I used to fish a lot near Indian lands. The argument always comes up, what does it mean to be an Indian? What makes you a member of ‘the tribe’. And the question is not academic; the benefits are very real, right? But here’s the thing. It’s not based on blood. You might be like one percent ‘Native’ and still be a member. You might be ninety nine percent blood and not be a member.
JCHSo, the big thing for me is, “What does it mean to be ‘Progressive’?” Does it mean sounding like Yes in 1972? Does it mean using a Mellotron? Does it mean to do songs in 19/8? What makes you a real Indian? People throw that around all the time. I throw it around. Why?
JCHI asked you first!
RCWell some people seem to need labels; for marketing. And some people hate to be labeled. I always thought you were flying some kind of ‘flag’, like it was an art form. Or did I get that wrong?
JCHWho knows? (laughs) I don’t think it’s a style as much as I think it’s an approach. I keep coming back to that word ‘serious’. You want people to listen to the work ‘seriously’. And when I go there I keep coming back to how visual artists roll. And that takes me back to Fripp.
JCHYeah. At the end of the day, it dawned on me that all my mixed feelings are really because he was the only one who was a real ‘artiste’. And I thought of Progressive Rock as ‘serious’. I mean he had skills but he didn’t go rock star crazy. And that’s why he had a real career. I’m not thrilled with a lot of his output but I have to admit that he was able to pull people along with him for the ride–often simply by virtue of the strength of his bullshit.
RCBullshit, you say?
JCHCharisma. Like all charismatic ‘artistes’ he has this stream of constant bullshit that keeps fans and students interested in what he’s doing. C’mon! On a related note, people think I started this, but actually it was you that started this whole ‘rant’ thing, if you recall (laughs). Isn’t that what you wanted this to be about? ‘Marketing’? That’s what we’re really talking about.
RCYes. I did think it would help you get a wider audience if people heard your “voice”. But I don’t really do anything other than wind you up, my friend. And away you go (laughs).
JCHBe that as it may. It never really worked. I mean, we have fun, but it isn’t like it’s translated into piles of cash and loads of fame, now has it? But Fripp? Fripp was a self-promotional genius. If I were a marketing guy I’d say he was a master at ‘relationship building’.
RCYou sound kind of obsessed (laughs). But what does that have to do with the Indians?
JCHMaybe you’re right. I’m definitely jealous of that moment in time (laughs). My point is that Progressive Rock came along at a moment in time where you might put on a show and expect young people to listen to music for a period of time–albeit with a light show and some drugs (laughs). And once you’d established an audience you could take them with you over time; perhaps decades. That kind of relationship is very tough to build now.
RCBut that still doesn’t answer the question of “What defines ‘Progressive Rock’?” What makes you an ‘Indian’.
JCHThe only thing I could come up with is this: I create a long form piece of music that you might want to listen to all the way through. I want it to be interesting enough that you’ll want to hear it over and over. And every time you hear it, you might notice something new. And I want you to pay me for that experience. That’s pretty much all I got! (laughs) The only core agreement is that I make it worth your time and in return you give me some money (laughs). That’s the deal. Attention. Time. Money. Boom! (laughs).
RCIt all seems so simple when you put it that way.
JCHI knoooooooooooow. It is simple. It’s just art music. Because ya know? If I had known where ‘Progressive Rock’ was gonna go I never would’ve used the term.
RCSo why did you stick with it?
JCHNever came up with a better one. Seriously.