It’s generally agreed that the late ’60s/early ’70s was an especially fertile period in rock music history, and perhaps the most provocative genre at the time was progressive rock (or “prog” among devotees), the dense, complex, lengthy, ambitious, lyrically puzzling music produced by a handful of British bands who strove to bring rock a degree of sophistication and critical respect.
I say prog rock was provocative because it truly provoked reaction. It was a proud and radical departure from the three-minute mainstream rock, soul and pop songs that dominated the musical scene in the 1965-1977 period. A huge, largely male demographic embraced it fully, spending hours under the headphones absorbing every nuance of these song suites and extended opuses, and religiously attended their concerts. Others, though, turned up their noses, dismissing it as excessive and pretentious, and counter to the prevailing wisdom that “rock was and should remain tied to adolescence and youthful rebellion, not some medieval fairy tale,” as one writer put it.