Fire in harmony: the rise and fall of the 1980s UK progressive revival

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Published conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract

Progressive rock's "golden age" is typically defined as a decade beginning in the late 1960s and ending in the late 1970s. By the late 1970s progressive rock's most visible and successful acts had run out of steam, broken up, or begun to adopt a more mainstream, radio-friendly style. However, ?progressive? rock enjoyed a nascent revival in the early 1980s that had continuities with the 1970s, yet developed and declined in its own particular ways. The most successful band of the revival was undoubtedly Marillion, whose initial recordings betray a debt to Gabriel-era Genesis of the mid-1970s, while other bands also drew on mid-1970s Pink Floyd, Camel and so on (in addition to a variety of other influences). Sheinbaum (2008) notes that it may be appropriate, therefore, to consider the "progressive" rock music of the early 1980s UK through Adorno's discourse of "late style", where conventional formulae and contemporary commercial tendencies are utilised in order to interact with the changing musical and industrial culture of the era. This is the starting point for this paper, which examines the ?genre world? (Frith 1996) of the ?progressive revival?. It explores contemporary developments and media of the period, questions the use of the term ?neo-progressive? (now typically used to refer to this period of music and a network of styles that supposedly developed from it), and considers both how bands sought to gain broader popularity/record deals, and how they were supported in their endeavours to do so by trans-local scenes and specific infrastructures and individuals. The paper concludes by suggesting various reasons for the failure of the ?progressive revival? to gain traction at that time, though certain bands managed to persevere through fan support, and others later reformed after varying periods of inactivity. Indeed, some of these bands have careers that are considerably longer than those achieved by many of the first wave of progressive bands in the 1970s.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFirst International Conference of the ACADPROG Network, 10-12 December 2014, Université de Bourgogne, Dijon
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2014

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