For the initiated, it came to be known as prog rock, or progressive rock, and was first brought into popularity by bands like King Crimson, Yes and Emerson Lake and Palmer in the late 1960's. Later, many subsets were dispersed throughout the musical cosmos, such as space rock, neo-classical, art rock and Kraut rock.
What elements tie together the many family members of prog? For one thing, a total disregard for popular song structure. Also, a combination of rock, classical music, folk, jazz and occasionally world music. You can also expect extreme dynamics - ugly to beautiful, chaotic to enchanting ballad, thunderous to a barely audible hush.
So who listens to this crazy stuff? Kerry Gluckman of Ferndale, Michigan for one. The drummer of space rock band THTX owns a huge collection of music, much of which is comprised of progressive rock in all its many forms. He says he was attracted to the sound of the recordings, particularly the organs. "Anything with a mellotron gets my vote - definitely makes my atoms vibrate. I'll never forget the first time I heard In the Court of the Crimson King (King Crimson). I was transported to another time and place." We discussed why it's not for everyone. "I think it takes too much effort for most people. It's music that demands your attention - the level of musicianship, weird time signatures, the amount of notes. Too much statistical density, to quote Zappa." So what does he get out of listening to progressive rock? "I need a certain quota of notes every day to keep my interest in music, and prog provides that for me."
He goes on to describe a typical prog rocker as 45 years or older, going bald but refusing to cut the mullet or pulling what's left into a pony tail, and still wearing a 1991 Yes tour shirt that's been washed multiple times. Nine times out of ten, they probably don't have a wife or girlfriend. "Women and prog rock are like oil and water. I observed this at the Near Fest a few years ago, where out of 2,000 people 5% were women." Not that it's unheard of for a chick to enjoy listening to Thick as a Brick, but it just doesn't happen too often. "Perhaps it's like math," he theorizes.
Think you're a prog rocker or might be interested in exploring their music? Here are some bands to get you started and thinking in 7/8: