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Allmusic cites Bob Dylan's poetry, The Mothers of Invention's Freak Out! (1966) and The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) as the "earliest rumblings of progressive and art rock", while progressiverock.com cites the latter as its "starting point". The Beach Boys' concept album Pet Sounds (1966) and Jefferson Airplane's second album Surrealistic Pillow (1967) were both big influences for many progressive rock bands.

From the mid-1960s The Left Banke, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Beach Boys had pioneered the inclusion of harpsichords, wind and string sections on their recordings to produce a form of Baroque rock. This type of rock can be heard in singles like Procol Harum's "A Whiter Shade of Pale" (1967), with its Bach inspired introduction.

Freak Out!, released in 1966, had been a mixture of progressive rock, garage rock and avant-garde layered sounds. In the same year, the band "1-2-3", later renamed Clouds, began experimenting with song structure, improvisation, and multi-layered arrangements.

In March of that year, The Byrds released "Eight Miles High", a pioneering psychedelic rock single with lead guitar heavily influenced by the jazz soloing style of John Coltrane. Later that year, The Who released "A Quick One While He's Away", the first example of the rock opera form, and considered by some to have been the first prog epic.

In 1967, Jeff Beck released the single "Beck's Bolero", inspired by Maurice Ravel's Bolero, and, later that year, Procol Harum released the Bach-influenced single "A Whiter Shade of Pale". Also in 1967, the Moody Blues released Days of Future Passed, combining classical-inspired orchestral music with traditional rock instrumentation and song structures. Pink Floyd's first album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, contained the nearly ten-minute improvisational psychedelic instrumental "Interstellar Overdrive".

By the late 1960s, many rock bands had begun incorporating instruments from classical and Eastern music, as well as experimenting with improvisation and lengthier compositions. East of Eden, for example, used Eastern harmonics and instruments such as a sumerian saxophone on the album Mercator Projected in 1969. Some, such as the UK's Soft Machine, began to experiment with blends of rock and jazz.

By the end of the decade, other bands, such as Deep Purple and The Nice, had also recorded classical-influenced albums with full orchestras: Concerto for Group and Orchestra and Five Bridges. This use of classical music would crystallise in the 1970s with Amon Düül II's orchestral score on Made in Germany (1975), Pink Floyd's Atom Heart Mother (1970), and several works of Frank Zappa.

Early bands

Bands formed by the end of the 1960s included The Moody Blues (1964), Pink Floyd (1965), Soft Machine (1966), Barclay James Harvest (1966), Gong (1967), Genesis (1967), Jethro Tull (1967), The Nice (1967), Procol Harum (1967), The United States of America (1967), Van der Graaf Generator (1967), Yes (1968), Rush (1968), Caravan (1968), King Crimson (1969), Supertramp (1969), Renaissance (1969), Uriah Heep (1969) and Gentle Giant (1969).[21]

Although many of these bands were from the UK, the genre was growing popular elsewhere in continental Europe. Triumvirat led Germany's significant progressive rock movement, while Tangerine Dream, Faust, Can and Neu! led the related Berlin School and Krautrock movements. Italian progressive rock is an important sub-genre led by PFM, Le Orme, and Banco, all of which gained significant international recognition. Other notable Italian bands include New Trolls, Area, Goblin, Museo Rosenbach, Il Balletto di Bronzo, Maxophone and Locanda Delle Fate.

Golden Earring, Focus and Trace formed in the Netherlands, France produced Ange, Gong, and Magma, the Quebec-based Harmonium were one of the first significant North American progressive bands, and Greece saw the debut of Aphrodite's Child led by electronic music pioneer Vangelis. Spain produced numerous prog groups, including Triana. Scandinavia was represented by Norwegian band Popol Vuh, Swedish band Kaipa, and Finnish bands Wigwam and Tasavallan Presidentti.

Peak in popularity and decline

Progressive rock's popularity peaked in the mid-1970s, when prog artists regularly topped reader polls in mainstream popular music magazines in Britain and America, and albums like Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells topped the charts.

By this time, several North American progressive rock bands had been formed. Kansas, which had actually existed in one form or another since 1971, became one of the most commercially successful of all progressive rock bands. Pop star Todd Rundgren moved into prog with his new band, Utopia. Toronto's Rush, who formed in 1968, became a major band, with a string of hit albums beginning in the mid-1970s. In Australia, a number of progressive rock bands made their mark in the late 1960s, including Tamam Shud, Tully and Khavas Jute. In Japan, Osamu Kitajima's 1974 progressive rock album Benzaiten, featuring Haruomi Hosono, utilized electronic music instruments such as a synthesizer and drum machine.[22] Back in Britain, Electric Light Orchestra, who formed in 1970 from former members of the pop group The Move, saw their greatest success during the mid-1970s.

In 1974, four of the biggest bands in progressive rock —Yes, Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP), Genesis and King Crimson— each either ceased performing or changed personnel. Members of Yes and ELP left to pursue solo work, as did Genesis's lead singer Peter Gabriel, who left his band (though Genesis would continue with Phil Collins as lead vocalist). Lead guitarist Robert Fripp announced the end of King Crimson after the Red album was released. When, in 1977, Yes and ELP re-formed, they enjoyed success without retaining their previous popularity.

From 1975 to 1976, progressive bands elaborated their stage shows, thus moving away from their original ethos of "music first".

Bruce Eder claims that "the rot" in progressive rock "started to set in during 1976, the year Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP) released their live album Welcome Back My Friends". Eder claims that this album was "suffering from poor sound and uninspired playing" which "stretched the devotion of fans and critics even thinner." He claims that "the end [of progressive rock] came quickly: by 1977, the new generation of listeners was even more interested in a good time than the audiences of the early 1970s, and they had no patience for 30 minute prog-rock suites or concept albums based on Tolkienesque stories." He asserts that by the late 1970s and early 1980s, "ELP was barely functioning as a unit, and not producing music with any energy; Genesis was redefining themselves ... as a pop-rock band; and Yes was back to doing songs running four minutes ... and even releasing singles."

In the late 1970s, Great Britain was going through difficult times due to a poor economy, frequent strikes and shortages. With its exotic, literary topics, much of progressive rock was dismissed by British youth. Punk rock, a simpler and more aggressive style of rock that emerged in this era, determined to push rock back to 3 chord 12 - bar blues, and disco, which also emerged during this period both helped move critical opinion and popular support in the UK away from progressive rock, ending the genre's reign as a leading style there.

However, established progressive bands still had a strong fan base. In fact, the vast majority of fans were white males. Audiences were reserved in their behavior tending to sit and intently concentrate on the performance. This contrasted with more overt and emotional reactions of audiences of other rock music genres. Also, bands such as Genesis, Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP), Supertramp, Yes, and Pink Floyd regularly released albums that attained the top ten and were followed by massive tours, the largest yet for some of them.

By the end of the 1970s and 1980s, progressive rock had fallen into disrepute. It was dismissed as overblown, pretentious and elitist. Fans were embarrassed to publicly admit they liked an act associated with the genre and some record stores stocked progressive rock acts in the back of the store sans labels.

Despite this supposed opposition between the two styles, bands which emerged in the aftermath of punk, such as Siouxsie and the Banshees, Japan, Cabaret Voltaire, Ultravox, Oingo Boingo, Simple Minds, and Wire, all showed the influence of prog, as well as their more usually recognised punk influences.

1980s revitalization

The early 1980s saw a revitalization of progressive rock, as established acts renewed themselves and new artists appeared. The period's progressive music has been called "neo-progressive rock". Many 1980s progressive bands were influenced by minimalism, world music, and the New Wave.[citation needed] The digital synthesizer became a prominent instrument.

In 1981, guitarist Fripp and drummer Bill Bruford re-formed King Crimson with two Americans, the guitarist and singer Adrian Belew and the bassist Tony Levin; Belew had worked with art rockers Frank Zappa and David Bowie, while Levin had worked with Peter Gabriel. Beyond having new electronic instruments —such as Bruford's electronic drums, Levin's Chapman Stick, and Belew and Fripp's MIDI guitar synthesizers— the re-formed King Crimson featured tightly interconnected minimalist instrumentals, a sound that borrowed from gamelan as well as the dance music of the New Wave. Gamelan and minimalism also influenced Brian Eno (who had worked with Fripp and Bowie, following his work with Roxy Music) and Talking Heads (who had worked briefly with Fripp and extensively with Eno and Belew).

Some progressive rock stalwarts changed musical direction, simplifying their music and making it more commercially viable. Containing members of major prog-acts from the 1970s, the supergroup Asia debuted with a mainstream rock-oriented album. Asia's commercial success demonstrated popular demand for a more radio-friendly British progressive rock, which could combine progressive rock with hard rock, also following the North-American Top-40 bands such as Styx, Journey, and Rush. Genesis performed short catchy singles that were heard by and appealed to a larger audience during the 1980s, as did Yes with its comeback album entitled 90125, which featured their only US number-one single, "Owner of a Lonely Heart".

A new generation of neo-progressive bands appeared, such as Marillion, UK, Twelfth Night, IQ, Pendragon, Quasar, and Pallas. Neo-prog continued to remain viable into the 1990s and beyond with bands like Arena and Jadis.

1990s and 2000s

The progressive rock genre enjoyed another revival in the 1990s. A notable impetus to this revival was the 1991 foundation of the Swedish Art Rock Society, an association created to rescue the values of classic progressive rock, with Pär Lindh as chairman. This society was a catalyst for new Swedish bands such as Anekdoten, Änglagård, Landberk and Pär Lindh Project, which joined the scene between 1992 and 1994. These bands became part of progressive rock's "Third Wave", spearheaded by Sweden's The Flower Kings, the UK's Porcupine Tree, Norway's White Willow, and from the United States, Dream Theater, Spock's Beard, Echolyn, Ten Jinn, Proto-Kaw (a reincarnation of an early lineup of Kansas), and Glass Hammer. Arjen Anthony Lucassen's Ayreon project, featuring the backing of an array of talent from the progressive rock genre, produced a series of innovative prog-metal concept albums starting from 1995.

Several of the bands in the prog-metal genre —U.S. bands Queensrÿche, Fates Warning, and Dream Theater, as well as Sweden's Opeth— cite pioneer progressive hard-rockers Rush as a primary influence, although their music also exhibits influences from more traditional metal and rock bands such as Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. Tool (U.S.) have cited pioneers King Crimson as an influence on their work. King Crimson opened for Tool on their 2001 tour and expressed admiration for the group while continuing to deny the "prog" label.

Progressive rock has also served as a key inspiration for genres such as post-rock, post-metal, avant-garde metal, power metal, neo-classical metal and symphonic metal. Former Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy has acknowledged that the prominent use of progressive elements and qualities in metal is not confined to bands conventionally classified as "progressive metal". Many underground metal styles (especially extreme metal styles, which are characterised by extremely fast or slow speed, high levels of distortion, a technical or atmospheric, epic orientation and often highly unusual melodies, scales, vocal styles, song structures and, especially in death metal, abrupt tempo, key and time signature changes; folk metal is known for often employing uncommon instruments and other unusual elements) and some seminal bands such as Watchtower, Death, Celtic Frost (a band having pioneered several styles) or The 3rd and the Mortal remain poorly known even to genre fans.

Former members of the pioneering post-hardcore band At the Drive-In, Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, went on to form The Mars Volta, a successful progressive band (often tagged as Progressive Alternative or progressive post-hardcore) that incorporates jazz, funk, punk rock, Latin music, and ambient noise into songs that range in length from a few minutes to more than thirty. They achieved some crossover success with their 2005 album Frances the Mute, which reached number 4 on the Billboard 200 chart after the single "The Widow" became a hit on modern rock radio. Coheed and Cambria are another band known for their lengthy solos and off-the-beaten-path songwriting direction, in which each song corresponds to an important event in the graphic novel and novel series, The Amory Wars, which was written by lead singer/guitarist Claudio Sanchez. Other successful mainstream rock bands, including Radiohead and Muse have been cited in the mainstream press as inheritors of the progressive rock mantle, along with Pure Reason Revolution, The Mystery Jets, Nude, Warpaint, and Mew.

New prog (also known as nu prog or post-prog) is a term that appeared around the mid-2000s to describe a number of alternative and experimental bands who incorporated elements from progressive rock or had an expansive, musically diverse, approach to their music in a way that has been identified to be progressive, but using a more musically contemporary template. Notable musical groups described as post-prog or new prog included 30 Seconds to Mars; Anathema; Coheed and Cambria; Mew; Muse ; Mystery Jets; Oceansize, Pure Reason Revolution; and The Mars Volta.

The first decade of the 2000s saw progressive rock gain popularity in eastern Europe, especially in Russia, where the InProg festival was founded in 2001 and bands like Little Tragedies, EXIT project, Kostarev Group and Disen Gage achieved relative success in the Russian rock scene and were also noted outside Russia. Other notable north and eastern European bands are the Danish band Prime Time, the Turkish band Nemrud, the Latvian band Olive Mess, the Finnish band Jeavestone, Lithuanian The Skys and the Polish band Riverside. In Spain, the most outstanding bands are Triana, Bloque, Iceberg, Los Canarios, Galadriel or Numen. In Asia, some progressive rock bands such as the Uzbek band FromUz were also founded.


Progressive rock has seen a resurgence in popularity with the introduction of the Progressive Music Awards, which have brought older prog rock artists like Genesis, Yes, The Moody Blues and Emerson, Lake and Palmer to modern audiences.

Alternatively, fusion genres of progressive rock such as progressive metal have seen a steady rise in popularity in both the underground and mainstream music scenes in recent years.


Renewed interest in progressive rock in the 1990s led to the development of festivals. ProgFest, organized by Greg Walker and David Overstreet in 1993, was first held in UCLA's Royce Hall, and featured Sweden's Änglagård, the UK's IQ, Quill and Citadel. A festival called CalProg is held every year at Whittier, California in Los Angeles. NEARfest held its first event in 1999 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and has held annual concerts ever since.

Since 2003, many artists from the progressive scene have appeared at Gouveia Art Rock in Portugal: Van der Graaf Generator, Peter Hammill, Robert Fripp, Tony Levin, Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM), Richard Sinclair, Amon Düül II, Present, Univers Zero, Daevid Allen, Mike Keneally, Isildurs Bane, California Guitar Trio, and Miriodor.

Other festivals include the annual Rites of Spring Festival (RoSfest) in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, The Rogue Independent Music Festival in Atlanta, Georgia, Baja Prog in Mexicali, Mexico, ProgPower USA in Atlanta, Georgia and ProgPower Europe in Baarlo, Netherlands. Progressive Nation was held in 2008, featuring progressive metal bands Dream Theater, Opeth, Between the Buried and Me, and Three. Progressive Nation 2009 was held the following year featuring Zappa Plays Zappa, Bigelf, and Scale the Summit touring across the United States and Canada, as well as an additional international tour.

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