Yes, prog-rock of the Seventies is back, says Rick Wakeman
Clubbers who have made "Get Lucky" this summer's dance-floor anthem will be shocked to hear that Daft Punk aren't the robot-friendly sound of the future – but revivalists of Seventies progressive rock, once the most derided of genres.
Prog, a bombastic mutation of rock and classical genres typically performed by highly skilled musicians in outrageous capes, could once be heard echoing from student halls and stadiums across the land. Supergroup Emerson, Lake & Palmer sold 40 million copies of their symphonic rock while Genesis, Pink Floyd, Yes and Rush became prog's most commercially savvy flag-bearers.
In the end it was punk that swept away those highly designed concept albums with their epic or medieval themes and ostentatious, lengthy, and, some would say, self-indulgent displays of musical proficiency.
But now prog is back, freed from rock's closet of shame, and claiming such favourites as Radiohead, Elbow and Muse as acolytes. A new wave of bands, such as Scottish electro-prog explorers North Atlantic Oscillation, is also finding favour.
Meanwhile, Rick Wakeman, keyboardist with Yes, is about to capitalise on the revival with a new multimedia touring version of his 1974 landmark solo album, Journey to the Centre of the Earth. Wakeman says Daft Punk, the French techno duo responsible for the million-selling single "Get Lucky", are as prog as they come. Inspired by Pink Floyd's album Dark Side of the Moon, the band employed live musicians on vintage synthesisers for their album Random Access Memories, which included one nine-minute song.
"They are going back to the prog ethos that there are no rules, no one is going to stop you experimenting. You aren't restricted to the three-minute single any more," said Wakeman. "That goes back to the early days of prog."
He added: "I know Radiohead say they aren't prog but, sorry chaps, you are, and it's brilliant."
Wakeman enjoyed huge success with solo albums based on the stories of Henry VIII and King Arthur as well as selling 15 million copies of Journey...
"We've come out of a period in the 1980s and 1990s where people were very blinkered about what was acceptable. Prog was the porn of the music industry, you bought an album under the counter in a brown paper bag," said the keyboardist, who is to celebrate the prog resurgence by collaborating with Roger Dean, designer of Yes's famous fantasy album sleeves, on a UK tour next year, to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Jules Verne's Voyage au Centre de la Terre.
After piecing together the original conductor's score of Journey... which had been lost for 40 years, Wakeman and a symphony orchestra will perform it in full for the first time since it topped the charts.
"I received a crate from Australia and I found the score at the bottom, said Wakeman, 64. "It was waterlogged and I thought it unsalvageable. I took it to my conductor Guy Protheroe and, after a year's work, he was able to recover the music and digitise it."
Wakeman also thanks David Bowie for Journey's success. Bowie told him, "Follow your dream. Don't listen to people who don't know a hatchet from a crotchet."
He added: "The record company didn't want to release it, I got massively into debt and had a letter from Express Dairies over my milk bill. But it sold millions, America embraced it. And I paid my milk bill."
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awardsTheatre
Grace DentChannel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Alan Rickman admits editing 'terrible' script with friends in Pizza Hut behind backs of writers on Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
- 2 18th century sex toy found in 'toilet of sword fighting school' in Poland
- 3 US? China? India? The 10 biggest economies in 2030 will be...
- 4 'I wish my teacher knew...': Young students share their 'heartbreaking' worries in notes
- 5 Rebecca Francis accuses Ricky Gervais of using 'influence' to target female hunters after receiving barrage of death threats
Better Call Saul creator Peter Gould on the creative concerns of a prequel, season 2 and the mind-numbing realities of the small courts
Britain's Got Talent 2015: RSPCA investigating Marc Metral's miming dog after cruelty complaints
Doctor Who film will definitely happen, leaked Sony emails reveal
Glastonbury 2015 tickets: How to make sure you’re successful in Sunday's re-sale
The Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer has leaked – watch
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling