Really engaging books on 70s (prog-ish) rock music?
April 16, 2014 10:50 AM   Subscribe

Can anyone recommend a really excellent book, preferably one with lots of illustrations, wacky anecdotes, and/or other intensely engaging content about 1970s rock music? Specifically music of the "prog-ish" type, e.g., early Genesis. I poked around on Amazon a bit but nothing really stood out...

I'd like to get a cool gift for a colleague who is currently recovering from a medical procedure. He is a major fan of a certain sub-type of 70s rock that I will do my best to describe below.

Seeing as he needs to keep things low-key for the next few weeks, I was thinking he might enjoy a good book on 1970s music, specifically of the sort encompassing Genesis during the Peter Gabriel era, early Elton John, Electric Light Orchestra, etc. I.e., acts that weren't exactly psychedelic and weren't Led Zeppelin-ish cock-rock, but which tended to be a bit more arty and introspective.

As for the type of book I'm looking for: "engaging" is the key. Basically something a person could read when they're too tired to do anything but read, and when they may only feel up to reading in short bursts. Humor is good, personal stories are good, something that captures the feel/atmosphere of the culture surrounding the bands/artists is great. Less good is anything with only a little bit of actual written content and 500 pages of album and track listings. In other words, more "anthology of Rolling Stone articles", less "encyclopedia". Thanks!
posted by aecorwin to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Archie Patterson's "Eurock" is really excellent and comprehensive, but focused specifically on European prog, so that might be too narrow.

Maybe a subscription to Progression Magazine? Not going to link because I know the publisher, but it's a glossy full-color quarterly that is expertly done.

"Listening to the Future" seems like it might be your best bet, it's been around a while and is well-respected.
posted by jbickers at 10:57 AM on April 16, 2014

Now take this with a huge grain of salt, but, I remember reading this in high school and enjoying it:

Emerson, Lake and Palmer: The Show That Never Ends by George Forrester.

Since Keith Emerson, Greg Lake, and Carl Palmer were all in other prog bands before ELP, it does take you through a lot of the history of prog how ELP influenced the genre.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:25 AM on April 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Take this with some kind of grain of salt too, because I'm somebody who likes books about pop music more than I like prog rock.

That said, Yes is the Answer sounds an awful lot like what you're looking for.
posted by box at 11:26 AM on April 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: "Genesis: Chapter and Verse", and "Genesis: I Know What I Like" by Armando Gallo. The latter is the definitive history of early Genesis. Gallow was a superfan that turned into a stalker that turned into the band's historian.
posted by Gungho at 12:22 PM on April 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Not a lot of prog per se in the 33 1/3 series, but there are volumes on Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, the Kinks, Brian Eno...and they're always well-written, personal, and engaging, I've found.
posted by kickingthecrap at 12:28 PM on April 16, 2014

Is fiction acceptable? I would recommend Ian Banks "Espedair Street"--perhaps not exactly as ordered but 70s rock for sure.
posted by librosegretti at 1:00 PM on April 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Seconding Yes Is The Answer & The Gallo books about Genesis.
posted by KingEdRa at 3:07 PM on April 16, 2014

I'm currently reading Jethro Tull's Thick as a Brick and A Passion Play: Inside Two Long Songs which might be in his wheelhouse.
posted by Fortnight Bender at 6:27 PM on April 16, 2014

Best answer: My music geek boyfriend suggests "Mountains Come Out of the Sky: An Illustrated History of Prog-Rock" (illustrated!). And, a bit pricier (but may make for a good gift) "Citizens of Hope and Glory: The Story of Progressive Rock". (Sorry, on phone and can't link, but these can be easily Googled.)
posted by lovableiago at 7:43 PM on April 16, 2014

If you're OK with a single band, Nick Mason's Inside Out: A Personal History of Pink Floyd is insightful, enlightening, and very, very funny.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 9:02 PM on April 16, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone, awesome suggestions. I ended up getting him Yes Is The Answer (and I am hoping when he's able to come back to work he'll let me borrow it!). :D
posted by aecorwin at 8:57 AM on April 23, 2014

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