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Rock Hall: Genesis become prog-rock ambassadors

Phil_Collins_3_ The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony tonight -- on the Ides of March, no less -- will be a prophetic moment for Genesis’ old classmates from the progressive rock movement. 

A small inner cadre of nominators decides who gets on the ballot for the 500 voters to consider, and the nominating panel’s – or is it mainly just Jann Wenner’s? – avoidance of prog rock is well-established.

That leaves it up to the members of Genesis themselves to use their moment on behalf of overlooked peers. As Genesis began making its move toward greatness in 1971, after drummer Phil Collins and guitarist Steve Hackett had arrived to complement co-founders Peter Gabriel, Michael Rutherford and Tony Banks, it benefited from a ready-made audience, thanks to landmark albums by King Crimson, Yes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Those three British bands’ absence from the rock hall strikes me as a particular crime (the rock hall has many to answer for, both of omission and commission), given their definitive, trail-blazing and massively popular efforts in creating a style of epic, often dystopian themes, rhythmic complexity, structural ambition and ultra-flashy instrumental flights.

Without them (and Pink Floyd and Jethro Tull, which for reasons of rhythmic straightforwardness and a lack of comparable over-the-top solo instrumental flights I’d classify as art-rock but not prog-rock), it’s hard to imagine that Genesis could have flourished through the 1970s, let alone cashed in with a less distinctive pop style in the 1980s. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine the emergence of Roxy Music in the '70s, Metallica in the '80s, or Radiohead’s mature style in the '90s, without prog rockers first having established a necessary new branch on the tree of musical evolution.

Trey Anastasio, the Phish guitarist who knows a thing or two about instrumental flights, is the younger-generation presenter who’ll lionize Genesis at the rock hall induction. If he sticks to the matter at hand and doesn’t make the broader case for other leading lights of prog-rock, it will be a disappointment. If the Genesis members both present and absent (Gabriel is revving up a solo tour and isn’t expected to be there) can’t see fit to make a pointed protest over their worthy mates’ exclusion, it will be a betrayal.

I’ll be surprised if the Genesis members, well-mannered chaps who probably wouldn’t think of pointing out a host’s shortcomings, do manage to rise to the occasion. After all, as Roman legend and Shakespearean drama inform us, betrayal is what the Ides of March is for.

One further thought: Instead of sulking, wouldn’t it be cool if every year around induction ceremony time, leading prog-rock, art-rock and prog-sympathizing newer bands convened for a special festival that let the music answer a quarter-century of rock hall obtuseness? They could call it the Prog-duction.

-- Mike Boehm


Getting progressive: The Rock Hall votes in Genesis. Is Yes or Procol Harum next? 

Photo: Phil Collins of Genesis. Credit: Getty Images

Comments () | Archives (8)

booooo, fringe, nobody iggy pop stinks and abba isn't even a rock band, the rock hall admin has poor, very ignorant tastes once again, can't we get some more intelligent, music educated people to run this thing?

They should do a year of prog and throw Rush into the mix.

The fact that ABBA is in and Soft Machine is not pretty much says it all.

Does progressive rock exist without Soft Machine? The list of folks influenced includes Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, Roxy Music, Genesis, The Police, and a few other minor players.

Look 'em up on Wikipedia if you don't believe me.

Genesis has seen so many incarnations since "Foxtrot" first brought them notice and "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" firmly established the Peter Gabriel-led act as a leader among prog-rock acts. Upon Gabriel's exit, the emergence of Phil Collins as a legitimate front man was shocking - and "Trick of the Tail" is just now getting reintroduced to longtime fans as it was a great effort but nevertheless under the radar in an era where Elton John ruled AM Radio and ELO, Wings, Doobie Brothers, Eagles, Fleetwood Mac and Led Zeppelin were more desirable acts for stations like KMET.
When "Follow You, Follow Me" arrived at pop radio, it was a harbinger of things to come - and not a fluke. Yet "Duke" was a transitional album that gave Genesis arena-rock fans thanks to big rock stations. "Abacab" is the pinnacle of the arena-rock product Genesis produced.
Then came the aponymous "Genesis" album - a true classic chock-full of radio-ready hits that longtime fans of the band derided. Yet the effort, which includes "That's All," and Phil's blossoming solo career only fueled the band's shift into MTV popdom. With "Invisible Touch" the genesis of Genesis as a Top 40 act was complete. The night belonged to Michelob ... and Phil, Mike and Tony.
Tonight the night will belong to the trio, along with Steve Hackett and Peter Gabriel, who is not expected to show up. Longtime fans may want to forget "Congo" and ... who was that lead singer, anyway? But this band deserves to be the prog-rock ambassadors and salute its roots just as the folks in Cleveland should also deserve to do.

I've seen Yes more than any other band, probably twenty times around since 1979. Howe, Wakeman, Squire and Anderson are wizards and are in a class all their own. They don't need a HOF induction run by some guy at Rolling Stone to make their mark in music history.

Bob Dylan said it best."I thought you had to be dead for a hundred years before they put you in a museum".The R'n R' HOF is a self serving slice of cheese that has nothing to do with talent or taste.Time will bear this out.

King Crimson,Soft Machine ,The Floyd- OK ... not a whisper about prog grandaddys The Pretty Things or Procol Harum?

Yes. ELP. Gentle Giant. Procol Harem. Nektar, etc. More ideas, music and lyrical depth in one song than 90% of hall inductees. Unless you chew gum, drink diet soda, love ringtones, own guns, or watch Idol.


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