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Rock Hall: Genesis become prog-rock ambassadors

March 15, 2010 |  6:22 pm

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