Perhaps the most ridiculed and reviled of all Rock and Roll related genres, Progressive Rock, or so-called Prog Rock, has often had an uneasy relationship with Rock and Roll audiences and a downright bad relationship with music critics. This chapter will explore the music, its ambitions, and the often negative reactions to those ambitions, reactions that have sometimes been as excessive as the music itself is said to be.

Prog comes out of the experimental side of 1960s Rock. Extended solos (and not just on guitars), fusions of Jazz and Rock, Rock Operas: these are some of the tendencies that prefigure Prog. If Rock and Roll came from the margins, has always had a strong connection to the working classes, and is celebrated for its immediacy, its succinct musical character, and its sheer approachability (almost anyone can play it without much training, if not all of it and if not well), there has also been a kind of inferiority complex that goes along with all of this. It has taken Rock and Roll decades to get the respect many feels it deserves. The Classical musicians, the Opera singers, and the Jazz musicians have, for years, had bestowed on them a kind of credibility that Rock and Rollers simply haven't.

Some would argue thus: Prog plays with virtuosity, with Classical allusion, with the extended narrative of Opera, with the improvisation of Jazz, and more, drawing what it can from the "legitimate" musical traditions to raise Rock's status. Some would argue that this approach transforms Rock and Roll into a pretentious, humorless exercise in destroying Rock and Roll's spirit. Others feel it has opened up new possibilities for Rock and Roll as a whole. The lessons in this chapter will leave you to make your assessment.  

View More


View Lesson

The Roots of Progressive Rock

How did Progressive Rock’s incorporation of classical traditions and countercultural values help to forge a unique Rock genre in the late 1960s?