Mattia Merlini (Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy)


Progressive rock has always been seen as a mainly British phenomenon: all the major bands from the genre – like King Crimson, Genesis, Yes, ELP and many others – are British (and English in particular). Yet prog was indeed a «many-headed beast» (Anderton 2010), and its form has changed a lot through time and space. Today, despite many important artists still being British (Steven Wilson, Anathema, Haken, TesseracT), it seems hard to conceive prog as a British phenomenon. But wasn’t it always the case? My paper argues that the stereotype that associated prog music with the British world, and especially with the most popular form of progressive rock developed there – symphonic progressive rock – played an important role in the promotion of an historiography that firmly puts an end to the history of prog around 1976-1977. The main actors of such an ‘assisted suicide’ were, along with the stereotypes, the critics willing to follow the popularity of punk. But if we look just outside British symphonic prog, we still find many masterpieces being released during the ‘latency years’ situated between the supposed death of prog and its rebirth in the Eighties (with neoprogressive). Yet it is impossible not to notice that things were changing, in a way that led us to the present situation of progressive. In facts, the ‘death’ of prog triggered the birth (if we may call it like this) of two rival breeds of progressive music: neoprogressive and post-progressive. What concepts can help us to understand the map of this complex area of popular music? Deconstructing the ‘death’ of classic prog and getting rid of stereotypes can help us to better understand the ‘birth’ of contemporary prog, in all of its contradictions and paradoxes.