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Book Talk #4 - David Weigel's The Show That Never Ends: The Rise and Fall of Prog Rock


REC – “It’s Like This” (from Parts and Labour)

Welcome to WEEK 268 of MUSIC is not a GENRE (Video #94 & S4Ep39)

The Show That Never Ends – The Book That WASN’T LONG ENOUGH! | MinaG Book Talk #4

When I’m not into something, I have a miniscule attention span, just like anyo – yeahokaywhatever

But when I AM into something, I usually don’t want it to end. As you can guess from a guy who does a Death is DUMB subseries, endings are not my strong suit. It’s one reason I choose my chronolography subjects very carefully. If I’m gonna listen to every single album, I gotta be sure I like the music.

I’m the same way with books. I’ve read books nearly 1500 pages long. I’ve read book series with 8 or more installments. The length doesn’t matter. In fact, I was so into those books that even that much wasn’t long enough. The same is true for this week’s subject: The Show That Never Ends: The Rise and Fall of Prog Rock, by David Weigel. And it’s true for two reasons.

First and foremost, I really did love this book. I’m glad a book like this exists, because precious little has been written about the history of prog rock. Single bands or band threads have been profiled, but not the whole genre. This book is a great primer for anyone who wants to know more about prog rock, and a fun & informative ride for people who are already into it. Plus it goes all the way to present times and very recent prog bands, which reminds readers that this music is still creatively vibrant and evolving. Of course I wished it was longer.

But that’s not the only reason. We’re talking about the most intricate, involved, extensive – and yes, LONGEST – form of rock music out there. This is a genre wherein seven minutes is considered SHORT. A quick online survey revealed that there are many prog rock songs that are well over an hour. To my mind, it would be more appropriate, more fitting, and more respectful to write a book as long & sprawling as the best prog rock songs or albums. Moreover, I’d say it’s necessary and really the ONLY way to write a comprehensive prog rock book.

It’s clear David Weigel knows & loves what he’s talking about. It would have honored the music and the fans more – and been way more fun – if he’d got as indulgent as the music itself, and just let stories & facts fly until his hands hurt. It’s possible his objective was to make it more digestible for the casual fan. Or the publishing company heavily edited the book. I can understand those reasons for the book being too short. As someone who’s midway between a casual fan and an obsessive, I wanted way more tangents, way more threads pulled, way more roads followed to their end. He makes passing mention of prog-adjacent genres and bands, but doesn’t go far enough in fleshing them out, and leaves out quite a few bands & genres I would have included.

Maybe I’m asking too much. But isn’t that the whole point of progressive rock music? It goes overboard on purpose. It asks too much of the listener. It indulges in ways few other kinds of music rarely get to. So while I was satisfied with this book, I wasn’t satiated. I love what’s there, but sorely miss what isn’t. That said, this is a book any fan of prog rock – or any super curious music fan – should read.

Progressive rock has been an influence on my music since my very first demos in my teens & early twenties. You can hear progressive elements on every one of REC’s albums. I’m even working on a song for REC’s upcoming album that might be as long as 20 minutes. But there’s no question my brand of progressiveness leans more pop/accessible – say, Yes in the 1980s instead of the mid-1970s. Here’s a great example of that:

REC – “It’s Like This” (from Parts and Labour)

Are you into prog rock? If so, what are some of your favorite bands? Have you read this book? If so, what’s your take on it? Discuss dammit!


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