How many hobbits are there in prog? This is a question brought to mind by a recent article inspired by the 30th anniversary of Marillion’s first album. The article is thoughtful and funny, but, I think, rather wrong on a few counts. Here’s one point I question:
And then there are the lyrics. Yeah… the lyrics. It’s a shame, albeit a little one, because one thing Marillion did have over the original proggers, I suppose, was their desire to sing about something recognisably real, rather than making like J.R.R. Tolkien in Rag Week…. taking instead more familiar themes: depression, alcoholism, drugs, heartbreak, isolation, cool stuff like that.
This sort of notion is far from unique to this article and is completely in line with the broader world of prog bashing. But here it is yet again, and once again I ask myself: is it correct?
Tolkien in particular? Proggers aren’t the most obvious offenders. Or let’s not be pedantic: sure there’s plenty of general medievalism and a few nixies as well. Overall, however— and I don’t have a systematic accounting for this, I confess— sci-fi seems at least as well represented, with all the sky watchers and starship troopers. Those who care deeply about precisely how embarrassing their taste in music is will be better positioned to advise whether sci-fi is all that deprecated a genre in popular music outside the prog zone.
As far as “recognizably real,” two frequent purveyors come immediately to mind: Jethro Tull’s yippified but essentially British Kitchen Sink sarcastic (“write your will and testament, run for local government, we’ll have superman for president…) and Robert Wyatt’s gently surreal bohemian soap operas.