The Show That Never Ends


W.W. Norton & Company

In The Show That Never Ends: The Rise and Fall of Prog Rock, David Weigel, a Reason contributing editor and a political reporter for The Washington Post, surveys the history of "progressive rock," a genre not beholden to American blues but relying instead on warped call-backs to European folk and the futuristic sounds of moog synthesizers.

For a while, this beautiful and ambitious musical form enjoyed massive worldly success. But huge bands such as Yes, Jethro Tull, and Emerson, Lake and Palmer were too quickly scorned by rock's vox populi and intelligentsia alike, accused of untoward grandiosity and boring pretension. Weigel tells engaging tales from the rise and the fall of some of the genre's biggest players.

Culture mavens of the 1970s will be reminded of disco's similar swift tumble from empyrean heights to barroom punchline. In our petty cultural high school, both the nerdy grind of prog and the flighty party girl of disco are too quickly mocked.

That's a shame: Both genres shaped a pop decade, and each deserves more of the sort of respectful consideration Weigel gives to prog rock.