Composition And Experimentation In British Rock 1967-1976
The Role of Radio, 33 Records and Technologies in the Growth of Progressive Rock
For amateurs of progressive rock the title of this article probably seems somewhat sacreligous. An implicit acceptance exists of this genre as a kind of romantic place in which artists, faced with the demands of an increasingly superficial and materialistic world, reaffirm their strength and creative autonomy. Thus to credit their success and viability to the attentions of the media and to the goodwill of the record industry is not without its dangers. Yet this is precisely what I aim to do, in showing
The Role of The Radio in the Emergence of Progressive Rock
In Britain, it is possible to argue that the backward structure of radio gave rise to new forms of alternative programming destined for teenagers and young adults. By the mid-1960s radio programmes were still structured around a tripartite model dating back to the Second World War. The BBC offered basic entertainment shows to its “lowbrow” audiences; musical programmes, interspersed with practical advice shows, destined for a “mediumbrow” consumer; and programmes with a high cultural content for the “highbrow” end of the market. Within this strict canvas, pop music held only a very limited place, having to make do with short time slots. In fact, music transmitted by antenna was generally played by live resident orchestras performing cover versions of the current hits (both indigeneous pop music and latin american-style tunes), rather than through the playing of vinyl records
This lack of interest and marginalisation of sub-cultures by the BBC and official national radio stations left a vacuum to be filled by pirate radio. If Britain was at the core of this issue, the idea of installing pirate radio stations on board ships navigating in international waters emerged in Scandanavia. In Denmark, there was Radio Mercur (1958-1962) and Danish Commercial Radio (1961), then in Sweden Radio Nord (1960-1962) and Radio Syd (1962-1966), and later others in The Netherlands and Belgium. "
However, these stations had varying objectives and means at their disposal, and were even somewhat naive as to the potential of the teenage market. It was only by 1966, after two years of largely conventional programming, and following the lead taken by Radio Caroline, that pirate radio stations started to adopt a more intuitive approach. The new disc-jockeys at these radio stations became the true experts of pop music and were able to connect with a generation of teenagers who considered pop's ephemeral nature to be a quality and whose tastes and moods dictated which records they chose. Kenny Everett and John Peel, who started working at Radio London in 1967, became part of this revolution by featuring on their shows a hub of around thirty groups and artists including Frank Zappa, Captain Beefhart, The Velvet Underground, The Incredible String Band, Pink Floyd, The Byrds and, of course, the Beatles. (Chapman, 1992: 127)
This free programming had two particular consequences; firstly, the underground scene was made available to British listeners; and secondly to propagate the idea of a coherent underground scene with similar aspirations whereas, in fact, if it existed at all, this was more a loose collection of trends and creative impulses, as much political as mystical.
Once the threat of legislation had gathered momentum, the pirate radio adventure ended abruptly, as their lifeline was essentially cut off by government. Rather than simply banning pirate radio, it became illegal for a British citizen or company to supply or give publicity to an offshore radio station. This was made law on August 14 1967, leading to a gradual silencing of pirate radio stations. However by this time another revolution was underway, since legislation also allowed the BBC to create their own popular music service, as well as local radio stations. Thus in the same year on September 30, BBC Radio 1 was launched.
the United States, the situation was very different, but equally revealing.
From March 1968, the phrase “ progressive rock format “ started to emerge
to describe those FM stations which were dissociating themselves from
AM radio by targeting a different public (aged from 18 to 25) and by
playing progressive rock, interviewing or broadcasting live performances
new type of programming was not simply a reflection of a new aesthetic,
but rather the fruit of technological development and judicial decisions.
The progressive rock format was linked to the multiplication of FM (Frequency
Modulation) stations, and to the rapid expansion in the number of radios
equipped with an FM band, which expanded from 10