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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Road to Life and Progressive Rock. Part I


"Talk talk talk, it's only talk, comments, cliches, commentary, controversy

chatter, chit-chat, chit-chat, chit-chat, conversation, contradiction, criticism
It's only talk . . . Cheap talk..."
- Elephant Talk/King Crimson

My name is Marco A. Velasquez III, I'm a very passionate fan of
music we call Progressive. Its a word that has started
criticism, and defining its definition can be a task.
For me its a
label . . . but I like labels. When you want to buy a
product at the
Market, you look at the label to see what you're
gonna' get.

But it takes some "logic" to know . . . what you're gonna' get.
If you say to a Prog Rock fan, "Hey! I hear you like Progressive
Rock . . . ever heard of Meshuggah?" and this "Prog Fan" is the
type who likes the "Genesis" kind of Prog,
. . . there is a chance
after a few seconds of those crazy
. . .

your'e friend might just strangle you.
Now take Genesis and label it . . . what kind of Prog is it?
It could start a war of words. Art Rock, Neo-Classical, Symphonic,
Epic . . . yes, Internet Stations could topple, friendships tainted,
ruin a meal, Nuclear weapons armed and positioned, make you
wanna' burn every "Rules of Prog List
(what rules!?)" atop a roaring
Bon Fire Rally filled with Proguli singing "Freewill"! and any sense
of humour ceased (proggers are soo serious) . . . it could happen.
Things can get pretty contentious about who belongs in the Prog
list of Bands.
Follow a Family Tree of Prog bands and you could be surprised.

Then their comes along a person like me . . .
I screw everything up, sideways, backwards, upside down. I love
all! . . . no really, the Avant Garde to the Mathematical and even
more extreme. Even add some humour in the mix!
Yes (...them too!), I am a card carrying Progressive Rock/Sub-Genre
Fan (say that 5 times real fast).
What kind of Fanatic am I? . . .
When I hear the motors whine of a Car Window opening, the 1st
thing I think of, is the dialogue: "Kill her, thats all you have to do-
Kill Mary? - She's a risk, and get the Priest as well".
I keep the "Original" Printings of Yes CD's along with the Re-Masters
because the Inner Art is slightly different and original recordings have
nuances that were edited "out" of the re-masters!
Or when I get into a discussion with friends about our day to day, or
some sort of political or religious/spiritual
topic, I may just quote Rush
or Kansas . . . its embedded in me, I can't help it.
And as you will read throughout the months
to come (. . . I'm Old), how
I got here through the "Noise and Confusion",
the madness and the
laughter of my life.

What the Heck are you talking about?
Well, if you are one of the uninitiated, what is Progressive Rock?
Well it be very easy to go into a detailed description that would only
make you want to jump off the nearest tallest building, so I will let the
armchair experts of Wikipedia and The Prog Archives Forum 'splaine.
(Scroll down page).

Where do we go from here?
This "Essay" marks pivotal moments in my life that would shape
music in my growing up and start me on my Prog Odyssey.
It is also a way to contemplate the Book I want to write about my
and "insert" the weird, funny, sad, wacky, pathetic and
good and blessed things that have happened "on this
long strange trip".

Dedication. . .

I want to Dedicate this to my Father, Marco Antonio Duarte-Velasquez II.
If it wasn't for him, his Guitars and who he was, I would not be who I am
today, for good or bad, but you instilled in me a love for many musics.
God be with you eternally papa', may you be at peace, riding horses and
playing Guitars with your heroes and Family, and . . . may "Corky" be at
your side.
. . . And for my Mother, Zoila Guadelupe Zelaya-Velasquez and Brother,
Daniel Velasquez for their music/life influences, and love.
A love I could never put into words and protected by my Father, each and
every day of their lives.

Last but certainly not least, my friends that dealt with my musical
madness through Lp's, Tapes and Cd's, VHS tapes, DVD's, Concerts,
Store-hopping and conversations.

This music has shared love and laughter, tears, sadness and joy with
these friends and loves. Within many a lyric they are best explained.

And to the astounding like minded listeners of the
community that put up with my opinions, wackyness and love for all
things Progressive, and the friendships I have made there . . . you guys
rule. This is also a GREAT place to "Hear" the Music that influenced
me and meet some great people who share the love:

>>>WARNING<<< I may have to Re-edit Video Links because
YOUpoop keeps banning them (copyright infringments and all that
rubbish), so thank YOU for your patience.

"Here we go...vertigo

Video vertigo
Test for echo
Here we slo-mo
Video vertigo
Test for echo . . ."
-Test for Echo/RUSH

In the Beginning . . .

"Turn off your mind, relax and float down stream . . .
It is not dying, it is not dying, Lay down all thoughts, surrender to the void, It is
shining, it is shining . . ."

Tomorrow Never Knows/the Beatles

From 1963 to now, My life has been filled with music of all sorts to enjoy.
My love for "The Beatles" as a little kid was overwhelming, I knew even as
a 5-7 year old that this music was different than anything on Top 40 radio of
the 60's. Then there was my Dad's fondness of "Santana", it went along
with his tastes in Latin music that he grew up with (Herb Albert and Brazil
were my faves, along with many other Latin and South American music
styles). He was also very influenced by American Rock and Roll of the
1950's, but it was the 60's and my Dad's love of guitar would influence my
childhood (he also had a Spanish/Acoustic Guitar and a hollow body
electric with an accompanying amp).
I had learned from my Uncle, that my Dad used to walk the neighborhoods
San Pedro Sula (in Honduras), with his friends strumming his acoustic
guitar almost everywhere he went . . . that makes me smile.
A wanna-be "Balladeer" to win my Moms affections it seems (he was quite
handsome, looked like a young Elvis, and even had the "lip" thing goin',
something me and my Brother get when we're angry. His real Mother was
a "Beauty Queen" of Honduras, and My Mom was a real looker back in the
day, they were a popular couple her and my Dad).

The Music.
For some reason, Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Alvin Lee & 10 Years After, and
the like, eluded us for some reason back then. I might've been a musician
instead of an Artist if we listened to more of the innovators of the day.
The "Hits" were heard, but my Mom and Dad never purchased any albums
(maybe it was their association with "hippies" and the drug culture).
But I did hear this song vividly, "Sunshine of your Love", the Guitar riff was
soo HEAVY, it would stick with me for the rest of my life.
But Carlos Santana were on the same par as those musicians, even as a
kid I could hear it. This was beyond Bubble Gum.
There were no "twangy" guitars here, these guys knew the power of the
Power Chords
, the sustaining notes and adding the heavy blues influence
and innovation of the Player that would influence everyone.
But Santana had this HUGE group of musicians, top of there form, at such
a young age! (that included: Greg Rollie, Neal Schon who would later
form Journey, and Michael Shrieve who would become a session Rock
and Fusion Drummer). They also added the African/Latin/Tropical flavour
that always held musicianship to the highest degree.
It would be the albums "Abraxas"; "III"; and "Caravansari" that would shape
me into the music aficionado.
"Every step of the way" from Caravanserai, Live:

Then hearing bits of Revolver, Sgt. Pepper, the White Album, Abby Road
and Let it Be from the Beatles with the usual hit singles (Lady Madonna
made an impact on my early ears).
This song always takes me back to the "feelings" I had as a small boy at
a Nursery/Kindergarden school, the taste of Milk with Cheese Sandwiches,
the naps, Mr. Glardinis "Hot Wheel Collection" that if we were lucky, got to
play with and bring in our own, and drawing with the "older" kids (how
GIANT they were to me, they might as well been High School kids, they
must have been, at the most, 11 years old), kids that drew Hot Rods,
Dragsters, Funny Cars, even a kid who drew them as "Cutaways".
Amazing how just 1 song can take you back, and The Beatles and
Santana are literally seedlings for music in general, germinating within
me. A childs growth with music that too, would grow.

These 2 bands I consider the 1st Progressive Rock bands-in general, and
that would be the "seed" for the movement, even though I usually didn't
know what the heck they were singing about ("I am the Egg Man, I am the
Walrus, kookookatchoo!"?), but the "Progression" was on the move,
Instruments not associated with "Rock", Classical influences, Jazz and
Art and the counter culture all creating a new soup. A Renaissance!
Recent note:
It could be that "Procal Harum" may have been the 1st, and the song
"Whiter Shade of Pale" is embedded in me as it takes me back to Radio
and the feelings I had in the 60's, a time that will never return.
(See the story here, Part 1 of "Prog Rock Britannia"):

But the Beatles were always a staple on the radio. The only album we had
at the time was "Meet the Beatles" and 45rpm singles. The Let it Be album,
would be given by my Aunt Daly, she noticed every time I'd visit her, I'd
want to hear it, she decided to give it to me to take home (and I still have it),
She was also a HUGE encouragement on my Art, I was fascinated by Cars
at the time, mostly Race Cars and Hot Rods. So when I visited, she
supplied paper and pencils as we listened to music (I may have been a bit
precocious as a child, which makes me cringe, yikes! . . . :shakesoutofit: ).
(. . . and "Hey Jude" that I saw on T.V. "Re-Broadcast" as a kid on ABC):
I have pleasant memories of taking Sunday drives, heading home at night
and listening to "8 Track Tapes" (and the soft lights of the player under the
dash board) in my Dads 67 Mustang Fastback, laying on the flattened back
seats (back seats would fold down into a flat-bed) and looking at the lights
and stars through the rear window, going through the various streets of
Los Angeles and Hollywood.

There was also my Dads love (I should insert that my Dad hated to say
things like love for "things", "How can you LOVE cars, they're not REAL!
Love people, thats different!" . . . thats my Papa') of Country, and this was to
be the "Golden Age", where the Outlaws of Country like Waylon Jennings,
Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard thrived. Then you had the
likes of Tom T. Hall, George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Tennesse Ernie Ford,
Loretta Lynn, Charlie Pride, as well as soo many others that had the old
"twang" and swing of the classic stars, with incredible voices, musicianship,
with all sorts of Guitars, tone and style.
A nice memory is watching the Country Variety show "HEE HAW" with my
Dad and the various Country Stars of the time. But when Co-host Roy Clarke
would play his various Guitars, he was like the Steve Howe (Yes guitarist)
of Country! (And it was a treat to see him on Johnny Carson as well).
"Fingers on Fire" (Hee Haw):
Then you would have guests like Chet Atkins and Glenn Campbell that also
would shred and finger-pick with unbelievable speed (Influences for Dixie
Dregs Steve Morse I'm sure).

How could I forget the late great Les Paul (and Mary Ford):

Johnny Cash, Jerry Reed and Glenn Campbell also had variety shows with
diverse music talents (Comedian Steve Martin was one of the Lead Banjo
players in Cambell's Band!). John Denver would soon follow.

But Country music has become a "cash cow" and less twang, more rock.
My Dad used to say "...that isn't Country!" There are exceptions, but it mostly
sounds like Top 40 music with a southern "drawl" nowadays.

I also got to appreciate Vocalists like, Frank Sinatra; Tony Bennet; Johnny
Mathis; Dean Martin; and Pop music and Rock of the day like Simon &
Garfunkle; Sugarloaf; the Strawberry Alarm Clock; The Guess Who; Jackie
DeShannon; Ray Charles; Stevie Wonder; the Letterman; America; Love;
Spiral Staircase; the 5th Dimension; the Carpenters; the Lovin' Spoonfull;
Buffalo Springfield; the Monkees; the Byrds; the Beach Boys; Crosby, Stills,
Nash & Young; Janis Joplin; Procul Harem; Iron Butterfly; the Cowsills; the
Rolling Stones; Credance Clearwater Revival; Bread;
T-Rex; Three Dog
Night, and the Jackson 5. Including the British Pop Bands/Vocalists of the
"British Invasion" like Lulu; Dusty Springfield; Donovan; the Bee Gees;
Hermins Hermits; Petula Clark; the Seekers; the Zombies; the Hollies; the
Kinks; Eric Burden and the Animals and more (Did not remember hearing
the Who this early on, I have no idea why).
Missed out on the Moody Blues; Fleetwood Mac Mk I; Pink Floyd; Yes Mk I;
and Jethro Tull Mk I (I would have been a REALLY strange kid...).
This would be from 1963 to about 72.

But the happiness of living in California would soon be over . . .
"Southern Hospitality" would bring an end to that.

Moving (backwards).

Boy, you're going to carry that weight, Carry that weight a long time
Boy, you're going to carry that weight, Carry that weight a long time . . ."
- Carry that Weight/The Beatles

A song that would be an analogy for life.

To be continued . . .

An odd thing for a kid of 6-7 to be thinking about . . .
Something we take for granted these days are Pop Songs within Television Shows nowadays,
a song can grab attention for both performer and show, everybody wins (unless you are like
me, sick and tired of hearing the sappy love song, the inevitable R&B or Hip-Hop song, or the
teen angst emo/post punk song... enough to make you wanna' throw-up! But it took an
episode of Smallville to introduce me to Porcupine Tree . . . yup, Porky Tree's In Absentia).
When I was a little kid, I used to wonder why I didn't hear "real" Rock songs on T.V. shows
that I liked, especially when it involved kids, pre and post teens. For example The Brady
Bunch (I remember thinking this), seems adults thought Rock n' Roll was music that had
"Horns" in it for some reason, and NO Guitars, so what you got was trumpets sounding like:
(kind of that "60's-70's GoGo Dancer vibe thing") and that annoying Organ doing the same
thing, like Ray Manzarek of the Doors (Reminds me of Latino bands of the 60's I heard at
weddings, it annoyed the hell out of me and my Dad, sorry Doors fans) . . . what was that all
about? I would probably ask friends and my parents this, and they must have just thought,
". . . what are you talking about?"
In the 70's, songs would take their cue from modern Films and a pop song would be heard in
the backround if you payed attention.
Surprisingly (or not), George Lucas was the 1st to use an ALL "Rock'n Roll" Soundtrack in a
Movie, that was American Graffiti :
The Beginnings of how to Market a Film in the new Era of Cinema.

Then came Miami Vice, the Crime series that started a style, and made a "niche" music
seem hip and made it part of each angular frame and noir motif. For us music devotees, we
were lucky to hear Jan Hammer, Brian Ferry, Genesis and even Russ Ballard. And cool
session musicians with Chorus/Echo laden Voices and Guitars, as stylish as the
That was then, now music styles are in MacDonalds commercials and in Children shows,
and sell you that "this music represents YOU, because its the fashion, so that makes YOU
hip... Just another Car, Credit Card and Cell Phone commercial YOU need, now Assimilate!"
For a brief time it was about enhancing a scene, now its a plug as much as a Beer Cans
Label facing the camera . . . MTV "killed the radio star" indeed.
Be careful what you ask for I guess. . . what a weird kid to be asking that question at 6
years old. Thanks kid, wheres my money?


BG said...

MAVIII, I am impressed ! You managed to keep your post at 1859 words :)

Nah....I'm not saying its too long. It was a very insightful read, and I look forward to the rest of it.

Besides drawing, have you ever thought of getting into writing? Man, you could make a history of prog as we/you know it....I'm not sure if such books actually exists.

MAVIII said...

hehe, thanx...

Well, its hard enough to write the Book I want to write.
I think maybe the three goals in writing this book is a "life" perspective on the music I love and all the idiotic choices I've made (well not all). And how the music fulfills a need as a listener and to show it from a fans point of view.

So that maybe anyone, including the non-fan can delve into what us fans enjoy and why, like a documentary. And expose a music that doesn't rely on popularity, but for well composed music as a craft.
And to show that we do not need to have everyone like it, but know its out there. ;)

Heck, maybe I don't know what I'm talking about.

... maybe I'm just lazy :P

BG said...

Great! When you start writing, let me know. As a fan I can be available for interviews anytime...well, lets talk about percentages first...ahemmm...