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Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Road to Life and Progressive Rock Part IV



"All my life I knew you were waiting, revelation, anticipating, All is well, the
searching is over, let the truth be known, Let it be shown (give me a glimpse
of home)"

Glimpse of Home/Kansas

As spiritually to Kerry Livgren (Kansas founder/guitarist) and to myself, it would be
prophetic those words. Where Home seemed to be and what spiritual guide would
reveal themselves . . . we both would come to understand much later.
But home for now was a nice roof over our heads . . .

It's 1978-79.
The move to our new "House" was a welcome one.
From the sweltering heat of the Valley, to the suburbs of West Covina.

Since my education was ruined by my experiences in Louisiana, the only
solace was Art class. It's Late in my Junior year at Nogales High School in
La Puente/West Covina, and we were allowed to listen to the radio and took
turns listening to different stations, unfortunately only 2 to 3 of us were into
Rock, so it was a treat to hear on KLOS, KWEST and KMET , the latter 2 are
now long gone, which was too bad, especially KWEST, from my rare listens,
they played more progressive Rock music (And I remember hearing ELP's
Karn Evil part II,
possibly the 1st time I actually heard it all the way through).
But KMET would stay on the air till about 83-84, a station that would
introduce a taste of "NWOBH" years later . . . but that's another story.
Yes; Journey; REO Speedwagon; Kansas; Genesis; Boston; Ted Nugent;
Lynyrd Skynyrd; Outlaws; Aerosmith; FogHat; Robin Trower; Deep Purple;
Uriah Heep; Fleetwood Mac; Santana; Led Zeppelin; Supertramp; ELO; the
Who; Moody Blues; Queen; Cheap Trick; UFO; Bad Company; Bob Seger;
Heart; Steely Dan; James Gang/Joe Walsh; Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers;
Pink Floyd between the AWFUL : Greatful Dead; Van Morrison; the Doors;
Jefferson Airplane; AC~DC; Bruce Springsteen; Bob Dylan; Jackson Browne;
Bowie; The Rolling Stones, yes (hehe), I was not a fan of those particular
artists at that time, some have grown on me.

. . . But when I heard a cut from YES "Drama"(1980), I think it maybe one of
those times I started noticing a difference in this music without anyones
insight or influence, what this music was and how complex, and I would
defend it against the "Rock Haters" of the school!

. . . then the other kids would bitch and moan and the radio would turn to an
R&B station.

Its hard being a rocker.

Another foray into Fusion/Prog would come in 3 people:
From a one time visit, a friend "from the hall ways", Rick Lacero (who played
drums for the school band) at his home. And he had this beautiful Stereo
System, the kind you'd see in the Electronic section of a Trade Mag. It was all
separate "Decks", cool lighted windows and LED's, even an Equalizer! And a
top of the line Turntable!
Rick took a Record out of its sleeve, and carefully ran a brush over and blew
at it. On the cover was a painting of a guy standing with a Les Paul and it was
entitled, "Jeff Beck- Blow by Blow" . . .

The needle gently, with a warm thump hit the groove, you could hear just a
little static. . .

And these glorious sounds came out, textured and crying notes, complicated
groove lines and biting solos . . . all heard on these wonderful speakers soo
warm and full of sound that you felt it in your chest and stomach, I had NEVER
heard music soo clear! Rick is talking, but all I hear is music filling my body!

He then puts on another album, slowly . . .
the sound of animals? Sheep! . . . they sounded distant, then the distinct sound
of a Rhodes Keyboard . . . I look at the cover and there is a PIG flying over a
Manufacturing Plant between 2 smoke stacks! All in rich browns . . .

That was my 1st real introduction to Pink Floyd.

Again, why those 2 bands didn't take . . . must be because it was too much
for my brain to handle, I was overwhelmed! Plus our friendship wasn't close,
Rick was the same age but was smarter, on an another level, as was
else. I was more of a geek than he was, things were a bit "beyond
me" (Well he was in the school Band, so really we were geeks, I just wonder
about my personality back then, I was quiet and timid, too nice of a guy I think).
But I would always remember that experience with Jeff Beck, and my 1st LP
by him would be "There and Back", and Floyd would make its way to my turn-
table with their release of the epic, "The Wall" in a few years.
Beck and "Star Cycle":
Pink Floyd:

I say . . . YES!!!
Then there was my then, best friend Glen Mayfield. Weird match when I think
about it, me Latino and weird haircut, him tall handsome, blond blue eyed and
doing well in school and driving an old Ford Pick-up with a "Camper". He also
was a bit more mature but we got along because of our sense of humour (he
was a Monty Python fan too) and he also loved Kansas, Yes (which I just
started getting into) and Genesis, but Genesis was just "too out there for me",
it would take a while for me to understand the complexity, subtlety, quiet and
EPIC in one song.
If Genesis was too much to take in, then Yes for some reason had it for me,
and I guess it was Steve Howe, he was more in your face than Steve Hackett
(At the time), and he just shredded on that big Gibson! And the grandiose
playing and "sounds" of Rick Wakeman! all tempered with Jon Anderson's
angelic voice (I would not come to appreciate Chris Squire's Bass, Bill Bruford
and Alan White's Drum playing until way later, as well as other Bassists and
Drummers. The "Education" was just starting).
The opening of "Close to the Edge" and throughout would transport me from
its slow fade-in opening of a Tropical Rain Forest to a Cavern of Stalactites
and Stalagmites floating in its water and the Jules Verne feel to Wakeman's
keys at the bridge of the song, with each musician enhancing its "vision" with
music I had never heard before or could ever conceive.
"Fragile"; "Close to the Edge" and "Relayer" would be the albums I would
worship and wear out the grooves.
Drama would soon be purchased and the opening track "Machine Messiah"
alone would be worth the trip, but the whole album was brilliant. I was just getting
into the YES line-ups and was surprised that it was a different vocalist and
Keyboardist, soon to find out they were 2 members of the Buggles (Later, singer
Trevor Horn
would produce Yes's no.1 Album "90215" and Geof Downes would be
one of the founding members of Asia).
And the other Keyboardist, would become the famous Soundtrack Composer,
Hans Zimmer!
"Tempus Fugit" though was the single and it was just different than anything on the
radio in 1980. To Rock and the "New Wave" of music that was coming out of the
U.K. Most of the music coming out of that Alternative scene was not to my liking,
and Punk was also driving out any band playing this "pretentious music" that I was
just getting into. As far as this New Wave/Punk went, there were few exceptions
like, Missing Persons; Flock of Seagulls; Ultravox; Bauhaus; U2; Stiff Little Fingers;
Dead Kennedy's; Big Country; The Alarm; Altered Images and others that I really
liked but never dived into, but U2 and the Police and Missing Persons, I noticed they
stood among the crowd, and later I would learn of Missing Persons "Drummer"
years later.
Other than the bands I mentioned, I really despised the New Wave scene. And "Pop
Music" at the time was getting worse. Though Punk would influence another genre
of music soon to engulf my world.

My friend Glen was also a "Born Again", so I was then treated to Myron Lafevre,
Phil Keagy, Petra and later, A.D. (Kerry Livgren's solo band), and he introduced
me to early Electronic/New Age: Tomita; Wendy/Walter Carlos; and Tangerine

We also liked Styx, and I started seeing that they also were more than their
Hit Singles, their guitars had a distinct tone that I loved, it was Hard Rock, but
had enough Prog elements to keep it different than what was out there, And
"Grand Illusion" would play alot on my turntable in the years to come (A year
later, same for "Pieces of Eight" which is still my favorite).

Spiritual Influence influx:
I had a sort of an awakening happening to me at this time, the "spirit" that was
always in me, but could not name.
I was coming to an understanding what God and Christ meant to me, and the
deep analytical break-down of what they were about. Glen opened the door,
but it was me who always had the spirit of Christ in my heart and I knew what
was right and wrong. My values from my Parents and my own mind kept me
from trouble, I have always had a logical mind and could see where "things"
could take me if I wasn't careful. But I wasn't going to shove it down anyone's
throat, I never could take the title "Born Again", but understanding the roots of
it is still an ongoing process to this day, and sort-of private and "individualistic".
It would grow, but my way of understanding would separate me from ones
who more zealous about it.
I always saw this "Higher Power" as a friend, not something to live in fear of,
yet many would preach fire and brimstone when the verse, "He who cast the
1st stone..." seems to be forgotten all too often.
And it was in music that I started noticing the different spirituality in my fave
bands, or at least values that I grew up with, respect for others, for myself
and a deeper and higher purpose for all that we do. Though I would fumble
and fall throughout my life, I still would hold onto the logical, and moral values
that I learned on the road through my hardships in school (and life in general).

The "Craft" of Spirituality.
It was Glen (I believe) who also introduced me to Kerry Livgrens Book about
his spiritual journey and life on the road with Kansas-"Seeds of Change"(in an
Expanded Edition
), where he writes:
"As modern music becomes more formularized, derivative, and shallow,
listeners are crossing cultural and generational boundaries to find music of
spiritual and creative substance. Witness the recent interest in various types
of "ethnic" music. I find myself listening to it a lot because it seems so
untainted and fresh -free from the corporate mold. Christian music suffers from
the same malady.
Though we as Christians have a mandate to be skillful and creative, and Scripture
affirms that we should sing unto the Lord a new song, we rarely hear anything new.
The atmosphere of Christian radio is so limited as to be stifling.
Not only is it as highly formatted as its secular counterpart, but in most cases, the
artist must conform to some sort of spiritual criteria -someone's definition of what
makes his or her music acceptable Christian music. It's a strange irony indeed that
finds lyrics with the most profound truth coupled with the most unchallenging sort of

That was written in 1991. This says everything about the music of TODAY in many
genres, that fall short of imagination and creativity.
But its in Prog I find creativity that can spiritually move me, as well-as spiritually
minded bands from Cynic to Neal Morse to Kings X to Iona to Extol to Kansas and
Yes. And even bands such as Black Sabbath ("Masters of Reality") and Iron Maiden
and their morality tales. But this will be part of my journey to come, and this book of
Mr. Livgren will be given to me by a dear friend decades later.

A 3rd friend, brief but left an impression. . .
It was the time I was thinking of taking Art classes from meeting a senior
(I was a sophomore) named Rick Saenz. A Latino with long hair and a quiet
friendly demeanor (Artist written all over him!). He was a budding Artist, and
had such an amazing style, his Art geared to Fantasy and Band Logos.
His main influence was Roger Dean and he would show me Yes covers and
Art books, his Art and again, just overwhelmed by it all, I wish I could have
looked at his Album collection, but I'm sure my mind would explode. I do
remember he liked Uriah Heep, but it would be years till I appreciated them.
"The Magicians Birthday" and that Dean Cover! The 1st time I ever seen it.
He also had a poster on the wall over his bed, that he mailed-in for with a
"coupon", that was of a woman with steel-like/tubing for hair that looked
very familiar. It was from the inside sleeve of ELP's "Brain Salad Surgery",
that he took out, in which the original pressing, the front cover opened from
the middle into 2 halves revealing the woman hanging on his wall, my mind
raced back to 1973 and that display in Louisiana.
Hehe . . . ELP and this album yet again!
I kept looking at his sketch book and he said, "You can borrow it if you want"
. . . so for almost 2 years I held on to it. I definitely count Saenz and Dean as
my 1st inspirations for my Logo work. And Rick I guess was my link to Dean.
A mis-fortune that I did not keep in contact with Rick.
Roger Deans site:


" I know it's most unusual, To come before you so, But I've found an ancient
miracle, I thought that you should know, Listen to my music, And hear what it
can do, There's something here as strong as life . . . I know that it will reach you"

IV Presentation/2112/Rush

As the years pass within High School, my ears started to really understand
what they were hearing. Another Christmas would bring a favorite memory.
1979 and SoCal Winters were still cold, the cold winds upon the rusted trees
brushing the house, a fire crackling in the fireplace, warm lights in the den
and listening to my new albums from my parents, "Don't Look Back" from
and the album that would really begin the awareness of Prog,
("People of the Southwind", which is the Lakota meaning of Kansas)
At this time, Me and my Dad were watching Don Kirschner alot late night on
Saturday, and so since Kansas was on Don's label, they released "Promo-
Films" for the new album Monolith. I recall they were for the singles, "The
Otherside", "Away from You" and "Reason to Be". Cool visuals and being
able to see them perform was really awesome. So because of that exposure
I asked my parents for that album.
It would be over 3 decades till I'd see those videos again! For awhile I thought
I was hallucinating because NO-ONE remembers seeing them.
But finally released on the accompanying DVD on the "Sail On-the 30th
Anniversary" box set for Kansas.

Both Kansas and Boston albums I would play and play. But something new
was on the horizon . . .
Van Halen.
This would just shake up the world of rock, the music industry and the way
guitarists played. Just the cover of the debut of Van Halen looked wild and
the sounds Eddie would pull from his guitar were never heard of! (Even though
later to find Steve Hackett and Alan Holdsworth did many of the "tricks" Eddie
used, but Eddie was just more flashy with the techniques). Taking advantage
of feedback, Tremelo pulls and "Dive bombs", Harmonic vibratos, Hammer-ons
and Pull-offs would enter the vocabulary of every kid guitarist to come. It also
added a difference to Hard Rock of the time that would give birth to the new
Heavy Metal "sound".
The coming years would see kids coming out of the woodwork with different
styles, attitude, aggression and musicianship that would engulf my world
. . . but that wont happen till after High School, but the seed was planted.

Also during this time, next to the neighborhood Stater Brothers Market, was a
little Mom&Pop Record store, mostly catering to the R&B crowd, I was flipping
through the LP's on a turnstyle and I came across an album with a cringe and
wonder in my face:
A blueish cover with the backside of a naked man atop a BRAIN and an
English chap with a derby! . . . "How GAY!" I thought. I put it back and went to
join my Mom at the Market.

A new world would open to me, and there was one band that would make me
listen even closer, with lyrics that made me pay attention . . .

"So turn around, Turn around, It's on the other side
Feel the sound, Feel the sound, It's comin' from deep inside,
It will fill you with emotion if you let it be your guide, So
Turn around, Turn around It's on the other side . . . "
- On the Otherside/Kansas

To be continued . . .

Opus Insert
(Or Angry Rant number 1).
"All this machinery making modern music, Can still be open hearted,
Not so coldly charted It's really just a question of your honesty, yeah,
Your honesty.
One likes to believe in the freedom of music, But glittering prizes and
endless compromises, Shatter the illusion of integrity. . ."
-The Spirit of Radio/Rush

Well I've been thinking alot about this because of a recent work related experience
and re-reading the above excerpt of Mr. Livgren and the lack of "Art" in music.
I have, back in the day, had gotten on my soap box on's chat board
(and particular Forums), when people were complaining about a Genre of Prog, if
it was Prog, why is it on here, why is the sky blue, ls there a Santa Clause? etc.
It just seemed like the definition of what Prog was so clear to me, but it seems the
genre needed genres.
I would then try to stop the feuding and bloodshed by bringing up:
"Well, at-least its not Top 40 muzak" or "You know in the whole vast configuration
of things, our music doesn't matter to the rest of the world or the music Industry,
so its better to listen to a BAD Prog song amongst the fine Prog that is coming on
the queue anyways!"

. . . crickets.

Well all this was hit to home again. I had recently gotten a job at a Warehouse
for Avon "where ambitions go to die", this job wasn't fit for Robots, we were
basically Cannon Fodder, lifting heavy objects and racing to station to station
filling shelves break to break non-stop from 8 to 13 hours a day.

What could make it worse for a Music worshiper like me . . .
Believe me, I would rather not advertise this waste of Air, but if you just "look"
at the page, you'll get the idea. This garbage was force fed to us every fucking
day. Even people who were into Pop and R&B hated the station because they
would play the same 7 stupid songs OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER
AND OVER AND OVER . . . I actually still have songs like "I kissed a girl";
"american boy" "shake it" Shake shake shake me Shake shake shake me
Shake shake shake me! and other songs that I don't want to know the title
INVADE my head at any given moment!
Now hearing this music throughout a possible 13 hour shift, in pain and wishing
I was somewhere else and enjoying the mellow sounds of Meshuggah whilst
firing off a few rounds of a Mini-Gun, you get to listen carefully, break-down the
"music" to indeed acknowledge if it has any skill or merit of being called music.
And what a surprise . . . NOOOOOO!!!!!!
I had made a sign and posted it up at an event that I was a part of and was
being covered on a particular day by a KIIS Fm crew, the sign was mocking
their musical jingle:
"Support UNCHALLENGING music . . . KIIS FM!"

Pop music of today is like Commercials for Cellphones for people who have them
fused to their ears already (you know, with or without the "blue tooth" and having
loud conversations about nothing, LOOK AT ME I AM IMPORTANT I HAVE A CELL
PHONE), buy the cars they are told to buy, go clubbing and drink crappy beers to
laugh and vomit and dance the night away, BUY BUY CONSUME CONSUME.
(. . . Pink Floyd and "Sheep" come to mind).
There was a time that even "One hit wonders" had musicality about it, there was
some skill, they played instruments and didn't base their rhythms from another
song that was sampled, and then add some annoying FX sample and have it in the
song over and over to create a beat or somekind of "cool" factor.
And great! The chorus is pretty much the entire song, repeated over and over and
over and over and over . . . and they are not limited to R&B; Rock and Country have
suffered, "simple is more" and are plagued by the "repeat the title of the song over
and over so you can remember the song and make me some more money".

"Observe and reapeat, observe and repeat, maintain the standard"
-Control and Resistance/Watchtower

I mean come on, its all about some kind of beat that they can "react" to, what other
relevance could the lyrics or the musicianship possibly mean to anyone?
So you want to party, great, but isn't there more to life? A REAL life?
There are very few exceptions, but its all bottled up like a commercial, to be in the
"backround of your everyday" . . . instead of leaves in the wind, birds chirping, all
that will obsolete the way mass consumerism has been growing, as people wear
Headphones most of their lives to shut out the outside world.

I swear, if you took a 5 minute song by Spocks Beard or even Porcupine Tree, I bet
people would wake up and ask, "what is this?" Yes, maybe even look into them.
Maybe gain "5" more fans . . . I can dream.

You really become appreciative of the Progressive and the more adventurous Metal
Bands that work on an entire Album with all the craft, imagination and skill it takes to
make this type of music.
Metal and Progressive Music, will have longevity, as much as a Classical piece, a
Jazz performer that created something never attempted. You can move onto a new
band or album, but you can always open up a CD case or LP sleeve, put it on and
be transported to where you were or just enjoy the ride all over again.
A meat-grinder of the mediocre, Pop Radio is just another flavour of the month,
easily replaced by the same ol' flavour you tasted before . . . simply replaceable.

. . . Like an employee at Avon!
(I never tasted crap, but it probably tastes like modern pop).

"I'm sick of eating shit, can I try another flavour!"
-Art Nazi/Skyclad


guitarsean said...

Another cool trip through your past, MAV, thank you. I really can't look back on my youth like this. For some reason my past is compressed into a few large events and a lot of nothing. Sometimes it seems as if all my life until I was 18 only fills a few years. I guess I lived a relatively dull life.

And as for your rant... it is kinda depressing to look at the history of pop music and see that's its always been this way. There's more money in it than there ever has been. But really, how profound is "I Wanna Hold Your Hand"? Maybe we can form a prog commune at the Monty residence.

stringray said...

At that time the op 40 singles have been crappy pop music, but the albums that sold millions still were fine crafted art by stunning musicians. Not Rush, they never have been recognized by us stupid Germans, but Yes, Genesis, Kansas, Styx, Boston etc by all means.

For me it has been a big betrayal that Trevor Horn was a pioneer in generating music digitally, sound that doesn't need musicianship or any creativity. The Art Of Noise and Frankie Goes To Hollywood were his puppets in the 80's.

"Let's begin promotion
this boy has got it made"

Adventures In Modern Recording / Buggles

MAVIII said...

Thanks guys :)
Ray, in a future scribbling, I do talk about how the "sounds" in 90215 (YES) influence the Top 40 music of that era . . . to make it even MORE annoying! :P But I did not know that about Trevor Horn.

Sean, you know, there are BIG gaps in my memory of life in school, maybe because it was soo painful my brain has shut it out, I don't think I EVER did homework! I "lived" to have School behind me.