Essential Prog Rock Songs

Friday, May 13, 2011
Prog Rock always received a lot of haughty laughter amongst my more snobby music friends. Many of the bands, Rush in particular, were never taken seriously. In spite of that, many of those bands still continue to make music and sell out concerts. More than that, they still continue to inspire a new generation of musicians who see rock n roll as something that can be more then a beat you can dance to.

Here are six essential prog rock songs. Enjoy.

1. Time – Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd. You could argue that Dark Side of the Moon represents the pinnacle of the progressive rock movement in the seventies. Dark Side of the Moon along with Wish You Were Here and Animals are certainly three of the best prog rock albums. Even after Roger Water's went all introspective (to put it nicely) on Animals, The Wall, and The Final Cut, Floyd had developed a large following that followed them through the post Waters era. Granted Momentary Lapse of Reason and The Division Bell were less prog and more guitar rock oriented, but one has to admire David Gilmour, who is a guitar virtuoso.

2. Whiter Shade of Pale – Debut Album, Procul Harum. A founding band in what would become progressive rock, Procul Harum inspired by Johann Sebastian Bach, wrote one of the more lasting psychedelic songs. Whiter Shade of Pale would set the standard for weird, nearly incomprehensible lyrics that would becoming a defining signature in prog rock. When the character Jimmy Rabbit is being 'interviewed' at the end of The Commitments, he quotes the first two lines:
We skipped the light fandango turned cartwheels 'cross the floor
I was feeling kinda seasick but the crowd called out for more
The 'interviewer' asks, “That's very profound, Jimmy! What does it mean?" - Jimmy replies, “I'm fucked if I know, Terry!”
The BBC has a great article about this lyric here...

3. La Villa Strangiato (An Exercise in Self-Indulgence) – Hemispheres, Rush. Now, you all know most of us on Music For A Mid-Life Geek are unabashed Rush fans, so of course they would show up on our list. I could go on about how under appreciated this band is, but frankly, I say, let the music speak for itself. Also... RUSH!

4. Fallen Angel – Red, King Crimson. Another founding prog rock group, King Crimson has many songs that could make this list, 21st Century Schizoid Man and Discipline to name a couple. Fallen Angel makes the list for it's very cool guitar effects at the start of the song. For a progressive rock song, is it also a very simple, but memorable one.

5. Lie – Awake, Dream Theater. Keeping prog rock alive in the nineties, Dream Theater took punk bass and drum rhythms and gave it a glossy new sound.

6. Undisclosed Desires – The Resistance, Muse. I admit, I was late to the Muse party, but, they certainly are the newest band to pick up the progressive rock banner. Incorporating all the styles that came before them, they have rapidly moved up to my top six.
Videos after the jump

1. Time – Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd
Whiter Shade of Pale – Debut Album, Procul Harum
La Villa Strangiato (An Exercise in Self-Indulgence) (Live at Pinkpop 1979) – Hemispheres, Rush

Fallen Angel – Red, King Crimson

Lie – Awake, Dream Theater

Undisclosed Desires – The Resistance, Muse


  1. Great choices! Here's my 7:

    1. Firth of Fifth - Genesis
    2. Comfortably Numb - Pink Floyd
    3. The Doorway - Spock's Beard
    4. All of the Above - Transatlantic
    5. South Side of the Sky - Yes
    6. The Wall - Kansas
    7. Octavarium - Dream Theater

    Craig Kerley
    Not Otherwise Specified (NOS)

  2. Craig,

    Thanks for stopping by. I followed the link to your page on ReverbNation. Your music is amazing. Thanks for your list. I am jealous that I didn't think of The Doorway. I look forward to following your work.

  3. I know I put The Doorway at third, but only because it is not as old as the others. In many ways it is my favorite. I think of it as Spock's Beard's Firth of Fifth.

    Take care,

  4. Anonymous2:00 PM

    Of all DT songs you pick Lie? Octavarium or A Change of Seasons would be the way to go, methinks

  5. Respectfully points towards Cardiacs.

  6. Great list! Thanks for listening for us... It is really difficult to track down such a list with a wide pool of music blogs out there. Appreciate your efforts!

  7. This is so essential post. This information helps them who are new bloggers. Thanks for helpful post for us. progressive house music

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