Tuesday Evening, 33°F and foggy
Listening to The Nice, Rondo
It’s no secret that I have a thing about progressive rock. I tend to go through phases with it, where I will get deep down into a single prog band for days or weeks then I’ll come back out of my prog binge and not listen to another note of prog for weeks.
A few years ago my best friend and I started a really limited Facebook group called Progvember, dedicated to listening to prog during the month of November. For some reason (probably a combination of NaNoWriMo and a disgust hangover from the US presidential election) I neglected Progvember entirely in 2016. I thought I could get away with that. Turns out prog had something to say about that. Uh-uh, Grace. Not so fast.
In early December, as anyone who follows prog rock, pop culture or the 2016 celebrity death-watch knows, Greg Lake died. With that sad event (relatively hot on the heels of Keith Emerson’s passing in March 2016) came the inevitable social media postings of some great Emerson, Lake & Palmer performances. That was when my neglected Progvember 2016 reared up and bit me hard in the ass.
ELP offers some intense prog, which is to say, stuff that may give you a headache, piss you off, tempt you to abuse the “next” button on Spotify, or possibly make you want to dig up Keith Emerson and slap him. But the funny thing about ELP is, you only have to get caught by one little song and the next thing you know you’re binge watching full ELP concerts on YouTube and learning to play Knife Edge on the ukulele. The brutal part is when you go from “I can’t skip over this Rondo shit fast enough” and “fuck, not another 10-minute drum solo” to “why isn’t there a Spotify playlist consisting only of ELP and The Nice covering Dave Brubeck?” and “Why in the everloving fuckety fuck hasn’t Fang Island covered Rondo yet? Someone tell them to get on it already!”
And you find you can even forgive the kitschy horror of the “satin feel” promotional jogging shorts that went along with possibly the most embarrassing album ever recorded by ELP, or anyone else. (Note: I cannot take responsibility for the dry heaves you’ll get if you listen to that monstrosity.)
So what do you call it when you get held hostage by a prog rock band and addicted to, and defensive about, a critically reviled album like Pictures at an Exhibition? Even though you know the pasted-on lyrics for Great Gates of Kiev are just Greg Lake’s thinly veiled metaphors for his peen?
I call it Progholm Syndrome. It’s like a slightly less malevolent version of Stockholm Syndrome, where instead of falling love with your captor you fall in love with some prog that everyone else says is bad. And even though you suspect they might be right, you can’t stop listening to it.
Oh, you can try to put on a Big Star album or something, but you won’t last twenty minutes before you’re reverting to ELP again. That’s Progholm Syndrome.
Symptoms of Progholm Syndrome
- You identify wholeheartedly with statements like IT’S SO GROTESQUE. WOW THIS IS AWESOME.
- You suspiciously eye people who use Math Rock as a derogatory term.
- The Barbarian sounds better every time you listen to it.
- You obsess over The Sage and marvel that people get excited about the Fleet Foxes when Greg Lake had out Fleet Foxed Robin Pecknold before he was even born.
- You get as anxious as Carl Palmer that the band isn’t going to hear his desperate cue at 7:28 and rescue him from drum solo hell. (Notice Greg checking on his little drummer friend right afterward.)
- You get upset that The Nice only have a few albums on Spotify, and the collection fails to include Ars Long Vita Brevis. (I mean, honestly now Spotify. Get with the program.)
- Your children cover their ears and beg you to listen to anything else.
- You can’t fall asleep because Rondo is stuck in your head.
- You wake up with Rondo stuck in your head and blast it while you shower.
- You write a blog post about ELP hoping to break the curse.
- Except you don’t really want to break it because you’re enjoying it too much.
I’ve learned my lesson. Next year I’m going to pay attention to Progvember.
Cover image: video screenshot montage by the author.