The Big 5 (or 10): Current Listening Habbits

Only once in a blue moon do I listen to the Big 5/6/7/8, due to over-familiarity and my desire to hear all the thousands of other great bands from the creative renaissance spanning 1969-1984.

For a time-line of my honeymoon with each band in question:

Genesis – My all-time favorite (well, in a tie with ’70s-era Split Enz.) Hardly a day went by between 1988 and 1995 when I didn’t listen to something by them. Between 1989 and 1991, everyday was either a Foxtrot or Selling England By the Pound day. 1992-1993, same thing with Trick of the Tail and Wind and Wuthering. 1994-1995, same thing with And Then There Were Three and Duke. All their other albums were variably slotted between those rotating obsessions.

Gentle Giant – My second favorite, though my concentration on them was mostly between 1990 and 1993, and again in 1998 when I finally defied the system and bought their final three albums, only to find that they were not only good, but that Giant For a Day was excellent.

King Crimson – I had the last two bands and taped them for my buddy, while he had KC and taped them for me (circa 1990). They took some time to grow on me, but I gradually fell in love with Lizard and “The Devils Triangle”, but never found In the Court of the Crimson King to be the masterpiece that others made it out to be. I never concentrated on KC as heavily, for I always found them better at innovating musical ideas than creating great music, and they were old news to me by 1994.

Yes – Liked “Roundabout” on classic rock radio when I was 12, then got into punk and hated the early ’70s, then slowly came back around after getting into Genesis. I was still put off by this band’s Spinal Tappish nature throughout most of my Genesis/Gentle Giant phase, because technical gymnastics didn’t float my boat (quirkiness and theatrics did.) Finally, in 1995, I decided to play catch-up, and when I watched their 9021Live video the following year, it endured them to me in a whole new way. They looked so cool in those spunky, colorful outfits, and that’s exactly the same kind of look I had back then.

Emerson Lake & Palmer – Same as with Yes – I liked “From the Beginning” from radio, then hated all things long haired whilst going through my punk phase, before coming back around as I got into Genesis. I actually bought Trilogy around the same time as Selling England by the Pound. But whereas 1973-era Genesis sounded fresh, flamboyant and innovative from my late-’80s perspective, 1972-era ELP sounded crusty, ham-fisted and archaic. I never really took ELP seriously until my mid-’90s catch-up phase with them.

Van Der Graaf Generator – I first encountered their name in the book I Was a Teenage Sex Pistol by Glenn Matlock in 1991, and finally bought my first VDGG album, Still Life, two years later. I loved the theatrics of Hammills vocals, but the soupy organ work of Banton took some getting used to. During 1994 and 1995, I amassed the entire VDGG and Hammill solo catalogues up through the late 80’s, though it took several more years for me to digest it all. For a long time I regretted not having first heard Pawn Hearts at the same time as Foxtrot (for if I had, VDGG would have been at the core of my musical coming of conscious.)

Renaissance – I’d known the name for years, but never actually heard them until January 1996, when I got Ashes are Burning and Scheherazade as part of a huge, single-day purchase of 30 cent LPs (a stack which also included the entire ’70s outputs of Hall & Oates, Chicago, City Boy and Al Stewart, all of whom I’d eventually become big fans of.) I played these Renaissance LPs a couple times, thought they were pretty, but they kind of wound up getting lost in my overbooked turntable time. Come November, I found a copy of Camera Camera for 50 cents and, with those cool jackets on the back pic, just had to hear it. Needless to say, I was now in love. Renaissance became one of my favorite bands during 1997 and 1998 as I went back and fourth through their catalogue.

Jethro Tull
– Bought Thick as a Brick and A Passion Play in 1992 at the prompting of my aforementioned prog buddy from high school, and enjoyed them in the lukewarm way that I liked Yes and ELP at the time. Didn’t explore further till 1997, when I instinctively picked up their two greatest subsequent albums, Songs From the Wood and A. The following year I went on a huge crash course, playing a Tull album a day and becoming quite familiar with their lengthy discography on a song-by-song basis by the time I saw them live at Washington Park in September 1998.

Camel – Not until 1997, when I picked up some albums of theirs in a cutout bin. Very easy on the ears, they were a frequent of my radio playlists during 1998.

Pink Floyd – Never really got into them. I bought Dark Side of the Moon in the Summer of 1986, just before getting into punk. Force-feeding myself that overrated album with the much ballyhooed chart standing left a bad taste in my mouth. In 1989, as I was turning into an Art Rocker, another fellow at school taped me the “cool Floyd” of Piper. Yeah, I liked it, but it never struck me as the eighth wonder that so many people made it out to be. During the ’90s I gradually picked up their albums in the cutout bins, and my favorite of all would have to be Animals. I never really listened to The Wall until 1999 when I was wrapping up my ’70s major label completist phase. I played it in the car whilst cruising around with this death rock couple that I used to third wheel with, and the guy knew all the lyrics. It annoyed me how so many of these younger goth and metal people would be so bread on the overreaching mediocrity of The Wall, yet be clueless in regards to ambitious double-album masterworks like Quadrophenia and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.


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