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Book review: Jerry Lucky - 20th Century Rock and Roll: Progressive Rock (2000) 


20th Century Rock & Roll: Progressive Rock (Lucky, J.) ‎ Collector's Guide Publishing (CA), July 2000


I’ve just been given Jerry Lucky’s 20th Century Rock & Roll: Progressive Rock as a present to add to my collection of prog-related reading matter. Apparently, and I’m sure my wife won’t mind me revealing this, the book has been spotted for around £150 on Amazon but she got it new, off the shelf, for £10. The seller suggested that the cover might be marked with some indentations, but it is actually in very good condition. I use two of Lucky’s guides to progressive rock and for the most part, they’ve been reliable indications of the quality of the music; they’ve certainly been helpful when I’ve gone off to Australia, France, Italy or Spain to help me seek out indigenous prog.

Published half-way through 2000, 20th Century Rock & Roll: Progressive Rock is a short (152 pages) list of what Lucky considers to be the top 50 most influential prog bands set out in alphabetical order, and while it includes the usual suspects Emerson Lake & Palmer, Genesis, Jethro Tull, King Crimson, Rush and Yes, it also throws in the odd curve ball like Mexico’s Cast, Germany’s Grobschnitt, and the Hungarian band Omega. It expands on the history laid out in The Progressive Rock Files and The Progressive Rock Handbook for each band and furnishes us with facts, rather than his personal opinion on why each band deserves their place on the list. It’s irrelevant that his choice doesn’t exactly coincide with mine because it’s in the nature of progressive rock fans to advocate their own favourites during impassioned debates; everyone is going to have their own personal preference. One reviewer suggested that there was nothing new in the book and felt that the information had been culled from the internet, though around the year 2000 most bands were still in the process of putting websites together and there was limited fan-produced material on the internet. I happen to like a book format, and my criticism relates to an apparent absence of proof-reading, exposed by poor grammar and more worryingly, by what appears to be a neglect of fact-checking.

Pink Floyd obviously have a place in the top 50 most influential prog bands because their early material and studio mastery inspired many other bands but if they are recognised as ‘influential’ and worth writing about, who would publish a history of Pink Floyd with repeated reference to Dave Gilmore? Gilmour’s guitar is very distinctive, and they’ve made history with album chart longevity, so why the schoolboy error? That’s a hard question to answer, especially as Lucky began hosting a prog radio show, Exposure, over 40 years ago and is a renowned collector of progressive and psychedelic music. There’s a passing reference to Marc Bolen [sic] and his history of PFM, Van der Graaf Generator and Gentle Giant are spoiled by what I’d regard as basic mistakes. Apparently, John Weathers took up drumming duties for Gentle Giant in 1976 for the Interview album.

I’ve been known to make errors in my blogs and reviews and my spelling and punctuation, most often when I’m re-writing a paragraph, is not immune from slipping. It’s a poor excuse but as hard as I try to be factual and use appropriate grammar, the damage to my reputation is limited by the reach of my posts. If Lucky’s grammatical errors are just an irritation, the potential for mistakes in the artist mini biographies in The Progressive Rock Files and The Progressive Rock Handbook is such that if his readership is inadvertently misdirected, they may turn to other sources and other authors for information.

I still frequently flick through Lucky’s The Progressive Rock Handbook (which is more up to date than my battered copy of The Progressive Rock Files) and I’ve noticed that he sometimes refers to other people’s impression of bands. There’s no shame in that as it would be almost impossible to have examples of music from all the acts listed in the books – I certainly haven’t heard of half the artists he writes about – and both volumes remain an important source of information and reference.

Whatever the shortcomings of 20th Century Rock & Roll: Progressive Rock, I’ll remain ever thankful for him cross-referencing Celeste and Banco del Mutuo Soccorso in the Finisterre entry in The Progressive Rock Files which opened up a whole world of Fabio Zuffanti projects and other progressivo italiano for me to seek out and enjoy.


The bulk of his review first appeared in the blog ‘I Should Be So Lucky’ from 25/9/2014, which is no longer accessible.


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