Progzilla and their Problematic List

Heather Findlay of Mostly Autumn at The Met Theatre in Bury, June 2007

Progzilla Radio have done a countdown of the Top 100 Modern Prog Classics.

Unfortunately, the list is, as the saying goes “problematic”.

While all lists of this nature are subjective and shouldn’t be taken too seriously, this one is especially bad. The way the same half-dozen bands appear multiple times suggests that the voters’ listening isn’t terribly broad; have Transatlantic really done that many classic songs?

Far worse is the near absence of women on this list. The sole song with a female songwriter and lead singer is Mostly Autumn’s “Shrinking Violet”. There is no mention of Magenta. Or Panic Room. Or any incarnation of Karnataka. There isn’t even room for anything from Kate Bush’ magnificent “Aerial”. And don’t say “Kate Bush isn’t proper prog” when the list has Radiohead on it.

When the competent but unremarkable Lifesigns, who have just one album to their name, can manage no fewer than three songs in a list that has no room for Magenta, Karnataka, Panic Room or Kate Bush, it’s hard not to conclude the list has very a bad case of sexism.

It’s true that progressive rock is still predominately male. But it’s not exclusively a boy’s club, especially in recent years. Look at the pages of Prog magazine, or the festival bills of events like HRH Prog or the Cambridge Rock Festival and you’ll see a significant proportion of bands with at least one woman in the band.

Therefore I have to conclude that a list of “greatest modern progressive songs” that’s 98% all-male bands is in fact a load of sexist bollocks.

(edit – Changed “compilers” to “voters” to make it clear it’s a listener’s list)

This entry was posted in Music Opinion and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Progzilla and their Problematic List

  1. “Thing voted for by mostly middle-aged blokes contains mostly middle-aged blokes” shocker.

    I’m only bitter cos there’s no Tinyfish in there :D

  2. Synthetase says:

    It says it was voted for by their listeners. Perhaps there was a limited selection from which to choose. With the merry-go-round of the same half dozen acts on the list it reads more like a ‘what I’ve been listening to lately’ list rather than a ‘greatest ever’ compilation.

  3. Tim Hall says:

    However you slice it, it’s a very conservative list, which almost completely ignores the current generation of bands in favour of 80s neo-prog.

  4. Synthetase says:

    Definately. I was actually wondering what their definition of ‘modern’ was to be honest.

  5. Andrew Wild says:

    As one of the people behind this list, I feel I ought to respond.

    The list was compiled from 100s of votes cast over a period of several weeks
    - our job was simply add up the votes and create a chart.

    The reason we didn’t include Kate Bush was because no-one voted for her.

    To suggest we should manipulate our list to include more female singers just because fewer votes were cast for women singers is, surely, also sexist?

    Five songs from the same Steven Wilson album may seem excessive, but that’s how our listeners voted and that’s the list we broadcast.

  6. Andrew Wild says:

    To pick up on some previous points.

    ‘Modern’ was classed as anything post 1990.

    Votes were free text fields with no restrictions.

    17 of the tracks were originally released in the 1990s; 42 from 2000-2009; and 41 since 2010
    The five most popular years were 2013 (16); 2012 (9); 2014 (8); 2000 (7) & 2006 (7)

    Which perhaps goes to show that, in terms of modern Progressive music, the best years appear to be now.

  7. Synthetase says:

    Okay, post 1990 makes sense. I was wondering why Division Bell stuff was in it.

    I agree that the best years seem to be now. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the resurgence of the genre. It’s just interesting that there appears to be so little variety in the list, given that it’s such a diverse scene.

  8. Tim Hall says:

    It reminds me of those NME “Greatest Album Of All Time” lists voted by their readership that were always dominated by the same usual suspects from 1980s/1990s indie with whole genres conspicuous by their absence. It was just ther readership self-selected by the sorts of music the paper covered. Rock and metal fans didn’t read the NME because it sneered at the bands they liked, so they never voted in readers’ polls.

    There’s no excaping that this 100 Modern Prog Classics list is a disappointingly conservative one when you consider the diversity of the contemporary progressive rock scene..

    How much of this is down to the music Progzilla plays self-selecting the audience, and how much might be down to a voting system that boosts lowest common denominators at the expense of eclectiic variety isn’t a question I can answer.

  9. Winnie says:

    Well, I for one enjoyd the list! The shows were wellpresented and the music was voted by us listeners so its what we wnated to hear. did you vote ?

  10. Tim Hall says:

    There’s a lot of great music on the list, but there are also many great bands conspicuous by their absence.

  11. Ian Oakley says:

    Two points:
    1. Did you actually vote Tim?
    2. From looking around your site and especially the photos you have used if there is any charge of ‘sexism’ to be raised – well as the saying goes ‘people in glass houses…’ :)

  12. Tim Hall says:

    First, the idea that you have to have voted in an obscure poll to be part of any conversation about the results is just silly. Especially when you only got to hear about it when the results were announced. Perhaps they should have publicised it a little more widely?

    Second, if you really think the photos used to accompany concert reviews on this site are “sexist”, then you need to Google the term “slut-shaming”. Then consider the fact that I know many of the artists personally. All the photos used in reviews are taken and published with permission either of the artists themselves or from their management or promoters. If you really have a problem with anyone’s stage outfits I suggest you take it up with them.

    Judging from the defensive reactions in these comments, I think this blog post has struck a raw nerve with a few people.

  13. Stacy Doller says:

    I’m a little late to this conversation but as a co-founder of Progzilla Radio, I am delighted that people feel passionate enough about our project to comment both in a positive and negative way. Prog Rock has been a part of my life for 30 years now, and if there is one thing I have learned, it’s that fans are as passionate as they are opinionated about our genre.

    Progzilla Radio has been broadcasting for 3 months now, and we are lucky to include some of the most vibrant and interesting broadcasters and performers amongst our ranks. The fact that people voted at all in this poll, is a testament to our listeners, and the passion of the community at large.

    I personally agree with Mr Hall that there should have been more female fronted artists in the Top 100 but that wasnt how people voted. I think when you look at the Top 10, it’s actually quite accurate. Transatlantic are an international supergroup combining the fan bases of four other established groups, and it’s easy to forget the impact Frost* had upon their debut. Marillion are the biggest cult band of the modern era, and Big Big Train are the heroes of the moment.

    I look forward to the next poll we conduct featuring the pre 1990 classic era of Progressive Rock and that ‘difficult’ decade, the 1980s. Keep up the good work everyone

  14. Tim Hall says:

    Thank for responding, Stacy. This has certainly has produced a lot of passionate debate (You should see some of the conversations on Twitter that led to me writing this piece!).

    When you’re just starting out, even negative publicity is good publicity, especially when it points out where you can improve.

    I don’t know precisely what voting system you used, but it does look as though the favourites of the biggest subset of your voters crowded everything else off the list. It all depends on what you want to achieve, but a more “proportional” system might have produced a more diverse list. You’d still have had the same popular acts at the top, but the tail would have been more varied and interesting, and been a better advert for the current health of the progressive scene.

    You may want to take a look at whatever voting system you use for future polls, as well as giving it a bit more publicity.

    And if the “Classic Prog” results have no Curved Air or Renaissance, there will be trouble….

  15. Rhys says:

    I was pleased to see Shrinking Violet on the list, not least because I voted for it. It does, however, strike me as a little odd that all the tracks I voted for, even the more obscure ones, Shrinking Violet itself and Pendragon’s The Voyager for example, made it onto the list.

    I think calling the list sexist for its lack of female-inclusive bands is a bit of stretch. The more problematic aspect of the list is the lack of acknowledgement as to how many people actually voted, and how many votes each track received. It would not have surprised me if I was the only voter for the two tracks listed above.

  16. Tim Hall says:

    Out of interest, how many tracks did you vote for? And did you have to rank you choices is any order?

  17. Tim Hall says:

    As for my accusations of sexism, it certainly looks sexist from the outside, simply on the basis of who’s in the list multiple times and who’s conspicuous by their absence.

    And I was talking to a female fan at a gig last weekend who told me this post said things that needed to be said.

  18. Rhys says:

    It was five tracks, Tim, and I do not recall for sure whether specifying an order was necessary, but I would suggest probably not. I’m not sure if I could have successfully ranked Shrinking Violet, The Voyager, All of the Above, Neverland and Hedgerow against one another.

    I certainly would not be surprised if there was a form of sexism existent within progressive rock communities, and I would most prominently attribute that to the fact that the ‘traditional’ progressive rock fans are middle aged men who grew up with Yes and Genesis in the 70s, and largely reflect the ideas of their generation. Whether that would factor into the votes placed on an online list…well, who knows.

    Either way, though, I think it’s problematic to accuse something or someone of a form of bigotry without first understanding the full facts that concern it.

  19. PaulE says:

    I suspect a number of fans voted for their favourite band with every song on the list. I can understand the logic – what if we all vote for different songs and none make the list. But if quite a few think like this, then the result can be clusters of songs by the same artist. This list looks a bit that way.
    And it is ironic that a method of trying to make the list more inclusive by avoiding the all or nothing of selecting one song should actually end up as “problematic”.