Strange days mate! A phrase I’ve heard a lot lately and said to me many times over the summer. Indeed, they are having been my stock reply. Difficult times for many people including myself and loved ones. Like many I spend too much time filtering conspiracy theory from what may be fact? I do have to admit to being fairly confused about a lot what is going on. The line recently growled by Roger Waters during his social media broadcast of the song Mother asking “mother should I trust the government?”. Well should i? I seem to be witnessing the decay of humanity and the world I love falling apart, I grow increasingly concerned about the ones I love from those around me to my extended family in the music community, work and old friends. I have watched People I love fall victim to mental health issues and develop paranoid tendencies experiencing trust issues. It is a lot to bare seeing strong minded friends and loved ones reduced to this frame of mind and falling victim to inordinate fear.
It’s easy to develop the need for a crutch to lean on amidst such a scenario to make nebulous the edges of the many images thrown so sharply towards us of misery, hardship and imposed isolation. Some have needed pharmaceutical assistance whilst others rely on the good old stalwart of psychological anaesthesia of alcohol. I count myself in the misuse of the latter noting that my intake has increased since the stress levels of the previous months increased. Like many, at one stage during the summer I suspected I may lose my job and for a while took a significant financial hit. I joined the many folks out there struggling to pay the bills though I was luckier than many. I have been fortunate enough to have access to the things that mean the most to me. Apart from the most obvious which is my lovely lady Helen and my family, I’ve had access to the two major things that feed my spirit, nature and music. The ability to chuck on my walking boots and step out of my front door and within minutes be surrounded by fields and woodland has up until now kept me sane.
I do consider my major privilege to be as involved as I am with music and many of the exponents thereof. Over the summer I have received albums for review and broadcast on my radio show by artists and distributors acting on their behalf. This has maintained my creative element and sustained my appetite for new tunes whilst I have found solace in reflection and revisiting some Prog classics. This has been reflected in my radio show playing some songs and pieces that although not strictly Prog represent to me sonic joy. My intention is to continue as it is bringing a great deal of satisfaction to me and from my inbox to others too. A double whammy methinks. So, with all this in mind, the trauma, isolation and worry, music is to be my drug of choice to combat as many of these evils as I can. The power of music though sounding a little clichéd really is a force to be reckoned with. And whilst I can’t fight conditions that have plagued me since childhood like insomnia, I can rejoice that in the early hours and through daybreak music is steadfast whatever the genre and whatever my mood.
Having decided to limit my news intake in recent months the playing of music before a day’s work has also had its benefits. I feel less affected by the repetition of the daily news cycle finding it easier to cope with the current situation. Following the posting of my early morning premier on social media I have noticed an increased interest in my nocturnal musical ventures and hopefully inspired those who may be feeling the same pressures of life in what feels to be the longest and most realistic box sets ever made. My year has been made easier by avoiding the mainstream most recently hammered home to me by the televising by the BBC at prime time on a Saturday and the following Sunday of Little Mix choosing their support boy band. Really!!!? I think not, not in my world. In a parallel universe throughout the pandemic bands like Pendragon, Abel Ganz and The Tangent have cultivated new musical nutrition with fresh and wholesome innovative music that kept both my mind and soul fuelled and able to cope with life’s challenges.
I do find it a constant form of frustration that labels aside, bands like the above are overlooked for all the wrong reasons. Artists that don’t fit withing the usual parameters are given the cold shoulder. They may not fit with the modern idiom and like the news are to a large degree filtered and controlled by the powers that be. The biggest shame is that the current Prog scene is a huge resource to tap into and exploit to its full. It surprizes me that bands like IQ, Marillion, The Tangent, Big Big Train et al are never included in shows like Later with Jools and the likes. This would take the present musical diet of mediocrity off autopilot and inject variety. In my view if we get away from pigeon holing these bands as Prog or any other label given to them and rip up the rulebook of categorisation and say simply there is no such thing as Prog, just music, it may be possible to make such appearances more palatable to media controllers. I welcome the day.
So, lets remember what the upper echelons of the government care to remind us on a regular basis and that we are all in this together. However, it certainly doesn’t feel that way does it? With bands and their tours on hold and their crews facing bankruptcy we face a very different environment for the future of live music. All very concerning and just a little depressing. However, we have a rich heritage from which to draw comfort. I am only surprised that the whole fiasco hasn’t been the subject of a concept album! Oh, wait a minute, the new Flower Kings album has just turned up. Laters dudes.