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Thread: Prog's Poets Laureate

  1. #1

    Prog's Poets Laureate

    When it comes to progressive rock, my motto is "come for the music, stay for the lyrics." While a great instrumental will hold my attention for a few listens, a great set of lyrics will keep me coming back time and time again.

    My top choice for Prog Poet Laureate is IQ's Peter Nicholls. There are so many IQ songs that I seem to find new meanings in each time I listen to them. There are too many examples to list, but one notable one is Guiding Light. For years I thought this was a simple song above a lost love. Then one day I was listening to the song on a long drive and the line "We never can remember all the lives we've lived before" suddenly hit me and I realized that this was far from a simple "lost love" song.

    Honorable mention goes to Fish. Although the well seemed to run mostly dry after Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors, there are some amazing lyrics in the preceding 10 years. Forgotten Sons, Punch and Judy, almost all of Misplaced Childhood, and Warm Wet Circles stand out for me.

    I am interested in what's on the Poets Laureate list of other PE members.

  2. #2
    The eons are closing
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    Here come the (warm) lists....

    I would only say that foe these ears, FISH's Sunsets on Empire (the whole album) is his pinnacle as a lyricist.
    No one plans to take the path that brings you lower

  3. #3
    My vote goes (as always) to Keith Reid of Procol Harum.

    This is not his most poetic work by any means, but a personal favorite, from their debut:
    Something Following Me -1967:

    While standing at the junction on 42nd Street
    I idly kick a pebble lying near my feet
    I hear a weird noise, take a look up and down
    The cause of the commotion is right there on the ground
    Imagine my surprise, thought I'd left it at home
    But there's no doubt about it, it's my own tombstone

    I went into a shop, and bought a loaf of bread
    I sank my teeth into it, thought I'd bust my head
    I dashed to the dentist, said, 'I've got an awful pain!'
    The man looks in my mouth and screams, 'This boy is insane!'
    Imagine my surprise, thought I'd left it at home
    But there's a lump in my mouth of my own tombstone

    I went to see a movie, got the only empty seat
    I tried to stretch out in it, something blocking my feet
    Finally the lights came up, and I could clearly see
    A slab of engraved marble, just staring up at me
    Imagine my surprise, thought I'd left it at home
    But there's no doubt I'm sitting on my own tombstone

  4. #4
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    For me, without question, it's Peter Hammill.

  5. #5
    Kerry Livgren, prior to 1980.

  6. #6
    Kevin Gilbert
    Fish
    Livgren

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Animal View Post
    My vote goes (as always) to Keith Reid of Procol Harum.
    Good choice!

    Quote Originally Posted by Skeptrick View Post
    For me, without question, it's Peter Hammill.
    Excellent choice!

    Coincidence or not, those were the first two that came to my mind...
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  8. #8
    Progdog ThomasKDye's Avatar
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    IAN ANDERSON. It would take me forever to list all the brilliant lyrics he's come up with through the years, but my favorite will always be:

    "Do you ever get the feeling that the story's too damn real and in the present tense?
    Or that everybody's on the stage and it seems like you're the only person sitting in the audience?"
    Last edited by ThomasKDye; 2 Weeks Ago at 09:52 AM.
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  9. #9
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    Nichols, Anderson, Fish, and Livegren all rank right up there for me too. A few others I really like:

    Matthew Parmenter (Discipline)
    Peter Gabriel (he has been hit and miss, but some of his lyrics are brilliant)
    Roger Waters

  10. #10
    Estimated Prophet notallwhowander's Avatar
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    I'd throw in for Ian Anderson as well. I don't want to list, but there is a whole lot there. "Skating Away on the Thin Ice of a New Day" a top-shelf example, though. In full...

    Meanwhile back in the year one
    When you belonged to no one
    You didn't stand a chance, son
    If your pants were undone

    'Cause you were bred, for humanity
    And sold to society
    One day you'll wake up, in the present day
    A million generations removed from expectations
    Of being who you really want to be

    Skating away, skating away, skating away
    On the thin ice of the new day

    So as you push off from the shore
    Won't you turn your head once more
    And make your peace with everyone

    For those who choose to stay
    Will live just one more day
    To do the things they should've done

    And as you cross the wilderness
    Spinning in your emptiness
    If you have to, pray
    Looking for a sign, that the universal minds
    Have written you into the passion play

    Skating away, skating away, skating away
    On the thin ice of the new day

    And as you cross the circle line
    Well, the ice wall creaks behind
    You're a rabbit on the run

    And the silver splinters fly
    In the corner of your eye
    Shining in the setting sun

    Well, do you ever get the feeling
    That the story's too damn real
    And in the present tense?

    Or that everybody's on the stage
    And it seems like you're the only
    Person sitting in the audience?

    Skating away, skating away, skating away
    On the thin ice of the new day


    It really is a wonderful portrait of being young and starting off on a life of your own.
    Wake up to find out that you are the eyes of the world.

  11. #11
    Peter Gabriel, Ian Anderson, Peter Sinfield, David Cousins... and I know "XTC's not prog!", but I'm throwing in Andy Partridge.

  12. #12
    Member Paulrus's Avatar
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    I agree Keith Reid is superlative, but I'm narrowing my choices to REAL prog.

    Top of my list is Peter Hammill by a long shot.

    But if you want to extend outward I'd say Roger Waters has to be included.
    I'm holding out for the Wilson-mixed 5.1 super-duper walletbuster special anniversary extra adjectives edition.

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    Quote Originally Posted by soundsweird View Post
    Peter Gabriel, Ian Anderson, Peter Sinfield, David Cousins... and I know "XTC's not prog!", but I'm throwing in Andy Partridge.
    I’ll have to think about who all is on my list, but Cousins will definitely be there.

  14. #14
    Peter Hammill.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by AstroProg View Post
    My top choice for Prog Poet Laureate is IQ's Peter Nicholls. There are so many IQ songs that I seem to find new meanings in each time I listen to them. There are too many examples to list, but one notable one is Guiding Light. For years I thought this was a simple song above a lost love
    Their lyrics really hit all the emotional triggers with me since I've tended to be very melancholy my entire life. They really pull at my heartstrings like no other.

    Peter Gabriel's lyrics have always been a great source of wordplay.

    I've always loved The Flower Kings lyrics not because they're so profound but because you get the occasional odd phrase or word choice that ends up being amusing.
    No matter what anyone says, you are the decider of how you will listen to music.

  16. #16
    Orange Tick Squasher Buddhabreath's Avatar
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    Yes Peter Hammill, Ian Anderson, Peter Gabriel, and Kerry Livgren (hell just for Dust in the Wind); and speaking of the obvious Dylan, Cohen and Mitchell, which will be left out so as not to provoke the prog police, Iíll add Peter Blegvad just because heís a criminally underrated lyricist IMO.

    P.S. I quite agree with Skating Away, one of my all-time favorites and I song I love to bash out on the steel string. Always inspiring even at an advanced age.
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  17. #17
    Member Lopez's Avatar
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    I am not a fan of poetry at all; however, I do like a song with meaningful lyrics. My choices would be David Cousins, because I understand his lyrics, and Keith Reed, because I don't (so there must be something really good there).
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    Quote Originally Posted by Buddhabreath View Post
    Yes Peter Hammill, Ian Anderson, Peter Gabriel, and Kerry Livgren (hell just for Dust in the Wind); and speaking of the obvious Dylan, Cohen and Mitchell, which will be left out so as not to provoke the prog police, Iíll add Peter Blegvad just because heís a criminally underrated lyricist IMO.
    I was about to say Blegvad. Great wordplay. And can tell a story in so few words.

    And in the "not-really-prog-but-so-many-prog-fans-seem-to-really-like-him" category...
    Roy Harper.

    And another vote for Hammill and Cousins

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Buddhabreath View Post
    I’ll add Peter Blegvad just because he’s a criminally underrated lyricist IMO.
    Oh, definitely! And his recent book on Kew Rhone is probably the best thing I've read in quite a while...
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  21. #21
    Member since March 2004 mozo-pg's Avatar
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    Frank Zappa.
    What can this strange device be? When I touch it, it brings forth a sound.

  22. #22
    Member moecurlythanu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amy View Post
    Weston and Kull.
    Excellent choice.

  23. #23
    Member Paulrus's Avatar
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    It's interesting that nobody has yet mentioned Jon Anderson. I've seen descriptions of his lyrics (and mind you, I'd confine any discussion of JA lyrics to pre-1978) range from "Joycean" to "gobbledygook", but there's no denying many of us could recite every line of "Starship Trooper" or "Siberian Khatru" word for word. He definitely had a knack for memorable word play.
    I'm holding out for the Wilson-mixed 5.1 super-duper walletbuster special anniversary extra adjectives edition.

  24. #24
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    I would nominate Mike Keneally. For me his lyrics strike a very comfortable balance between the fantastic/abstract and more concrete/linear storytelling. And either way, I get the strong impression that he puts a lot of thought into them.
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  25. #25
    Highly Evolved Orangutan JKL2000's Avatar
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    There are other worthy candidates mentioned already, but I’d nominate Roy Harper. Separated from the music his lyrics sometimes fall flat, but with the music and his vocals they work very well. He gets extra points for often hilarious and disarming banter.

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