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The Music's All That Matters: History of Progressive Rock Paperback – 1 Mar 1997

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Product details

  • Paperback: 373 pages
  • Publisher: Quartet Books (1 Mar. 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0704380366
  • ISBN-13: 978-0704380363
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2.4 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,612,520 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Murray on 30 Jun. 2001
Format: Paperback
I enjoyed this book, but would have enjoyed it more if it was what it said it was - ie, a history of Prog Rock. Rather, it is a critique of Prog Rock. The actual sections of history would probably fill a very slim book, as would the album critiques. Most of it is an academically-styled look at the driving forces behind the movement, which is interesting enough, but, of course, all opinion, and not what the book's title claims it to be.
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By MJP on 24 Aug. 2012
Format: Paperback
This is a highly intelligent, superbly researched and thorough account of prog rock as a phenomenon. The author knows his rock and pop cultural histories backwards, and elucidates many thorny, half-remembered associations from the period. The factual information is balanced with informed opinions and quotations from various figures associated with the style. The feeling throughout is absolutely pro-prog, but is delicately set-up to give a rounded and all-encompassing viewpoint on a genre that has split rock opinions for many decades. The background and counter-cultural references are all laid out clearly - even for the general [non sociologically-obsessed] reader like myself.
I cannot fault the methodology of the book. It is especially good at allowing the reader to maintain and understand their own opinions of various parts of prog. My own 'bugbear' is the incessant and sneery tone of rock journalists/DJ's and commentators - who for the last 30 odd years have tried to denigrate the style without mercy [even when this becomes outright hypocrisy]. On this element alone, Paul Stump is worth reading.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 15 reviews
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
The least essential Prog book I've read 29 Dec. 2002
By bruceski - Published on
Format: Paperback
Stump's The Music Is All That Matters, attempts to describe exactly how Progressive rock in England evolved from its psychadelic beginnings in the late 1960's to its current cult-like status.

While highly opinionated, it mostly succeeds in this effort. However, I find it to be the least essential of the books on Progressive Rock that I have read. This is because Stump's writing style is somewhat taxing and I don't find myself gaining a deeper understanding of the music, or discovering new bands to listen too.

I wanted to briefly address some of the comments made by some of the other insightful reviewers.

1-I do believe that Stump thoroughly enjoys progressive rock. He just likes Robert Wyatt, (he sounds like the only person I have ever heard that has actually listened to EVERY Soft Machine album), Henry Cow and The Enid more than Yes, Pink Floyd and ELP. He does present with the bias that somehow if you became popular the music was no longer valid. Now this did happen to the most popular progressive bands as the 70's wore on, but he is also highly critical of the most successful progressive bands better work as well.

However, I take his criticism to be that of an insider, one of us. It is like family making fun of each other, its ok when it is with each other. With that said, I question does he really think ELP covered Pictures at an Exhibition because they thought it would make them international pop stars? It was about the music baby (at least in the beginning and I think among the current prog groups).

I found myself wanting to apologize to Bradley Smith (Billboard's Guide to Progressive Music) for saying in an Amazon Review that his writing was preachy, cause by comparison, Stump is MUCH more highly opinionated, and much more direct in his presentation that HE knows what is the really good and essential music. (Hey, Ant Phillips seems like a great guy, and Trespass is my favorite Genesis album, but a whole section devoted to him? Some of those Private Parts albums are about as exciting as listening to someone tune their guitar!! That said, go buy Phillip's The Geese and the Ghost- it is a fantastic, sensitive progressive work).

2. Stump's writing is, as other's have pointed out, often difficult. (Who were you trying to impress Stumpy?). I mean, progsters are often educated folk, but only a few of us are actually Professors of literature. It is interesting that Stump has also written a book on Roxy Music because a friend of mine used to say that Brian Ferry sounded like he was singing to hear himself sing/amuse himself. Sometimes I felt like this book was written solely to amuse the author.

I found myself comparing the writing to music and coming up with the two following analogies:

1-At times the writing is like those dissonant bits in Henry Cow, you know the ones where you know it has some significance, but you really just keep listening to see if you are strong enough to take it.

2-The best album I could think of to compare the writing to was ELP's Works. Self-indulgent (nothing wrong with some self-indulgence on occassion), bombastic and "clodhopping" in its attempt to be more than it is. Also, so obvious in its attempt to be clever that it at times becomes self-parody. None the less, it is still something I drag out on occassion and thoroughly enjoy bits of.

And that is what I thought of this book. It was often too much work. While there are some amusing thoughts on prog and some prog albums, (some of his criticism of the most popular progressive rock albums are actually fairly humoruous. Overall, it isn't an essential read on the subject. But, most progster like to collect things, so you are probably going to buy this anyways. I did.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
a fan? 5 July 2001
By N. Green - Published on
Format: Paperback
After reading this book one really wonders whether Stump actually even likes prog rock! Stick with the Macan book - much more readable, enthusiastic about the music, just as intellectually challenging and not as simplistic as the Jerry Lucky books.
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
The Book Progressive Rock Thinks It Deserves 29 April 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
Though often lapsing into verbosity, Stump's book is an intelligent, non-embarrassing look at the much-maligned genre of Progressive Rock. Prog fans often pride themselves on the intelligence required to create and appreciate their music. However, most books on prog betray their authors' simplistic understanding of the music and the events surrounding it. The authors come off as fanboys, insulting the reader with their poorly supported arguments and sweeping generalizations. Paul Stump goes a long way to correct this trend in prog rock books . He writes well and has done much of his homework. Despite other Amazon reviewers' comments to the contrary, Stump's passion for the music is infectious. He is opinionated, though, so Marillion fans should take note. I really appreciated the attention he gave to the more experimental or avant-garde bands. The likes of Henry Cow, The Soft Machine and Barrett-era Pink Floyd get plenty of copy alongside the more mainstream Yes and Genesis. Stump is no snob, (despite writing for The Wire) which would be a dubious position anyway for a fan of a genre now reviled by snobs everywhere. A few caveats: this should really be called "A History of ENGLISH Progressive Rock" but Stump tells you as much in the introduction. Also, as a non-Englishman, I ran across quite a few words I have never seen before or since. The Music's All That Matters has been very helpful in pointing me towards some terrific bands and understanding some of the ideas behind their music. Now I need to find some Magma albums! Ignore the cheesy title and you'll enjoy it!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
He was There, and he is British 29 Aug. 2011
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
I've read most of the other books on Progressive Rock, and I've been a fan of the genre since I got turned on to Yes and Genesis in the mid-70s.

What I like especially about this book is it gets far deeper into the Britishness of progressive rock, not just in terms of historical and contemporary cultural influences but also by virtue of an insider's knowledge of the music biz (record labels, concert promoters, etc.) and its relationship with the actual musical product. Stump is also an unabashedly British writer in style, and to a Yank like me this is always a source of pleasure.

However, just as a prog musician can't help writing passages in 15/4 time or soloing interminably from time to time, Stump can't help trotting out academia-jargon and Big Words that no one but English professors have ever heard of, let alone used in a sentence in anything other than an academic journal article. At the same time, Stump is aware of the relevance (or lack thereof) of terms like post-modernism and thinkers like Foucault and Derrida to actual music listeners.

This book gets bashed by prog fans/apologists (I claim to be the first, though not the second) for being critical of things like the lyrics of Greg Lake and Jon Anderson. I was thrilled to see someone knowledgeable finally agree with me that Land Lies Down on Broadway and The Wall are vastly overrated, and to peel back the LSD layer to reveal how mediocre the actual *music* of Hawkwind and Eloy was. Other criticisms are down to pure taste, and there's no way or reason to argue that. (But just to get my licks in: Hatfield's Rotters Club gets nowhere near the credit it deserves for ushering in the late-Canterbury sound; Focus' Hamburger Concerto is not a masterpiece but rather an indulgent Thijs van Leer quasi-solo effort that pales in comparison to Moving Waves; I wouldn't even call Jethro Tull a progressive band.)

The historic backdrop details in this book themselves are worth the price of admission, as are the tantalizing references to the many bands that sounded promising but didn't make it. Getting to understand what surrounding political-economic conditions and the machinations of the press, promoters, and record labels did to promote (or dump) Progressive is invaluable. So are the many, many results of interviews with highly influential musicians such as Bill Bruford and Pete Sinfield. In comparison, both Edward Macan's and Bill Martin's books read like academic analyses of Elizabethan drama: not only far removed from the actual scene but also feeling called upon to offer meta-meta-meta-analysis in order to distinguish themselves from previous writings.

My final carp with this otherwise very fine book is that its UK-centrism gets in the way sometimes. It's true that the British invented this genre, but the influences that went into it can neither be genericized nor limited to "American rock 'n' roll" and the European classics. It is true, for example, that British prog musicians weren't influenced by the Velvet Underground.

But Frank Zappa in particular was a much larger influence than Stump realizes. In fact, it could be argued that Zappa's influence was felt much more strongly in Europe than in the US during the peak Progressive era. When I asked Fred Frith, in the late 1980s, if Zappa's Uncle Meat was an influence on Henry Cow, he said "Absolutely! We were all hearing that at the time." Adrian Belew came from Zappa's band into Crimson Mark IV, and part of what he brought to Crimson was guitar tricks and vocal chops he learned with Zappa. Phil Miller's guitar soloing style in Hatfield and National Health owes a huge debt to Zappa's. Eddie Jobson played in an earlier incarnation of Zappa's band and took that experience straight into UK: "Presto Vivace" from the first UK album was an instrumental that Jobson had written on tour with Zappa in his emulation: it sounds like an Anglicized take on many Zappa instrumentals. Bill Bruford's replacements in UK and Genesis' touring band were both Zappa alums (Terry Bozzio and Chester Thompson respectively). I could go on and on, but you get the picture.

I think part of the problem with Zappa is the series of incomprehensible decisions made by his wife Gail after his untimely death in 1994 that have made it unnecessarily difficult to get hold of Zappa's music; for example, it is not available (legally) online. Zappa isn't getting the exposure his music deserves, so it may be harder to see how profoundly he did influence progressive rock -- or that many of his late 60s through mid 70s albums could easily have been considered prog.

Apart from that, I enjoyed this book much more than those of Macan and Martin. Highly recommended for existing fans of the genre; probably rough going for newbies.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
I Know What I Don't Like 8 Feb. 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
After reading this book, you have to wonder why the author wrote about this subject when it becomes apparent that he's not very fond of the subject matter. There are some exceptions but very few here. Very negatively opinionated at times and quite tediously dull. Again you have to wonder why the writing doesn't reflect the title of this book. The music DOES matter, this book doesn't.
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