Tim Bowness Blog – Between A Rock And A Hard Place
‘Within the rock framework you can play jazz, classical, trance music, Urubu drumming. Anything you like can come under the banner of Rock. It’s a remarkable musical form …’ – Robert Fripp
As a teenager, I listened to Tommy Vance’s Friday Night Rock Show. As with John Peel’s show, you never quite knew what you’d get. A Black Sabbath track would be followed by a BJH ballad, which in turn would give way to a Peter Gabriel song featuring the Burundi Drummers. As Robert Fripp noted, rock is a ‘malleable musical form’.
Three decades on, many artists that Prog promotes operate in the grey areas of progressive, art and experimental Rock once championed by the likes of Vance and Peel.
Rock has inevitably evolved since the 1980s, but the charts chronicling it seem to have become narrower in their definition of the ‘remarkable form’.
No-Man’s new album Love And Endings - an online exclusive available from the band’s store - would have entered the Official Rock & Metal albums chart at Number 18 last week.
On querying the album’s absence from the chart, we were told the band had been classed as AOR and that the chart was for hard rock and metal artists only. Categories No-Man don’t fit, of course.
The wider issue is that progressive, art and experimental rock is mostly excluded from the specialist charts.
The Alternative charts comprise releases from independent labels, irrespective of genre. Consequently, Adele (who has six of the top 22 ‘alternative’ singles) features, while Sigur Ros and Everything Everything don’t because they’re on major labels.
The Rock & Metal charts do indeed contain a fair few hard rock/metal acts, but there are inconsistencies. Nirvana, Blink 182, Muse and Killing Joke, for example, are widely defined as Alt Rock yet feature, while Queen, with three singles in the charts, and Touchstone are closer to AOR than metal. The positive here is that it suggests a potential openness, which I think should be more open still.
Prog Magazine features bands old and new – VdGG, King Crimson, Marillion, Airbag etc – who aren’t mainstream, are rock, but aren’t eligible for the rock charts. Despite decent sales, bar the occasional mainstream chart position (Porcupine Tree, Ian Anderson etc), progressive and art rock artists generally fail to make any OCC chart and this seems a pity.
My feeling is that unless it’s specifically labelled as being Hard Rock & Metal, the Rock & Metal charts should embrace artists from other Rock sub-genres and, as the Friday Rock Show once did, celebrate the creative diversity the form is capable of.
Tim Bowness (No-Man)
Find Love And Endings at www.burningshed.com