04_cqCJm36mcjvo3TFXQnJnQVLHHho9A1DJ_HNND_ucAfter the Cruise to the Edge, aka the “Prog Cruise,” according to Yes drummer Alan White, sails around Cuba (Alan White of ‘Yes’ talks ‘Cruise to the Edge’ and early Yes; my profile in “New Times”), another of the nine bands sailing with Yes will perform in Miami: U.K. I spoke to that band’s leader, Eddie Jobson, and that interview is slated to be published by the “Miami New Times.” next week.

Jobson, who worked with Curved Air, Roxy Music, Frank Zappa and King Crimson before he took part in forming U.K. spoke with me over the phone during rehearsals in Los Angeles with his other band, UKZ. You can read the attempt to scrunch up his history in progressive rock, including the birth of U.K., which was to include (gasp) master guitarist and inventor Robert Fripp, by jumping through the logo of the paper’s music blog “Crossfade,” below (you’ll also find lots of cool retro images and videos):

Crossfade logo

Jobson recently took the initiative to reform U.K. for a few rare performances with veteran members John Wetton on bass and vocals and Terry Bozzio on drums. Guitarist Alex Machacek, from UKZ, stands in for Allan Holdsworth. They will only play a few scattered dates, including performances at music festivals in Panama and Mexico, besides the cruise. After touring to Jamaica on Yes’ “Cruise to the Edge,” U.K. will host its only U.S. show at Miami’s intimate Grand Central. “This is not only the first gig in Miami of this lineup, it’ll probably be the last,” says Jobson. “This is a one-off tour that we started last year with Bozzio, and this one gig is the only North American show we’re doing now.”

Despite the show being U.K.’s only show in the U.S., Jobson is not wholly surprised the show has yet to sell out and has no pretensions about the state of prog rock in the current popular music scene. Wetton Jobson Bozzio of UK“It’s really a nostalgia movement now,” he says. “I think there are two levels of prog rock now. There are the guys like us, who are sort of the originators of the genre, and I think our time is sort of on its last legs, to be honest,” he notes with a laugh before continuing, “The other side of progressive rock is a new wave of younger bands, especially out of England, you know, Porcupine Tree, Steven Wilson and musicians like that who are kind of tapping into a young, fairly vibrant retro wave … We can’t really tap into that either because they’re younger and retro hip.”

Prog arrived on the music scene in the late ‘60s offering an alternative to pop music, blues, folk and psychedelic hippie rock. But also meddled all those genres and brought in classical music training, elements of jazz and unorthodox song constructs with heavy and obscure lyrical themes that also seemed to demonstrate a literary knack. It was sometimes deridingly called “art rock” (I’ll take it, tough!). It was surprising to think such complex music once led to sold out stadiums. But as the masses’ attention span so easily grows short, popular music has little room for intellectual music, especially now. Jobson touches on one of the distractions: “It strikes me that the focus has really shifted from people appreciating players and people appreciating music to kids just fantasizing about being stars, this whole ‘American Idol,’ ‘Guitar Hero’ game sort of idea.”

One of the ways Jobson currently makes a living, as do many other prog musicians, is by giving lessons. He says these clinics have helped give him a lot of perspective. As a 58-year-old musician with many years of experience in the music industry (he was a regular child prodigy who joined Curved Air at age 16), Jobson has had a lot of time to consider the mind of a popular music consumer. Jobson Wetton Bozzio of UK live“A lot of our guitar clinics or drum clinics, more people will show up to that than will show up to the concert, even if the concert’s the same day or the next day,” he notes. “People are more interested in trying to learn the tricks of how to become a rock star then to actually get into the music and have the music actually mean something to them because most of the music they’ve been brought up with has been sold to them from the music industry is just so superficial. They never develop that rich context, that richer development of appreciation for more complex rhythms, more complex harmonic structures or anything like that. Everything’s been superficialized, and that’s all they know. That’s why progressive rock can’t really sustain with that audience. That’s why classical music can’t sustain with that audience. It requires too much attention, in a way, too much analysis … That connection only happens if you’ve been sort of brought up with it and you develop that connection between complex harmony and emotional responses. I think it has to be developed in early years, and none of our kids are having it developed unless they’ve been brought up with classical music; very few are these days.”

Let’s hope refined tastes and demands for something more complex never dies out (I must say I found that in bands like Grizzly Bear and Of Montreal, among others). As the Internet grows more niche-oriented and separate, I would hope there are younger people with tastes beyond hipsterdom and superficiality who will seek out blogs such as this. There will always, therefore be some room for more complex music— and film— somewhere in culture, if not at the top of the charts. Anyone reading that agrees, let your voice be heard below.

Hans Morgenstern

U.K. performs at Grand Central, 697 North Miami Ave Miami, FL 33136, Saturday, March 30. Doors open at 7 p.m. The show is all ages. For tickets, jump through this link.

(Copyright 2013 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

Alan White drums. Image courtesy of Yes official siteWhile giant music festivals continue to bring in huge crowds to cities like Chicago (Lollapalooza) and even right here in my hometown of Miami (Ultra), more niche acts with dwindling followers who are growing more affluent are taking to the high seas (see my Weezer Cruise coverage). One of the more recent groups of musicians trying out the cruise music festival circuit are a batch of progressive rock bands who both started the genre and followed in their footsteps. The Cruise to the Edge tour sails from Fort Lauderdale, Florida next week, headlined by Yes, the band who produced one of the great early ‘70s prog albums: Close to the Edge.

While my more youthful colleagues at “New Times” covered the hanging asses and same-old beats at Ultra, I had an opportunity to speak to two prog legends who will be on this cruise: Yes drummer Alan White and U.K. bandleader Eddie Jobson. Both have landlocked shows, which I wrote about in the two “New Times” publications that cover South Florida.

The first musician I spoke with was White. My article was limited to the “County Grind” blog at the “Broward-Palm Beach New Times.” You can read it by jumping through the logo for the blog below:

county_grind logo

We covered a lot of territory on the phone. Including his memory of stepping into Bill Bruford’s shoes, when he left Yes for King Crimson in 1972. He remembers having to learn the early albums quickly. Close to the Edge was the last album Bruford recorded with the band. White came to Yes at just 23 years of age with some high-profile studio experiences with John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band and George Harrison. “I had three days to learn the repertoire including the new album they had just recorded,” White told me via phone, from a tour stop in Aspen, Colorado, “so I had to learn a lot of stuff in a few days.”

Up to that point, this was some of the most complex music White had to learn, as Bruford had made a name for himself in prog as one of the genre’s most complex rhythm men.Alan White by AlanCircus-Sept76 “Bill’s obviously a different drummer than me in certain ways, in certain ways not,” White noted. “I can do the technical stuff, but I can also do the rock ‘n’ roll background. I had my own band that was a rock/jazz type of thing for a long time before I joined Yes, so I was kinda prepared for all the time signatures, and that kind of stuff, which I got into and picked up on, and changed them a bit, to a degree, but kept most of the parts that made the music what it is.”

To read more of my conversation with White, jump through the link above. I plan to attend Yes’ live show and review it for the “New Times.” White said the band plans to play three of Yes’ more important albums from the ‘70s live: the Yes Album (1972), the-yes-albumClose to the Edge (1973) and Going for the One (1977). The show will take place at the same venue where I caught the Genesis tribute band the Musical Box, as it re-created that band’s acclaimed 1974 prog masterpiece the Lamb Lies Down on Broadway live (Genesis tribute band The Musical Box’ take on ‘The Lamb,’ and this writer returns to “New Times”). I shall up-date this post with a link to that review when it is published, so, Yes fans, take note and bookmark.

Meanwhile, my interview with Jobson in “Miami New Times” music blog “Crossfade” will also appear shortly, I’ll link here when that post appears. We spoke more in depth about the formation of U.K. and what he considers the last of the ‘70s prog rock groups and the place of prog in the ever-shifting landscape of popular music. He was quite insightful.

Update: Jump to the Jobson interview here (it has a link within it to more of our conversation and lots of vintage images and videos):

Eddie Jobson of U.K. on popular music: “Everything’s been superficialized;” my interview in “New Times” and more

Update 2: Jump through the image below of the band performing at the Hard Rock Live on Sunday night for the live review:

Yes

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2013 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)