Lane’s Bands in a Line from Progressive Rock

LANE: [on phone] I mean, I contend that you can draw a straight line from Yes to Jethro Tull to The Jam to Nirvana, bing bang boom . . . Who are the Jam? [to Rory and Lorelai] That’s disturbing.

Yes: English progressive rock band formed in 1968 by lead singer and frontman Jon Anderson, bassist Chris Squire, guitarist Peter Banks, keyboardist Tony Kaye and drummer Bill Bruford. It has had numerous lineup changes since then. Yes have explored several musical styles over the years and are regarded as progressive rock pioneers. They had a move towards more commercial, pop-oriented rock, and had their highest-selling album in 1983, 90125, with its #1 single, “Owner of a Lonely Heart”. Yes are one of the most successful, influential, and longest-lasting progressive rock bands, selling tens of millions of records, winning a Grammy, and being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017.

Jethro Tull: British rock band formed in 1967, and forging a signature progressive rock sound. The group’s bandleader, founder, primary composer and only constant member is Ian Anderson (no relation to Jon Anderson), a multi-instrumentalist who mainly plays flute and acoustic guitar, and is also the lead vocalist. Their first commercial success was Stand Up (1969), which went to #1 in the UK, while Thick as a Brick (1972) is regarded as a classic. They have sold 60 million albums, won a Grammy, and are one of the most commercially successful and eccentric progressive rock bands of all time.

The Jam [pictured]: English mod revival and punk rock band which formed in 1972, led by Paul Weller on bass and lead vocals, and broke up in 1982. While The Jam shared the angry social protest and fast tempo of punk, they wore tailored suits and were influenced by 1960s bands such as The Who and The Kinks, as well as Motown, and were at the forefront of the Mod Revival movement in the UK. They released six studio albums, and had eighteen consecutive Top 40 singles in the UK, of which “Going Underground”, “Start!”, Town Like Malice”, and “Beat Surrender” all went to #1. The guy on the phone hasn’t heard of The Jam, because they broke up twenty years earlier, and were not well known in the US – their biggest hit there was “Town Like Malice”, which got to #31.

Nirvana: Rock band founded in 1987 in Aberdeen, Washington, by lead singer and guitarist Kurt Cobain, previously discussed, and bassist Krist Novoselic; Dave Grohl, previously mentioned, was recruited as drummer in 1990. They established themselves as part of the Seattle grunge scene and found unexpected mainstream success with “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, the first single from their landmark second album Nevermind (1991). Nirvana’s success popularised alternative rock, and they were often referenced as the figurehead band of Generation X. Their music maintains a popular following and continues to influence modern rock culture. Nirvana is one of the best-selling bands in the world, had five #1 hits, received a Grammy Award, and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014.

You can’t actually draw a straight line from Yes to Jethro Tull to The Jam to Nirvana (the difficulty of drawing one from Yes to Jethro Tull seems quite enough, when Jethro Tull came first!). However, they’d all fit into some sort of Venn diagram with psychedelic rock, so Lane’s bold assertion is incorrect, but not completely crazy.

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