Continuity in Bands and Religions

Continuity in Bands and Religions March 31, 2019

As I’ve thought about what to cover in a book on theology and progressive rock that I’ve begun working on (and for which I’m delighted to say a contract has been issued – more on that soon), one topic that has come to mind is that of continuity. This isn’t unique to prog, to be sure, but it certainly provides numerous illustrations. Is Pink Floyd really only Pink Floyd while Syd Barrett is with them, or only after he leaves, or equally both? What about Roger Waters? Who can leave or join Genesis and it still be Genesis? That last one really gets fans riled up, although no one could seriously claim that tracks like “Lurker” and several others from the album Abacab, or “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight” and various others from the album Invisible Touch, are simply standard pop or rock fare. Nor can it be claimed that Genesis ever completely eschewed short songs that anyone can enjoy listening to, or that any of its members, on their solo albums, never made a standard pop rock song. Prog rock in particular, more than other genres, has its purists, which is ironic given that it is a genre defined in its essence by transgressing boundaries and eclecticism. And so it makes sense to ask similar questions about the Twelve Apostles, or about Christianity itself, and to do so in comparison and conversation with the related questions about music.

The New York Times had an article on this very topic recently, which was the direct prompt to write a blog post about this topic that I had already been thinking about. Here is an excerpt:

Rock music constantly asks the question, “What’s real and make believe?” Strict constructionists like Koppelman, Edwards and I may scoff at some incomplete band reunions, but for less skeptical fans, including apparently many people who adore Foreigner, there’s a simpler, ontological litmus test. If you have as grand an emotional experience seeing Journey without Steve Perry as you would with him, how is your experience not real? Because if Journey won’t perform with Perry, your choice isn’t Fake Journey or Real Journey, it’s Semi-Journey or No Journey at All.

If someone insists that Journey cannot not be Journey without Steve Perry, they must also be prepared to answer how it could be Journey before Steve Perry, and how it can be Journey without Gregg Rolie.

Of related interest, here is a Last Supper recreation that connects with the theme of this post…

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

TRENDING AT PATHEOS Progressive Christian
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • John MacDonald

    One issue I find interesting is when you find out a band’s intended meaning for a song and it’s different from the meaning you associated with it and were enjoying it for. Do people still enjoy that song to the same extent with the new meaning? One song that comes to mind that was immensely popular was Tubthumping by Chumbawamba, which seems to just be about going out with your friends and drinking, but which the band eventually revealed was really about the treatment of the LGBTQ by society:

  • Paul Watson

    Had this very conversation this morning over Yes. I’m of the school that a band is the sum total over the individual (usually the lead vocalist). Yes has been going for 50 years now and counting and has seen many lineup changes over that period. Jon Anderson was one of the co-founders but didn’t play all the instruments or write all of the songs by himself. In fact if you listen to “and You And I” from “Close To The Edge” he only sings for about 35% of the track. The rest is instrumentals. AC/DC recovered after Bon Scott passed away. Brian Johnson didn’t do too bad a job. Phil Collins didn’t hurt Genesis singing after Peter Gabriel left. Jon is very important to the history of Yes, but so are the others. “Drama” (1980) couldn’t have been made the same way if Jon and Rick were in the band. New dynamics saw a new energy. One that Chris saw straight away when he bought in the Buggles to make this wonderful album. Jon and Chris were leaning more towards a New Age type album. Phew….! did we as fans dodge a bullet. As someone once said, and I paraphrase – “Yes is another country in which many people have visited and returned home.” Yes still lives because of all these changes.

  • mahershallelhashbaz

    What about that Roger Waters, who was want to blur the line that distinguishes between his contribution to the band and the collective works of the Pink Floyd legacy? He lost the exclusive rights to the brand-name and the other members continued to produce their trademark sound, without having to churn out depressing songs about Waters’ dead father.