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Big Six of Progressive Rock

The Big Six of Progressive Rock is a neologism that might possibly be used by some fans and a few music critics to describe one or another selection of six prominent and influential progressive rock bands. In fact, only two websites appear to use the term: ghostland.com and progressiveworld.net. There's no evidence to suggest that the phrase has achieved any more widespread use than this.

Those bands not only achieved some commercial and great artistic success but also proved that rock music could carry artistic worth beyond its entertainment value. All of the Big Six bands gained "cult band" status.

According to an anonymous Wikipedia user, the "Big Six" consist of:

This anonymous wikipedian differs in his listing from the only two websites besides wikipedia that use the term! Ghostland.com feels that Pallas[?] is one of the big six (but doesn't say who the other five might be). Meanwhile, progressiveworld.com lists Gentle Giant rather than Jethro Tull.

Finally, a search of google groups, which searches 700 million usenet messages, reveals that Joe Benson[?]'s Book on Progressive Rock lists The Moody Blues rather than King Crimson. The search also reveals three other mentions of the phrase. In one of them, on the newsgroup (rec.music.progressive), "Gordon (mailto:brigittesbud@shaw.ca)" clarifies the situation for us, as he saw it in December 2002:

The Big Six of British progressive rock are ELP, Genesis, Jethro Tull, King Crimson, Pink Floyd and Yes. This rating has nothing to do with the quality of their music. Certainly Camel, Gentle Giant, Renaissance and VDGG, for example, are just as good. The Big Six title is for those bands that've had the most commercial success, the most influence and for shear [sic] longevity.

Assuming wildly that Gordon is a different person from our anonymous Wikipedia user, then we have confirmation that this phrase is used to mean the same six groups by at least two progressive rock fans. With such an upswell of support for the phrase, it surely cannot fail to be in common usage well before the heat death of the universe[?].

In summary, "Big Six of Progressive Rock" is a term that's very rarely used, and where it is used, means different things. It is part of a widespread trend to take a number of supposedly the best/biggest of some particular group and attach "the big X" to them. Generally, as in this case, there is little or no agreement on who is included in these terms. One person's "big six of psychiatry" will be radically different from another's. There are a few notable exceptions, such as the G7 economic summit of the "big seven" economic nations.

The Big Five of Progressive Rock

Other websites feel that there is not a big six, but in fact a big five. For example, the Progressive Rock Bibliography lists ELP, Genesis, Gentle Giant, King Crimson, and Yes - differing from our anonymous Wikipedians list by not including Jethro Tull. The Nocturne Reviews of Ozone Quartet mentions King Crimson as one of the big five, but sadly fails to name the other four.

Two references to the big five might seem like minimal confirmation, but it's just as many as we've got for the existence of a big six.

See also list of progressive rock musicians.

External links and references

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