fraroc, on 06 March 2018 - 11:25 PM, said:
One of the things I'm still wondering is that in the 80s, there was more than one popular genre of rock music. There was arena rock, the beginnings of power metal, thrash metal....if the goal at the end was relevance, there was clearly more than one path.....but in the end, they all chose to emulate the Flock Of Seagulls, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Kraftwerk and Gary Numan like sound.
I mean, Asia did arena rock pretty much, and pretty well for a little bit. Not to mention the original woodwind player for KC ended up playing in Foreigner, Journey, which had started as a prog band, hired Steve Perry and became Journey. Styx had been prog and tried to carry in into the 80s a bit with arena rocking concept albums that had a couple new wave touches for the times. Heck, I'm pretty sure though Boston was never a prog band that Tom Sholz took a lot of inspiration from bands like Yes for their majestic sounds and atmospherics in order to create AOR (which informs a lot of the arena rock you speak of). So there were definitely a decent amount of prog musicians who chose to pursue arena rock. Let's not forget Queen was once a pretty proggy group, not to mention Pink Floyd turned prog rock into arena rock with The Wall, Supertramp's turn-of-the-decade endeavors owed more to the Beatles and AOR than new wave, and I'm pretty sure 90125 is closer to Journey than Talking Heads. Owner Of A Lonely Heart? That riff was tailor-made for stadiums. Also, prog bands were very unlikely to start playing a genre seemingly more concerned with power and heaviness and speed than musicality or complexity (or catchiness, beneath even the likes of Gentle Giant and Van Der Graaf Generator lie bands with a real penchant for ear worm melodies). i.e. There was no way that Asia's debut was going to be a NWOBHM record, or that 90125 was going to be a thrash record. Those genres weren't ever in line with the musicians' styles and tastes
I think all in all though, the end goal wasn't "relevance" as you say. Certainly that was a large enough consideration when it came to albums like Asia's debut, 90125, Big Generator, Genesis s/t and Invisible Touch, but also I think most of the old prog bands and dispersed musicians were really just concerned with making music that they liked to hear and enjoyed playing. This also explains why KC didn't return as a heavy metal band. Fripp wasn't interested in Maiden or Priest or Motorhead. He was interested in Talking Heads, David Bowie, that sort of stuff. New wave, when it came out, was probably seen as a lot more musically experimental and challenging than heavy metal. Being prog musicians, if they were going to try new styles, they were going to naturally be drawn to the most musically challenging and experimental stuff. In their minds, they probably saw the new wave as a kind of close relative of prog, certainly closer than Van Halen and Def Leppard. The only band with decent prog cred that really might've done something more in line with the NWOBHM or any of the metal underground was Rush, as they'd been one of the heaviest bands of the 70s and had touched on metal once or twice. But we all know they just weren't as interested in that kind of sound as they were in new wave. They were always more progressively minded than metal minded, and that showed when the opportunity came to choose the jazzier rhythms and musical complexities of new wave or the more powerful riffs and searing solos of metal.