‘Outside Looking In’: Saga’s Progressive Protest

  • Dave Taylor
Part of the Pop Music, Culture and Identity book series (PMCI)


Contributing to this collection’s theme of unfashionable bands following the footsteps of Rush, this chapter focuses on Saga. They carry on the tradition of British rock dinosaurs like Genesis and Yes, but in the late 1970s which saw Saga’s beginnings, the UK music scene was a post-punk world that partly defined itself through vilifying progressive rock. At the same time in the US, radio play was guitar-centred. Saga were both unwilling and unable to transform themselves into a guitar group and stuck to their multi-keyboard sound. Their songs are populated by ‘a dramatis personae of vulnerable, sympathetic antiheroes’ who display anxiety and insecurity in social interaction and alienation amid capitalism’s demands of mindless work. Such modern malaise is also seen in their apocalyptic album covers which depict not an alien world but our familiar one turned cold and alienating, including one which depicts the aerial destruction of the New York skyline by spaceships. Saga’s multifaceted statements of individual and cultural alienation reach a pinnacle on the 1995 concept album Generation 13, a portrait of America’s Generation X. The cover features a sinister Statue of Liberty and the album’s hero as a marionette, recalling their drummer Ed Pilling’s remark about the difficulty of American success: ‘they pull all the strings’. Taylor concludes that the paradox of the band’s ongoing, respected, yet limited career, which sees their fame faded in Canada while they are welcomed with maple leaf flags in Europe, reflects the ‘stresses of national and private identity’ explored in their work.

Works Cited

  1. Ammerlaan, Edwin. Saga: The Biography. Amsterdam: EA Media, 2008.Google Scholar
  2. Deep Purple. Concerto for Group and Orchestra. Warner Bros, 1969.Google Scholar
  3. Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Welcome Back My Friends to the Show That Never Ends…Ladies and Gentlemen. Manticore, 1974.Google Scholar
  4. Genesis. Nursery Cryme. Charisma, 1971.Google Scholar
  5. Genesis. Selling England by the Pound. Charisma, 1973.Google Scholar
  6. Human League. The. Dare. Virgin, 1981.Google Scholar
  7. King Crimson. In the Court of the Crimson King. Island, 1969.Google Scholar
  8. King Crimson. In the Wake of Poseidon. Island, 1970.Google Scholar
  9. Pink Floyd. The Wall. Harvest, 1979.Google Scholar
  10. Reed, Lou. New York. Sire, 1989.Google Scholar
  11. Renaissance. Novella. Sire, 1977.Google Scholar
  12. Renaissance. A Song for All Seasons. Sire, 1978.Google Scholar
  13. Rush. A Farewell to Kings. Mercury, 1977.Google Scholar
  14. Rush. Hemispheres. Mercury, 1978.Google Scholar
  15. Saga. Saga. Polydor, 1978.Google Scholar
  16. Saga. Images at Twilight. Polydor, 1979.Google Scholar
  17. Saga. Silent Knight. Polydor, 1980.Google Scholar
  18. Saga. Worlds Apart. Portrait, 1981.Google Scholar
  19. Saga. Heads or Tales. Portrait, 1983.Google Scholar
  20. Saga. The Chapters Live. Inside Out Music, 2005.Google Scholar
  21. The Who. My Generation. Brunswick, 1965.Google Scholar
  22. The Who. Quadrophenia. Track, 1973.Google Scholar
  23. Yes. Time and a Word. Atlantic, 1970.Google Scholar
  24. Yes. Close to the Edge. Atlantic, 1972.Google Scholar
  25. Young, Neil. Trans. Geffen, 1982.Google Scholar
  26. Young, Neil. Everybody’s Rockin’. Geffen, 1983.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dave Taylor
    • 1
  1. 1.English Language and LiteratureUniversity of TokyoTokyoJapan

Personalised recommendations