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‘Outside Looking In’: Saga’s Progressive Protest

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

Abstract

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.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

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

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