“Leave it!” we say to Bernie, our new pit-mix puppy, as he stands before us with a slipper, a bath mat, a blanket, a toilet plunger in his mouth. “Drop.” We search for his bones, his already mangled chew toys to make a trade. None of them seem more appealing than the item he’s already got.
But the second we give up, the second he realizes we aren’t going to play his game, he drops the shoe/blanket/mat and we grab it and move it out of harm’s way. He’s a good boy, our Bernie. He’s supposed to want to chomp on everything in sight. That’s what puppies do. And as far as that goes, he’s rather mild about it. He hasn’t destroyed anything that isn’t a toy; his preferred activity isn’t tug-of-war. It’s napping.
When either my wife or I wakes up in the morning, heads to the kitchen to start coffee -clearly making noise, the house adding in more light – Bernie remains on his dog bed on the floor in the bedroom, snoring away. It isn’t until the other parent gets out of bed, raises a blind, lets in some sun, that Bernie begins to stir. A steady thumping of long, heavy tail against the hardwood floor signals he’s awake and happy. “Morning, Bernie.” I say, and lean down and rub his belly, already aimed upward and on display for the world. He’ll come out to the kitchen after a few seconds of being left alone, his eyes red and bleary, slowly adjusting to the new day and plop down on the floor. We coax him to the front door with a treat, say “wanna go for a walk?”, put his harness over his head. He immediately lies down. Ugh – that again? Eventually the pull of more treats or the push on his bladder motivates him to follow us out the door. He wants to smell everything, wants to watch every person that’s getting in their car, heading to work, wants to observe and participate. Wants to hang out, maybe have a cup of tea. As soon as we near home again, he speeds up, starts to run, can’t wait to get in the house. The torture is almost over.
He’s mostly figured out his name (it took us almost a week to decide on one – we put out a Facebook post/contest, but with the flexibility – Bernard, Bern – and the political times, Bernie was the clear choice), he sits on command (most of the time), he loves to snuggle for hours and is without a doubt the best looking dog in the world. He’s got a tan-brown body and a white belly and a white face with a tan circle around his right eye that extends over his head. One of his eyes is brown and the other is an otherworldly light blue.
What he’s mixed with is unclear. Maybe some sort of hound? Maybe, though after almost of month of being his permanent parents I’m less convinced of this, Great Dane. Probably something else entirely. He’s already, at 7 months, taller than most pit terriers and his enormous paws imply a fair amount of growth to come, so something big to be sure. Either way, our 900 square foot home, already a mine field of chewed up rubber and rope bits and plastic squeakers and fuzzy white toy innards, is about to appear a whole lot smaller.
Many people are unaware that I am a not-so-closeted prog-head. Prog-nog? Prog-rock aficionado? But if you look closely at my 600 plus record collection, you’ll find an extensive library of classic progressive bands such as Rush, ELP, King Crimson, early Genesis, Yes, Marillion….as well as more obscure bands like Captain Beyond, Gentle Giant, and Porcupine Tree. I do in fact, keep up with newer progressive bands, like Torche and Pineapple Thief, which I’ll get into more deeply in a later post, but one of my favorite albums of 2016 happens to be 4 1/2, from the lead singer/guitarist of Porcupine Tree, Steven Wilson.
Prog Rock usually gets lumped into the bombastic, capes and gowns, banks of keyboards, orchestral universe of the 70s, which is partially accurate, but ignores how much the genre has evolved since then. Many in the proggosphere (I wonder if I coined a new term) believe that the death of Prog Rock was due less to the rise of Punk and New Wave and more to the forefathers abandoning the sound for greater riches.
Perhaps part of this perceived death was the fact that in the early to mid 80s, many of the world’s prog-rock icons found commercial success by “going pop.” Bands like Asia and Yes and Genesis had number one singles and ruled the charts for a short time. Asia was really a prog-supergroup, with members of King Crimson, ELP, Yes and Buggles comprising the band. Though this time the focus was on hooks and melodies. not bowl-you-over musicianship. Some fans were outraged; how could their heroes be on heavy rotation on MTV? For me, I was thrilled. I’d moved on from my hard-rock specific younger self and was becoming a big fan of new wave and electronic dance music. And just the fact that mulletted 45 year old men were sharing the same airwaves as slick 20 year old pop stars made me giddy. This could never happen today.
With Yes, their sudden commercial popularity with the release of 90125 in 1983 was a bigger surprise. They’d had a bit of radio play, mostly with their 1972 hit, “Roundabout,” but that song was 9 minutes and radio back then was more open to longer tunes. Nothing in the rest of their 70s catalog suggested that they had a song like “Owner of a Lonely Heart” in them. But after Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman left and the band added Trevor Rabin on guitar and Trevor Horn to produce, a slicker, more pop-oriented approach took hold. People who hated – and I mean hated – progressive rock of the 70s were now buying Yes’ new album in droves. I liked “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” but not nearly as much as the vocally layered “Leave It,” the 2nd single from the album. To this day, I think it has aged the best of all the songs on 90125 (I keep wanting to type 90210).
I listened to the entirety of the 90125 album this week for the first time in probably 25 years. Partly because “Leave It” was my earworm this week, but also because I wanted to honor Yes’ bassist Chris Squire, who passed away last year. I have reconnected to my inner ProgHead in recent times, but I hadn’t played much Yes, and hearing Squire’s masterful and unique bass playing again, has reminded me of just how much progress he and Yes had made in their 45 year musical career.