Trying to define "Progressive" - a dialogue

As a young feller, how I received (my love for or revulsion with) certain music was often pre-chewed by how others defined it for me as a means of either drawing me into a thing they enjoyed, or steering me away from a thing they recoiled at.
Back then, we didn't call it 'progressive' music.We called things we liked 'good' and things that we felt deserved it 'shitty'.---
Most of the Captain Beefheart canon is not shitty, and while I've put the cans on a slew of so-called 'progressive' music, I can't think of a single CB/MB tune or even outtake that qualifies for the "Prog" banner/albatross.
Yes, the happening stuff with the bitchin' Magic Band groupings was very complex, had "weird meters, weird lyrics, odd album covers" and so forth, but hell, can it be grouped with Kansas, Yes, Genesis, Henry Cow, Magma, Dr. Nerve, The Muffins, or King Crimson (all of whom I've seen referred to as 'progressive')?
I don't believe a name or genre has been coined to contain it yet; the only thing I've read or heard has been "Beefheart-y" or "Beefheart-influenced"
But a lot of that long list of under-known I tossed at the FP last week sort of 'fits together' as a type.
I decline, however, to cease research into this type at 1967.
Rhythmically, Krupa predated Drumbo with the tomtom-heavy konk-feel by decades, and African and Eastern percussionists have been juggling weird meters for a lot longer than Beefheart recordings and concerts were available to influence others.
The guitar sounds/tone/attack/riffs/techniques that all those splendid MB axemen perfected with DVV had Blues and other precedents that none of them have been reluctant to admit deeply enjoying and even actively aspiring toward - to their credit.
And of course, Don "was influenced by no one but a gander goose, and was stolen from by everyone," but the really amazing thing he did do (my opinion only) was to naively fuse all sorts of disparate American folk forms together into a sort of fractal-cubist glimpse, simultaneously, at all of them; with no small thanks to serendipity, altruism - and the love, forgiveness, and perseverence of his MB 'minions'.
He clearly listened to scads of things as a kid, as evidenced by testimonials from many many who grew up, played with, or knew him before "TMR" made his hat start feeling a wee bit tight.
Both the disagreement and the concurrences people have when looking at a single thing ['Progressive Rock' vs. 'prog-rock'] come from the English-speaking (we coined the genre) world's collectively confusing, but defensibly *literal*, conflicting ideas of what the word 'progressive' means.
Does it mean *musically* progressive (away from a popular or stale type, or perhaps some sort of intellectual solution or approach to an extant form) to you?
    yes, triumvirat, ZNR, mahavishnu orchestra
Does it mean *socially* progressive (politically resonant) to you?
    stormy six, henry cow, pere ubu, bob dylan
Does it mean *technologically* progressive (using cutting edge gear...some of these trace/rave/techno acts that are popular are deemed progressive) to you?
    residents, the orb, rev.99, dr. nerve
Does 'progressive' mean "more lyrical content" or "not superficial or vapid"?
    tim buckley, beefheart, van dyke parks, robert wyatt, jack bruce
How about Can, Terry Riley, or even Eno - are they progressive...or minimalistic?
Are these mutually exclusive genres?
Would some people think so, given how we've each been 'loaded' to hear?
By "defensibly literal", I mean that depending on where you got your language from - family, public/private school, TV, print/E-media... - and more importantly, with whom you may have used the language since, you've been cementing an elastic thing into semantic rigidity.
Let's say one's roots were in a Black Sabbath or Motorhead place in the1970's.
It's easy for me to imagine a smooth transfer over to liking, or at least giving "Court of the Crimson King" or "Red" an open ear on first listen.
Genre cover art has always communicated similitude...hell, it was a major deciding factor in half of my 60's/early 70's vinyl purchases!
(I tried Caravan for the Dean cover, tried Godley/Creme for the Hipgnosis cover...)
And aren't we all, regardless of how 'old' we may individually have become by now, still pretty much musical tentacles, easily traceable right back to something about the first 25 records we really grooved on as 13 year olds?

This response was first published on 10/1/2001 at the FireParty Captain Beefheart discussion group  [ CONTACT: for information ].