Progressive Rock’s Novel: The Deep Pastoral Englishness of Big Big Train

By a curve of the river/at the end of the road/black waters rise again.–final lines of THE SECOND BRIGHTEST STAR

Tasteful.  Elegant.  These two words enter into my mind and soul, over and over again, at the beginning of every song on the new “companion” album by Big Big Train, THE SECOND BRIGHTEST STAR.  And, not just at the beginning, but in the middle of each, and at the end of each.

Tasteful.  Elegant.

Artwork by the extraordinary Sarah Ewing.

As I look back over the history of Big Big Train (despite the rather mechanical image of the band’s title), the band seems to have a radically organic life to it.  It’s not changed as much as it’s become.

It began as an oak sapling that struggled in intense competition for light and nourishment.  After a burst of growth, it faltered a bit, and its Entherds, Gregory Aurelius Spawton and Andrew Epictetus Poole, decided to prune it considerably.  In doing so, they allowed it to grow in ways known only to the creator of nature herself.  As with all great things in this world, the band was not invented.  It was discovered.

Tasteful.  Elegant.

Spawton and Poole discovered the necessary talents of D’Virgilio, Gregory, and Longdon, then Manners, and then Hall and Sjöblom, realizing they could not become until they became one.  These Endherds chose not to mix oaks, but rather to graft new chestnuts onto the oak.  Somewhere in the mind of nature, the band had always existed—this profound mix of oak and chestnut—but it’s only come into its own over the past eight years.

Or, maybe it’s not enough to employ such natural imagery.  What if the period of Big Big Train from The Underfall Yard to The Second Brightest Star is, in reality, a novel?  Certainly, it follows the classic structure of a novel: Exposition; Rising Action; Climax; Falling Action; Denouement.


  • The Underfall Yard
  • Far Skies Deep Time
  • Kingmaker

Rising Action

  • English Electric Full Power
  • Make Some Noise


  • Wassail
  • Stone and Steel
  • Folklore
  • A Stone’s Throw From the Line

Falling Action

  • Grimspound


  • The Second Brightest Star

And, as we’re dealing with Entherds, we have to add a Tolkienian bit, as well.


  • Brooklands Sequence
  • London Place Sequence
  • Gentlemen’s Reprise

Tasteful.  Elegant.

In this grand, penetrating, and broad 8-year novel, we’ve met kings, saints, drunks, widows, scientists, poets, priests, entrepreneurs, archivists, labourers, mudlarks, brewers, crows, bee keepers, explorers, inventors, uncles, racers, monks, lovers, curators, and dogs.

The story has covered history, archeology, and myth.  But, perhaps most stunningly, just as the Entherds shepherded the band into existence, they also asked us to come along for the journey.

“Passengers” we call ourselves.

How blessed are we?

Beyond count and beyond measure.  Beyond the second brightest star.  After all, we stand with Venus.

Thank you, Greg.  Thank you, Andy.  Thank you, David.  Thank you, Dave.  Thank you, Nick.  Thank you, Danny.  Thank you, Rikard.  Thank you, Rachel.  Thank you, Rob.  Thank you, Jim.  Thank you, Sarah.

Tasteful.  Elegant.

Ahhh, ahhh, whoa, whoa, ahhh, ahhh, whoa, whoa, um. . . .–opening lines to THE UNDERFALL YARD

Artwork by the extraordinary Jim Trainer.

4 thoughts on “Progressive Rock’s Novel: The Deep Pastoral Englishness of Big Big Train

  1. Pingback: Progressive Rock’s Novel: The Deep Pastoral Englishness of Big Big Train — Progarchy | David Falor

  2. Mike Bowler

    Have put it anywhere near as good myself! There are people out there still wondering what all the fuss is about. Their loss 😉



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