“Going for the one!”
– Jon Anderson on album sales
Yes is an immensely significant and universally recognised progressive rock band that formed in London in 1968 after an unsuccessful career as a word in the English Dictionary. This relatively unknown incarnation of Yes failed because such a word is entirely unnecessary, and was seen by many as over-the-top and self indulgent.
Yes music relies heavily on the use of dynamic and harmonic variation, and often incorporates time signatures that are yet to be mathematically proved. The band are also known for their extended song lengths, incomprehensible lyrics and general showing off. Their unique style of blending symphonic/classical structures with their own brand of cacophonous musical tomfoolery has been described by many as over-the-top and self indulgent. Despite daily lineup changes, warfare within the group and the ever-changing trends in popular music, the band has continued on for over forty years and still retains a
- 1 Psychedelic era
- 2 Classic era
- 3 Ultra-progressive era
- 4 Yes is no more
- 5 Rabin pop rebirth
- 6 Rabinless Confusion
- 7 In the present of
- 8 See also
Since the release of The Beatles' Corporal Salt and the invention of progressive rock, being popular was seen as unfashionable. A new generation of musicians, under strict orders from Lucy in the Sky, began creating very aurally demanding music, which was for some reason described as progressive. Yes was no exception.
In 1968, Jon Anderson (vocalist, washboard player, whale-poacher, and part-time midget) met Chris Squire (tall guy, who had been expelled from school for having too much hair) in an underground London khatru, and the pair soon discovered they shared an interest in psychedelic noodling. A band was then formed, with the addition of Tony Kaye, a young pianist with a phobia of the Mellotron; Bill Bruford, a man with completely unsynchronised perceptions of rhythm, making jazz drumming the only realistic career choice; and a remarkably unimportant guitarist. At one point, Bruford left Yes to go to college and was replaced by Tony O'Reilly. When the O'Reilly Factor was not working for the band's sound, as O'Reilly's drinking problems hindered his drumming, they replaced him with Ian Wallace. Bruford, who had been told by professors that his coursework was abysmal and that he would have much better luck in Earthworks, returned to Yes and replaced Wallace.
The early days in the studio were tough times for Yes. After eight months spent trying to write music, Anderson realised he didn’t have a pen. As a result of this, a method of recording was developed called “sound chasing” where the five members (except for Bruford, who didn’t have a sound chasing warrant because he wasn’t a musician) would run around the studio chasing after the reverberations of whoever was recording next door and try to capture the sounds in a bucket. Of course this didn’t work; they were using the wrong kind of bucket. Jimmy Page on the other hand, had a particularly good bucket and was able to build an entire career out of other people’s songs.
In 1969, Yes released Yes. The imaginatively-titled debut was a huge success for the band, compared to previous albums. This album fails to capture what is now recognised as the classic Yes sound, but fans of the band (many of whom have hearing difficulties) insist that this early period is often overlooked amongst Yes’s later efforts, especially as the running time of the entire album is shorter than the average later Yes song. Kaye refused to play anything but his Hammond C3 organ during these early stages because of his alleged fear of other keyboard instruments (known formally as Claviphobia), however this is possibly an excuse for the production budgets the band were given at the time, which only allowed for one keyboard.
Time and a Word
Soon afterwards the orchestral Time and a Word was released in 1970, with a similar reception. "That guitarist" was present during these sessions, although the addition of an orchestra created tensions, as they were stealing all of his parts. Aggravated, the guitarist decided enough was enough, and began throwing khatrus at the other band members. Anderson eventually made the effort to learn the guitarist's name so he could fire him formally; Peter Banks was promptly kicked out of Yes, but this wasn't an issue when he was later approached by Genesis and became their keyboard player, though he was soon replaced by his younger brother Tony.
Howe joins the fray
Upon entering the '70s, Yes were confronted by Atlantic Records and told to come up with an album that a) didn’t cost the record company thousands of pounds in plagiarism repayments, and b) had some accessible material on it. If they didn’t, Atlantic would hire terrorists to assassinate each member of the band using their respective instrument. Having taken this on board, the band hired Steve Howe as their new guitarist, who had just retired from being The Messiah. Since Yes wanted people to forget about Banks, Howe agreed to appear on the U.S. cover of Time and a Word and in the promo videos for the album. This caused newcomer fans to believe that Howe was Yes's first (and, at that time, only) guitarist.
The world-famous Howe sacrificed his popularity to join Yes, and together the new line-up began to create some very accessible 10-to-25-minute songs. Howe couldn't decide if he wanted to play jazz, rock, or classical music, and he couldn't choose between lead and rhythm guitar, so he decided to play them all at once. His arrival led to a new Yes sound, whilst his ability to clap jeopardised Bruford's position as occasional drum hitter. Furthermore, his tendency on stage to lapse into 5-hour guitar solos gave the other members a welcome break. Jon in particular harnessed this free time by meditating backstage, and achieved enlightenment every night. After an entire tour of this however, he claimed to be so bored with it that he went away and wrote some lyrics warning Buddhists that it “just isn’t what it’s cracked up to be”; these musings would resurface in the song "Close to the Edge".
The Yes Album
Released in 1971, The Yes Album was regarded as the band's first step into the world of all things progressive (not only music, but also progressive stage shows, progressive album art, and progressive hair). It is known for chronicling Yes's first extended song, "Yours Has Been Replaced", which was dedicated to all the past (and future) Yes members who would be bullied out of the band. Eddy Offord (née Afford; he could no longer afford much), who had only engineered on Time and a Word, was promoted to producer when he produced new sounds for Yes to use. The album consisted of mostly studio tracks, but also featured a live piece, "Clap", performed by Steve Howe on his acoustic guitar at the Lyceum Theatre, London; Howe lost his shit when Jon Anderson mispronounced the solo's title as "The Clap" instead of "Clap" in its introduction.
Kaye loses the keys
Yes's tour with Iron Butterfly (during which they stole the band's equipment after it broke up) was followed by their first American tour, during which they shared the bill with Jethro Tull (a band led by Jon's flutist brother Ian Anderson). Tony Kaye didn't twig until halfway through a live performance of "Yours Has Been Replaced", where he realized that he was their next intended victim. Mid-song, he clambered out of his keyboard corner, tried and failed to insert Squire's bass into Squire, and ran out of the fire escape in search of a Mellotron-free life. He now resides in Siberia, unaware that the Khatrus are plotting his assassination as we speak.
After the departure of Kaye, Squire, who had gained a reputation as the one who was always late to rehearsal, called can-collecting Braham-influenced keyboard wizard Rick Wakeman late at night around 2:45 A.M. (a few hours before the keyboardist had to wake up at 6 A.M. for a jingle session), and asked if he wanted to join Yes. Wakeman, who had been searching for life on Mars with David Bowie and his Spiders, told Squire that he was sick of eating strawberries and agreed to join Yes, on the condition that he become a vegetarian. Wakeman then joined Yes and provided some unnecessarily fast keyboard runs and unnecessarily blonde hair. Unfortunately Wakeman suffered from “I Must Play as Many Different Keyboard Instruments as Is Physically Possible During This Song” disorder, the exact opposite of what Kaye had. This further defined the Yes sound, which was now more progressive than evolution itself.
In late 1971, Fragile was released (aka: the one with that song on it that some people have actually heard of, but not very many, and even they can’t remember what it’s called). This album would contain some of Yes’s most well known works, such as "Roundabout", which was the band’s second radio hit (the first had resulted in a broken radio, hence the album's title). The high amount of sales was due to the fact that people kept buying the LP again after it broke each time that they tried listening to it.
A shortage of prog material led to the decision that each band member should contribute a solo piece to Fragile. The prospect of five songs that would theoretically be only 1/5th as progressive as the other pieces on the album was promising for the record company, but it appeared that the band had gone from one extreme to another (Bruford’s "Five Per Cent for Nothing" has been known to provoke seizures amongst listeners, even those who actually LIKE progressive music).
Close to the Edge
After another tour and a month or five in the studio chasing sounds, Yes unveiled their masterpiece, 1972's Close to the Edge. This album famously took a long time to release because of creative differences within the band. Anderson had written some lyrics about Siddhartha’s struggle against enlightenment and his doubt that there would be mutant enemies (despite Yes members themselves being mutants and threats to society), but when he asked the other band members to contribute music, none of them were particularly interested. Howe was busy interviewing a goldfish for inspiration (see Tales from Topographic Oceans), whilst Squire, the only other creative force in the band, had gone on holiday to Siberia (where he inadvertently killed an entire population of khatrus by playing his bass well). Wakeman and Bruford spent most of the sessions eating curries and discussing the meaning of life, which made them both very depressed.
Anderson meanwhile, completed all the music to Close to the Edge by recording the sounds made down by the river in the Siberian forest of Khatru, where he was born. This resulted in a challenging album, but one which was ultimately praised by fans of prog rock for its innovation and originality. The lyrical additions made by the popular Star Wars character Yoda were particularly well-received, allowing listeners to finally make sense of Anderson's complex wordings.
Bye Bye Bruford
“Five percent for nothing...”
Bruford's depression led to his departure from the band, as he was far too pessimistic to be in a band called Yes. His sights were set on replacing Ian Wallace again for the King Crimson Underpants album Lark's Tongue's An Ass Pick, and he would later reunite with Peter Banks during a tour with Genesis (shortly before Peter was replaced by his younger brother Tony as Genesis's keyboardist). Bruford was replaced by inferior-but-still-great-in-his-own-right drummer Alan White and has since written an autobiography, which is filled entirely with witty comments regarding his awful time in Yes.
“The spacebar broke.”
Tales from Topographic Oceans
Whilst working on Yessongs, Anderson read the book Autobiography of a Yoda, and during one evening of the tour, he created Tales from Topographic Oceans, an hour and twenty minutes of lyrical prog heaven. The four ambitious pieces featured on the double album, each one lasting longer than a papal election, contain some of the most controversial lyrics in the history of everything. After limited success interrogating the goldfish, Howe decided to add music, completing the mega-project. Each 20-minute suite was based on a different fish-related spiritual path.
Though Howe and Squire wanted to recorded in the city, Anderson and Wakeman preferred the countryside (Anderson was worried about feeling lost in the city); White had no preference, probably due to his lack of personality. They went to Morgan Studios and tricked Jon into believing that they were in the countryside by adding haystacks, white picket fences, a small barn, and a model cow with electronic udders (the latter of which would inspire the lyric "electric freedom" for the Relayer song "Sound Chaser"). The hay caused Wakeman's keyboards and long golden hair to be infested with lice; it is believed that this is one reason he did not enjoy making the album. Drastic measures were taken to ensure that the creation process was of maximum quality; no musical stone was left untouched. For example, the entire studio was at one point completely submerged underwater at a monumental cost, to allow the band members more breathing space. Wakeman would often find excuses for not being at the sessions, saying that he was recording on the Black Sabbath album Sabbath Bloody Sabbath next door (Wakeman was really just eating strawbs). In an attempt to counter Wakeman's decreasing enthusiasm for the project, Anderson ordered for the construction of an en-suite brewery, which itself only lured the keyboard player back in for enough time to complete the first song. The rest of the album was recorded in a bathroom, in which Squire spent all of his time swimming in the bathtub, as he was a fish. The album was known under the working title Marmite:
“Marmite is one of those foods that everybody either loves or hates, but in reality most people hate it. Our album was like that.”
“I fucking hated it.”
“It does go on a bit.”
“Dawn of light lying between a silence and sold sources, Chased amid fusions of wonder, in moments hardly seen forgotten...”
“We must have waited all our lives for this moment moment moment.”
Released in 1973, Tales has been criticised as an example of the worst excesses of prog rock. The album was pre-ordered in bulk, a move that was regretted later by both casual and hardcore fans. Being predominantly made up of land-based mammals, Yes listeners were unable to connect with the amphibiously-themed material. But Tales had reached number one on the album spot before such issues were realised, resulting in a further stream of rock excess, this time financially. Not only were Yes on the verge of bankruptcy after consuming all the Earth's oil resources for their gargantuanly-proportioned plastic stage scenery, but they had also succeeded in draining the entire Atlantic ocean of fish for their portable stage-aquariums and indulgent dietary habits. Roger Dean's sleeve design was also criticized for being geographically incorrect; the cover depicted Brimham Rocks, the last rocks at Land's End, the Logan Rock at Treen, single stones from Avebury and Stonehenge, the Mayan temple at Chichen Itza, and markings from the plains of Nazca.
During the tour for Tales, "The Remembering Capacity of a Goldfish" was dropped from the setlist because the band could remember no more than three seconds of the song. After doing a live reading of Jules Verne's Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Wakeman was discovered eating a chicken tikka masala and downing pints of beer halfway through "The Revealing Science of Cod", a strictly fish-orientated song. The other band members were highly offended by this blasphemous act, especially as it ruined the atmosphere of Howe’s spiritual cod-summoning guitar solo. Wakeman was promptly fired, and the rest of the band finished the song.
Following another successful tour and with Swiss keyboard-slapper Patrick Moraz on board, Yes set to work on Relayer, an album themed around war, sound chasing, and war. Though fans would assume that the title referred to a style of architecture depicted by Roger Dean on the sleeve design, it actually referred to a type of radio transmitter. Communication with Moraz was difficult because, through choice, he only spoke Swiss and Chinese Mandarin, causing him to misunderstand the album title as a demand for him to re-layer his keyboards by stacking them. When the album was finished, engineer/producer Eddy Offord was fired by the vegetarian band for eating a ham and cheese sandwich.
Yes masterwork "The Gates of Delerium" chronicles the ongoing battle that waged between Yes and their arch-nemesis Delerium, a hugely successful and talented electropop group from a parallel universe. This band was memorable for their short, accessible songs, simple lyrics, and nobody ever getting fired. In contrast, this new Yes song lasted longer than the entire Holocaust and can be distinctly split into three main sections. Part 1 is the prelude, and describes the opposing Yes and Delerium forces gearing up for war. Part 2, the instrumental battle section, is the most hectic piece of music in existence (other than "Manic Monday" which is just wild); this section is in fact, so excruciatingly grotesque and full of gore, that 11 individuals have actually died of repulse listening to it, including one man who played it at full volume and simply exploded. Part 3, "Sued", was released as a single to promote Yes winning the completely metaphorical war and suing Delerium for plagiarism.
from the Centre of the Earth
Following the release of Relayer, the five Yes members temporarily went their separate ways to release solo albums, each one a concept album about one member's hatred for another (coincidentally, four of these were aimed at Jon Anderson). The most popular of the solo albums was Chris Squire's Fish Out of Water, which centered on the concept of Anderson stealing Squire's breathing water as he silently falls into the abyss of dehydration. The least popular was Alan White's Ramshackled, which put listeners in a state of severe despair. Jon Anderson released Elias of Sunhillow to ruin producer Jonathan Elias's 20th birthday, before realizing that he was not
yet a Yes member. Steve Howe yearned for his Beginnings, which had not included the other members. Moraz titled his solo album I, since it was the only English word that he knew. To fill the gap between Yes albums, Atlantic released the deceptively-titled Yesterdays, on which Roger Dean butchered reimagined the sleeve design for Time and a Word. Though fans believed that the songs were new and recent because of the album's title, the album was actually a compilation of songs from the first two albums that had been forgotten, as well as a Simon & Garfunkel track.
Meanwhile, Nordic god of thunder Rick Wakeman (who frequently visited his hammersmith) was now a bum again after wasting money drinking so much that he felt no earthly connection and ice-skating with Monty Python's Graham Chapman, who was dressed as King Arthur; these actions were added to Rick Wakeman's Criminal Record. Wakeman recorded the soundtrack for White Rock, a documentary about Alan White playing drums as he competed in the Winter 1976 Olympics in Austria. Afterward, the two of them grew closer, temporarily fusing into saxophone player Alan Wakeman and appearing on Soft Machine album Softs briefly.
These fractured career moves resulted in rumours of Yes's break-up, forcing the group to tour together with an understandably awkward setlist featuring the respective rants of each member. Soon afterwards, Moraz began to feel isolated due to the persistent language barrier between him and his bandmates, to the point where he could no longer control his hairstyle. Keen to replace the unreliable keyboard player, Anderson contacted Vangelis, but was even more disappointed when the Greek keyboard player turned him down (due to conflicts with Yes touring dates and his strict weight-loss programme). Then in a strike of luck, Rick Wakeman made himself available once more...
Going for the One
After Wakeman kindly removed Patrick Moraz from the picture, Yes tempted him back into the band with the promise of unlimited cans, Brahms, and progressive hookers; to his surprise, manager Brian Lane had already told Melody Maker that Wakeman was back in the band. Anderson also apologized to Wakeman about Tales from Topographic Oceans, saying that the verses he sang did not add much weight to the wondrous stories in his head (the singles "Going for the One" and "Wondrous Stories" would include these as punchlines).
“This is the same guy that wrote fucking Tales from Topographic Oceans! How he can criticise my 'blindfolded key-spanking technique' I do not know.”
The band then parachuted to Switzerland to dodge taxes, record a new album, and stamp on Moraz's grave. These sessions were famously tough on the band, who worked so hard that they only managed to fit in seven hours of skiing each day. Howe, in particular, felt uneasy about Wakeman's return and turned to transcendental meditation for stress relief. The music on 1977's Going for the One was as excessive as before though, with a real church organ being used on the epic track "Awaken". This was sent down a phone line back to the studio, but Anderson said the quality was terrible. The Swiss Government were so offended that the entire country's phone lines were uprooted (thus turning off the century momentarily) and subsequently improved. The enormous cost of this venture was then confirmed unnecessary when Anderson revealed he was actually talking about the quality of Wakeman's keyboard playing, not the quality of the phone line.
Though Roger Dean had previous experience painting nude people on Yesterdays, Yes were convinced by Brian Lane to fire Dean and hire a generic art design group to save money on the album's cover. Going for the One was a commercial success, going for the #1 on the music charts, and was praised by fans for paring down the bloated 20-minute epics and bonkers experimentation of the previous two albums and returning to simpler, more accessible 15-minute epics a la The Yes Album. What followed was a series of unimportant Yes recordings that nobody knows a lot about.
1978's Tormato began the slow path of commercial decline for Yes, selling poorly because of a new wave of punk and disco bands such as Punk Floyd and Led Synthesiser, who were beginning to dominate the music scene. The single "Don’t Kill the Whale" (later renamed "Don’t Kill Any Sea-dwelling Mammals" due to legal threats) was Yes's attempt to show people that they cared about the environment and become more popular with the public, who still thought Yes was just a word in the dictionary. The other tracks were unmemorable however; songwriting disputes had become more frequent and very little worthy material ended up on the record, which was dominated by cheesy-sounding keyboards such as the unreliable Birotron and the untrustworthy Polymoog.
Approximately three people listened to Tormato upon its
release, release, and it is generally believed that two of these people were Atlantic record executives (who were locked in a room with a whale and forced to listen to it on loop for a year). Such a small audience led to the resignation of Rick Wakeman, again, but this departure was one of many that year week, so nobody thought much of it. What shocked the band more, was Jon Anderson himself deciding to leave; creating a massive gap in the Yes sound, and a subsequently larger gap in the Yes bank account. Desperate times called for desperate measures, and replacement members were soon found, next door.
In 1979, Anderson famously left Yes to give the others a break, and began recording with Vangelis and his bitch. Wakeman also left, deciding to only be a member of the band every other Wednesday. When the shoes of these two Yes key elements were filled in 1980 by Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes (formally of Buggles fame, and before that a comedy duo), all the remaining members could do was accept the seemingly random change. Downes was commended for his humourous anecdotes about meeting a leopard-like woman who used one of Roger Dean's landscapes to hide herself, but his keyboard playing left a lot to be desired. In fact, the immensely superior guitar playing of Steve Howe (whom Downes had described as a "Machine Messiah" for his rapid-fire playing) caused problems for Geoff; his brain could not cope with progressive rock. Together Yes recorded their new album Drama, which featured a rather unexpected dark tone and proto-heavy metal riffs, as opposed to the usual feminine pop you'd expect from Buggles alumni. The music video for the single "Into the Lens" is notable for being a recording of the band's reflection in a mirror (Trevor Horn was a camera).
About halfway through the Drama tour, Downes's hands fell off against his will, leaving him unable to play. As a result, he left the band, forcing his comedy partner Horn, who had been booed by audiences for not sounding exactly like Jon Anderson, to leave as well. As if this wasn't bad enough, Howe then decided to leave, as he had won a scratch-card holiday to Asia. Now only two members remained, the omnipresent Chris Squire and his sidekick Alan White, who due to the lack of a personality, followed the bass player around non-stop. In 1981, the band's management announced that Yes was no more; Squire was irritated at the rapid disintegration of Yes, and the fact that 90% of the band's Uncyclopedia article was simply a description of their constant line-up changes. He spent some time thinking and eventually came up with a solution.
Yes is no more
Yes did not exist for a year because Chris Squire needed some time to think.
Rabin pop rebirth
In 1982, Squire arranged a secret meeting in a cave nowhere near Croydon with a homeless South-African iguana. This South-African was Trevor "The Rabbit" Rabin, a multi-instrumentalist known for generating endless streams of no. 1 singles. Just what Squire needed. Since Chris "The Fish" Squire was a Schindleria praematurus (also a vertebrate), they hit it off and discussed plans for a project together, which they originally intended to call Cinema; however, this name was scrapped instantly because it was rubbish and they did not want people to mistake their music group for a movie group.
So, after many hours discussing where Yes had gone wrong all these years, they made the bold decision to do what Genesis considered a last resort: they turned to '80s pop.
With Howe continuing to make friends in Asia, and the other ex-Yes members nowhere to be seen, Squire introduced Rabin as the new guitarist and principle songwriter. White retained his role as Squire's "bitch", and the pieces were now in place for a new band and a new sound. But Rabin feared that his singing was so good it would make the other virtuosos look inferior, so he made one final phone call.
When Vangelis answered the phone and immediately plugged Jon Anderson's availability, the new Yes was complete. The pieces were now in place for a new band and a new sound. But Rabin feared that his keyboard playing was so good it would make the other virtuosos look inferior, so he made one final phone call.
After recovering from his fear of the Mellotron, ex-ex-ex-keyboard player Tony Kaye agreed to return. The pieces were now in place for a new band and a new sound. But Rabin feared that his production skills were so good that the record might not be commercial enough, so he made one final phone call to the glasses-wearing Trevor Horn, who would produce the new band.
Indeed, 1983's 90125 would literally sell millions, launching the group into a familiar cycle of excess and fortune that would again only last for a couple of years. Yes got into a pattern of making a new album whenever their previous profits had ran out.
“Shoot high, aim low.”
Following the success of such simple music, the album that followed was equally mainstream. 1987's Big Generator, an idea thought up by Trevor Rabin as he ate beside a jacaranda tree outside French restaurant Chez Nous, was a laborious album to make; it took Yes nearly two years to build the blue sedan-resembling machine itself, which was built to save time writing songs. The enormous, strange device through which they existed would produce a random series of electronic sounds known formally as '80s music; this noise-generating method was much more efficient than sound chasing, as no effort or talent was required by any member of the group. Indeed, the Big Generator was more advanced than the Soft Machine and the Van der Graaf Generator.
Anderson, believing the blue sedan did not get them much further, was dissatisfied with the poppy, Horn-produced songs on the album and was beginning to yearn for more traditional Yes music. Wanting to see through the mask of uncertainty, he told the others about an idea for a 20-minute epic about a Khatru who climbed to the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro and had a spiritual awakening, using only the chords of Bb Minor and F# Major Seventh (which he played on a giant didgeridoo, with an accompanying banjo that was put through a Leslie Speaker), but Rabin was less than impressed.
Anderson then re-pitched his idea to some of his ex-bandmates, leading to the formation of the progressive barbershop quartet, Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe (which featured the less important Tony Levin on bass). They released an uncreatively self-titled debut album and performed a tour titled An Evening of Yes Music Minus Squire.
After Anderson's departure, Yes tried to replace him with a 5-year-old fan from Nevada named Billy, who had already been well-known for playing in suspiciously-titled preschool talent show bands such as Conspiracy and World Trade. He also had experience performing as a baby in the band Lodgic, which he had named and misspelled. When Rabin asked if Billy would be able to hit the high notes since he was so young, Squire responded, "Billy sure would!" However, Anderson came crawling back to Yes faster than the little kid, and the plans fell through.
By 1991, both Yes and ABWH were becoming less and less rich, and eventually the two separate parties gave in and amalgamated in the great big orgasmic jam session that was Union (or Onion as Wakeman called it, because, as he claims, "it made me cry every time I heard it"). Continuing the vegetable theme that began with Tormato, Onion is the first and only album to feature the MegaYes line up. The advantages of having a nine-member band included more disputes, more songs, and tonnes more fat juicy ego. However, the nine members were only together during the mammoth tour that followed, during which Peter Banks was invited as a joke and then humiliated when Steve Howe shaved his head (karma would later catch up to Howe, causing his head to bald); the songs on the album were actually recorded in
two nine separate locations, and then drenched in the capable hands of some 200 underpaid Los Angeles session musicians. This was opted for instead of using the last album's technique (the random noise generator) because it now produced '90s music instead of '80s music; producer Jonathan Elias later admitted that he did this to get back at Jon Anderson for making Elias of Sunhillow.
“He cut in front of me at a Chinese restaurant!”
Anderson had asked Squire to play bass on the ABWH tracks, but Squire did not feel like it, so Tony Levin kept his spot on those tracks. Though Billy had sung on "The More We Play / The More We Disappoint", Elias decided that his lead vocals for the track were no longer necessary now that Jon was back. His brother Michael, jealous of Billy's involvement with YesWest, provided some of the indistinguishable vocals on a few of the ABWH tracks. Elias found Howe and Wakeman's submitted parts to be piss poor, so he erased them from the master tapes and had session musicians overdub them. Billy's childhood friend, Jimmy "The Hun" Haun, was hired to masquerade as Steve Howe and overdub his parts since they had become enemies in Asia, hence the song "Masquerade"; this caused Howe to become fed up with all of the turbulence. Wakeman's parts were overdubbed by eleven separate keyboardists for some reason, even though only one would've sufficed. All in all, roughly 5% of Howe and Wakeman's parts remained on the album, as though their contributions were for nothing. Bruford wanted to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Fragile, so he included "50 Seconds for Nothing" on the album; however, he forgot to inform the rest of the band about this.
Onion was despised by the band members but was a huge commercial success and was at first relatively well-liked by fans, until band members told them in interviews not to like it anymore because of the endless overdubs and false advertising. The reason that the album had such big sales was that Rick Wakeman bought many copies, tried listening to it, cried, and threw away this Onion in disgust (wishing that this was the album that was fragile). The only song that made Wakeman cry because he loved it was "Lift Me Up" since it reminded him of his time as a bum, thus sparking his bromance with Rabin; Wakeman became a bum again after purchasing Onion so many times that his wealth was depleted.
Continuing through the '90s, Rabin still retained leadership of Yes, and simple songwriting was just what he required to make Steve Howe cry and wonder if he mattered in the grand scheme of things. In 1992, after a few shows in Japan (where one of the two Jons was kidnapped by Kitaro), Steve left for Asia again, taking all the other talented members with him. In 1993, he and Bill Bruford thought that they were back in Yes, but it was only a one-time gig where they contributed parts to Symphonic Music of Yes, an album featuring an orchestra trying to be Yes (even reusing audio of Jon's vocals from "Roundabout"). The 90125 lineup were now free to attempt more simple songs, but even the multi-instrumentalist Rabin was struggling to come up with any singles. So Jon Anderson re-appointed himself as the band leader, which led to a confusing concept album but one that was deemed the lesser of two evils. It was during this album that Anderson and Rabin talked to each other for the first time, bonding over their belief that Tony Kaye should only play a tiny bit on the album.
Distributed by Not So Victorious Music and themed around Jon Anderson's often incomprehensible language and general manner of speaking, 1994's Yestalk (the first album to be recorded in Protools, hence the arguably sterile nature of the songs) was as fun to listen to as the Queen's speech. The last song made for the album was "Walls", which Rabin had written with a Supertramp named Roger Hodgson; he ultimately regretted including the song because it did not fit the common theme covered by the rest of the tracks. The cover artwork, which was also as pleasurable to look at as the Queen herself, was sent to the band by now-9-year-old fan Billy; it was far better than anything Roger Dean ever came up with, subtly reflecting the collective rationality of Yes at the time. Instead of paying to use the artwork, they let Billy, fresh off of The Chris Squire Acid Experiment, play three quarters of the bass on the album (after which Squire would show up late) and tour with the band. Yestalk was to be released on Billy's ninth birthday on March 14, but everyone thought that his birthday was a week later than it actually was, so it was instead released on March 21. Billy would later appear on Yes tribute album Stories from Yesterday (on which Peter Banks would also appear, believing mistakenly that it would be an actual Yes album).
The name Yestalk was later adopted for an online forum where fans of the band gather to worship Rick Wakeman's hair. They are also known for their frequent pilgrimages to Yes concerts, where they attempt to touch members of the band.
Keys to Ascension
In May 1995, as Alan White joined Oasis an hour before performing a show with them (just as he had done when he joined Yes), Jon looked through the drummer's underwear drawer (replete with tighty-whiteys) and found a napkin that had been signed on Chris Squire's drunken birthday party in 1974 by the Tales from Topographic Oceans lineup, who had agreed to reunite in 1995. Though the rest of the lineup had been joking at the time, Jon took it seriously and threatened to banish them to the first dimension if they did not fulfill their promise; White agreed to balance time between Oasis and Yes as long as Anderson stayed out of his underwear drawer. Since Steve Howe had been banished from Asia for getting a couple of countries mixed up, he had no other options; he was delighted to see Rabin get kicked out of the band and reduced to film soundtracks, as a result of Yestalk's failure. Tony Kaye argued that, with Trevor gone, he could stay in the band and play to the best of his abilities. Jon did not care, so he banished Tony to the first dimension for ten years, during which he became a comedian and changed his first name to "Peter".
Over the next year, the members put the keys into their collective Yes mind and drove it into ascension mode, recording seven studio tracks under their independent label Yessential Records and performing a tour consisting of Squire's three-day birthday bash in one venue at the San Luis Obispo Wilderness (SLOW). They released the album Keys to Ascension, half of which contained half of the setlist from their tour and the other half of which contained two studio tracks — the most notable of which being "Mind Drive", an extended, repetitive version of an Ex-Yes-&-Synthesiser demo. Though Rick had wanted the other five studio tracks they recorded to be released as an album with Jon's proposed title Know, they ended up being released as the second disc of the album Keys to Ascension 2, which contained the other half of the setlist from the tour. As they continued mind driving, Wakeman refused to turn his steering wheel in the direction in which the other band members were heading, causing the Yes hivemind to spin out of control and enter a new, Wakeman-less state.
Open Your Eyes
Billy, a 12-year-old boy from Nevada, joined Yes in 1997 to contribute a more “down-with-the-kids" sound (Spice Girls take note). The new album was as youthful as it was catchy; the presence of a 23-minute epic, inordinate schmaltz content, more love songs in a row than Big Generator, and a paedophile keyboardist just proves how child-friendly Open Your Eyes (We're Not Making Any Money!) was. Unfortunately, as the track "Fortune Seller" suggests, the band made a huge loss from its release. By this point the 90125 Vault was empty of cash, and Yes was becoming less of an asset and more of a hindrance. New recruit Igor Khoroshev helped out by financing his own keyboards (hence the use of the Stylophone) and Alan White agreed to fire himself for a couple of months to save more money; the cost of the album was ultimately totalled at around £1.20.
Fuelled by his annoyance at the ametuer cover artwork on Yestalk, Roger Dean smattered his artistic influences all over OYE's cover. His design was a simple Yes logo, but he enforced that the size of each jewel case should be 10 metres squared at minimum, in order to hammer home the fact that he was the band's primary artist. In the following months, every record shop in the world was clogged up with giant CDs that weren't selling, and took up lots of room. At the next G8 summit, it was agreed to launch millions of these records into outer space; the huge Yes logos have since been adopted as currency in surrounding solar systems.
Yes were getting pretty old by the time The Ladder was released in 1999. Howe, Anderson, Squire, and White all required medics to tour with them as heart failure was frequent. Howe also died many times, and was often resurrected using cheap equipment, contributing to his “mad scientist” look. And Squire was frequently mistaken for Father Christmas (his diet consisted of fourteen kilograms of Schindleria praematurus a day). It was thus down to Igor Khoroshev and Billy the Kid to guide Yes to success, and they wrote and recorded every single song on The Ladder. However, after the album's chart position was revealed, the two of them were promptly fired.
The significant and memorable producer of the album, whose name I have forgotten, sadly died shortly before the release of The Ladder. It turns out that he was brutally murdered by former Yes producers Trevor Horn and Eddy Offord; the pair repeatedly attacked him with early Yes records, including one particularly gruesome copy of 90125 that was used to decapitate him. They later formed a comedy duo act known as That Horny Offord Sound, which featured impeccably produced jokes (that weren’t very funny).
In 2001, the famous four congregated once more, after Wakeman’s decision to only be in the band every leap year. Despite Howe being older than all of the golden girls put together, Squire still being frequently mistaken for Santa Claus, White having his own business-related reality TV show, and Jon trying to re-boost his career by appearing on QI (oh wait, that was his brother), the four of them still made the decision to release yet another Yes album. They replaced the indecisive Yes keyboardist with an orchestra, something that hadn’t been done since 1970's Time and a Word, which sold well; the two albums actually feature the same orchestra, continuing the theme of “Nobody who works on this album must be younger than 90 years old”.
Magnification received a lukewarm reception from critics, and sold poorly unlike its sister orchestral concoction Time and a Word. More tours have since followed with many different members of Yes in various combinations that really aren't that interesting.
In the present of
Anderson's departure and replacement
In 2008, a 40th anniversary tour of the south side of the U.S. titled Close to the Edge and Back, was cancelled when Anderson's respiratory problems kept him from going off to look for America. Yes replaced him with Belgian porn star Benoît David (how they found him is a Mystery). David is a clone of Jon; his singing voice was sampled from the Yes singer and wired into his voicebox. However, due to an administrative mistake, Benoît became a full-time member of the band. He would later claim that time travellers from the year 4007 had told him that he was supposed to recruit David and merge with Steve Hackett into a being called Squackett.
Anderson was less than pleased about this. In October he posted on his website a stream of insults directed at the current line-up, and for the first time ever, what he said made perfect sense. Jon said that he disliked that the lineup were touring as Yes, not realising that they were actually billing themselves as "Steve Howe, Chris Squire & Alan White of Yes Introducing Oliver Wakeman and Benoît David." Rick Wakeman had also decided to tour, under the deceptive title Oliver Wakeman. Many foolish people believed that this is Rick’s son, but Wakeman insisted that it was him and that he was feeling younger than ever. His experiences with Yes over the years would be recorded and released as Past, Present and Future.
“Aliens are only us from the future.”
Though Anderson felt better in 2009, Squire wanted to get back at him for doing ABWH without him 20 years earlier. He said that he would let Jon return if he realised that he was only joking around; Jon did not catch on. It was during this year that Yes toured Asia, making Steve Howe (whose banishment from the continent had been lifted) to play half of the show before the rest of the band went onstage. Howe was even more pissed off the next year, when Trevor Rabin (who had been contacted by Yes management to replace Howe since they had expected him to die at this point) tried to sabotage Yes by performing "Owner of a Lonely Heart" with them at the Greek Theatre in 2010.
Fans who missed the Tales lineup started saying, "Three-fifths Yes is not Yes!" not realising that, by that logic, Fragile and Close to the Edge should not be considered Yes since they feature 3/5 of the original lineup, and that the Tales lineup should be considered 2/5 Yes. A new album with the In The Present tour line-up was planned, with its 2011 release relying upon Steve Howe's ability to stay alive until then. The popular book-keeper chain Ladbrokes allowed customers to place bets on this, with odds of 3:1.
Fly from Here
Roger Dean, who had been starving in the fourteen years since he reached his peak designing the cover for Open Your Eyes, was contacted by
Faux Yes to make a new album cover. The band was now under the label Space, the Final Frontiers Records. After recording one new track, Wakeman told the group that it was their hour of need for Jon Anderson. Squire's response: "You are the weakest link. Goodbye." Wakeman would go off to marry a fourth wife, his sights set on surpassing the record of The Six Wives of Henry VIII. Steve Howe recorded "Solitaire", claiming that it was tradition for one of his solo studio tracks to be featured on a Yes album once every 20 years since 1971. In truth, he had no room for it on his solo album, Time Is What I Don't Have, and he was not sure if he would live long enough to put it on another solo album.
Too lazy to make a whole album of new songs, Yes uncovered formless memories lingering: "We Can Walk from Here" (an outtake from Drama) and "Death on a Film Set" (a demo by The Buggles that predicted the death of Trevor Horn). The members of Yes claimed that everything was recorded "in the present," even crediting Horn's vocals to David. Since fans had already known of "We Can Walk from Here" via bootlegs, the band refrained from using the whole title and split the phrase into two separate phrases on the tracklist. To further throw off suspicion, they brought in Geoff Downes all the way from Asia (where he had found his hands) to contribute to tracks 7 and 11. They also got Trevor Horn to appear in a music video for "We Can Walk," in which he walked the streets and carried a mirror (he was still a camera). During the shoot,
Jon Anderson a man in a white car killed the video star, who had not read that objects in the mirror were closer than they appeared. Fly from Here was released in LP format, with "Bumpy Ride" being a track that spanned an entire side (and a bumpy one, at that).
“What have I become? What am I running away from? I used to see things in a very different way. What am I to do? I have changed my point of view. I was lost. Now I've found myself in you!”
“Armies of angels are starting to form. Take me away at the break of the dawn. Take me away!”
Jon Anderson said that the album sounded dated, and he was right. Realising that Benoît David could not write for shit, Yes invited Anderson back; he accepted the invitation (designed by Roger Dean), but this turned out to be a ruse, as Yes performed a ritual that combined Anderson and David into a hybrid being who was both energetic and experienced, which they named "Jon Davison". Yes then announced that they were going to perform three albums on tour in 2013. Though the plan was to make three new studio albums to make a ton of money quickly, Davison needed time to adjust to his body and his skills (he had believed that he was Rick Wakeman, even going as far as sculpting a hammer out of glass to imitate the Nordic god of thunder). Therefore, they decided to play three older albums instead: The Yes Album, Close to the Border, and Going for the One.
A day in between two of the shows, Steve Howe (who had recently ended his residency in Asia, despite Downes' wishes)
caused heard about the death of Yes' original guitarist, who had planned on playing material from Yes' first two albums with a band creatively named Affirmative. With Banks' death, Squire cancelled plans for SuperMegaYes to perform a 45th anniversary Broadway show titled The Holy Lamb Cries Out on Broadway.
Heaven & Earth
With his experience performing the old material, Davison felt ready to record in the studio with Yes, and in 2014, they released a new album titled Heaven & Earth. Though some would believe
again that Yes were referencing their previous song "We Have Heaven", Squire set the record straight (though he did not set the album record itself straight) by explaining that the title had to do with the album's "heavenly" and "earthy" production, aimed at those who were turned off by the gritty, threatening sound of previous Yessongs like "Circus of Heaven" and "Lightning Strikes".
The album was produced by Roy Thomas Baker, who had bet during the 1979 Paris sessions that the band would break up and never reunite, and that if they were ever around 35 years later, he would produce their album for free. Yes revisited the motif of reusing old material as they did on Fly from Here, basing "Light of the Ages" on material from the aforementioned Paris sessions, but they hoped that nobody would notice. Davison and Downes had come up with an epic during the sessions for the album, but they decided to save it because they were running out of ideas and they wanted to give people a reason to buy another album.
Heaven & Earth was sponsored by Subway. Lost in translation, Roger Dean designed Yes graffiti on actual subway walls instead of Subway stores themselves. As a marketing strategy, the band released minute-and-a-half-long teaser audio clips of songs. While their intention was to make this method a Big Generator of interest, these clips actually put people off of the album. Disliked by Anal Prasad, the album has been described as a desperate attempt to get fans to believe in the current lineup.
The album was mixed by Billy the Kid from Nevada, now an adult, who had made Tony Kaye his bitch by Circa: 2007, produced tribute albums to proclaim his love for other bands without having to come up with original material, and pondered the Mystery (David's old band) with Captain Kirk. Undermining the band, Billy announced the day before the 45th anniversary of Yes' debut album that he and Tony Kaye were working with a reformed Mabel Greer's Toyshop, and that they would finally release their long-awaited debut album. The few living MGT purists called the new lineup "Maybe Greer's Toyshop" since only two of the five members were from the original lineup.
None of these production choices made Heaven & Earth any more likeable. As a result, the band only played three tracks from that album on the subsequent tour; they did, however, perform Close to the Edge and Fragile for the millionth time, more or less in their entirety (they had forgotten
yesterdays about the reprise of "We Have Heaven" after "Heart of the Sunrise"). In this time, they released a live album (which once again had anaemic mixing from Billy), and a boxset containing seven concerts from when they still had fans. All seven discs had the exact same songs, just played at different times at different venues. It didn’t sell.
“I used to believe in a Yes with Jon A., not me.”
“Please, we need you to believe again.”
“We all know the rules of the name. Us fools, still we play the same, as if our days remain.”
“Heaven is an unknown place of no particular destination as far as anybody knows.”
“It's not like I lost any money; the album didn't really sell.”
“Beg, steal, rob, run, hide.”
Death of Chris Squire and schisms
While the rest of the band was ready to return to the studio to record the tracks that they’d (intentionally) left off the last album, news of Squire's diagnosis with acute erythroid leukemia was made public. His condition deteriorated soon after, and he died on 27 June 2015 at his home in Phoenix, Arizona. As the elderly musician's body shut down, Chris evolved into a Schindleria praematurus and swam into the river that flows known as time (a river of which where it ends, nobody knows), then with his final breath uttered these words:
|“||Contained in everything I do
There's a love, I feel for you
Proclaimed in everything I write
You're the light
Onward through the night
Soon afterwards, Yes announced that they would be continuing with Billy in the late Chris Squire's place. The band performed a Dance of the Dawn ritual on Davison, separating him into two beings once more (Anderson returned to his former self, but Benoît David remained stuck as Jon Davison) and freeing Anderson to make more New Age hippy-dippy solo albums. Following a failed petition on Change.org to get Yes to change their name to "Maybe", and with Squire and Anderson gone, the remaining sensible Yes fans decided that Yes was no more.
“Absolutely, we’re moving ahead. We're gonna do it for the money. Money so high, money so low; money to count, money to go.”
“They just want to go on the road and make money. They don't care for the integrity of the band. I feel they have let a lot of fans down. They're just in it for the money.”
In 2016, out of jealousy, Anderson formed a group with Rabin and Wakeman called Wakeman Anderson Rabin (WAR), one that they hope will smite Yes in the Great Prog War (initially, they wanted to recruit Bill Bruford and Tony Levin and call themselves BRAWL, but they found out that Levin had "retired" Bruford for not adding Levin's name to ABWH's name 20 years earlier). The concept for this band had been gestating since 2010; though they blamed the project's delays on scheduling conflicts, the truth is that they had not thought of any new music together. Finally, they have started to develop material for an album, and new music from the band in some form, be it good or bad, is expected in 2017. The group is currently touring North America and Europe from October 2016 to March 2017 as An Evening of Yes Music and More, playing relaxing teatime fireplace renditions of classic Yes songs from the 1970s and '80s, with some ABWH tunes sprinkled in for flavouring.
In 2017, after years of being denied passage, Yes will finally be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; the inducted members are Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Trevor Rabin, Chris Squire,
Rick Wakeman, Peter Banks, Tony Kaye, Bill Bruford, and Alan White. Due to heart failure issues, Banks could not make it, and due to jealousy issues over being replaced by Geoff Downes, Wakeman has chosen not to make it.