My first inductee of 2022 is the English progressive rock band Yes. They are known for their extended compositions and virtuoso musicianship. They are certainly one of the founding members of the progressive rock genre.
In 1967, bassist Chris Squire had a band that included Peter Banks (guitar), “Mabel Greer’s Toyshop”. Marquee Club in Soho, London where Jack Barrie, owner of the nearby La Chasse club, saw them perform. He said he didn’t really think they were going anywhere and introduced Squire to vocalist Jon Anderson, a worker at his club.
They hit it off and that night wrote “Sweetness”, a song that would be on the debut Yes album. In June 1968, “Mabel Greer’s Toyshop” drummer was replaced with Bill Bruford who had advertised himself in “Melody Maker” and they added keyboardist Tony Kaye. This new lineup rehearsed in the basement of The Lucky Horseshoe cafe on Shaftesbury Avenue between June 10 and July 9, 1968.
Anderson suggested the name “Life” and Squire suggested “World”. Banks responded, simply “Yes” and that was that. Anderson, Banks, Bruford, Kaye, and Squire were “Yes” and their first show was at a youth camp in East Mersea, Essex on 4 August 1968. They covered songs by the likes of the Beatles, the 5th Dimension, and Traffic.
On 16 September, Yes performed at Blaise’s club in London as a substitute for Sly and the Family Stone, who failed to turn up. They were well received and the host Roy Flynn became their manager. In 1969 they signed with Atlantic Records and in August released the debut LP “Yes”.
They did a beautiful rendition of the Beatles’ “Every Little Thing” and covered The Byrds’ “I See You”. The other 6 tracks were original compositions. I love this album. Although the album didn’t chart it got promising reviews. The UK release had the “Yes” logo in orange and the U.S. and Canada pressings feature a photograph of the band at an architectural center in Fulham, taken by American photographer David Gahr.
The next album was performed by the same lineup but Banks would leave the group on April 18, 1970, and was replaced by guitarist Steve Howe whose picture appears in the photograph of the group on the American cover although he didn’t play on the recording. “Time and a Word” was released July 24, 1970.
Eddie Offord took on the role of engineer starting with this record. Two singles were released: “Time and a Word” in March 1970 and “Sweet Dreams” in June 1970. It did peak at number 45 on the UK charts but really did no better than the previous. This recording has two new covers–”Everydays” by Buffalo Springfield and “No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed” by Richie Havens.
Their next album was “The Yes Album”, released in February 1971, it peaked at number 4 in the UK and number 40 on the US Billboard 200 charts. Containing upcoming classics like “Yours Is No Disgrace”, “Starship Trooper”, “I’ve Seen All Good People a. Your Move b. All Good People”, and “Perpetual Change”.
Their first date in North America was on June 24, 1971, in Edmonton, Canada supporting Jethro Tull. Tony Kaye was then replaced by Rick Wakeman due to Kaye’s reported reluctance to play the Mellotron and the Minimoog synthesizer, preferring to stick exclusively to the piano and Hammond organ.
Steve and Chris came over and said, ‘Look, Tony Kaye… great guy.’ But, you know, we’d just seen Rick Wakeman about a month earlier. And I said, ‘There’s that Rick Wakeman guy,’ and we’ve got to get on with life and move on, you know, rather than keep going on, set in the same circle. And that’s what happens with a band.Jon Anderson [2019 interview]
Their fourth release “Fragile” showcased their growing interest in the structures of classical music, with an excerpt of The Firebird by Igor Stravinsky being played at the start of their concerts since the album’s 1971–1972 tour. It featured a cover and a new logo by Roger Dean who would draw many of the covers to follow.
Fragile peaked at number 7 in the UK and number 4 in the US after it was released there in January 1972. A shorter version of “Roundabout” was released as a single which peaked at number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles.
In September 1972, “Close to the Edge”, the band’s fifth album, was released. The 19-minute title track took up the entire side one. The album reached number 3 in the US and number 4 on the UK charts. “And You and I” was released as a single that peaked at number 42 in the US. Bill Bruford left for King Crimson before the upcoming tour and was replaced by the Plastic Ono Bands drummer Alan White.
I’ve always loved Jon Anderson’s voice. There’s something really beautiful and pure about it. It’s like a magical kind of sound. But there are so many other things I also love about Yes. There are a band filled with really amazing players. The way their parts intertwined with each other was so powerful, and then having Anderson’s voice on top of that made it even more special. The word “glorious” comes to mind when I think about that album.Jordan Rudess [Dream Theater keyboardist talking about “Close to the Edge”]
The live album “Yessongs” was released in May 1973. It was a triple album that peaked at number 7 in the UK and number 12 in the US. A concert film of the same name premiered in 1975.
Tales from Topographic Oceans was the band’s sixth studio album, released on 14 December 1973. based on Anderson’s interpretation of the Shastric scriptures from a footnote within Paramahansa Yogananda’s book Autobiography of a Yogi. It was number 1 in the UK and number 6 in the US. Wakeman was not pleased with the record and was replaced with Swiss keyboardist Patrick Moraz for the recording of the next record.
Tales From Topographic Oceans is one of those albums that keeps getting better & better year after year, decade after decade. A true masterpiece.Gottlieb Bros. [photographers, writers, designers, editors, digital product managers and videographers, who from 1987 through 1999, published Yes Magazine, a printed fanzine with a global circulation and readers in all 50 states in the U.S.]
“Relayer” (my first Yes album and my favorite) was released November 1974 as their seventh studio album. It reached No. 4 on the UK Albums Chart and No. 5 on the US Billboard 200.
A single of the closing section of “The Gates of Delirium”, titled “Soon”, was released in January 1975. The album version of “The Gates of Delirium” is 22 minutes and highlights a battle initially inspired by War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. Their subsequent 1976 tour of North America with Peter Frampton featured some of the band’s most-attended shows
In late 1976, the band traveled to Switzerland and started recording for their album “Going for the One” at Mountain Studios, Montreux. The 8th studio was released in July 1977 and saw the return of Rick Wakeman. “Wonderous Stories” and “Going for the One” were released as singles in the UK and reached numbers 7 and 25, respectively.
The cover was by Hipgnosis with the logo by Roger Dean. The album was number 1 in the UK and number 8 in the US. Tormato was released in 1978 with the same band line-up. “Drama”, their 10th album saw the Buggles, keyboardist Geoff Downes, and singer Trevor Horn, take Wakeman and Anderson’s positions in the band.
Yes released their comeback album 90125 (named after its catalog serial number on Atco Records) in November 1983. The new member was guitarist Trevor Rabin taking Steve Howe’s place. Tony Kaye also returned to play keyboards and Jon Anderson was the vocalist again. This album number 11 was huge making number 5 in the US and number 16 in the UK.
“Owner of a Lonely Heart” was one of the songs from Rabin’s set of demos and reached number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles. In 1984 the singles “Leave It” and “It Can Happen” reached number 24 and 57 respectively. They also released the album “9012Live: The Solos” the live album. They recorded an acapella version of ‘Leave It” which I love.
“Big Generator” the twelfth studio album was released September 21, 1987, by Atco Records. This was the same line-up as the previous record. The next album was not exactly by Yes, “Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe (ABWH)” was the four named plus Tony Levin on bass. Released in June of 1989 and featured the song “Brother of Mine”. The live album to follow in 1993 would feature Jeff Berlin on bass because Tony Levin was suffering from an illness.
Union was released in April 1991 and is the thirteenth studio album from Yes. Each group played their own songs, with Anderson singing on all tracks. Squire sang background vocals on a few of the ABWH tracks, with Tony Levin playing all the bass on those songs. The album does not feature all eight members playing at once. Two singles from the album were released. “Lift Me Up” topped the Mainstream Rock charts in May 1991 for six weeks, while “Saving My Heart” peaked at number 9.
“Talk” was released in March 1994 and is the band’s fourteenth studio release. It is mostly a Trevor Rabin album with the other members just coming into record their parts. Anderson, Squire Kaye, and Alan White.
The 1995 album was live and studio, called “Keys to Ascension”. It was followed in 1997 by “Keys to Ascension 2”. Both featuring Anderson, Howe, Squire, Wakeman, and White.
The next three albums “Open Your Eyes” 1997, “The Ladder” 1999, and “Magnification” 2001 would see the addition of Billy Sherwood and the absence of Wakeman.
The 2011 “Fly From Here” would have Benoît David and Trevor Horn on vocals with Anderson’s departure. Geoff Downes joined on keyboards. In 2014, “Heaven on Earth” would feature lead singer (live Yes vocalist since 2012). This was Chris Squire’s last album due to his death. Billy Sherwood would return to play bass. “The Quest” is their twenty-second studio album and was produced by Steve Howe.
Yes is one of the most successful, influential, and longest-lasting progressive rock bands. They have sold 13.5 million RIAA-certified albums in the US, as well as more than 30 million albums worldwide. They have had nineteen musicians as full-time members without ever missing a beat.
Chris Squire and Alan White are the heart and beat of the band, Steve Howes incredible guitar playing, and of course Rick Wakeman, one of the most incredible keyboardists ever. Then there is the unforgettable, beautiful voice of Jon Anderson. The others are all incredible musicians making this one of the most talented and amazing bands of all time. And let’s not forget, the beautiful sci-fi/fantasy artwork by Roger Dean.