Yes are an English rock band that released twenty-one studio albums between 1969 and 2014. Formed in London in 1968, their original lineup contained guitarist Peter Banks, keyboardist Tony Kaye, drummer Bill Bruford, and two constant members: bassist Chris Squire and singer Jon Anderson. Their early showpieces include “Looking Around,” “Survival,” “The Prophet,” and “Astral Traveller,” found on their 1969–70 post-psych albums Yes and Time and a Word.
Banks cleared for guitarist Steve Howe on the 1971 release The Yes Album, their international breakthrough with the epics “Yours Is No Disgrace,” “Starship Trooper,” and “Your Move–All Good People.” Kaye made way for keyboardist Rick Wakeman on Fragile, composed of solo numbers from each member and the radio staples “Roundabout” and “Long Distance Runaround.”
Yes embraced side-long suites on the 1972–73 albums Close to the Edge and Tales from Topographic Oceans, an 81-minute set recorded with new drummer Alan White. Wakeman cleared for Swiss keyboardist Patrick Moraz on the 1974 release Relayer, composed of the fractious war epic “The Gates of Delirium” and two half-side numbers. After a 1975–76 pause for solo activity, Yes regrouped with Wakeman for the 1977–78 albums Going for the One and Tormato, an exploration of new styles like the anarchic “Release, Release.”
In 1980, Anderson and Wakeman refocused on solo work and Yes hired keyboardist Geoff Downes and singer Trevor Horn, collectively known as The Buggles. This lineup produced Drama, an update of classic Yes with modern production on the epics “Mono Messiah,” “Into the Lens,” and “Tempus Fugit.”
Yes reactivated in 1983 with guitarist Trevor Rabin, the mastermind behind their comeback album 90125 and the Billboard No. 1 “Owner of a Lonely Heart.” The lineup of Anderson, Kaye, Rabin, Squire, and White toured the album and made its 1987 followup Big Generator. Anderson left this version and reformed four-fifths of the Fragile lineup for the 1989 album Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe. Before anything emerged from the other camp (Kaye, Rabin, Squire, White), the two groups merged for the eight-man tour behind Union, a disc recorded by multiple parties. The 90125 lineup reconvened for the 1994 release Talk.
In 1996, the Tales lineup regrouped for a series of shows and new studio material, collected on the two double-CDs titled Keys to Ascension. Wakeman exited a fourth time for the 1997–99 discs Open Your Eyes and The Ladder, recorded with American multi-instrumentalist Billy Sherwood. Yes paused after the 2001 disc Magnification but resurfaced with Downes for the Horn-produced 2011 release Fly From Here.
Members: Chris Squire (bass, 1968-2015), Jon Anderson (vocals, 1968-79, 1983-2004), Tony Kaye (keyboards, 1968-71, 1983-95), Bill Bruford (drums, 1968-72, 1990-92), Peter Banks (guitar, 1968-70), Steve Howe (guitar, 1970-80, 1990-92, 1996-present), Rick Wakeman (keyboards, 1971-74, 1976-79, 1990-92, 1996, 2002-04), Alan White (drums, 1972-present), Patrick Moraz (keyboards, 1974-76), Trevor Horn (vocals, 1979-80), Geoffrey Downes (keyboards, 1979-80, 2011-present), Trevor Rabin (guitar, vocals, 1983-95)
Background and Formation
Yes had its roots in Mabel Greer’s Toyshop, an unrecorded pop-psych band formed in late 1967 by bassist Chris Squire and guitarist Peter Banks. The two hailed from The Syn, which cut the psychedelic Deram singles “Flowerman” (b/w “24 Hour Technicolor Dream”) and “Created by Clive” (b/w “Grounded”). The initial Mabel lineup featured singer Clive Bayley and drummer Bob Hagger. Bayley and Squire co-wrote “Beyond and Before,” a song on the first Yes album.
On January 1, 1968, Mabel Greer’s Toyshop opened for The Nice at London’s Marquee Club. After a Marquee support slot for The Gods (1/20/68), Banks decamped to The Neat Change for the Deram single “I Lied To Auntie May” (b/w “Sandman”). Upon his return, Bayley and Hagger cleared out for singer Jon Anderson and drummer Bill Bruford.
Anderson hailed from The Warriors, a Lancashire beat group with bassist David Foster, keyboardist Brian Chatton (Flaming Youth, Jackson Heights), and drummer Ian Wallace. The Warriors cut the 1964 Decca single “You Came Along” (b/w “Don’t Make Me Blue”) and appeared in the film Just for You. Recently, Anderson recorded two Parlophone singles as Hans Christian, a spoof on 19th century Danish author Hans Christian Andersen.
Bruford served briefly in Paper Blitz Tissue — a pop-psych band with Miller Anderson (Keef Hartley Band) — and played three shows in Savoy Brown, who deemed his drumming too complex for their blues-rock style.
In June, Mabel welcomed Tony Kaye, a classically trained keyboardist who cut multiple Parlophone singles in Watford beatsters The Federals. As a five-piece, they rehearsed under the Lucky Horseshoe cafe on Shaftesbury Avenue and mauled over new possible names. Anderson suggested Life but Squire offered World, to which Banks replied “Yes,” hence their band name.
Yes made their debut live performance on August 3, 1968, for the East Mersey Youth Camp. That month, they played opening slots at the Marquee for Nite People (8/5/68) and Joe Cocker (8/17). On September 15, they played a last-minute fill-in slot for Sly & the Family Stone at the London’s Blaise’s Club, where they impressed attendees Pete Townshend and Eric Clapton. Their early setlist featured “Carpet Man,” a Jimmy Webb composition recorded by The 5th Dimension. Roy Flynn, the manager of London hotspot The Speakeasy, took Yes under his wing.
Bruford stepped down for three months to attend Leeds University. Yes used Koobas drummer Tony O’Riley, who performed with the band on September Marquee opening slots for The Nice (9/19) and Dream Police, a Longdancer precursor with (future Average White Band) vocalist Hamish Stuart.
On October 15, Yes appeared at London’s Royal Albert Hall as part of a charitable concert for students from Czechoslovakia who wished to stay in the UK following Russia’s invasion of Prague. BBC One DJ John Peel hosted the concert event, which also featured sets by Blonde On Blonde, Family, Jethro Tull, July, and Spooky Tooth.
In November, Yes headlined the Marquee over Love Sculpture (11/13) and Van der Graaf Generator (11/27). On the 8th, they played London’s Granada Theater as part of an all-nighter with The Who, Small Faces, and Crazy World of Arthur Brown.
Just before Bruford’s return, Anderson invited ex-Warriors bandmate Wallace, who recently cut two CBS singles with Foster in the pop-psych band Sleepy. Ian declined and subsequently cut an album apiece in The World and King Crimson (their fourth, Islands). Bruford rejoined Yes in time for their Nov. 26 Royal Albert appearance as one of three opening acts (along with Colosseum and Taste) for the farewell concert by Cream.
Yes headlined Fishmongers Arms in Wood Green (12/6) over Peter Brown’s Battered Ornaments. On the December 27, they appeared at London’s Roundhouse as part of the Superstar Jam Session along with the Experience rhythm section (Noel Redding, Mitch Mitchell) and ex-Tomorrow guitarist Steve Howe, who performed with Soft Machine.
During the first four months of 1969, Yes headlined the Marquee over Octopus (1/1/69), Procession (1/15), Caravan (2/5), Circus (3/5), Killing Floor (3/12), and Harsh Reality (4/2). On February 1, Yes played Reading University as the opening act for American singer–songwriter Paul Williams, recently of the psych band Holy Mackerel. On the 28th, Yes headlined the Richmond Athletic Grounds over Smile, the prototype of Queen.
In March, Yes played multi-act bills with Roy Harper at Empire Theatre, Sunderland (3/8, with The Bonzo Dog Band) and the Lyceum, London (3/28, with VDGG, Andromeda, and Hard Meat). On April 24, Yes made their first overseas appearance in Switzerland at the Montreux Casino as part of the Golden Rose TV Festival.
Flynn secured Yes a deal with Atlantic. As sessions got underway for their first album, they played a May 18 set at Parliament Hill as part of the Camden Fringe Festival, which also featured sets by Blossom Toes, Procol Harum, Soft Machine, and the Third Ear Band. On May 29, Yes performed at the Van Dike Club in Plymouth as part of a Peel-hosted FC benefit with sets by Bridget St. John, Eclection, Forest, King Crimson, Principal Edwards Magic Theatre, and Trader Horne.
On July 5, Yes played Royal Albert Hall as part of the Pop Proms, an event with The Who (performing Tommy) and Bodast, Howe’s unsigned band with bassist Bruce Thomas (Quiver, Moonrider, The Attractions). On the 12th, Yes partook in the 12 Hour Happiness Concert, an event at the Nottingham Racecourse with sets by Edgar Broughton Band, The Idle Race, and Status Quo.
Yes released their self-titled debut album in July 1969 on Atlantic. It features four songs per side, including three Anderson–Squire co-writes: the syncopated, harmonized “Looking Around,” the organ-swirling “Harold Land,” and the ballad “Sweetness.”
Yes includes two covers: a jazzy take on “I See You” by The Byrds and a galloping rendition of “Every Little Thing” by The Beatles. The band’s contrapuntal hallmarks are first exhibited during the intro of “Survival,” the Anderson epic that closes the album.
Sessions took place at London’s Advision and Trident Studios with producer Paul Clay (Le Fleur de Lys, Dada, Mellow Candle). The speech-bubble cover art was assisted by Haig Adishian, who designed contemporaneous covers for Chic Corea (Tones For Joan’s Bones), Steve Marcus (Tomorrow Never Knows), The Nazz (Nazz Nazz), and Gato Barbieri (Fenix). In the US, Yes appeared in October 1969 with an alternate cover that pictures the band at an architectural site in Fulham, West London.
In August 1969, Yes appeared at the Plumpton Racecourse for the 9th National Jazz Pop Ballads & Blues Festival, a three-day event with sets by Blodwyn Pig, Magna Carta, Pentangle, Pink Floyd, and Steamhammer. Yes played on the second (Saturday the 9th) along with Aynsley Dunbar, Chicken Shack, Fat Mattress, and the Groundhogs.
On October 9, Yes performed at the Grugenhalle in Essen, Germany, as part of the First German Blues Festival, which featured Fleetwood Mac, Free, The Pretty Things, and Warm Dust. On the 27, they appeared in Tournai, Belgium, as part of the First Paris Music Festival, which featured Sam Apple Pie, the Keith Tippett Group, John Surman, and the American jazzmen Pharoah Sanders and Sonny Sharrock.
Yes partook in Sunday Lyceum, a November 2 event with Deep Purple and Griffin, comprised of singer Graham Bell (Skip Bifferty) and the backbone of The Happy Magazine, including drummer Alan White. The following night, Yes played a multi-act Roundhouse bills with Atomic Rooster, Brian Auger & Trinity, and Manfred Mann Chapter Three. On the 14th, Yes traveled north to Newcastle for a gig at City Hall, where they opened for Family (plugging Family Entertainment). They flew to Switzerland for a week of dates, including a December 2 opening slot for Faces at the Electric Circus in Lausanne.
On January 10, 1970, Yes appeared at L’Olympia in Paris for the Underground Music Festival, which also had sets by Martin Circus, Keef Hartley, East of Eden, Terry Reid, and Richie Havens. On the 30th, they played the 2nd Lanchester Arts Festival in Coventry with Mott the Hoople, Atomic Rooster (readying their debut album), and Free, who performed material from their two 1969 albums: Tons of Sobs and Free.
In early February, Yes opened multiple late-stage shows by The Nice, whose organist, Keith Emerson, had already decided to form a new band with King Crimson singer Greg Lake. Mid-month, Yes toured Scandinavia and Germany with Faces and the Edgar Broughton Band. On the 28th, they played London’s Imperial College with jazz-rock-soulsters Web. Spring ’70 shows included dates with symphonic-psychsters Julian’s Treatment (4/14: Assembly Room, Surbiton) and skinhead rockers Fresh (3/13: Guildhall, Gloucester) and Slade (4/10: Marquee).
1970: Time and a Word
Yes released their second album, Time and a Word, in July 1970 on Atlantic. The album features six originals plus covers of Richie Havens (“No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed”) and Stephen Stills (“Everdays”). Anderson wrote the interior of side two: the tender “Clear Days” and the epic “Astral Traveller.”
The two side-closures, “Sweet Dreams” and the title-track, were co-written by Anderson and Warriors colleague David Foster, who appears on both songs. “The Prophet,” which opens side two, is the only Anderson–Squire co-write.
Sessions occurred between December 1969 and February 1970 with producer Tony Colton, a veteran singer and songwriter currently in folksters Poet and the One Man Band, who soon changed their name to Heads Hands & Feet. He also produced albums by Taste and Atomic Rooster. Time and a Word features orchestration by Tony Cox (Mick Softley, Spirogyra, Trees, Magna Carta) and the Royal College of Music.
The engineer on TaaW, Eddie Offord, also worked on 1970 albums by Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Jackson Heights, Stone the Crows, and Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express. He would co-produce the next five Yes albums.
The checkered nude cover is credited to UK design firm Graphreaks. Atlantic preceded the album’s release with two singles: “Time and a Word” (b/w “The Prophet”) and “Sweet Dreams,” backed with the non-album Anderson–Squire track “Dear Father,” a mid-tempo, harmonized orchestral rocker.
Peter Banks Leaves, Steve Howe Joins
In the five-month gap between the recording and release of Time and a Word, Banks left Yes under debated circumstances. Perturbed by the input of Foster and Cox, he objected to the band’s decision to break with Flynn and hire Brian Lane as their new manager. He played his last show with Yes (and openers Mighty Baby) on April 18, 1970, at Luton Technical College.
Banks gigged briefly with a late-stage Blodwyn Pig and formed Flash, which carried over the early Yes sound on the 1972–73 albums Flash, In the Can, and Out of Our Hands. In 1973, he made Two Sides of Peter Banks, a collaborative effort with Focus guitarist Jan Akkerman. Banks then recorded three albums with Empire, a band with his then-partner Sydney Foxx.
Yes hired Steve Howe, whose recent Bodast project didn’t secure a deal. Howe first surfaced in The Syndicats, an R&B/beat group in which Banks served after Howe jumped ship to The In Crowd, a mod-soul group that morphed into Tomorrow, which cut the 1967 psych singles “My White Bicycle” (b/w “Claramount Lake”) and “Revolution” (b/w “Three Jolly Little Dwarfs”). Their self-titled album appeared in 1968 on Parlophone.
Howe made his live debut with Yes on April 26, 1970, at the Castle in Richmond. On May 23, 1970, they played the Afan Lido Sports Centre in Port Talbot, Wales, as part of the 2nd Afan Festival, which also featured sets by Gypsy, Hawkwind, Skin Alley, and Writing on the Wall.
A week before Time and a Word hit shelves, Yes appeared at the Lyceum along with Clark Hutchinson, Uriah Heep, and headliners Black Sabbath. At that show, Howe performed a solo acoustic bluegrass piece titled “The Clap,” composed in honor of his newborn son. On August 2, Yes played the Fox at Greyhound in Croydon with up-and-comers Supertramp.
Yes returned to Plumpton Racecourse for the 10th National Jazz, Pop, Ballads & Blues Festival, an August 6–9 event with sets by Audience, Burnin Red Ivanhoe, Cat Stevens, Every Which Way, Fotheringay, The Fox, Jackson Heights, Juicy Lucy, Made in Sweden, Patto, Peter Green, Rare Bird, Strawbs, The Incredible String Band, Wishbone Ash, and Van der Graaf Generator, then plugging their second album The Least We Can Do Is Wave to Each Other.
On August 16, Yes appeared in Krumlin, Barkisland, for the Yorkshire Folk, Blues & Jazz Festival, which featured Ginger Baker’s Air Force, The Greatest Show On Earth, Jan Dukes de Grey, the Mike Westbrook Concert Orchestra, National Head Band, and Quintessence. On October 9, Yes played London’s West Ham College with Noir. Meanwhile, Anderson dropped in at Wessex Sound Studios in London to sing “Prince Rupert Awakes,” the first movement of the “Lizard” suite that consumes side two of Lizard, the third album by King Crimson.
Yes crossed paths again with Strawbs on December 9 at Hall University, where the band’s keyboardist, Rick Wakeman, witnessed Yes for the first time. On the 19th, they held the Yes Xmas Party at the Lyceum with support from Dada, a jazz-rock big band with singers Elkie Brooks and Robert Palmer.
On January 3, 1971, Yes played the Fox at Greyhound with Curved Air. Yes then embarked on a month-long tour with Iron Butterfly, starting with a joint jam at the Stadsschouwburg in Eindhoven, Netherlands. The tour included stops in Denmark, Sweden, France, and multiple UK cities (Bristol, Birmingham, Newcastle). Most dates featured opening sets by Dada, just prior to their reinvention as Vinegar Joe.
1971: The Yes Album
The group’s third longplayer, The Yes Album, appeared on February 19, 1971, on Atlantic. This is the first of eight consecutive Yes albums with Steve Howe. Each side features two lengthy epics, separated by a short piece.
The Yes Album opens with the group-written rock opus “Yours Is No Disgrace” and features the Anderson–Squire epics “Perpetual Change” and “I’ve Seen All Good People,” a chanted suite in two parts: “Your Move” and “All Good People.” The pair collaborated with Howe on the three-part suite “Starship Trooper,” which concludes with “Würm,” based on a Bodast demo. Each side contains one short solo-write: “The Clap” and Anderson’s art-pop number “A Venture.”
Sessions took place in late 1970 at Advision, where Yes co-produced the album with Offord who engineered The Yes Album in succession with 1971 titles by the National Head Band and American southern rockers Wet Willie. “The Clap” is sourced from the July 1970 Lyceum performance and features Howe alone on acoustic guitar (save for Bruford’s drum roll at the fadeout). “Your Move” features a prominent melody played on recorder by Colin Goldring, one half of the Goldring musical twins. Their band, Gnidrolog, released the 1972 albums …In Spite of Harry’s Toe-Nail and Lady Lake on RCA Victor.
The Yes Album is housed in a gatefold cover where the band (framed in film stock) huddle in a green-light room with an empty chair and dangling mannequin head. An upshot of the head, dangling from a light bulb, appears on the back cover. Both images were taken during an impromptu session with photographer Phil Franks, also credited on 1970/71 albums by Frank Zappa and Gong. On the inner-fold, spherical studio shots of Anderson, Bruford, Howe, and Squire overlay a full-spread performance close-up of Kaye, who left Yes after the ensuing tour. The photographer, Barrie Wentzell, also has credits on contemporary albums by Barclay James Harvest, Jade, John Kongos, Jody Grind (Far Canal), Tin Tin, and Trapeze.
The Yes Album reached No. 4 on the UK Albums Chart and No. 7 on the Dutch Top 100. It peaked at No. 40 on the US Billboard 200 but eventually became a million-seller. The album’s stateside popularity was fueled by the single “Your Move,” the largely a cappella first section of “I’ve Seen All Good People,” which remains an FM evergreen (played in its entirety) along with “Yours Is No Disgrace.”
Tony Kaye Leaves, Rick Wakeman Joins
On April 1, Yes made their only appearance on the BBC music program Top of the Pops, where they mimed “Yours Is No Disgrace.” They followed with a five-date tour of Germany, where Yes performed “Yours Is No Disgrace” and “I’ve Seen All Good People” on the 4/24/71 broadcast of the Radio Bremen music program Beat-Club, ushered by the dangling mannequin head.
Another round of UK dates included shows with the Mick Abrahams Band and jazz-rockers Satisfaction (5/1: Barking Polytechnic College). On May 9, Yes made their live debut in Italy at the Teatro Brancaccio in Rome. Back home, they played a May 15 show at the Lads Club in Norwich with Groundhogs, then plugging their fourth album Split. On June 5, Yes appeared at the 14k-capacity Sportpalast in Berlin with Pink Floyd, whose set included “Return of the Son of Nothing,” the prototype of the side-long epic “Echoes” on their upcoming album Meddle.
On June 24, Yes played their first North American shows as the opening act for Jethro Tull, then promoting their fourth album Aqualung. The tour covered four cities in Canada and twenty in the United States, including shows in Seattle (6/26: Center Coliseum), Houston (7/3: Hofheinz Pavilion), and two-night stands in Los Angeles (6/28–29: Whisky a Go Go), and Detroit (7/16–17: Eastown Theater with Humble Pie).
On July 31, Yes performed at the Crystal Palace Bowl in Bromley as part of Garden Party II, an open-air event with sets by Fairport Convention, Hookfoot, Rory Gallagher, Tír na nÓg, and headliner Elton John. This marked Tony Kaye’s final live performance with Yes for nearly thirteen years. A staunch organist, Kaye resisted the band’s desire for new keyboard technology. He left Yes and reconnected with Banks during the formative stages of Flash. Despite appearing on their self-titled album, Kaye declined an offer of membership. Instead, he formed Badger with David Foster, guitarist Brian Parrish (Parrish & Gurvitz), and drummer Roy Dyke (Ashton Gardner & Dyke).
Yes hired Rick Wakeman, who turned down a simultaneous offer by David Bowie to join his backing band, the Spiders from Mars. A rising virtuoso at 22, Wakeman played piano on one track (“The Vision of The Lady of the Lake”) on the Strawbs’ 1970 second album Dragonfly and joined for their following two albums: Just a Collection of Antiques and Curios and From the Witchwood. As a sessionist, he backed Bowie on “Space Oddity” (uncredited) and played on the singer’s 1971 fourth album Hunky Dory. He recently recorded the piano intro to “Morning Has Broken,” a soon-to-be hit for singer Cat Stevens.
Wakeman’s arsenal, which included Mellotron and Minimoog in addition to piano and organ, expanded the sonic scope of Yes, which commenced work on their fourth album on August 11 at Advision. Two weeks after sessions wrapped, Wakeman made his live debut with Yes on September 24, 1971, at Queens Hall in Barnstaple. In October, Yes embarked on a 22-date UK tour with singer-songwriter Jonathan Swift, a fellow Lane-managed act.
Elsewhere, Anderson sang backing vocals on the self-titled debut album by singer–songwriter Colin Scot. The 1971 UA release credits Jon as “Dr. Yes” (for contractual purposes) along with eight fellow anonymized guest vocalists, including Alan Hull, Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Peter Hammill, Ann Steuart (Tudor Lodge), Jane Relf (Renaissance), and Steve Gould (Rare Bird).
Yes released their fourth album, Fragile, on November 26, 1971, on Atlantic. It features four ensemble numbers plus five self-performed solo pieces; one by each member. The album opens with the Anderson–Howe evergreen “Roundabout,” a bass-scaling rocker with a chanting mid-section and a harmonic intro–outro theme performed on acoustic classical guitar. Each side concludes with interplay-intensive Anderson–Squire epics: the seismic, sectional “South Side of the Sky” and the arpeggiated, contrapuntal “Heart of the Sunrise.”
The solo numbers include three instrumentals: Wakeman’s 95-second organ piece “Cans and Brahms” (inspired by composer Johannes Brahms), Bruford’s 30-second avant-jazz interlude “Five Per Cent for Nothing” (a reference to Flynn’s ongoing share of Yes royalties), and Howe’s second acoustic showcase “Mood for a Day,” a classical piece performed on a Conde flamenco guitar. Anderson’s brief “We Have Heaven” sets multi-dubbed chants to a simple chordal strum. He also composed the album’s art-pop evergreen “Long Distance Runaround,” which segues into Squire’s reverb-laded “The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus).”
Yes completed Fragile in three weeks with Offord, who co-produced and engineered the album in succession with 1971 titles by Elton Dean, Heads Hands & Feet, Julie Driscoll, Mogul Thrash, Ray Owen’s Moon, Stone the Crows, and onetime Action frontman Reg King. The assistant engineer, Gary Martin, subsequently worked on albums by David Essex, Gentle Giant (In a Glass House), Hugh Hopper, Isotope, Soft Machine (Six), and Stomu Yamash’ta’s East Wind (Freedom Is Frightening).
Fragile is the first Yes album with gatefold art by sci-fi illustrator Roger Dean. It shows a winged ship in starless orbit of a planet with enlarged Earthly details (tall trees, rocky peaks). On the back gate, the planet’s green surface areas dislodge, as witnessed from the nearby ship’s underside. Original copies contain an eight-page booklet with further Dean illustrations and candid photographs of Yes members and their loved ones, including the wives of Jon Anderson (Jennifer) and Chris Squire (Nikki). Dean also illustrated covers for 1971 albums by Atomic Rooster, Billy Cox’s Nitro Function, Earth and Fire (the UK Nepentha issue of their 1970 self-titled album), Lighthouse, Keith Tippett, Mike Absalom, Nucleus (We’ll Talk About It Later), Osibisa, Patto, and Ramases.
Fragile reached No. 7 on the UK Albums Chart, No. 8 on the Netherlands, No. 6 in Canada, and No. 4 on the US Billboard 200. It has since been certified double-Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, signifying over 2,000,000 copies sold.
A 3:27 edit of “Roundabout” (b/w “Long Distance Runaround”) reached No. 9 in Canada, No. 10 on the Cash Box Top 100, and No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100. The full versions of both songs remain evergreens of FM radio (most stations play “Long Distance Runaround” together with “Fish”).
Fragile Tour, “America”
On November 3, 1971, Yes launched their second US tour with a five-night engagement with Ten Years After at the Whisky a Go Go. On the 8th, the two acts played the Winterland Ballroom on San Francisco. The tour covered thirty-one cities, including stops in Philadelphia (11/13/71: Spectrum), Chicago (11/14: Auditorium Theatre), New Orleans (11/20: Warehouse), and another two-night stand (11/15–16) at Detroit’s Eastown Theater — all double-bills with Emerson Lake & Palmer, then promoting their second studio album Tarkus and the just-released rock adaptation of Pictures at an Exhibition by Russian Romantic composer Modest Mussorgsky. On November 28, opened for The Kinks at Pritchard Gymnasium in Stony Brook, NY. Between stops, Wakeman studied historical accounts of the six wives of Henry VIII.
In late January 1972, Yes did an eleven-city swing through Benelux and the UK, including shows with Shawn Phillips (1/14–15: Rainbow, London) and Curved Air (1/29: Starlight Club, Boston, England), who were then promoting their second album titled Second Album. This leg culminated with a Jan. 31 show at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in Manchester. Wakeman secured a solo deal with A&M and started work on his debut album.
Yes launched their third US tour with a February 18 show at Bethany College. They played thirty-four shows, including dates with Sweathog (2/29: Ritz Theater, Staten Island) and four Southwest triple-bills with Black Sabbath and Wild Turkey. On March 27, the final date of the tour, Yes appeared with King Crimson at Aquarius Theater in Boston, Mass. After the show, Bruford purportedly asked Crimson leader Robert Fripp about a possible slot in the KC lineup.
On May 27, Anderson and Howe attended the Great Western Express Festival in Bardney, where they performed backup to Stone the Crows, who recently lost their guitarist, Lesley Harvey, in an on-stage electrocution. The four-day festival also had sets by The Beach Boys, Buddy Miles, Byzantium, C.O.B., Capability Brown, Harvey Andrews, J.S.D. Band, Jade Warrior, Jonathan Kelly, Jonesy, Lindisfarne, Locomotive GT, Magic Carpet, Mick Softley, Morgan, Nazareth, Roxy Music, Sutherland Brothers, Walrus, and Strawbs, who plugged their first post-Wakeman effort Grave New World.
After sessions wrapped on the upcoming Yes album, Howe made a July 16 appearance at London’s Royal Academy, where he performed with the Philomusica Orchestra conducted by David Palmer.
Meanwhile, Yes issued a cover of “America,” the 1968 Simon & Garfunkel chestnut that had been a fixture of the band’s shows since 1970. A product of their recent sessions, the July 1972 single is a four-minute edit of their ten-minute studio arrangement of “America,” released in full on The New Age of Atlantic, a November 1972 label comp with cuts by Cactus, Gordon Haskell, and Led Zeppelin.
1972: Close to the Edge
Yes released their fifth album, Close to the Edge, on September 13, 1972, on Atlantic. Side one holds the Anderson–Howe title suite (18:45), a rock sonata divided into four parts: “The Solid Time of Change,” “Total Mass Retain,” “I Get Up, I Get Down,” and “Seasons of Man.”
Side two contains two lengthy numbers: the cosmic Anderson ballad “And You and I” (also divided into four sections) and the funky, contrapuntal Howe–Wakeman co-write “Siberian Khatru.”
Sessions took place between February and June 1972 at Advision, where Offord co-produced and engineered Close to the Edge in succession with Trilogy, the fourth studio album by Emerson Lake & Palmer. An edit of “Total Mass Retain” appeared two months prior as the b-side to “America.”
For Close to the Edge, Dean designed a bubble-letter logo where the Y-tail curves around through the E-eye to form the S (all lower-case). It appears in bright green under a light blue bubble-lettered title over a grainy, black–green gradient. The back features a white outline of the logo with hand-written credits and studio shots of each member plus Offord. The logo, which also appears on the original LP labels, appears on the nine ensuing Yes releases through 1981 (five studio albums, two live sets, and two compilations).
Dean’s inner-gate illustration depicts a flat valley precipice overlooking foggy, bottomless depths from the vantage point of a nearby hill. This, his second of six consecutive visual projects for Yes, appeared as Dean proliferated with 1972 covers for Babe Ruth, Budgie, Gentle Giant (Octopus), Midnight Sun, Paladin, and the two albums that year by Uriah Heep: Demons and Wizards and The Magician’s Birthday.
“Close to the Edge” is the first of six side-long suites Yes issued between 1972 and 1974, a format also employed on contemporary albums by ELP (Tarkus, Brain Salad Surgery), Genesis (Foxtrot), Renaissance (Scheherazade and Other Stories), Van der Graaf Generator (Pawn Hearts), and Jethro Tull, whose 1972–73 albums Thick as a Brick and A Passion Play consist of album-length suites.
Close to the Edge reached No. 1 in the Netherlands, No. 4 on the UK Albums Chart, No. 7 in Canada, and No. 3 on the Billboard 200 in the US, where the album was later certified Platinum by the RIAA.
Bill Bruford Leaves, Alan White Joins
Upon completion of Close to the Edge, Bill Bruford exited Yes; tallying 594 shows with the band. Fripp enlisted Bruford for the third edition of King Crimson along with bassist John Wetton, violinist David Cross and percussionist Jamie Muir — lineup behind the 1973 Atlantic release Larks’ Tongues in Aspic. Without Muir, the remaining four made Starless and Bible Black. After Cross departed, the Fripp–Bruford–Wetton trio made Red, released just prior to their late-1974 disbandment.
Bruford briefly played in the Canterbury supergroup National Health and served as the live drummer for Genesis on the tour for their 1976 release A Trick of the Tail, their first with Phil Collins as vocalist. Between 1977 and 1980, Bill cut three albums with his namesake jazz-rock band Bruford and co-created the first album by UK, a supergroup with Wetton, keyboardist Eddie Jobson and guitarist Allan Holdsworth. Bill then joined the fourth edition of King Crimson for the 1981–84 albums Discipline, Beat, and Three of a Perfect Pair.
Yes hired Offord’s roommate, drummer Alan White, who twice dropped in on the group’s spring 1972 activities: once during rehearsals for “Siberian Khatru” and again during taping of the video to “America.” White played on 1970–72 albums by Brian Short, George Harrison, John Lennon, Joe Cocker, and Steve Gibbons. He also served in Wonderwheel, the solo vehicle of Gary Wright between the singer’s two stints in Spooky Tooth. Via Graham Bell, White’s band Griffin got involved with the Skip Bifferty spinoff ARC and played on their 1971 reunion with Graham, Bell + Arc. Though unsigned, Griffin stuck together under a new name, Simpson’s Pure Oxygen. They remained on standby as White immersed himself in Yes.
Close to the Edge Tour, Wakeman Solo
Yes launched their tour behind Close to the Edge in Texas, where White debuted with the band on July 30, 1972, at the Memorial Auditorium in Dallas. They covered seventeen US cities, including Portland (8/6: Memorial Coliseum) and Memphis (8/20/72: Mid-South Coliseum). Their opening acts included Edgar Winter (8/5: Berkeley Community Theatre), the Mahavishnu Orchestra (8/11: The Rubber Bowl, Akron), and the Spirit spinoff Jo Jo Gunne with Jay Ferguson (8/16: Gaelic Park, Bronx). Multiple shows opened with harmony rockers The Eagles, whose members purportedly clashed backstage with Yes personnel. On August 21, Yes appeared at Southern Illinois University for the Mississippi River Festival, which featured sets by Jackson Browne and ex-Kaleidoscope frontman David Lindley.
Yes flew home for a short round of dates in England and Scotland, including a September 2 show at the Crystal Palace Bowl as part of the 3rd Garden Party. A second North American leg covered five cities in Canada and thirty-eight in the states, including November southern stops with rustic rockers Tranquility. Back home, Yes did a two-night stand (December 15–16) at London’s Rainbow Theatre with Badger as their opening act.
On January 23, 1973, Rick Wakeman debuted as a solo artist on A&M with The Six Wives of Henry VIII. It contains six numbers, each titled after one of Henry VIII’s wives. Wakeman self-performed most of the music on his stacked arsenal that included harpsichord, portative organ, ARP synthesizer, Steinway grand, Hammond C-3, RMI electric piano, two Minimoogs, and two 2 400-D Mellotrons. He also used the church organ at St Giles-without-Cripplegate. “Catherine of Aragon” features backup by Bruford, Howe, Squire, and session vocalist Liza Strike, who also sings on “Anne Boleyn.” Two Strawbs, Dave Cousins and Dave Lambert, appear on “Catherine Howard.” White drums on “Anne of Cleves,” “Jane Seymour,” and “Catherine Parr.” The Six Wives reached No. 7 on the UK Albums Chart.
In March 1973, Anderson attended Bruford’s wedding reception, where Muir introduced Jon to Autobiography of a Yogi, the 1946 autobiography of Indian Hindu guru Paramahansa Yogananda (1893–1952). Anderson used the footnotes on page 83 — a description of four Shastric scriptures about art, architecture, civics, medicine, music, and religion — as inspiration for the next Yes studio album.
That month, Yes embarked on their first tours of Japan (March 8–14) and Australia (March 19–27), but cancelled three scheduled shows in New Zealand. Yes wrapped their Close to the Edge promotions with a third US leg comprised of eighteen dates, including a two-night stand in St. Louis (April 16–17: Kiel Auditorium).
On May 18, 1973, Atlantic released Yessongs, a six-sided document of the band’s Fragile and Close to the Edge. It contains more than two hours of performances, including four numbers from The Yes Album (everything barring “The Clap” and “A Venture”), four from Fragile (barring “South Side of the Sky” and the Anderson, Bruford, and Wakeman miniatures), and all three numbers from Close to the Edge.
Yessongs features elongated versions of “Yours Is No Disgrace” (14:21), “Perpetual Change” (14:08), and “Long Distance Runaround–The Fish” (13:45) — the last two performed with Bruford in February 1972 at New York’s Academy of Music. Most of the numbers come from November tour stops in Ottawa (11/1/72: Civic Centre); Greensboro, NC (11/12: Coliseum); Knoxville (11/15: Civic Coliseum); and Uniondale, NY (11/20: Nassau Coliseum). The renditions of “Close to the Edge” and “Starship Trooper” are from their December 16–17 showcase at the Rainbow Theatre.
Yessongs starts with “Opening (Excerpt from ‘Firebird Suite),” the closing section of the 1910 orchestral work The Firebird by Russian modernist composer Igor Stravinsky (1882–1971). Side three contains the Wakeman showcase “Excerpts from ‘The Six Wives of Henry VIII’,” pieced together from two separate performances. Anderson precedes this with a quote from Stravinsky’s 1913 piece The Rite of Spring.
Yessongs is housed in a four-fold gatefold sleeve with a 12-page booklet comprised of color-lighted performance pics. The package features four Dean paintings:
- Awakening (front, outer-fold) shows rock formations with spiraling paths over water.
- Escape (back cover) shows the winged Fragile spaceship approach triangular planetary chunks.
- Arrival (left inner-gates) shows the spaceship land in desolate water with giant mushrooms in the foreground.
- Pathways (right inner-gates) shows a pan-down of the rock formations, now overlaid with grass, trees, and deer.
Yessongs reached No. 7 on the UK Albums Chart, No. 8 in Australia and Canada, No. 9 in Italy, and No. 12 on the Billboard 200.
Footage from the Rainbow Theatre shows comprise the 76-minute Yessongs concert film, premiered in March 1975 in key US markets (Madison, Cincinnati, Charlotte). Excerpts aired earlier on the BBC music program The Old Grey Whistle Test. The film later appeared on VHS, DVD, and Blu-ray.
The opening act for the Rainbow Theatre shows, Badger, made their vinyl debut with the 1973 Atlantic release One Live Badger, drawn from their sets at the December 1972 concerts. It contains five group-written numbers (all seven minutes) and one Parrish piece (“The Preacher”). Anderson co-produced the album with Geoffrey Haslam, an engineer on Yessongs and recent albums by Ramatam and Guns & Butter. Dean illustrated the One Live gatefold, which depicts badgers among dead tree formations in a snow-covered valley. Badger made one further album, the 1974 Epic release White Lady, with singer Jackie Lomax and guitarist Paul Pilnick (Stealers Wheel, Deaf School).
Yes commenced sessions for a new album in the late summer of 1973 at Morgan Studios in London.
Tales from Topographic Oceans
Yes released their sixth studio album, Tales from Topographic Oceans, on December 7, 1973, on Atlantic. It’s an 81-minute double-album comprised of four side-long epics. Each piece was group-composed with lyrics by Anderson and Howe.
Tales inaugurated the 49-year tenure of drummer Alan White. This is the first of five non-consecutive albums by the most recurrent Yes lineup: Anderson, Howe, Squire, Wakeman, and White. The five later regrouped for two-album spells in 1977–78 and 1996–97.
Yes co-produced Tales with Offord, who worked on the album in succession with 1973 titles by Johnny Harris, Riff Raff (self-titled), Spontaneous Music Ensemble, and Terry Reid. The tape op, Guy Bidmead, engineered 1975–76 albums by Automatic Man (self-titled), Brian Eno (Another Green World), Camel (Moonmadness), Split Enz (Second Thoughts), and Strife.
Dean’s Tales gatefold depicts a dusk valley setting with rocky formations and floating fish. At Anderson’s request, the front contains a distant view of Chichen Itza, a Mayan temple in Yucatán, Mexico. The inner-gates feature six paragraphs of Anderson liner notes and lyrics to the four numbers, interspersed with oval-framed imagery of natural settings (sea, sky) and phenomenon (clouds, waterfalls).
Tales from Topographic Oceans reached No. 1 n the UK Albums Chart, No. 4 in Canada, and No. 6 on the Billboard 200. It peaked at No. 8 in Japan, Norway, and the Netherlands. The album also went Top 20 in Australia and Italy.
Topographic Oceans Tour, Wakeman Solo
A fortnite before the album’s release, Yes launched their Tales from Topographic Oceans tour on November 16, 1973: the first of two nights at the Winter Garden in Bournemouth. The UK leg covered fifteen cities with two-night stands in Manchester (11/28–29/73: Lesser Free Trade Hall), Birmingham (12/3–4: Hippodrome), Glasgow (12/6–7: Apollo Theatre), Newcastle (12/8–9: City Hall), and a five-night engagement at the Rainbow Theatre (11/20–24). They wrapped the leg on December 10 at the Empire Theatre in Edinburgh. The setlist featured “Roundabout” and everything from Close to the Edge and Tales, plus “Heart of the Sunrise” (dropped after November) and occasional performances of “Yours Is No Disgrace.”
Wakeman, dissatisfied with Topographic Oceans, voiced his desire to exit Yes before the tour’s launch. They persuaded him to honor the tour and gave him the occasional solo spotlight. Between the tour’s UK and US legs, Wakeman recorded Journey to the Centre of the Earth, an orchestral rock opera about an expedition to the planet’s core, based on the namesake 1864 sci-fi novel by French author Jules Verne. Wakeman recorded the album on January 18, 1974, at the Royal Festival Hall with the English Chamber Choir and the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by David Measham. Journey features vocals by Gary Pickford-Hopkins (Eyes of Blue, Wild Turkey) and Ashley Holt (Warhorse) with narration by actor David Hemmings (Blowup, Barbarella).
Yes launched the North American leg of their Tales from Topographic Oceans tour on February 7, 1974, at the University Auditorium in Gainesville, Florida. The leg covered two cities in Canada and thirty-six in the states with two-nighters in NYC (2/18,20/74: Madison Square Garden), Detroit (2/27–28: Cobo Arena), Chicago (3/6–7: International Amphitheatre), and San Francisco (3/15–16: Winterland). At Cobo, they dropped “The Remembering” and added “Starship Trooper” to the setlist. On most dates, singer–songwriter John Martyn served as their opening act. The American leg concluded on March 24 at the Dallas Convention Center.
The European Topographic Oceans leg commenced on April 11 in Frankfurt and covered five cities in West Germany, followed by shows in Rotterdam, Paris, Zurich, and Rome, where the tour wrapped on April 23 at the Palazzo dello Sport.
During their stop in Paris, Anderson befriended Vangelis, the former keyboardist of Greek psychsters Aphrodite’s Child. Jon admired his recent solo work, including the soundtrack to the French animal documentary L’Apocalypse des animaux.
1974: Rick Wakeman Leaves, Patrick Moraz Joins
Wakeman exited Yes in May 1974, the same month A&M released Journey to the Centre of the Earth. On July 27, he headlined the Crystal Palace Garden Party, which also featured sets by Gryphon, Leo Sayer, Procol Harum, Wally, and The Winkies. He performed the album in its entirety with the ECC and LSO and enacted the stories climax with inflated dinosaurs. A mishap deflated the dinos and led to audience hijinks in the outdoor venue’s pond area. Wakeman co-produced the Atlantic release Wally, the first of two albums by his rustic-rock opening act.
That fall, Wakeman launched his first solo tour, performing Journey to the Centre of the Earth with the National Philharmonic Orchestra and his backing band, the English Rock Ensemble, comprised of Holt, Pickford-Hopkins, and fellow Warhorse alumni. The tour covered North America, Japan, and Oceania.
During an October 1974 stop in New Haven, Connecticut, Wakeman was introduced to Dave Biro, a young, aspiring instrument inventor who presented a prototype of the Birotron, a Mellotron-like instrument with 8-track tape loops of orchestral sounds. Impressed with its thickness of range and ability to hold notes indefinitely, Wakeman agreed to fund the project. In 1975, they established Birotronics Ltd. with ELP Moog technician Phil Pearce and French library musician Roger Rogers. The following year, they advertised the keyboard in the music trade papers, prompting advance orders from Edgar Froese (Tangerine Dream), Klaus Schulze, Larry Fast (Synergy), Robert Lamm (Chicago), Rod Argent (Argent), and numerous other keyboardists.
Meanwhile, Wakeman pursued his solo career with the 1975 A&M release The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, recorded with the ECC, the ERE, and the New World Orchestra. Later that year, he made the soundtrack to Lisztomania, a musical biographical film by director Kurt Russell about the opulent life and flashy personae of Hungarian Romantic composer Franz Liszt (1811–1886). Who frontman Roger Daltery, who plays the titular role of Liszt, sings four songs on the soundtrack. Wakeman appears in the film as Thor, the Nordic god of thunder.
As a four-piece, Yes retreated to Farmyard Studios, a facility in Little Chalfont, Buckinghamshire, owned by Liverpool drummer Trevor Morais, a veteran of the sixties beat scene who long served in jazz-rockers The Peddlers and recently formed Quantum Jump with keyboardist Rupert Hine and bassist John G. Perry (Caravan, Gringo). At Farmyard, Yes auditioned numerous keyboardists, including Nick Glennie-Smith (Wally), Jean Roussel (Juicy Lucy, Hanson), and Jon’s preference, Vangelis. Creative differences and issues with the Musician’s Union made Vangelis a non-option.
Melody Maker reporter Chris Welch, a staunch champion of Yes, recommended Swiss keyboardist Patrick Moraz, who recently cut an album with Refugee, a keyboard trio with the onetime rhythm section of The Nice. Patrick started as a teen pianist prodigy at the 1964 Zurich Jazz Festival. He first encountered Yes in 1969 at the Montreux Casino. That year, he settled in England with Mainhorse, which cut a 1971 Polydor album and a soundtrack single for the French drama film La Salamandre.
Moraz auditioned for Yes on August 7, 1974, at Squire’s house, where the band presented their new piece, “Sound Chaser,” and had him develop a mid-section, which he devised on the spot.
Yes released their seventh studio album, Relayer, on November 28, 1974, on Atlantic. It contains three titles in the format of Close to the Edge: one side-length suite and two half-side numbers. Side one consists of “The Gates of Delirium,” a battle epic inspired by War and Peace, the 1869 novel about the Franco–Russian War of 1812 by Russian author Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910).
Yes recorded Relayer in the late-summer and autumn of 1974 in the garage of New Pipers, Squire’s home in Virginia Water, Surrey. Offord co-produced and engineered the album in succession with Happy Daze, the fifth studio album by Lindisfarne.
Offord rendered Relayer with cold, foggy textures unlike anything else in the Yes catalog: a vibe reflected in Dean’s chrome-scale gatefold art. The cover shows equestrian soldiers crossing a bridge amid carved glacial formations (front) over serpent-nested bedrock (back). The blue-gradient inner-gates feature a poem by one Donald Lehmkuhl and a grayscale photo of Yes by Jean Ristori, Patrick’s colleague and former bandmate in Mainhorse. Dean also did covers to 1974 albums by Gravy Train and Lighthouse. Though Relayer departs from the artist’s blue–green Yes covers, he employed a similar white–grey spectrum on One Live Badger.
Relayer would be their only album with Moraz, whose expressionist, jazzy style of keyboard playing contrasts the mannered, classical approach of Wakeman. His influence is most evident on “Gates of Delirium” during the chaotic instrumental mid-section (the battle sequence, informally referenced as “Pounding out the devil’s sermon.”)
Relayer reached No. 4 on the UK Albums Chart, No. 9 in France, and No. 5 on the Billboard 200. The album also went Top 20 in Australia, Italy, Norway, and the Netherlands.
Relayer Tour, Yesterdays
Yes launched the Relayer tour on November 8, 1974, at St. John’s Arena in Columbus, Ohio. On the first eight shows, Moraz used Yes tablature sheets that Ristori transcribed by ear. Their setlist included all of Relayer and Close to the Edge, plus “Roundabout” and “Ritual.” They played Madison Square Garden on November 20, one of multiple dates with Gryphon (promoting their third album Red Queen to Gryphon Three). The first US leg covered 32 cities in the Northeast, Midwest, and Deep South.
In February 1975, Atlantic released Yesterdays, a compilation with seven tracks from the Banks era: two from Yes (“Looking Around,” “Survival”), four from Time and a Word (“Then,” “Sweet Dreams,” “Astral Traveller,” “Time and a Word”), and the 1970 b-side “Dear Father.” The compilation also includes the full 10:30 version of “America”; its first appearance on a Yes album. The Simon & Garfunkel cover was previously exclusive to the 1972 label comp The New Age of Atlantic (the liner notes incorrectly place it on The Age of Atlantic, a 1970 sampler with the Allman Brothers, Cold Blood, and Vanilla Fudge).
Yesterdays is housed in a single sleeve with a green monochrome inner-sleeve with credits and eight photos: one of each pre-Moraz member, including White, despite his non-representation in the song selection. Dean’s painting depicts leafless, twisted tree formations that spiral upward from a lake to a deep-blue sky, where a facially obscured, lime-skinned female nude reclines midair (a reference to the Graphreaks TaaW cover). The back cover depicts a similar tree formation in a foggy still-water setting under a dark-green sky with nude blue-skinned youth at the foreground; one seen from behind in the act of urinating. Both images incorporate the Yes logo into the title. This would be Dean’s last cover for the band until 1980.
On April 15, 1975, Yes resumed the Relayer tour with a twelve-city, 25-show tour of the UK. This time, they played one show in London (May 10, 1975: Queen’s Park Rangers Stadium) but did three-night engagements in Bristol, Newcastle, and Southampton. They replaced “Siberian Khatru” with evergreens from The Yes Album and Fragile. Otherwise, they retained the November setlist. Gryphon opened all dates. On May 27, they played a four-act bill with Ace and the Sensational Alex Harvey Band at the Victoria Ground in Stoke-on-Trent.
Yes launched a second North American Relayer leg on June 17 at Denver Coliseum. They played three shows in Canada and twenty-nine in the states, including a two-nighter (July 21–22) at The Spectrum in Philadelphia.
In August 1975, Yes played before 70,000 attendees at the 15th National Jazz, Blues and Rock Festival in Reading. The three-day event featured sets by Dr. Feelgood, Heavy Metal Kids, Kokomo, Judas Priest, UFO, Richard & Linda Thompson, Mahavishnu Orchestra (performing Visions of the Emerald Beyond), and the Climax Blues Band. Yes headlined day two (Saturday the 23rd), which featured Supertramp (plugging Crime of the Century), Thin Lizzy, Kursaal Flyers, Snafu, String Driven Thing, and Zzebra.
After the Relayer tour, Yes paused for a year so each member could make a solo album. For all parties barring Squire and White, these albums marked the start of ongoing solo careers. All five albums appeared on Atlantic.
Steve Howe released Beginnings on October 31, 1975. It features six Howe-sing vocal numbers and three instrumentals: “The Nature of the Sea,” a finger-picking jazz-rocker with three-fifths of Gryphon; “Beginnings,” a classical piece with a seven-piece string–reed section; and “Ram,” a self-performed bluegrass short.
Moraz plays harpsichord on the title-track and Mellotron on “Will ‘O’ the Wisp,” a multi-sectional symphonic rocker with White, who drums on five numbers. The album’s first two cuts, “Door of Sleep” are “Australia,” are exclusively performed by White and a multi-tracked Howe; the first quotes “At Night” by Victorian poet Alice Meynell. “Lost Symphony” features all three players and Snafu bassist Colin Gibson, White’s bandmate in Griffin. The saxophone riff is played by Mick Eve, a one-time member of the Colosseum precursor Wes Minster Five who also played on 1974/75 albums by Chris de Burgh, Gonzalez, Russ Ballard, and Stretch. The high-energy closer “Break Away From It All” is a duet between Howe an Bruford, who also plays on the penultimate “Pleasure Stole the Night” along with classical contra-bassist Chris Laurence.
Beginnings is housed in a Roger Dean gatefold where Howe stands with his guitars inside the open cavity of a scaly landform surrounded by a landscaped pond and large mushroom-like flora. Sessions took place at Advision and Trident, where Howe co-produced Beginnings with Offord, who engineered the album with Paul Northfield, a soundman on Out of Our Hands, Two Sides of Peter Banks, and 1975/76 albums by Cado Belle, Gentle Giant (Free Hand, Interview), Locust, and Steve Hillage. Beginnings reached No. 22 on the UK Albums Chart.
Chris Squire released Fish Out of Water on November 7, 1975. It features five numbers credited to Squire but co-written and arranged by his onetime Syn bandmate Andrew Pryce Jackman. As childhood friends, they sang in the Sunday school choir at St Paul’s Cathedral under organist Barry Rose, who plays church organ on the album opener “Hold Out Your Hands.” It’s followed without pause by the orchestral “You by My Side,” which segues into the half-side epic “Silently Falling.” Side two features “Lucky Seven,” titled in reference to its 7/8 time; and the 15-minute “Safe (Canon Song),” where Squire modifies his bass tones with the guitar pickups on a double-neck guitar–bass.
Bruford appears on the album along with saxophonist Mel Collins (King Crimson, Kokomo) and flutist Jimmy Hastings (Caravan), who also plays on the 1975 Virgin release The Rotters Club, the second album by Hatfield and the North. Squire, the most prominent backing vocalist in Yes, sings and plays guitar in addition to bass. He titled the album after his nickname ‘Fish’ (the titlesake of his earlier Fragile piece) and the idiom “out of water,” a reference to this being his first recording outside of Yes (barring The Syn).
Squire self-produced the album at New Pipers and Morgan, where Pyce Jackman’s brother, Gregg, engineered Fish Out of Water with Nigel Luby, an ongoing Yes technician. Gregg Jackman also engineered 1973–75 albums by Byzantium, Greenslade, and A Band Called ‘O’. Fish Out of Water reached No. 25 on the UK Albums Chart. Of the five solo albums, FOoW is the most vintage Yes-like.
Alan White released Ramshackled on June 15, 1976. It features nine originals written and performed by White’s three longtime colleagues: guitarist Peter Kirtley, keyboardist Kenny Craddock and bassist Colin Gibson. The four cut one 1969 single, “I Am The Noise In Your Head” (b/w “Don’t You Know”) under the name Griffin with singer Graham Bell, who previously cut an album with Gibson in Skip Bifferty. Minus Bell, the four morphed into Simpson’s Pure Oxygen, which paused without disbanding when White joined Yes. Meanwhile, Colin cut three albums in Snafu.
Before Griffin, White played with Craddock and Kirtley in The Happy Magazine with singer Alan Marshall, who handles lead vocals on Ramshackled, which features two songs by Kirtley (“Ooooh Baby (Goin’ to Pieces),” “Silly Woman”), three by Craddock–Gibson (“One Way Rag,” “Giddy,” “Darkness, Pts. 1–3”), two co-written by all three (“Avakak,” “Everybody”), one Craddock sole-write (“Marching Into a Bottle”), and the Kirtley-arranged “Spring-Song of Innocence,” which appropriates a poem by English Romantic bard William Blake (1757–1827) and features guest appearances by Anderson and Howe.
Musically, Ramshackled tackles Latin-soul (“Ooooh Baby”), orchestral jazz-rock (“Avakak”), vintage barroom R&B (“Giddy”), atmospheric ballads (the ethereal “Spring-Song of Innocence”; the eerie, intense “Darkness”), reggae-funk (“Silly Woman”), and kitchen-sink exotica (“Everybody”). Marshall belts out soaring chorus lines on “Ooooh Baby” and “Giddy.” On most passages, White’s drumming echoes the busy, booming style of Buddy Rich.
Ramshackled is a band effort; effectively the long-awaited album by Simpson’s Pure Oxygen. Despite this, Atlantic released this as a White solo album — in keeping with the Yes-members solo series — because they had him, not the band, under contract. The LP label on side one sports a painted optical illusion: clustered nude beauties that form the head of an old wise man. White co-produced the album with Bob Potter, who engineered White Lady and the 1975 Snafu release All Funked Up.
Patrick Moraz released The Story of i on June 17, 1976. It’s a concept album about a tower in the Brazilian rain forest where people come to experience their wildest desires. Once achieved, the inhabitant dies. No one is allowed to leave once inside or fall in love with fellow inhabitants. The story’s two main subjects break this rule and escape to the heavens. Musically, the album fuses Latin, electronic, and jazz-rock elements with abstract layers and a misty, swirling psychedelic ambience akin to the recent work of Todd Rundgren (Utopia, Initiation). Of the five Yes solo albums, Patrick’s most conjures the tumultuous parts of Relayer.
Moraz, who arranged and self-produced the album, plays keyboards, piano, synthesizers, organ, marimbaphone, and sundry percussion. The Story of i was engineered by Ristori, who plays cello and acoustic string bass. Other players include guitarist Ray Gomez, bassist Jeff Berlin (Bruford), drummer Alphonse Mouzon, and singers Vivienne McAuliffe (Principal Edwards Magic Theatre) and John McBurnie (Jackson Heights). Sessions took place in late 1975 at Aquarius Studio in Geneva with engineer
The Story of i appeared on Charisma (UK, Europe) and Atlantic (North America). The Atlantic pressing (cat# SD 18175) appeared eight slots down the label’s roster from Ramshackled (cat# SD 18167).
Jon Anderson released Olias of Sunhillow on July 24, 1976. It tells the tale of Olias, a magician who leads a voyage on the space ark Moorglade Mover, on which the four tribes of Sunhillow flee their volcanic planet. Under the guidance of the mystic Qoquaq and Moorglade navigator Ranyart, the party fights off the evil forces of Moon Ra and find a new home on the planet Asguard.
For the concept, Anderson took inspiration from the cover of Fragile, where a winged space ark flees a breaking planet. With Dean unavailable, Anderson employed illustrator Dave Roe, whose similar ornate, fantastical style appears on 1975/76 albums by Nazareth and Popol Ace. Roe illustrated the Olias gatefold, which depicts the winged, masted Moorglade (front), a gold alchemy symbol (back, labels), and imagery of Olias amid the landscapes of Sunhillow and Asguard across the narrative text inner-gates, which contain a center flap to allow two inner-spreads. The lyrics appear on the inner-sleeve with a group pic of Anderson, his wife and sound crew.
Anderson composed, produced, and self-performed Olias of Sunhillow on an assortment of keyboards, percussion, and string instruments that he collected over the years. He spent months practicing each instrument to a skill-level sufficient for recording, which occurred in the mobile studio at his home garage in Long Grove in Seer Green, Buckinghamshire. The album was painstakingly engineered by Mike Dunne, a technician on Close to the Edge, Yessongs, One Live Badger, Out of Our Hands, and albums by Darryl Way’s Wolf and National Health. Due to Anderson’s learning curve and the complexities at hand, Olias was pushed back from its scheduled release date of December 1975, the month Vangelis issued Heaven and Hell, which features Jon’s voice and lyrics on the track “So Long Ago, So Clear.”
Musically, Olias of Sunhillow consists of folksy, dreamy soundscapes akin to “And You and I” but distinguishes itself from Yes with exotic lute instruments (mandocello, tampuri, bouzouki, saz). Most of the tracks segue into one another. The album reached No. 8 on the UK Albums Chart.
1976 Solo Albums Tour
Yes reconvened in May 1976, before the release of the White, Moraz or Anderson titles. Their spring–summer tour, intended as a mix of band favorites and solo highlights, covered two rounds of dates in North America. They launched the first leg on May 28 at Roanoke Civic Center in Virginia and covered twenty-five cities in the South, Midwest, Northeast, and mid-Atlantic Coast through June 26.
The initial setlist featured three-fourths of Relayer (“The Gates of Delirium,” “Sound Chaser”) and the perrenials “Roundabout,” “I’ve Seen All Good People,” “Heart of the Sunrise,” and “Siberian Khatru.” The solo numbers included three from Beginnings (“Break Away from It All,” “Ram,” “Beginnings”), two from Ramshackled (“One Way Rag,” “Song of Innocence”), a pair of run-togethers from Fish Out of Water (“Hold Out Your Hand–You by My Side”), and one from The Story of i (“Cachaça (Baião)”).
All solo pieces, plus the wildcard oldie “Sweet Dreams,” were dropped from the set between June 1 (show 5, Nashville) and June 6 (show 10, Huntsville). This freed time for “Long Distance Runaround,” “Starship Trooper,” and “Ritual (Nous Sommes du Soleil).” Moraz got one solo spot, “Grand Canyon Suite,” culled from Refugee. Hoew replaced “Break Away” with “The Clap.” They also added “On Wings of Gold” (an adaptation of Vivaldi’s “Winter”), “Apocalypse” (part IV of “And You and I”), and “Leaves of Green” (the final section of “The Ancient”).
The second leg commenced on July 17 in Anneheim and covered fifteen West Coast and Midwest cities, including a three-night engagement (August 17–19) at Detroit’s Cobo Arena. With Olias of Sunhillow now in stores, they added Anderson’s “Ocean Song” as a prelude to “Apocalypse.” In late July, they dropped “Gates of Delirium” for “The Remembering.” On select dates, they covered the Beatles rocker “I’m Down” and the Wilson Pickett belter “In the Midnight Hour,” which The Jam would soon cover on their second album This Is the Modern World.
In October 1976, Yes convened in Montreaux, Switzerland, and started work on a new album at Mountain Studios, where ELP just wrapped sessions on their first of two Works volumes. Conflicts arose over production methods (particularly echo, which Anderson favored and Squire opposed) and song structures, such as the intro to “Eastern Numbers,” a new epic in development. In November, Moraz left Yes under disputed circumstances.
Moraz resumed his solo career and served ten years (1981–91) in the Moody Blues. In the mid-eighties, he partnered with Bruford on two albums of piano–drum jazz improv.
Meanwhile, Wakeman’s solo career proliferated with his April 1976 release No Earthly Connection and the just-completed White Rock, recorded for a documentary film about the 1976 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria. Recently, he rehearsed with Bruford and John Wetton for a proposed super-trio project that stalled amid conflicting contracts and premature press leaks.
Yes contacted Wakeman, who liked their new demoes. He joined them in Montreaux, where he decided to stay as a tax exile.
1977: Going for the One
Yes released their eighth studio album, Going for the One, on July 15, 1977 on Atlantic. Anderson wrote the album’s two singles: “Going for the One,” a cosmic rocker with Howe on steel guitar; and “Wonderous Stories,” a folk ballad inspired by Swiss scenery with Steve on the vachalia, a Portuguese lute. Squire submitted “Parallels,” a direct rocker conceived during the Fish Out of Water sessions.
The album contains two joint-written epics. “Turn of the Century” is a symphonic ballad about Roan, a grieving widowed sculpture who honors his wife with a statue, which brings her back to life. Anderson and Howe collaborated on the piece, which features vocal melodies and percussive arrangements by White.
“Awaken” is a 15:38 jam conceived as “Eastern Numbers” during their final days with Moraz, who composed an intro that he used on “Time for a Change,” the closing epic on his 1977 second solo album Out in the Sun, released one month after Going for the One. Anderson and Howe co-composed “Awaken,” which opens with a piano etude and has a recurrent, descending guitar figure that modulates over spacious open cadences and misty organ layers. Jon drew lyrical inspiration from two sources: a biography on Dutch baroque painter Rembrandt and The Singer: A Classic Retelling of Cosmic Conflict, a 1975 book by American author Calvin Miller.
Yes self-produced Going for the One between October 1976 and April 1977 at Mountain Studios. On “Parallels” and “Awaken,” Wakeman plays a pipe organ located inside St. Martin’s church in nearby Vevey. He phoned his performances to the band at Mountain, where the album was engineered by veteran soundman John Timperley (Monty Alexander Trio, Rahsaan Roland Kirk), who worked on GftO in succession with Works (Volume 1) and Rick Wakeman’s Criminal Record, the keyboardist’s sixth solo release. The assistant engineer, , worked concurrently on Heroes, the second of two 1977 albums by David Bowie.
Going for the One is housed in a triple-gatefold sleeve designed by Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell of the design firm Hipgnosis. It’s a backshot of a male nude before the Century Plaza Towers, a set of 44-story twin towers in the Century City neighborhood of Los Angeles. On GftO, the towers appear as a tilted triple complex. The team also did 1977 cover visuals for 10cc (Deceptive Bends) and Pink Floyd (Animals). Further touches (ribbons, lines, enhanced blue sky) were added by Richard Manning, also credited on Olias of Sunhillow. The GftO inner-gates show a photo-spread of Île de Peilz, a tree island in Lake Geneva, overlaid with location pics of each member by photographers
Yes released their ninth studio album, Tormato, on September 22, 1978, on Atlantic. It starts with the group-written “Future Times,” which segues into “Rejoice,” one of two Anderson-authored numbers. The other, “Circus of Heaven,” is a child’s fairy tale with a spoken-word segment by his son Damien. Jon also wrote composed two songs with Squire (“Don’t Kill the Whale” “On the Silent Wings of Freedom”) and a third with input from White (“Release, Release”). The quirky sci-fi number “Arriving UFO” is a co-write between Anderson, Howe, and Wakeman, whose oscillating polymoog dominates the track. Squire submitted “Onward,” a tender ballad later covered by Renaissance frontwoman Annie Haslam.
Musically, Tormato features shorter songs, tighter arrangements, and a newfound staccato approach to interplay. They experiment with new styles on “Madrigal,” a baroque-flavored number with Wakeman on harpsichord; and “Release, Release,” a progressive punk song akin to The Stranglers. “On the Silent Wings of Freedom” is a scaling epic that harks back to the Fragile era. The album spawned one single, “Don’t Kill the Whale,” a clapping singalong with proceeds sent to Greenpeace.
Yes self-produced Tormato with budding soundmen Statue of Justice”) on Criminal Record. The two tracks without it (“Madrigal,” “Onward”) feature orchestration by Andrew Pryce Jackman, Squire’s creative partner on Fish Out of Water who also arranged material by Fantasy (Paint a Picture) and Fusion Orchestra (Skeleton in Armour). On “Silents Wings,” Squire plays his Rickenbacker bass through a Mu-Tron Envelope pedal, hence the “swampy” effect.
and . Six tracks feature the Birotron, Wakeman’s only recorded use of the instrument apart from one track (“
Sessions took place between February and June 1978 at Advision and RAK Studios. Schwier subsequently engineered Howe’s second solo album as well as 1979/80 titles by Bonnie Tyler, Russ Ballard, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, and The Jam (Setting Sons). Yes initially planned to release the album as two discs, six months apart. They completed three sides worth of material, including the group-written “Money” and Howe’s “Abilene,” which appeared as the b-side of “Don’t Kill the Whale.”
Howe suggested the album title Yes Tor, named after the second highest hill on Dartmoor in Devon. Hipgnosis used the hill as the setting for the cover image: a blue monochrome middle-view of a suited man with dowsing rods. Someone in the band or management disliked the image and pelted it with a tomato, which appears on the cover of the finished album, suitably retitled Tormato. The back cover features a cutout studio group shot of Yes superimposed at the Dartmoor location.
Tormato reached No. 8 in the UK, No. 9 in France and Norway, and No. 10 in the US, where it was certified Platinum by the RIAA.
Yes In the Round
On August 28, 1978, Yes kicked off their Tormato tour in New York at the Rochester Community War Memorial. The US leg covered twenty-eight cities, including a four-night engagement at Madison Square Garden, for which 100,000 tickets sold out within three days. They wrapped the leg with a two-nighter (October 7–8) at the Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum Arena.
The tour, dubbed “In the Round,” saw Yes perform each show on a circular stage setup that turned at 1 mph, completing four rotations per show. Anderson sang on an elevated platform that turned in counter-rotation. The setlist featured four songs from Tormato (“Future Times–Rejoice,” “Don’t Kill the Whale,” “Circus of Heaven,” “On the Silent Wings of Freedom”), two from Going for the One (“Parallels,” “Awaken”), four Bruford-era staples (“Siberian Khatru,” “Heart of the Sunrise,” “Roundabout,” “I’ve Seen All Good People”), and a medley of five numbers (“Time and a Word,” “Long Distance Runaround,” “The Fish,” “Perpetual Change,” “Soon”). They initially performed “Starship Trooper” and “Release, Release” but dropped both in early September; the latter due to the strain it put on Anderson’s voice.
In late October, Yes played six straight nights at London’s Wembley Arena. They broke for the holidays while Wakeman recorded the double-album Rhapsodies, his eighth solo work and fifth non-soundtrack studio recording. He allegedly destroyed his Birotron in a fit of rage during a live performance. By this point, Birotronics Ltd. flat-lined due to production costs and tape-alignment issues. Wakeman abandoned the venture and lost contact with Dave Biro, who eventually wound up homeless.
In February 1979, Anderson joined Vangelis at Nemo Studios, London, where they recorded Short Stories, their first of three albums as Jon and Vangelis. The album sets Anderson’s voice and poetry to an electronic sound similar to the Greek keyboardist’s contemporary solo album Opéra Sauvage. It spawned a hit with “I Hear You Now,” a Top 10 single in multiple territories (UK No. 8). Short Stories reached No. 1 in the Netherlands, No. 4 in the UK, and went Top 20 in Austria and France.
Yes resumed In the Round on April 9, 1979, at Wings Stadium in Kalamazoo, Michigan. On this second North American leg, Yes played nine Canadian shows and forty-one stateside dates, including three-nighters in Chicago (June 8–10: International Amphitheatre), Philadelphia (June 20–22: The Spectrum), and a return engagement at Madison Square Garden (June 13–15), where they played to 54,000 fans. On this leg, they dropped “Don’t Kill the Whale,” added “Leaves of Green,” and replaced “On the Silent Wings of Freedom” with “And You and I.” In late April, they performed “Close to the Edge” in three cities (Toronto, Detroit, West Lafayette).
Howe recorded his second solo album, The Steve Howe Album, which appeared in November 1979 in a Roger Dean gatefold. The largely self-performed effort features select backing by Bruford and Moraz (“All’s a Chord”) and original Jethro Tull (and current Aviator) drummer Clive Bunker (“Cactus Boogie”). White and ex-Stone the Crows (and current Dukes) keyboardist Ronnie Leahy play on “Pennants” and “Look Over Your Shoulder,” the latter with singer Claire Hamill. “Double Rondo” features a 59-piece orchestra conducted by Andrew Pryce Jackman.
Paris Sessions, Horn and Downes
In November 1979, Yes convened in Paris to work with Roy Thomas Baker, the producer of recent Platinum sellers by The Cars, Foreigner, Journey, and Queen. This time, Anderson and Wakeman collaborated on new material that was deemed too folksy by Howe, Squire, and White, who wanted to take things in a harder direction. As problems mounted, Yes abandoned these sessions and rendezvoused in London for a last-ditch effort to mend their differences. Relations further soured, prompting the March 1980 exits of Anderson and Wakeman.
Anderson recorded some of the unused material from the Tormato sessions (“Some Are Born,” “Days”) for Song of Seven, his second solo album, released in November 1980 on Atlantic. In July 1981, Jon and Vangelis released The Friends of Mr. Cairo, a Top 10 album in multiple territories (Australia, Canada, Netherlands, UK). Though not initally part of the album, the standalone single “I’ll Find My Way Home” was added to the second pressing after it became the duo’s biggest hit, reaching No. 1 in Switzerland; No. 2 in Ireland and the Netherlands; No. 3 in Belgium; and No. 6 in the UK. Another song on Mr. Cairo, “State of Independence,” became a 1982 hit for Donna Summer off her self-titled ninth studio album.
Howe, Squire, and White continued rehearsing as a trio. Meanwhile, Yes manager Brian Lane took on a new client, The Buggles, an electro-pop duo responsible for the 1979 international hit “Video Killed the Radio Star,” included on their just-released debut album The Age of Plastic. Lane encouraged the duo — singer–bassist Trevor Horn and keyboardist–percussionist Geoff Downes, both longtime Yes fans — to pitch their unrecorded song “We Can Fly from Here” to the trio. Squire noticed Horn’s vocal similarities to Anderson. With Yes in need of a singer and keyboardist, they invited the pair into the band. Atlantic green-lighted the revamped Yes, which swiftly recorded a new album.
Yes released their tenth studio album, Drama, on August 18, 1980, on Atlantic. It features six group-written numbers with the same layout as The Yes Album where each side opens and closes with an epic, bisected by a shorter song.
Musically, Drama restores the band’s Bruford-era style with cleaner, modern production. “Machine Messiah” is a 10-minute opus with heavy riffs and a harmonized chorus. “Tempus Fugit” is a Rush-like rocker with speedy, scaling guitar runs influenced by Charlie Christian. “Does It Really Happen?” recalls the funky strains of “Siberian Khatru.”
Yes break new ground on “Into the Lens,” a stop–start epic with staccato, interlocking arpeggios. The miniature “White Car” features sampled orchestral sounds on a Fairlight CMI with lyrics inspired by the Stingray luxury sports car owned by Gary Numan. “Run Through the Light” is a stark, nervous track with Squire on piano and Horn on bass.
Horn and Downs would re-record “Into the Lens” for Adventures in Modern Recording, their second album as The Buggles. This version, titled “I Am a Camera” after the chorus line, has a sparse electronic arrangement. (Gentle Giant also include a song titled “I Am a Camera” on their 1980 release, Civilian.)
Yes recorded Drama between April and June 1980 in London at the Townhouse and SARM East Studios. Howe recorded most of his parts separately at the Roundhouse and RAK Studios. Offord produced the backing tracks immediately after his work on albums by Billy Squier and Blackjack. Drama was engineered by Hugh Padham, a soundman on recent recordings by XTC (Drums and Wires) and Split Enz (Frenzy). The mixing engineers, and , also worked on Mike Batt‘s Tarot Suite.
Dean returned to illustrate the gatefold cover, which depicts panthers roaming a mountain valley setting (front) with colorful flora (back). The inner-gates show a plain-clothed Yes with their hands braced high above their heads.
Drama reached No. 2 on the UK Albums Chart and went Top 20 in the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the US.
XYZ, “Run With The Fox”
Yes launched their Drama tour with back-to-back shows in Toronto (8/29/80: Maple Leaf Gardens) and Montreal (8/30/80: Montreal Forum). They followed with a sixteen-city stateside tour that included two-nighters in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia and a sold out three-night engagement at Madison Square Garden. The well-received North American leg wrapped on October 20 in New Haven.
The setlist featured the four long songs on Drama, the unrecorded “We Can Fly from Here,” and the new group-written number “Go Through This,” plus the concert staples “Yours Is No Disgrace,” “And You and I,” “Starship Trooper,” and “Roundabout.” The tour marked Horn’s debut in a live vocal setting, as The Buggles were a studio act. As the tour advanced, he strained his voice mimicing Anderson’s high registre on the older numbers. The UK leg of the Drama tour coveres 12 cities with 24 dates, including six December nights in London at three venues (Lewisham Odeon, Hammersmith Odeon, Rainbow Theatre).
As the Drama tour neared completion, Atlantic issued Yesshows, a live double-album comprised of numbers from the prior three tours. It features two numbers from the Solo Albums tour (“The Gates of Delirium,” “Ritual” — 8/17/76: Cobo Hall, Detroit), three from the Going for the One tour (“Parallels” “Going for the One” “Wonderous Stories” — 11/24/77: Ahoy-Hal, Rotterdam), and two from the Tormato tour (“Time and a Word” “Don’t Kill the Whale” — 10/27/78: Empire Pool, London). Squire oversaw the mixdown. “Ritual,” extended to thirty-two minutes at the Cobo show, is split between sides three and four. While the original double-album repeats no material from the earlier live triple-album Yessongs, a 2009 reissue of Yesshows adds 1978 performances of “I’ve Seen All Good People” and “Roundabout.” Yesshows is housed in a bordered Dean gatefold that depicts hybrid birds over a snowy canyon.
Yes disbanded in early 1981. Downes helped Horn complete Adventures in Modern Recording, then partnered with Howe in Asia, a supergroup with Wetton and drummer Carl Palmer. Their self-titled album spent nine weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and spawned the Hot 100 hits “Heat of the Moment” and “Only Time Will Tell,” both staples of early MTV.
Squire and White rehearsed with guitarist Jimmy Page of the recently disbanded Led Zeppelin. Their project, tentantively called XYZ (for eX Yes and Led Zeppelin), also included keyboardist Dave Lawson (Web, Greenslade). They invited ex-Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant, still grieving over the death of LZ drummer John Bonham. Plant attended a session but didn’t like the complex nature of their material. Songs developed during XYZ’s rehearsals include “Can You See,” “Mind Drive” (both later recorded by Yes), “Fortune Hunter” (later recorded by Page in The Firm), and “Telephone Secrets.” Disputes between Lane and Zeppelin manager Peter Grant ground XYZ to a halt.
Meanwhile, Atlantic issued Classic Yes, a compilation primarily of 1971/72 material, including “And You and Eye” and tracks from The Yes Album (“Yours Is No Disgrace,” “Starship Trooper”) and Fragile (“Heart of the Sunrise,” “Long Distance Runaround,” “The Fish”). Squire, who oversaw the track selection, excluded their two most well-known evergreens, “I’ve Seen All Good People” and “Roundabout,” though live versions of both appear on later CD editions. Their 1977 hit “Wonderous Stories” is the one outelier. Dean’s artwork depicts icy lakeside spires in a dim-lit, luminous blue setting.
In December 1981, Squire and White issued “Run With the Fox,” a stately, piano-thumping yuletide number with orchestration by Pryce Jackman and lyrics by Peter Sinfield, the original wordsmith for King Crimson.
Trevor Rabin, Cinema
In early 1982, producer Robert “Mutt” Lange introduced Squire and White to multi-instrumentalist Trevor Rabin, an expat South African who released three 1978–81 albums on Chrysalis. Rabin started in Rabbitt, a Johannesburgh art-pop band that made the 1976/77 albums Boys Will Be Boys! and A Croak and a Grunt in the Night, both written, produced, and largely self-performed by Rabin. He also performed on mid-seventies Afro-funk albums by The Soul of the City and Mike Makhalemele & Winston Mankunku Ngozi.
Rabin, Squire, and White worked on material for a new project, tentativey named Cinema. Squire summoned Tony Kaye, who recently played in Badfinger. After Badger split, he played on two 1977 hard-rock albums by Detective, a British–American act on Zeppelin’s Swan Song label with guitarist Michael Monarch (Steppenwolf) and singer Michael Des Barres (Silverhead). Kaye wrote material with Cinema but returned to Badfinger after clashing with Horn, who briefly joined as lead singer.
Horn, who recently moved into production with ABC (The Lexicon of Love) and the pop duo Dollar, stepped back from Cinema to function as their soundman. He worked concurrently on Duck Rock, a proto-sampling album by onetime Sex Pistols (and Bow Wow Wow) manager Malcolm McLaren; recorded with Thomas Dolby and members of Horn’s subsequent project, the Art of Noise, including Langan (the engineer). In November 1982, sessions commenced on the Cinema album with Rabin handling guitar and most keyboards.
In early 1983, Cinema invited Anderson to sing on some songs. Anderson — fresh off the tour behind his 1982 third solo album Animation and sessions with Vangelis (Private Collection) and Mike Oldfield (Crises) — liked the material and added new lyrics. They urged Kaye to reconsider and briefly lured keyboardist Eddie Jobson, Bruford’s onetime bandmate in UK.
After the second UK album Danger Money (recorded with future Missing Persons drummer Terry Bozzio), Jobson joined Jethro Tull for their 1980 album A, conceived as an Ian Anderson solo album. Recently, Jobson debuted as a solo artist with The Green Album, recorded with his backing band Zinc that included ex-Gentle Giant guitarist Gary Green. Jobson appeared in some promos with Cinema but bowed out when Kaye renewed his commitment.
With Cinema now four-fifths comprised of prior Yes members, they agreed with Atlantic management to reclaim their former name.
Yes released their eleventh studio album, 90125, on November 7, 1983, on ATCO. It features nine songs, mostly conceived by Rabin with input from two or more other members. “Cinema,” “Leave It,” “It Can Happen,” and “Hearts” evolved from the Cinema rehearsals. “Owner of a Lonely Heart” and “Hold On” developed from earlier Rabin demos. He composed the main body of “Changes,” which has an extended compound-time intro by White. “City of Love” is a high-tech dystopian piece overlaid with sampled sounds by Horn. Anderson made lyrical contributions to each vocal track apart from “Leave It.”
Sessions took place between November 1982 and July 1983 at AIR Studios and SARM Studios, formerly known as Basing St. Studios, which Horn recently aquired from Island Records. Horn co-produced 90125 in succession with singles by Philip Jap, Twinkle (a resurrected sixties pop singer), and the multi-media group Frankie Goes to Hollywood.
Langon, the engineer on these recordings, also worked on 1983 singles by The Mood and Passion Puppets. His assistant, Mendelsohn, also engineered 1982 recordings by Peter Gabriel (“Shock the Monkey”) and Budgie (Deliver Us from Evil). A second assistant, Stuart Bruce, engineered the 1982 Yen Records release What, Me Worry? by Yellow Magic Orchestra (and onetime Sadistic Mika Band) drummer Yukihiro Takahashi.
90125 features a modernist cover by designer Garry Mouat, who also did sleeve visuals for Simple Minds, Leisure Process, Spandau Ballet, and Monsoon frontwoman Sheila Chandra. The gray cup that semi-encloses the three-faction pie (blue, yellow, magenta) represents the letter Y. The original design, which Mouat did when they were still called Cinema, showed a stemless cup turned 45% clockwise to represent the letter C. The back cover shows the titles and credits aligned to the perimeter of the letter Y, formed by three sticks; each color-coded to the pie. Yes titled the album after its ATCO catalog number: 790125-1 (Europe) and 90125-1 (US).
“Owner of a Lonely Heart” appeared weeks in advance as the album’s first single. The video (filmed during Jobson’s involvement) intersperses b&w footage of a working man’s psychosis with studio clips of Yes. The two parties eventially come face-to-face on a fooftop, where the haunted man (played by English actor Danny Webb) takes a death plunge. In free fall, he transforms into a black crow. With its trebly ascending riff (A..B-C-DD..GG), shrieking sound effects, angelic vocals, airy harmonies, and tight, clean guitar break, the song reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and went Top 5 in Canada, Belgium, France, Sweden, and the Netherlands.
“Leave It” was lifted as the second single with a video directed by Godley & Creme. It shows Yes in black suits standing side-to-side against a white backdrop. They produced eighteen different versions of the video, each with computer-generated manipulation. In select edits, the band appear upside down, rotated, stretched, and shuffled like cutouts. An extended remix, subtitled “Hello, Goodbye,” appeared on 12″. Rabin and Anderson trade verses on “Leave It,” which features sampled drum sounds and chorus harmonies from all five members. The song — which fuses elements of art pop, funk, and electro-dance — features guest violinist Graham Preskett, a veteran sessionist (Shoot, Murray Head, Roger Glover, Gordon Giltrap, Matthew Fisher, Jacqui Brookes) with multiple albums on the library labels KPM and Music De Wolfe.
“It Can Happen” appeared as the third single. It joined a small list of Yes songs (“Close to the Edge,” “To Be Over”) with prominent use of the sitar, played here by Deepak Khazanchi (Blancmange, Monsoon). In the video, the band are filmed at pan-down angles and close-ups in a floor-lighted studio, where the members are fashionably attired in sharkskin (Kaye), patchwork overcoat (Squire), and pattered monochrome (Rabin). Anderson, rendered in sensitive soft-focus, pairs a white bow tie with a black denim jacket (popped collar).
90125 reached No. 2 in France and Germany; No. 3 in Canada and Switzerland; No. 4 in the Netherlands; and No. 5 on the Billboard 200. It also went Top 10 in Austria, Italy, Japan, Norway, and Sweden.
Yes launched the punningly titled 9012Live tour on February 28, 1984, at Millersville University in Pennsylvania. The North American leg covered fifty-seven cities through May 15, including two-nighters in Rosemont, Ill. (March 8–9: Rosemont Horizon); Hartford, Conn. (May 4–5: Civic Center); and two non-consecutive shows at The Forum in Inglewood, California.
The setlist featured everything from 90125 (barring “Our Song,” dropped after Rosemont) and the perrenials “I’ve Seen All Good People,” “And You and I,” “Long Distance Runaround,” “Yours Is No Disgrace,” “Starship Trooper,” and “Roundabout,” plus the “Soon” segment from “The Gates of Delerium.” The intro to “Make It Easy,” an early Cinema demo, served as a prelude to “Owner of a Lonely Heart.”
Yes also formed three instrumentals: “Whitefish,” “Amazing Grace,” “Si,” “Solly’s Beard,” White and “Fish” Squire arranged the namesake “Whitefish,” an instrumental medley with parts of “The Fish,” “Tempus Fugit” (bass line), and “Sound Chaser.” Squire also arranged “Amazing Grace,” a brief adaptation of the 18th century hymn, rendered as a smoldering bass-sustain interlude. “Si” was a Kaye solo spotlight that quotes Bach’s “Toccata & Fugue in D minor.” Los Angeles session keyboardist Casey Young (Manhattan Transfer, Hiroshima) supplemented Kaye as an offstage auxiliary player. “Solly’s Beard” was an unrecorded Rabin instrumental inspired by seventies jazz-rock guitarists (John McLaughlin, Al Di Meola).
The European leg began on June 14 in Stockholm and covered 27 cities with shows in Copenhagen, Drammen, Vienna, Rotterdam, Brussels, Zurich, and Milan. They played multiple nights in France, Spain, Sweden, and ten shows in West Germany, including a June 24 engagement at the Westfalenhalle in Dortmund. Their English touch-downs covered three mid-July shows: two at London’s Wembley Arena and one at Birmingham’s NEC.
A second North American leg commenced on August 9 at the Omaha Civic Auditorium. This leg covered thirty-two US cities and six in Canada, including a September 28 shows at Northlands Coliseum in Edmonton, Alberta. Yes wrapped this leg on October 1 at the Memorial Coliseum in Portland, Oregon.
The 9012Live tour extended into 1985 with their first shows in South America, where they co-headlined the inaugural Rock in Rio Festival along with Rod Stewart, Queen, and George Benson. Yes headlined two days of the January 11–20 event: Thursday the 17th, which also featured Al Jarreau and Brazilian star Alceu Valença; and Sunday the 20th, which Gilberto Gil, Erasmo Carlos, Nina Hagen, and The B-52’s, who appeared with the Talking Heads rhythm section, bassist Tina Weymouth and drummer Chris Frantz (the husband–wife team behind the Heads side-project Tom Tom Club).
After a Jan. 27 show in Maldonado, Uruguay, Yes became the first English act since the Falklands War to play in Argentina, where (under heavy security), they played three February shows at the 60,000-capacity José Amalfitani Stadium in Buenos Aires, concluding on the 9th. Additional dates in Rosario and Mar del Plata were called off. Purportedly, Yes were eager for a slot on the Philadelphia bill of the July 13 Live Aid concerts but show promoter Bill Graham, who oversaw the event’s stateside lineup, had no space for them in the schedule.
In November 1985, ATCO released 9012Live: The Solos, a 34-minute document of the tour with seven numbers: three from the Westfalenhalle show (“Si,” “Solly’s Beard,” “Soon”) and four from their concert at Northlands Coliseum (“Hold On,” “Changes,” “Amazing Grace,” “Whitefish”).
The live album was accompanied by a 67-minute video drawn exclusively from the Edmonton show with performances of the 90125 material (barring “Our Song” and “Hearts”), plus “Starship Trooper” and “I’ve Seen All Good People.” It shows Yes clad in fresh, flashy attire in step with the times. Anderson (platinum quiffed) sports a gashed, lined, baggy top over white floods. Squire (platinum spikes) wears a sleeve-rolled overcoat with a stuffed heart affixed to the right sleeve with cords (veins). Rabin dons a cartoon Pop Art top over straight-legged leather pants.
Footage of the band is interspersed with colorized clips from the 1952 short film Young Man’s Fancy, a proto-infomercial by Edison Electric. The neon-framed computerized sequences are by Charlex, the animation firm behind the video to The Cars’ recent “You Might Think.” At the climax of “Würm,” a giant, rotating replica of the three-faction pie hovers over the stage and beams the 90125 colors (blue, yellow, magenta).
Upon its release, MTV aired the 9012Live video and culled the performance of “Hold On” as a standalone clip.
Side Projects, Outside Credits
Yes first started work on their next album in late 1985 in Los Angeles, Rabin’s adopted home. He initially conceived the album as a suite of song bits akin to Abbey Road: his inspiration on A Croak and a Grunt in the Night. They titled the new project after a quote at the end of Young Man’s Fancy: “The rhythm of big generators.” Horn involved himself initially but, due to conflicts with Anderson and Kaye, withdrew to concentrate on Propaganda, a German electro-pop act signed to his ZZT Records label.
For the Christmas season, Anderson issued 3 Ships, an album of yuletide carols (“Three Ships,” “The Holly and the Ivy”), folksy originals (“Forest of Fire,” “Day of Days”), and the high-tech choral dance track “How It Hits You.” Jon, who dedicated the album to the Beyond War movement, sports a white button-up that bears their logo on the back cover pic. Roy Thomas Baker produced the album, which features backing by Rabin, Cars lead guitarist Elliot Easton, and session violinist Novi Novog, who played on recent albums by Prince (Purple Rain) and Sheila E.
Also in 1985, Anderson sang “This Time It was Really Right,” a high-tech, upbeat number on the sountrack to the coming-of-age drama St. Elmo’s Fire. Jon co-wrote the song with the soundtrack’s producer and chief composer, Canadian musician–soundman David Foster (ex-Skylark, Airplay), who recently worked with Kenny Loggins, Olivia Newton-John, The Tubes, and oversaw Chicago’s comeback on the 1982–84 albums 16 and 17. (This David Foster is not to be confused with Anderson’s old friend and Time and a Word collaborator: English bassist David Foster of The Warriors and Badger).
In 1986, as sessions dragged on the next Yes album, Anderson collaborated with Tangerine Dream on “Love By the Sun,” one of two vocal numbers on the German band’s soundtrack to the dark fantasy–adventure film Legend, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Tom Cruise and Mia Sara. Bryan Ferry sings the movie’s theme song “Is Your Love Strong Enough?”
Elsewhere, Chris sang backing vocals on Esquire, a 1987 album by the namesake trio of his then-wife Nikki Squire (first seen on the inner-booklet of Fragile) and two younger men: bassist Nigel McLaren and keyboardist Charles Olins. The album consists of high-tech melodic rock similar to recent Yes and Heart. White augments the trio as an auxiliary player along with guitarist Pat Thrall (Automatic Man, Hughes–Thrall). The album spawned three singles: “Sunshine,” “Moving Together,” and the exhuberant “To the Rescue.”
Meanwhile, Anderson sang one track (“Moonlight Desires”) on Great Dirty World, the fourth album by Scottish-born Canadian singer Gowan. Jon is also one of four vocalists on “Go,” the title track to the fifth album by Hiroshima.
1987: Big Generator
Yes released their twelfth studio album, Big Generator, on September 21, 1987, on ATCO. It features three group-credited numbers, including “Shoot High Aim Low,” a slow apocalyptic number with lyrical guitar solos, swelling chorus harmonies, and a storyline about romance in warzones. The other epic, “I’m Running,” is a Latinized windmill of compound meters, Spanish cadenzas, eerie marimba-laden passages, floodgate choruses, frenetic rhythmic breaks, and a hurricane climax with phased psychedelic overlays.
“Final Eyes,” a folksy opus with Anderson–Squire harmonies over acoustic open chords, is one of three songs credited to four-fifths of Yes (minus White). Another is “Almost Like Love,” which puts a modern sheen on brassy sixties soul-pop. Side two opens with “Love Will Find a Way,” a foray into harmonized jangle-pop composed solely by Rabin, who initially earmarked the song for Stevie Nicks.
Big Generator opens with “Rhythm of Love,” a high-tech harmonized rocker with sexualized metaphors (“Night time fever, burning ’til you’re higher; Take me over, lead me through the fire”) and trebly interjections of guitar and Roland D-50 synthesizer. The album concludes with Anderson’s “Holy Lamb (Song for Harmonic Convergence),” a folksy ballad reminiscent of his solo material.
Yes recorded backing tracks in Italy at Lark Studios, located near the Castello di Carimate. When progress stalled, they moved the project to London, where further tracks were laid at SARM East, SARM West, and AIR Studios. Amid further group tension, Rabin completed most of the album in the Hollywood Hills at his 24-track home studio, which he later dubbed the Jacaranda Room. (Jacaranda is the name of a purple flowing plant twice-mentioned in the first verse of “I’m Running.” Rabin later titled his 2012 instrumental album Jacaranda. One track, the fusiony “Market Street,” lifts chords from “I’m Running.”)
Rabin co-produced most of Big Generator with Paul DeVilliers, best known for his work on the 1985 RCA release Welcome to the Real World, the breakthrough second album by Mr. Mister. Rabin and DeVilliers worked concurrently on Talking Through Pictures, the fourth album by Canadian singer Marc Jordan. They co-engineered Big Generator, which credits five additional engineers: , , ,
Big Generator lists seven assistant engineers, plus keyboard programmer Kim Bullard, who also worked on 1987 albums by Sheena Easton and Stan Bush & Barrage. Musician Jimmy Z guests on saxophone (“Almost Like Love,” as part of the ‘Soul Lips’) and harmonica (“Love Will Find a Way”), an instrument he also plays on the Eurythmics‘ 1986 hit “Missionary Man.”
“Love Will Find a Way” was issued as the album’s lead-off single and video, where Yes mimes in two settings: at a studio campfire, clad in trench coats near a life-size model airplane; and on a soundstage with tinted lighting spheres. Anderson, clad in head-to-toe white, has tribal paint extended from his eyelids.
“Rhythm of Love” was the second single, backed with a live edit of the 90125 track “City of Love.” The song was issued on 7″ and 12″ formats, the latter with extended dance and dub versions subtitled “Dance to the Rhythm Mix,” “Move to the Rhythm Mix,” and “The Rhythm of Dub.” In the video, monochrome industrial imagery and animated titular typography intersperse with morning (nude) and daytime scenes of a blond beauty, who walks mechanically through halls and alleys, in sync with a nearby robot. Yes (mostly Anderson) appear fleetingly as transparent overlays.
Mouat designed the Big Generator cover, where the word BIG consumes the front in a bold, angular, modernist font. It features a symbol akin to the Y-letter cup on 90125. This time, a tall cup stands within a horizontal cup, perhaps in reference to this being Garry’s second Yes cover (and their second album under Rabin’s leadership). On LP pressings, BIG appears in a blue-purple hue over an aqua background with the symbol (off-red) at the base of the letter G, which contains the name YES inside its bowl. The word GENERATOR appears on the back cover with an inverted color scheme.
Big Generator was the first Yes album released simultaneously on compact disc. Two distinguish itself, the CD sports a variation of Mouat’s design theme: magenta letters over a yellow background with the symbol (blue) enlarged before the I and a black bar (aligned center) with the name YES in white square font. Mouat applied similar fonts and contrasting schemes on the sleeve designs for the album’s singles.
Big Generator went Top 20 in the UK, Canada, Japan, Netherlands, Sweden, and the US, where it was certified Platinum by the RIAA.
1989: Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe
- Yes (1969)
- Time and a Word (1970)
- The Yes Album (1971)
- Fragile (1971)
- Close to the Edge (1972)
- Tales from Topographic Oceans (1973)
- Relayer (1974)
- Going for the One (1977)
- Tormato (1978)
- Drama (1980)
- 90125 (1983)
- Big Generator (1987)
- Union (1991)
- Talk (1994)
- Keys to Ascension (1996)
- Keys to Ascension 2 (1997)
- Open Your Eyes (1997)
- The Ladder (1999)
- Magnification (2001)
- Fly from Here (2011)
- Heaven & Earth (2014)
- Discogs: Yes
- English Albums: Y
- 45worlds: Yes
- 45cat: Yes
- Concerts Wiki: Yes
- TheMarqueeClub.net: 1968
- Forgotten Yesterdays
- Notes from the Edge: Nikki Squire
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