As legendary band Yes get ready to celebrate five decades of mind-expanding, genre-breaking music, Prog sits down with the key players to look over the highlights of a career unparalleled in music.
Celebrating 50 golden years with the prog legends.
Yes. From the joyful, enabling positivity of their name onwards, for 50 years they have been welcoming fans across the globe into their wonderous universe, and by doing so, they remain one of the most loved of all prog groups. Even with the welter of personnel changes there have been across the years, there’s always been a tremendous cohesion to the brand, and one that has adapted with the times.
Everything is part of a piece with Yes: the parallel universe they established with their expansive run of albums between 1970-1977; their blues and pop psych Soho roots; their rebirth in the 80s; and their constant presence from then to the present day, regardless of who exactly may be in the group. Although he tragically left us in 2015, founder Chris Squire’s presence looms over Yes past and present, as he was the only person to have been in every line-up from 1968 until the time of his passing.
Something that strikes you clearly when writing about Yes and their amazing longevity is that it could be said that each successive version of the band has been one of the members’ solo projects. Of all the bands in their league – the ‘big six’ as Prog editor Jerry Ewing identifies them – only Jethro Tull have stayed together for so long in some form or other (the longest fallow period Yes have had has been five years out of that 50).
Yes may have travelled millions of miles on their astral plane, but to celebrate their anniversary, their move geographically – from their cradle at the old Marquee Club in Wardour Street in Soho to the London Palladium, where they held their 50th celebration in March this year – is less than half a mile.
Yes are a band full of stories and mini-sagas. As the twists and turns of the group have been well documented elsewhere, Prog took this opportunity to celebrate with over half of the members, past and present, through all-new 2018 interviews, looking back at nine glorious episodes from across their 50 years.
KAYE: “Chris, Jon and Peter were firmly ensconced at La Chasse. That little bar was where everyone went and where we met. It was a very fast growing up time.” ANDERSON: “The first night I met Chris in La Chasse, we went to his flat and wrote three songs, one of which was Sweetness. It was such a trip at that time. He was so tall, with a very dry humour. We both loved Paul Simon and Buffalo Springfield.”
KAYE: “In the beginning, we were playing simple songs that Jon had written with David Foster, as well as those sort of epics of other people’s numbers. A lot of them weren’t that easy to play. We had to get it right. We all realised that playing a lot of gigs was the only way to do it.”
ANDERSON: “We rehearsed like madmen: always happy to create a good show, never thinking we would make records, just making some exciting fresh music.”
KAYE: “Peter thought of the name – my comment was that you couldn’t put ‘the’ in front of it. All of the bands then had ‘the’ in front of them. I wasn’t entirely on board, but it didn’t take long for that name to stand out.”
ANDERSON: “We were determined to make a great band, thinking, ‘If we can be as famous as Family, we’ll make it in London and universities around the UK and that will be enough.’ We didn’t realise that there was a big world out there. We had a small amount of songs, so there were lots of long solos!
But you have to start somewhere. I think we played In The Midnight Hour for an hour as an encore!”
KAYE: “I wanted to be this crazy guy smashing the Hammond around, and of course Peter wanted to be Pete Townshend. He was a bit of a handful. One day I just heard that he was gone. I saw Steve playing with Bodast at the Speakeasy – he was an amazing guitar player. I recommended Steve to the band and the rest is history.”
STEVE HOWE (joined in the spring of 1970): “The dynamic was amazing. Each guy had so much to give and I could sense that. They had done these dynamic and exciting albums with lots of musical credibility. We felt good together. They thought I was a bit of a hippie, but then, obviously, I was.”
“They thought I was a bit of a hippie, but then, obviously, I was.” Steve Howe
NOT SO SHABBXYXXCXHXICX:
YES LOOKING SHARP.