Yes: The Band That Stays Healthy Plays Healthy by Cameron Crowe Rolling Stone, 7 June 1973
Alec Scott used to roadie for Marmalade. “Those guys had girls throwing themselves at their feet. After shows, there’d be stark-naked young ladies running through the hotel corridors. And orgies? Like you wouldn’t believe. Part of my job was to keep everything under control. . . .”
A year later, today, Alec is the road manager for Yes. His job, he says, consists largely of locating a heath-food restaurant in every city the four-fifths vegetarian group plays. “Basically, Yes aren’t a raving band,” says Scott, a little sadly. “After gigs, they’ll usually either head back to the hotel rooms and write- or have some health food.”
On the eve of their sixth straight gold album, Yes began their 1973 tour in Tokyo, March 8th, and worked across Japan and Australia. From there they would hit the United States to continue through Easter. Bookings had provided for a six-day layover. And because they had worked the three weeks in Japan and Australia without families, Yes would be joined by wives and kids for the week off before the first US show, in San Diego. Rick Wakeman, for one, is unhappy. “I don’t like holidays,” he says, gritting his teeth, mocking fury. “I like to continue working once I’ve started. When we finished Australia, the band was playing really well. But because all the families have come over, the musical contact has been lost. It’s a great shame . . .” Wakeman left his wife Rose and their son Oliver home in England.
It is Saturday, Disneyland Day for Yes. This morning, the band, the families, the roadies will be shuttled by limousines to Anaheim and the spot everyone has demanded they see while in California.
The Beverly Hilton lobby, where the party of 15 will gather, is glutted with Secret Service men, L.A. police and curious hotel guests. Tonight the Hilton plays host to a ceremonial tribute to film producer John Ford, and the guest of honor is Richard Nixon.
Brian Lane, the manager of Yes, grimaces at the scene, grumbles something to the effect that had he only known, Yes would have stayed somewhere else. Two nights ago, Lane had returned to his suite to find it completely barren. His luggage and clothes were gone; so was all the furniture, the TV, the lamps and the beds. Only after a frantic call down to the desk, was he told that his room had been chosen as a stakeout for the FBI.
Lane pouts, “I’ll tell you something. This band will never stay in the same hotel as President Nixon again.”
The elevator doors part and out strides Wakeman. “Hey,” he shouts at the newest member of Yes, drummer Alan White. “Listen to this one.” John Wayne strolls past, unnoticed. “You see, this bloke has just come from seeing a porno movie when he realizes that his hat is gone. He trots back to the fellow at the door and says, “Could you let me back in for a moment. Me hat’s in there.” And the guy at the door just looks at him and says, “I believe your hat, Sir, is hanging in you lap!’” The two go into hysteric convulsions.
The limousine ride to Disneyland is a rather unscenic one filled with puffing factories and brash billboards. The only passenger, save for one, in the third of three cars is Eddie Offord, Yes’ producer.
Offord travels with Yes to coordinate sound equipment and act as consultant on the road. He is the sixth member of the band. He is also building and financing a Yes studio, where the group’s next LP and their inevitable solo albums will be recorded. An instantly likable fellow with frizzed hair and a good-sized beak, he gave up the chance to produce an Emerson, Lake and Palmer live album to join Yes on this tour.
“I had my first contact with the band,” he recalls, “when Tony Colton asked me to work with him in producing their second album, _Time and a Word_ . . . I’ve produced them ever since.”
“I never thought they would make it, though, that’s for sure. I thought they were just too far out of line of music that was being bought. It was a great shock to me when their albums got in the charts.”
Asked to evaluate the personalities, and roles of each Yes member, Offord grins the acknowledgment of a somewhat loaded question. He begins with founder and singer Jon Anderson.
“Jon is the spontaneous member of the band. He writes or co-writes all the songs and lyrics and has a lot of nice ideas for arrangements, although he hasn’t got any talent for playing an instrument. He’s very spiritual.”
“Chris Squire [bass] . . . now there’s the technical side of the band. He’s very much into working everything out. He and Jon are like yin and yang. They balance each other out, “Fishy’ [He's a Pisces] is a little over-technical and pre-arranged and Jon is a little over-spontaneous.”
“Steve Howe is great. He’s a great guy and a great guitarist. Really mellow.”
“Alan white lived with me for a year before he joined the band. Alan’s a great jammer. A lot of funk he’s got. He’s really gonna help bring Yes down to ground, I think. They kind of got a little carried away with _Close to the Edge_. In fact, they almost went over the edge. Alan White is definitely going to bring Yes back to their roots.”
Offord pauses a moment. “Now Rick . . . is a very different case altogether. He’s the only one who refuses to eat health foods. He’s also a boozer and the rest are druggies. Rick is the only one that’s somewhat of a raver. It took him quite a long time to become accepted into the band. . . .”
The three cars pull up to a crowded Disneyland and deposit their passengers at the entrance. Jon Anderson is the first one to inquire at the information booth. “Could you tell me if there’s any place here that has fresh vegetables?”
Wakeman is next. “Where’s the bar?” he asks.
“I’m well aware that I’m somewhat different from the others,” Rick later admits over a plate of roast beef and a mug of beer. “I find health food pretty tasteless. I’ve tried quite a few things out, and . . . I find it very boring. It’s not particularly exciting sitting there with a knife and fork over a lettuce leaf.”
Yes was formed in 1968 by Anderson and Squire, who found the other original members through classified ads. Wakeman joined in the fall of 1971 after the forced departure of an uninspired Tony Kaye. Wakeman now admits that fitting in with the rest of the band wasn’t as easy as he swore it was to the English pop press less than a year back.
“It took me a year and a half. Not until last October, November. You see, when I was with the Strawbs, I did all the lead figures. I’d also jump on me organ and smash it up and God knows what other normal, stupid trips you get into during the adolescent period of your musical training.”
“Anyway, when I joined Yes, suddenly I was in a band where nobody even talked about having a blow or taking a solo. Everything was just arranged. I found it very difficult to accept. Jon and I were at each other’s throats every five minutes.”
“Jon and I come from totally different musical backgrounds, you see. I had a thorough musical upbringing which began when I was an infant. Jon hasn’t had a day of musical training in his life, but he has this incredibly artistic brain. He’s got a lot of the artistic moods and ideas that I know there’s a lot of 20th century composers who’ve been thoroughly schooled would give their right arms for. It’s amazing.”
“We used to argue like shit, then we finally sat down and really started talking. It was right after _Close to the Edge_ and Bill [drummer Bill Bruford] had left the group. I was really worried because I thought, “God, if it’s taken me over a year to try and get into the band, what’s gonna happen with the new guy?’ So we sat down and talked, and Jon and I realized we were going after the same thing, but we were just going about attaining it in different ways. We had the define-all slag-off where Jon said all the things that he thought was wrong with me and I said all the things I thought was wrong with him. We listened to each other and learned to work together.”
Running his thumb slowly across the smooth surface of a Groucho Marx button, Jon Anderson, the spiritual one, is seated silently in his dimly lit hotel room, deeply involved in the dramatic classical music booming from his cassette machine.
“Yessongs signifies an end-of-an-era for us,” he murmurs after a few moments of near-meditation. “For the past few years we’ve been on a continuous cycle of hard work where we tour, record a new album, tour to promote it, then record another album . . .it can go on and on if you let it. Yes has outgrown that now. After this tour we’re going back to England for five months to rehearse and record the next album, which hopefully will be a double-album concept. By the next time we tour, our shows will consist only of us. We’ve talked about playing a three-to-four hour set, which will probably only give us time to perform the new album and “Close to the Edge.” The future is very exciting for me.”
“I think Yes is gonna get a little funkier, too. The band has reached the stage where the only addition we need to create a better band is to have a little more funk. It’s like playing our records, then putting on The Band. What I see in The Band, I don’t see in Yes. The overall . . . funk of it all.”
“It’s very strange if you start thinking about all the names,” Anderson continues in a stream-of-consciousness fashion. “They are so true of what the particular group is doing. The Band. The Mahvishnu Orchestra. . . .”
John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra is a subject springing up constantly in conversations with the band. “It’s the spirit in which they do what they do that is so important,” guitarist Steve Howe explains. “They make just spiritual and beautiful music. They have something Yes is looking for a little more of. Brilliant improvisation.”
Howe, who is now planning a solo album of synthesized orchestration, also likes to relate an incident which occurred on Yes’ second tour of America. Yes was to perform two consecutive nights on Manhattan Island with the Kinks, and the first evening their set lasted several minutes longer than scheduled. Ray Davies was furious. “He pulled our plug out first,” Howe says, laughing. “Then he kicked and punched Rick when we got offstage. It was crazy.”
The next night Mahavishnu had been added as a third act on the bill. “When we got there early the next day to do the sound check, it was a real tranquil situation to walk in and find McLaughlin and his guys warming up. Once again we all realized that performing onstage was a friendly idea, a good idea, whereas the night before we had thought, “This is a really bum trip.’”
By the afternoon of the band’s opening night at the San Diego Sports Arena, the worst case of show-fright jitters belongs to promoter Lenny Stogell. “We’ve done everything we can do,” Stogell assures himself from a loge seat, staring out across the cavernous empty arena. It is the first presentation by Stogell’s and partner Bill Owens’ new production company, Colony Concerts, and for two weeks the local print and radio media has been permeated with ads. Still, advance sales had been slow.
With the sound check completed, Alan, Jon and various roadies begin a spirited game of soccer on the floor. Still onstage, Rick is checking out his nine layers of keyboards, Moogs and Mellotrons. Trying out a series of sound effects, he calmly and matter-of-factly rocks the arena with the deafening sound of falling bombs, explosions, sirens, orchestras and a 160-piece choir shouting “hallelujah.”
Backstage, Steve and Chris go through the ritual of tuning up their myriad of guitars. “They . . . wouldn’t . . . let me into . . . the Rickenbacker . . .factory,” Squire gripes between bass thumps. “Haven’t . . . let anybody . . . in there for a . . . long time. Not even Pete Townshend. . . .” He lovingly replaces his tuned instrument in its case. “C’mon,” he motions to his wife Nicki, “let’s go to the hotel.”
At the Sheraton Inn Coffee Shop, the Squires cross-examine the waitress, happy-day tag-named Louise, on the quality of the cheesecake.
“Why don’t you just try it,” pleads Louise, “and if you don’t like it, I won’t charge you for it.” A deal. Louise shuffles off.
It is only after a long pause that Chris agrees to expand on his statement made to Melody Maker that King Crimson mastermind Robert Fripp had “stolen” drummer Bill Bruford from Yes.
“I think Fripp stole Bill’s imagination, one can say that much. Or at least he entreated Bill enough to leave us.”
“He took Bill on a fantasy,” adds Nicki.
“It was friendly persuasion . . .he played upon Bill’s dreams, I think,” says Chris. “Bill always wanted to be involved in a kind of jazzy thing, but I think Bob Fripp launched him into it prematurely. Bill is a young drummer and he could have waited a few more years before really getting involved in any heavy music. You see, that’s the problem with Bill. He really wanted to get places fast. He rushed into it, I feel, with his eyes a little bit closed. Maybe now he’s finding out the consequences.”
“Your cheesecake,” Louise cuts in. Food inspection begins. The talk ends.
In a two-room suite upstairs, Steve, Jon, Eddie, Alan and Rick crowd around the television set patiently waiting out the final moments of Sonny and Cher in anticipation of Elvis: Aloha from Hawaii.
On the phone in an adjacent room, Alec Scott is talking to Lane, who is backstage at the sports Arena with bad news: The PA system is shot, and the show will begin two hours late, at 10 PM.
So it is not until midnight when Stravinsky’s “Firebird,” Yes’ recorded show-opener, swoops from the ailing sound system and a patient sell-out crowd raise some 8500 lighted matches into the air to greet Yes, who tear into “Siberian Khatru.”
The show moves into overtime for the rent-a-cops, and every minute is costing Lenny Stogell several hundreds of dollars. Stogell shrugs it off like a graduate from the Mike Lang Woodstock School of Promotion. “Sure, we’re gonna lose money, but the show ended up doing great and these kids were terrific, waiting for two hours without rioting or causing any kind of trouble. They deserve the best show possible. It’s worth every cent just to see them happy. . . .”
The Yes show takes itself very seriously. Totally devoid of stage patter or theatrics, it is, as Lane put it, “down to the music itself. It isn’t part of the act to piss on the audience and get a big howl. They’re very straight-faced about the whole thing.”
And yet, visually Yes remain quite stunning. With Michael Tate’s intense lighting brightly illuminating each member, yet throbbing in multi-colors with Alan White’s every beat, the image is anything but serene.
This set draws largely from Fragile, The Yes Album and mainly from Close to the Edge, the entire album of which is performed onstage. It is Wakeman, however, who steals the show with a tour de force five-minute solo. His floor-length sequined cape sending slivers of reflection across the sea of faces as he twirls from instrument to instrument stationed around him in semicircle, Wakeman recklessly slams out short excerpts from his Six Wives of Henry the Eighth solo LP interspersed with the repertoire of jarring sound effects. As the dry-ice smoke rises from the floorboards, Steve Howe sounds out the opening licks to “Roundabout,” which is met with a double wave of applause. One for the solo, the other for Yes’ big AM hit of last year. The last song of the set, when the final notes die away it is1:30 Friday morning, a weekday, and a fact which fails to keep the crowd from demanding two lengthy encores of “Starship Trooper” and “Yours Is No Disgrace.”
Taking 20 minutes to summon the strength to rise from the dressing room benches, Yes, generally pleased with their performance for the morning, file slowly out the door and head for the limousines that will deliver them back to the Beverly Hilton.
“Rick?” a glazed longhair nervously approaches Wakeman. “Hello,” Rick replies to the stranger. “Rick, I have something I have to talk with you about. It’s very important. Could we talk?” “Well, I’ll tell you . . . we’re uh . . . just leaving right now. I’m very sorry. Is . . . is something wrong?” “Rick, you must believe me. I’m Jesus Christ. I like your records and I enjoyed your show tonight, but I’m afraid I have to save you. . . .”
“I’m very sorry,” Wakeman apologizes, “but I really have to go. It’s been, uh, nice meeting you though.”
“That’s quite all right, my friend,” Jesus understands. “Someday we’ll meet again along the path. . . .”
Wakeman climbs into the car and slams the door. “Who was that?” asks Alan. Wakeman smiles faintly. “Fellow says he’s Jesus Christ.”
“Oh yeah,” White yawns.
“Yeah. Doesn’t look anything like his pictures, does he?”
Courtesy of Rolling Stone #136 – Cameron Crowe – June 7, 1973
By rigorous special invitation, Disco Expres at Morgan Studios
“If the people of Spain have acknowledged the music of Yes, it is that it has reached a very high level of maturity”
They are like the same old friends. We have come almost to the confines of cosmopolitan London to take a break from recording the new album and have a few minutes with Wakeman. It was what we wanted the doors to open to us of this temple-grade music where many meters of tape are recorded daily with the recordings of the best groups and soloists in the world. Morgan Studios has been the place of patient waiting. A pleasant wait because we have had beer with Jack Bruce, we have laughed at the occurrences of the members of Black Sabbath and our soul has fallen to our feet when we have seen the figure, automaton, old and defeated of the legendary Lou Reed. The bar of these recording studios is like a small Mecca where you can see another side of the fantastic world of pop music. Half an hour, an hour? I would not know how to track the time that has passed until we have had to go to the street, again, to go to the other recording pavilion where Rick Wakeman awaits us. Everything is mixed up and Wakeman, who is chatting with a couple of friends, greets us and asks us to wait a moment. The studio is a warehouse, not very big, separated only by an interior room where the recording table is located. The restlessness of listening to characteristic and very familiar music makes us get closer. Inside are the remaining four. As soon as Jon Anderson appears, he remembers our previous meeting last year at the Crystal Palace and greets me as "his Spanish friend.” He invites us to sit down and the first thing I do is ask about his brother.
-He’s here in London now after he came from Spain. It has been a bad year for him, his wife has died and he is going through some really bitter moments.
Looking at my partner Javier Carreaco, he notices that he is not the one who accompanied me last year. I thank him with my eyes for the detail of remembering our previous meeting, especially, coming from a man as serious and not very talkative as this leader of the Yes group.
Are the performances already over?
-Yes. Now we are working hard on the new album. What we are doing now is not definitive. They are models where we capture the scraps that will later form our next LP.
image The conversation with Wakeman always takes place in an atmosphere of simple cordiality, far removed from what his almost “mythical image” suggests.
How long until it will be ready?
-I think that by the end of the year it will coincide with our new European tour and it will go on sale. In total, six months of intense study work was between recordings, mixes etc., etc.
The conversation takes place with time intervals. Anderson is quietly speaking, we are also at the end of his dinner at the foot of the recording table, and with the relaxation that he feels we sense that it has been preceded by a long recording session.
Jon, as I told you last year just after “Close to the Edge” came out, the album has been a bomb among the youth of Spain. Their sound has opened the doors to the Spanish record market for you.
-It makes me happy what you tell me, I did not expect that it could have so much acceptance.
What will the new album be like?
-The idea of the album is pretty good but I can’t tell you anything until it’s finished. Practically now, as I told you before, we are making the notes. It will be a good album but you have to wait to see the results.
The room we are in is small and everyone has dinner. Steve Howe and Alan White are accompanied by what we assume are their wives. Wakeman continues to chat with his friends. There is a long silence that we take advantage of with the desire not to disturb much in the hours of rest. We say goodbye to return to the large room where we admire the display of instruments with which the group carries out its recordings. When we are almost about to go with Wakeman to the bar to fulfill the objective that has brought us here, Jon comes up to us to ask us to stay and listen to some of what they just recorded. We are very excited and Wakeman has to go alone. Now we ask for the apologies and he is accommodating. He waits for us having dinner in the studio bar.
We are in the room with the remaining four members of Yes, two recording technicians, and the aforementioned two women, apart from the one who writes, Javier Carrasco and my dear friend Manolo Barroso. We sit on the floor and listen for eighteen minutes of something that is still unfinished but that surrounds us all. The scoop is total and I am sorry that I cannot make my daily listening to such an exciting moment for those of us here participate. As they listen, they turn back, talk to each other, and make observations of possible inclusions or innovations.
At the end when we don’t get up, Jon asks us if we liked it. We nodded, very pleased, and I took the opportunity to ask something that I almost forgot.
Will you come to play in Spain?
-Well last year, I saw it more difficult, but now with what you tell me about having reached the top of the most popular LP’s in your country, I think it is a good time for us to make a visit, however, you already know that it does not depend on me. The new tour starts in December and I hope there is a Spanish promoter willing to hire us.
We are going. Our friendship has been reaffirmed a little more. The way for the group to come to Spain has been open. The dialogue and a great work, “Close to the Edge” have made it possible.
Almost emulating a title from a Traffic album, we too “go back to the canteen”. When we show up, Wakeman is serving a huge steak with potatoes and mushrooms. He invites us to sit down and have a few mugs of beer, forming a gathering that would last for an hour. His hair, long blonde hair, is like a hallmark of his personality. He looks like a naive big boy. While we speak, paying attention to the television that presides over the canteen, only when the announcements come out with tones of grace. He laughs naturally, as if an instinctive impulse from an almost childish posture. He is polite to extremes. Talking to him, we all feel very comfortable. At first glance it is the conclusion that can be drawn from the best keyboard player that has emerged in the pop musical in recent years.
Rick Wakeman began his steps as a musician at the age of sixteen wanting to become a concert pianist, for this he enrolled at the Royal Conservatory of Music for a year and a half where he was studying and working for this purpose. There he studied piano and clarinet and started on various other keyboard instruments.
-I used to "sneak” into the conservatory museum when the watchman wasn’t hanging around there. Eventually I abandoned the idea of becoming a concert pianist because I realized how poorly paid they are and how difficult it is to reach an important position.
Wakeman taught music for a while, but after a series of classes he also abandoned this idea. It is around this time that he began his forays into pop music recording, as a session musician, for the likes of Cat Stevens, T. Rex and David Bowie. He was also a regular participant in jam sessions that were organized in London pubs. It was precisely in one of these sessions that David Cousins, leader of the Strawbs, discovered him.
-After participating in some sessions with the Strawbs, they asked me to join the group. I was with them for fifteen months recording some LP’s and taking my alternative in concert performances. I left the group because we had reached a point where none of us were comfortable with each other. I am sure that we all came out winning with the separation because we were beginning to engage with the ideas of the dense, something like if I used half of my ideas and the other half filled it with the ideas of the others.
Rick Wakeman would be unemployed for a short time. He keeps working in the recording studios thinking about the possibility of creating his own band.
-Yes came looking for me to accompany them on a tour of America. Everyone liked my musical style and on my return I became a permanent member of the group. From here is when the most important musical period of my life begins. My first recording work with Yes was “Fragile” and I began to realize the exciting adventure that Yes music represents.
He has finished dinner and now the dialogue is much more fluid. He asks as us much as we ask him. He would like to know things about music in Spain and we talked to him about Teddy Bautista’s musical ideas around the four seasons of Vivaldi. He is excited about the idea and we have to keep giving him data, for example, about the value of instruments.
-It is really difficult for many instrumentalists to emerge if the devices are worth so much. This is a great advantage of the youth here. The last concerts we gave this year were in Australia and they have the same problem there.
Alan White walks by who approaches the counter, orders a beer and leaves. We asked about him.
-With Alan everything is perfect. He fits the sound of the group wonderfully. Its constant evolution has not left us self-absorbed. He has made us forget about Bill, Alan has largely replaced him.
We listened to what you guys recorded and it sounds good.
-I like it very much. It’s one of those long songs that Jon has composed. My work is very great because I do not stop playing throughout the song. I am very satisfied with what we have recorded of the new album.
As soon as we do not dismiss the dialogue always ends in Yes. Actually the whole of our interview, in principle, revolved around the current situation of Wakeman in our country, after the release of his LP, on the six wives of Henry VIII. From now on we focus our conversation on the solo Rick Wakeman.
-The idea of making this LP was born from the great love that I have always felt for history. I could see that each of Henry VIII’s women had a musical vocation, given that they liked to play an instrument.
The reception for the album in Spain has been great, highlighting the part dedicated to our queen Catherine of Aragon where you get some musical harmonies very identified with some of our musical expressions.
-It took me two months to get used to the subject. I listened to Albéniz a lot and I would be really happy if you liked the piece in Spain.
We tell him that we liked it and he is enthusiastic about the idea that we put forward to come to our country even if it is to do television playing the piece.
-I am delighted whenever it is a short trip since I have commitments with the group. I would like to know your country and promote the music of this my first solo work.
Will you record as a soloist again?
-I don’t know what to say to this. The experience has been really encouraging given that here in England the LP made its way onto the sales lists, but for me doing this means being in a special state with a preconceived idea, maybe if a suggestive idea arises, re-record solo using all of the music instruments that I try to master a little more every day.
In the conversation it is inevitable to return to the theme Yes again, while we also talk about the Mahavishnu Orchestra.
-If the people of Spain have acknowledged the music of Mahavishnu and Yes, it is that they have really reached a very high level of musical maturity.
He is passionate about cars, he tells us, and he likes to play pranks on people. His smile is still naive and childish. Time has passed quickly and someone approaches to indicate that they called him from the studio. He treats us like old friends. We accompany him to the entrance hall, and we take some photos despite the prohibition that exists here to shoot photos, the mischief amuses him and at the farewell he invites us to return so that we can listen to the complete recording. It’s late and the center of London is far away. We will try to return not only to hear the scoop, but because I sense that this friendship, born from two encounters, may be the basis for a future visit to Spain and not precisely for sightseeing.