Sunday, February 19, 2023 12:23 PM
Chris Squire Interview
In 1968, 19-year-old Chris Squire came round in the geriatric ward of the Chelsea And Westminster Hospital, convinced he was dead. He’d ended up there after taking homemade LSD, and being found, crazed and gibbering, by his girlfriend at the flat they shared in nearby Kensington. “It was like being in God’s waiting room,” Squire recalls now. “For a while I really didn’t know if I was still alive.”
When he realised he wasn’t dead, Squire returned to the flat – and stayed there for months. “This girl looked after me,” he sighs. “She worked all day and I stayed in all day. The most I could manage was a trip to the shops at the end of the road.” There was, he insists, one good outcome to all this. “Day after day, I just practised and practised playing the bass.”
Squire’s drug misadventure was arguably the jumping-off point for a career with Yes that has lasted five decades and amassed around 30 million album sales. Despite those figures, the resolutely unsexy ‘prog rock’ tag means Yes never attracted the critical acclaim enjoyed by some of their contemporaries. Nor did they split up for any length of time and wait for their stock to rise. Instead, Yes just kept going, with Chris Squire permanently behind the wheel, and sometimes driving without due care and attention.
Yes’s line-up has changed with comical frequency, but Squire remains the one constant. His thunderous, acrobatic bass lines and harmony vocals have fired up every Yes album from their 1969 debut to this summer’s Heaven & Earth. But he remains an enigma: a multi‑million-selling rock star who can still go about his business without being accosted for an autograph or selfie every five minutes.
Today there’s more of Chris Squire than there once was. But, at well over six feet tall, he carries it well. Dressed from platinum-blond head to toe in black, the 66-year-old moves through the 15th-floor bar of London’s Langham Hotel with the unhurried, regal gait of a Tudor king, albeit one with an Alexander McQueen skull-print scarf draped around his neck.
His opening gambit – “Shall we get a glass of wine?” – is quickly followed by “How about a bottle?” And so, as World Cup pundits discuss Germany’s chances against France on a nearby plasma screen, Squire settles down with a glass of chilled Chablis.
“My first job was not far from here,” he says, casting an eye out of the window. “It was at Boosey And Hawkes, the music publishers. I’d been kicked out of school, and my mum took me to a recruitment agency and said: ‘My son likes music. Have you got anything for him?’”
Squire’s whole music career seems to have been marked by a series of happy accidents. Raised in the north London suburb of Kingsbury, he was a choirboy at his local church when he joined his first group. The church’s choirmaster, Barry Rose, who would go on to conduct St Paul’s Cathedral Choir, inspired Squire and friends to form their own choral group. “Barry turned us into the best choir in England,” he says. “When King’s College or St Paul’s went on holiday, we were the go-to choir.”
All was going swimmingly until 1963 when Squire heard The Beatles. “And I thought, fuck that, I want to be in a group that don’t use music stands.” Soon, one of his schoolfriends had pointed out “my big hands” and suggested they’d be good for playing the bass.
quire started playing youth clubs in a group called The Selfs and growing his hair. Before long the headmaster of his upmarket private school had given Squire and his schoolfriend two-and-sixpence to get their hair cut. “It was the last day of term and we wanted to keep our long hair for the summer holidays, so we took his money and walked out.”
The job at Boosey & Hawkes was only ever a means to an end. Soon The Selfs merged with The Syn, and the band started playing regular gigs at the Marquee. The Syn followed the musical arc of many mid-60s groups. “Like The Who, we started off playing Tamla Motown covers,” Squire explains. “But then psychedelia came along and we went a bit silly.”
Part of going “a bit silly” involved a weekly pilgrimage to UFO, a club in London’s Tottenham Court Road, where the budding Pink Floyd played. “It became a regular weekend thing,” Squire says. “Drop acid and go to UFO on Fridays, then the trip carried on through Saturday, and on Sunday you recovered.” Which is how Squire ended up sampling a friend’s home-made LSD. “I think I had a touch of flu before I took it, so it probably wasn’t a good idea…”
Squire freaked out in the middle of the night and ended up in hospital. Despite thinking he was near death, he was soon well enough to talk to the police, who wanted to know where he’d acquired the drugs. Pretending he was still disorientated, Squire gave them a cock-and-bull story about being approached by an Australian he’d never met before in the Earls Court Wimpy bar. And they believed him. In fact, you get the impression Squire has floated through life off the back of a side order of charm, cunning and good fortune, as well as his musical talent. Despite frying his brain cells with DIY hallucinogenics, Squire practised the bass day in, day out, convinced he’d found his vocation. “The Syn had opened for Jimi Hendrix,” he says. “So I saw what was possible, and I just had this innate faith that I was going to make it.”
The Syn didn’t make it, but by summer 1968, Squire had formed Yes with The Syn’s ex-guitarist Peter Banks and Lancastrian milkman-turned-lead singer Jon Anderson. Progressive rock fans usually work themselves into a lather about such albums as Yes’s Close To The Edge (’72), and not without good reason. But Yes had been breaking new ground ever since the jazzy rearrangements of Byrds and Beatles songs on their eponymous first album. “Emotionally intense and imaginatively conceived,” was music journalist and future pasta sauce maker Loyd Grossman’s assessment of Yes’s debut in rock magazine Fusion.
There are 13 ex-members of Yes to date, if anyone’s still counting. Squire isn’t, but agrees to offer a potted profile of some of them whenever their names come up. Gifted guitarist Peter Banks (who died last year) was the first to go, replaced by Steve Howe in time for 1970’s breakthrough The Yes Album. “Pete was always a grey, sad person,” Squire says. “And he really didn’t like the orchestra on [second album] Time And A Word.”
With Howe in the band, so began Yes’s imperial 70s reign. With it came a public persona: arty, virtuoso, terribly serious…. Close To The Edge was inspired by German philosopher Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha, Tales From Topographic Oceans by a Hindu scripture. On stage – and determined not to be upstaged by glittery cape-wearing keyboard ace Rick Wakeman – Squire sported a billowy blouson decorated with butterfly motifs, and played an extended solo titled A Bass Odyssey.
Unlike their hedonistic contemporaries Led Zeppelin or The Who, Yes were relatively clean living – to start with. “We were strictly a pot and hash band at the beginning,” says Squire, who’d sworn off LSD after his hospitalisation.
On one occasion, he and Steve Howe found themselves in a pub with Melody Maker writer Chris Welch and had no idea what to order: “We barely drank, so I think we asked for two Camparis.”
All of the band, barring Wakeman, were also vegetarian for a time. Squire lasted five years. “And then I went back to fish,” he says. “And then it wasn’t long before someone said: ‘Hey, there’s this really good steak restaurant I know…’” Only Howe still swears off meat. “Which is why Steve still looks like a fucking stick insect.”
In the meantime, Squire had been introduced to a new, less organic perk of life in a touring rock band. On Yes’s 1973 US tour, a member of their unknown support act, the Eagles, took him aside and, like the fictitious Australian in the Earls Court Wimpy bar, said, “Try this.” Squire dipped into the bag of white powder. “Cocaine,” he says, smiling.
At some point Squire also started drinking more than the occasional Campari. “I became very, very involved in wine,” he murmurs, peering into his Chablis like a fortune-teller pondering a crystal ball. Squire would go on to install a well-stocked wine and port cellar in the mock-Tudor mansion he shared with first wife Nikki and their three daughters in the rock stars’ enclave of Virginia Water, Surrey.
Then again, Squire could afford it. By the end of the 1970s Yes had scored eight consecutive UK and US Top 10 albums, and their bass player had made a solo album, 1975’s Fish Out Of Water, which featured his old choirmaster Barry Rose on pipe organ. Anyone needing a reminder should seek out a clip from a 1975 edition of The Old Grey Whistle Test, where Squire performs his pomp-rock single Hold Out Your Hand, backed by a string section and wearing what appears to be a cross between a kimono and a set of Laura Ashley curtains.
It was all getting “a bit silly” again. Yes’s 1974 album Relayer included a jazz-prog-fusion workout titled The Gates Of Delirium, featuring Wakeman’s replacement, Swiss keyboard maestro Patrick Moraz (“The best Hammond player I ever worked with,” offers Squire. “But Steve and him didn’t have a bond”). Unsurprisingly, NME denounced Yes as the “ultimate in Pomposity Rock”, and were soon championing the Sex Pistols and The Clash instead.
Not that Yes cared. “Did we notice punk rock? Not at all,” insists Squire, who claims that the closest he came to liking punk was when his 12-year-old daughter Carmen got him into The Police’s Outlandos d’Amour debut album. “We were getting the music papers sent to us in America, and we’d see we were being branded as dinosaurs by these new bands, and we’d think, ‘’Oo are you?’ – and then walk out and play to 120,000 people.”
Off tour, and back in Virginia Water, though, Squire barely had time to draw breath. There was always another album to write, another tour to plan, another vineyard to investigate… But he now had something to help keep him going.
“I got involved in cocaine,” he admits. “Blame the Eagles. But that was it. As far as I know, no one in Yes ever did heroin.” Apart from the time he and Nikki were at a party being thrown by Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott. “Phil was a naughty boy. He said: ‘Do you want a line of coke?’ And there was smack in it.”
Squire drove home from the party – “one did in those days” – in a euphoric haze: “We came to these traffic lights and I just stayed there. After a while Nikki said: ‘You do realise the lights have changed from red to green four times since we’ve been sitting here?’ I was just sat behind the wheel going: ‘Hmmm, this is good.’”
Yes had weathered punk, but the wheels were now coming off the band. Spiritually minded Jon Anderson would later grumble about how certain band members’ drug habits were putting his chakras out of balance. But Squire insists that drugs weren’t the problem, and that by 1978’s Tormato album, “We were all sick of each other and needed a break.”
Anderson and Wakeman walked out after aborted sessions with producer Roy Thomas Baker. Another band might have thrown in the towel. Once again, though, Squire’s innate faith carried him through. Anderson and Wakeman were quickly replaced by vocalist Trevor Horn and keyboard player Geoff Downes, aka The Buggles, whose Video Killed The Radio Star had just been a huge hit. “They were huge Yes fans,” says Squire. Another happy accident, then.
Downes, who is back in the current line-up, described what it was like joining Yes in 1979: “They all had their own limos, and were buried in that ‘rock star with a big house’ image.”
The next Yes album seems to have been recorded to a backdrop of screeching Rolls-Royce tyres and urgent phone calls to managers, wives and drug dealers. It had the appropriate title Drama. “We’d sold out four Madison Square Garden shows in advance,” recalls Squire, “so we had five weeks in which to get the album done before then. That’s where the cocaine was useful. Because it was night after night of sixteen-hour sessions.”
Released in 1980, Drama fizzled with Class A’s, but its urgency and energy were preferable to the over-ripe Tormato.
Yet the line-up didn’t last, and Squire soon found himself at a Christmas party swapping numbers with Jimmy Page. “John Bonham had died, and Jimmy wanted to start playing again.” Squire roped in Yes drummer Alan White and the three met up at a studio in Maidenhead. Page was on a health kick. “Jimmy was really behaving himself,” says Squire now. “Only smoking cigarettes through a holder.”
The trio demo’d four instrumental tracks, and Squire’s dad suggested a name for the blossoming supergroup: XYZ. According to Chris, though, Zeppelin’s over-protective manager, Peter Grant, objected to the Y for Yes coming before the Z for Zeppelin. It was the first big problem. The second was that they didn’t have a singer, and despite Page’s promises, Robert Plant never showed up. “For that reason it just fizzled out,” he says.
In the meantime, Steve Howe and Geoff Downes went on to enjoy a US No.1 album in 1982 with their new group, Asia. Squire must have been just a bit jealous and hungry for revenge?
“No, not jealous,” he insists, as I refill his glass. “I did think, though, that Asia was a bit corporate American rock and sounded as if it had been assembled by radio programmers.”
A year later, Jon Anderson had rejoined Yes, and Trevor Horn was ensconced as producer. Yes emerged, as if from cryogenic storage, with a hotshot young guitarist, Trevor Rabin, and a state-of-the-art Fairlight sampling synthesiser. The subsequent album, 1983’s 90125, become Yes’s biggest-seller ever, and delivered a UK and US hit with Owner Of A Lonely Heart. A harsher critic might call that album corporate American rock. But what saved 90125 was that Yes again broke new ground by using sampled sounds left over from Horn’s last production gig, punk svengali Malcolm McLaren’s Duck Rock album. “Nobody had heard those sounds before,” says Squire, proudly. “It was all very new.”
By now, though, Squire’s marriage had broken up and he’d moved to Los Angeles where he began his blurry Hollywood phase: “There was a party every night.” Meanwhile, the redux Yes could be seen performing on MTV and disguising their forty-something wrinkles behind Dynasty-style hairdos. It couldn’t last. And it didn’t. Anderson walked out after 1987’s Big Generator.
“I never wanted to call that version of the band Yes,” Squire insists. “But it was [Atlantic Records executive] Phil Carson who said: ‘Why try a new brand when the old one has been so successful?’”
You suspect that Squire has been adhering to that maxim ever since.
“I know I’m the only member of Yes to have been in the band the whole time, but it’s not by design but by default,” he insists. “I’ve always been the one left holding the baby, and what happens is new people come along to help me hold it.”
Current members Steve Howe and Geoff Downes have been in and out more than once. Jon Anderson is currently out, due to ill health, and their new album Heaven & Earth has American vocalist Jon Davison helping to hold the baby – and sounding remarkably like Anderson.
“I spoke to Jon Anderson not long ago,” reveals Squire, who gives the impression that some ex-Yes members are sitting on a substitutes’ bench just waiting for the nod. “We had a nice chat. I think we will do something together again – it’s just that he may not be up for full-scale touring.”
As for Rick Wakeman – a fully paid‑up member of the ‘No Jon Anderson, No Yes’ club, and King Rat of the showbiz charity organisation The Grand Order Of Water Rats – Squire’s not so sure. “I don’t think Rick’s interested,” he sniffs. “He’s in his own world, working his way towards his knighthood.”
Life for Chris Squire seems more sedate now. These days he lives in Phoenix, Arizona with third wife Scotland and their five-year-old daughter Xilan. “It’s been good for me to have a young kid again,” says this father-of-five, “especially one that’s had an iPad since she was two.”
For Yes, the days of limousines, mock-Tudor mansions, 120,000-seaters and the Eagles’ marching powder are a distant memory. So too, though, are the brave new sounds that typified the likes of Drama and 90125 in the 80s. Yes albums nowadays sound like old Yes albums but without what Loyd Grossman might call the “emotional intensity”. When Squire spends five minutes dissecting the shortcomings of Yes’s current label, Frontier Records, there’s a sense that he misses those good old bad old days.
Nevertheless, Yes are still in demand. By the time you read this they’ll be deep into a US tour. Just don’t expect to hear much from Heaven & Earth. “The tour had been sold as ‘Yes does Close To The Edge and [their 1971 album] Fragile,’” admits Squire.
Which is fine, except Fragile contains solo compositions by three ex-band members, some of which could be described as ‘challenging’. Right now drummer Alan White is tackling his predecessor Bill Bruford’s atonal solo workout Five Per Cent For Nothing. “It’s some sort of exercise in drum logistics,” Squire laughs. “We’ve rehearsed and rehearsed it.”
However, as Squire drains the last of his Chablis and prepares to toddle off, you know he’ll weather this storm like he has every other storm in the band’s history. “I still enjoy it,” he says. “It’s part of me. It’s what I do.” From lapsed choirboy and would-be acid casualty to CEO of Brand Yes, it’s not been a bad life for Chris Squire.
Graham Reid - Elsewhere
Wednesday, January 4, 2023 7:16 PM
CHRIS SQUIRE OF YES INTERVIEWED (2014): A career that's no disgrace
Graham Reid | Nov 7, 2014
Chris Squire – bassist and sole constant in Yes, the prog-rock band he founded – is reflecting on the group's longevity using the only reference point he had when the group formed.
“Oh yes. 'Who knew?' is the catch phrase about this.
“When Yes first started in 68 that was a year prior to the Beatles breaking up. Their visible career was really just 63 to 69 and when I started Yes I thought it would be amazing if we could have a five or six year career. Not knowing that here we are year 46 or something now,” he laughs.
And in that time Yes has seen an interesting revolving door of members: a quick count reveals – aside from Squire – 18 names including keyboard player Rick Wakeman, producer and onetime Buggle Trevor Horn, on-again off-again drummer Bill Bruford, keyboard player/violinist Eddie Jobson (for a few months), keyboard player Patrick Moraz, drummer Alan White who was a former member of the Plastic Ono Band . . .
And as the sole surviving member of the original line-up, is 66-year old Squire the archivist, the keeper of the keys?
“That role has fallen to me more by default than desire. I never left. The only difference between me and some of the others like singer Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman is they left the band on more than one occasion to pursue solo careers, and then rejoined and left again. That's their legacy in the band.
“But I was just there toiling on the whole time. But let's not forget that Alan White has been there since 72. That's a good innings.”
Indeed, and it hasn't been a bad one for Yes which, despite the musical chairs and going out of the business for a year or so in the early Eighties, is not only still here but still recording and touring widely.
“We never thought that was possible. It was a young man's game when we started and not something you thought you could do for life. But I was wrong about that. It's a testament to the prog-rock genre that it has lasted.
“Also – and I know this from touring the last couple of years – that, apart from fans who came to the band in the Eighties which was a successful period with 90125 album and are still there in the audience, there are a lot of younger people coming to the shows. They've either been influenced by their parent's record collections . . . or just peer pressure because a lot of younger kids are into this music now.”
Although it something of a senior musician's cliché about attracting younger audiences, that's true for Yes.
In the August issue of Britain's Prog magazine their '72 album Close to the Edge was voted the top prog album of all time by its readers and musicians.
Fragile from '71 came in at number 10. Of the 100 greatest prog albums Yes had seven entries, one more than Genesis, Pink Floyd and Marillion in a list which included contemporary prog bands like Dream Theatre, Porcupine Tree, Tool, Opeth and Haken.
“I hadn't seen that, so thanks for the news. They didn't include Fish Out of Water my solo album, did they?”, says the man known by the nickname Fish and who counts among his passions Formula 1.
I don't have the heart to tell him no, but say I'll check while we speak.
Business is brisk in the prog world for Yes who released their 21st studio album Heaven and Earth earlier this year – the first with singer Jon Davison who wrote much of the material. They then toured in Canada, did the Miami prog-rock Caribbean cruise (“Cruise to the Edge”), dates across Britain and Europe and then an American summer tour which finished in mid-August.
“Fortunately I've had a couple of months off to chill out, then we come down your way.”
And for their return visit to Auckland on November 10 – they were here in early 2012 – they will play those classic albums Fragile and Closer to the Edge in their entirety, and close with new material from Heaven and Earth and some of their hits.
“By now we should know how to play those albums,” he laughs. “And it's not as if they haven't been on-and-off part of the repertoire over the years. Especially And You and I the 10 minute piece on Close to the Edge which has been more a staple song than Close to the Edge itself or Siberian Khatru. They've all been in different sets at different times so are pretty much in our DNA.”
But having played these songs, if not entire albums, for the past four decades is it possible to still enjoy them?
“There's always the joy of the performance and the fine-tuning of new interpretations and over the years we've all grown as musicians, so obviously there is a lot of subtlety that gets thrown in that wasn't there in the first place.
“That contributes to the joy of the performance by not only the audience but ourselves. And the band's has been playing at a great level in the past year or two.”
The problem for Yes however is that no fan – old or new – wants to hear them say, “We hope you like our new direction”. Yes is a band with an autograph style and that's what people want to hear in concert, or as on the new album Heaven and Earth.
“True perhaps, but Yes has been flexible over the years. In the Eighties when Trevor Rabin was the guitar player we definitely made a diversion from the core of prog-rock and got more into regular hard rock to an extent. And the 90125 album with the hit single Owner of a Lonely Heart was a slightly different Yes to that of the 7Seventies.
“I'm not afraid of change, I quite like messing around with different styles and new ideas. And of course every time there's a new member of the band they bring in ideas and the music subtly changes again. It's nice now to have our singer Jon Davison far right, above as a writing member as well as a performer, and the last album was musically successful to me because of that.
“And the Yes Appreciation Society certainly seem to appreciate him.
“Strangely enough we've been playing a couple of tracks from Heaven and Earth and I'm surprised how well they are received.
“I saw the Who in London a few years back when they had a new album out and there was a distinct lack of interest from the audience when they played new songs.
"In contrast our fans are enjoying the songs from the new album.
“But no, this is nothing I could have foreseen all those years ago.”
Oregano Rathbone - Record Collector - 2014-08-02
Friday, April 22, 2022 9:07 PM
Heaven And Earth | Yes
For an encouraging number of “heritage acts” the urge to prove themselves dies hard. Take Yes, concocting Heaven And Earth four years shy of their 50th anniversary. Only Chris Squire remains from the 1968 line-up: nevertheless, Steve Howe joined before decimalisation, Alan White signed up when the Austin Allegro was still in “development”, and even Geoff Downes was conscripted before the advent of deely boppers. Only vocalist Jon Davison counts as a newbie, and he’s a real find: so similar to Jon Anderson that even his name only differs by two syllables. Are we sure it’s not actually him? You never see them together.
Musically, Heaven And Earth is (generally) concise and catchy. Davison and Squire repeatedly sing “one step beyond” during Step Beyond without alluding to Madness, which is indicative of actual madness: but you’ve got to admire their balls. From a safe distance. Believe Again’s sing-song refrain is so simple that even Jimmy Crack Corn would feel slighted, but then Howe peels off one of his scalding scalar runs, and suddenly you’re bobbing on a topographic ocean. Likewise, Light Of The Ages is propitiously cut from much the same cape cloth as Nous Sommes Du Soleil.
Record Collector #431
August 2, 2014
Terry Staunton - Record Collector - 2014-11-29
Friday, April 22, 2022 8:55 PM
Songs From Tsongas: The 35th Anniversary Concert | Yes
Record Collector #435
November 29, 2014
Though some fans may contest the claim, the five men who comprise Yes on this 2004 show represent what’s generally perceived as the band’s “classic line-up”. The gig, at the Tsongas Arena in Lowell, Massachusetts, was the final date of the tour where Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Chris Squire, Rick Wakeman and Alan White performed together for the last time.
It’s worth noting, however, that a sixth man played an integral role, the elaborate stage set having been designed by Roger Dean, responsible for the bulk of the group’s iconic album sleeves. Visuals aside, it’s an occasionally intriguing setlist, taking in relatively unheralded album tracks such as 1970’s Sweet Dream and 1997’s Mind Drive, though the band seem more assured on home bankers Yours Is No Disgrace and Going For The One.
Arguably, the acoustic portion of the set makes the most impact, Anderson’s vocals less swamped by instrumentation on Wondrous Stories and Roundabout, giving the songs more room to breathe. A second disc features 70 minutes of a show from earlier in the tour, filmed in Lugano, Switzerland, on a stripped-down stage where the players – guitarist Howe in particular – let rip on rockier versions of old favourites.
Eagle Vision | EREDV 1026 (2DVD)
Sid Smith - Prog
Monday, August 29, 2022 10:11 PM
Q&A: Patrick Moraz
By Sid Smith (Prog) published November 03, 2014
The classically trained pianist on The Moody Blues , Gentle Giant and why he'd play with Yes again
Patrick Moraz isn’t slow in coming forwards. Back in the mid-60s, when he was still in his 20s, he won the support slot to tour Europe with legendary jazz saxophonist John Coltrane. In 1973 he co-founded Refugee with ex-Nice members Lee Jackson and Brian Davison before being poached to join Yes a year later in time to record Relayer. He followed that stint by joining another progressive rock institution, The Moody Blues, in 1978, staying with them until 1990. He’s won awards for his film scores, collaborated with ex-Yes and King Crimson drummer Bill Bruford, and has even spent time in the jungle with Arnold Schwarzenegger during the filming of Predator. Forever busy with one project or another, we try to understand what makes this Swiss-born precision pianist tick.
**How’s your Alpine horn these days? **
You know, I still have that Alpine horn! Unfortunately it’s in Los Angeles and I’m now in Florida. Nowadays I can use samples of the horn although I always enjoy playing the real one. Every time I go to Switzerland, there are friends I can borrow one off and I can always go into the mountains and play the Alpine horn there. It really warms my soul!
**You were one of the artists performing at sea on the Cruise To The Edge earlier this year. How did you find that? **
Oh man, it was unbelievable being reunited with all kinds of friends like Alan White, Steve Howe and Chris Squire. I got to spend a bit of time with Alan, which was great. We were talking about his Ramshackled album. It was great seeing Steve Hackett as well. The camaraderie when all the musicians get together is wonderful. Presto Ballet were a real discovery for me and, of course, there were so many bands I’d not seen before, like Tangerine Dream. I met Eddie Jobson from UK and it’s not impossible that we might record something together in the future. He’s a great guy.
**No seasickness then? **
No, although one of the concerts had to be rescheduled when the ship was diverted to Mexico instead of sailing to Honduras because there was a huge storm brewing! The second concert I did on the last day of the cruise, I included an impromptu version of Soon, the end section of The Gates Of Delirium, with Renaissance’s Annie Haslam – she did a fantastic job.
**You’ve recently recorded a Gentle Giant track for a new symphonic rock album, haven’t you? **
Yes, and it’s funny because not only did Gentle Giant open for Yes but I also saw Gary Green and Three Friends while I was on the Cruise To The Edge. Anthony Klein, who is a producer overseeing the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and conductor James Graydon got in touch asking if I would be interested in delivering a piano interpretation based on James’ arrangement of Gentle Giant’s Think Of Me With Kindness from Octopus. It took me a nanosecond to say yes! It’s a beautiful song. It’s not really what some would call prog, but it’s prog enough for me!
Have you always liked working with orchestras?
Of course. For many years, a long time before I was in bands, I was writing for film. You know, by the time I did Relayer I was 30 years old and I’d done around 30 scores for movies, so I had a lot of experience at working with orchestras and scoring for strings. After I joined Yes I did the score for the chamber orchestra on Steve Howe’s first solo album Beginnings, which I enjoyed enormously.
**It’s 40 years since you recorded Relayer. What was it like joining Yes and working on that album? **
It was a huge honour. I loved Tony Kaye and Rick Wakeman’s work in the band. I first met them in 1969 when they were invited to play at the Golden Rose Festival in Montreux and I organised a party for them. Even then they were one of my favourite groups. It was a real thrill to get a call in 1974 from their manager inviting me to attend a Yes rehearsal. I’d never seen so many big joints as I did that day! I loved my time in the group. I jumped from seven keyboards at the time, plus my alpine horn, to 14, because in those days there were no sequencers or computers. It was all magically done by hand! The best thing about being in Yes was the quality of the playing and the audiences. Everywhere we went was sold out!
**If Yes rang tomorrow and asked you to rejoin them to play _Relayer _on tour, what would you say? **
Absolutely! Of course! I know the album by heart even after all these years. Any time!
**What are the moments that stand out from your time with The Moody Blues? **
I’d been with them for a couple of years when we recorded the album _Long Distance Voyager _in 1980. It stayed at No.1 in the US charts for several weeks – a fantastic breakthrough at that point in their career. That made me feel really good and very secure for all our future recordings and live concerts as well. I always had an impeccable rig of keyboards and machines, and I was always using my three mellotrons in order to recreate the original sounds Mike Pinder had created so well before me. It was a truly magnificent part of my life and I felt it could have lasted much longer than it did. We used to have a real camaraderie.
**Have you had any thoughts about retiring? **
No! I’ve never been busier. As a musician you never retire. I’ve got so many things I want to release. I compose every day and I’ve got two new albums which I’m currently in the process of finishing. The only thing I would love to do is to play more concerts and I’m even thinking of the best way to do that, so check back with me for news of that!
Yes’ Relayer is being reissued by Panegyric on October 27. For more information, see www.yesworld.com and www.patrickmoraz.com.
Aaron Slater - Songwriting
Thursday, September 29, 2022 8:32 AM
Interview: Trevor Horn
24 February 2014
The legendary producer who reputedly ‘invented the Eighties’ reveals he’s an “awful engineer” and often didn’t take any songwriting credits
urham-born Trevor Horn is a prolific music producer, songwriter, musician and singer, whose influence on popular music was such that he has been dubbed ‘The Man Who Invented The Eighties’ and continues to produce some of the biggest names in pop. At the height of his commercial success, Horn helped launch the career of Frankie Goes to Hollywood and has since gone on to produce a staggering array of stellar artists including Paul McCartney, Tom Jones, Cher, Grace Jones, Tina Turner, Lisa Stansfield, Pet Shop Boys, Seal, Simple Minds, Eros Ramazzotti, Mike Oldfield, Marc Almond, Charlotte Church, t.A.T.u., LeAnn Rimes, Genesis and Robbie Williams.
Although widely known for being a groundbreaking record producer, Trevor Horn’s songwriting credits are almost equally successful and as varied, starting with writing Baby Blue for Dusty Springfield in 1979. His co-writer then was Geoff Downes with whom he joined forces as The Buggles, and continued to collaborate with on a string of hits in the early 80s, including Video Killed The Radio Star that went to No.1 on the singles charts of 16 countries.
From The Buggles, Horn moved to Yes, where he co-wrote all of their 1980 album, Drama and returned to the band in 1984 to co-write their biggest ever hit Owner Of A Lonely Heart. In the meantime, he’d also managed to write four Top 20 singles for Dollar’s The Dollar Album in 1982, and formed a winning songwriting trio with Malcolm McLaren and Anne Dudley to achieve worldwide chart success with Buffalo Girls, Double Dutch, and Duck For The Oyster, as well as co-wroting McLaren’s subsequent album Swamp Thing in 1985. Art Of Noise was another successful synthpop group and songwriting team, with whom Horn co-wrote Slave To The Rhythm which became a major hit for superstar model Grace Jones, and has eventually become her biggest chart success.
During the last decade, Trevor Horn wrote three international hits for Russian female pop duo t.A.T.u – All The Things She Said, Not Gonna Get Us and Clowns (Can You See Me Now) – the official 2004 Olympic song Pass The Flame, and co-wrote the title track from Lisa Stansfield’s 2004 album The Moment.
As well as remarkable chart success, Horn has earned widespread respect and acclaim across the industry, receiving a Grammy Award in 1996 for Seal’s second album, being appointed CBE in 2011 for services to the music industry, and most recently the Outstanding Contribution to UK Music award at the 2014 Music Producer’s Guild Awards.
It was during the weeks prior to the MPG Awards ceremony that Songwriting caught up with Trevor Horn to reflect on this long and illustrious career in music production, how he chooses projects now and what he’ll say when a song isn’t good enough!
How did you get into music?
“My father was a civil engineer during the day, but he was what they used to call a semi-pro musician – he played five nights-a-week in a dance band playing the double bass. We’re talking about the 1940s and 50s when I was a kid, and I loved records. One of the first records I had was Audie Murphy singing The Last Round-up. I loved that song. I never knew it was about death, but when you’re six you never give a damn about that.
“I never thought much about playing music until everybody in school got a recorder and had to learn to play them. I came back after a weekend and I could play! I thought it was easy, but I was one of the only people in the class that actually could. That was the first time I ever realised that I had any kind of minor musical talent. Then when I was 11 years old I played the double bass in the youth orchestra and I used to stand in for my dad sometimes. I ended up playing in the Ray McVay band and used to do all the big functions; Come Dancing, the World Ballroom Championships and all those kind of things.”
I KNEW I WANTED TO BE A HIT RECORD PRODUCER. I THOUGHT IF I COULD KEEP GOING IT WAS ONLY A MATTER OF TIME
What took you along the route to production and pop music?
“I’d always been fascinated by studios. I built one in Leicester and started to record people. Then I had five years working for a music publisher on Denmark Street, where he’d sign the artist and I’d do the demos for them. After about three or four years, a couple of writers got deals from my demos and somebody gave me the shot to let me produce the master. Of course, I fucked it up, which everyone does at first. So we had five years of making demos before we made Video Killed The Radio Star, so Geoff [Downes, the other half of pop duo The Buggles] and I had a lot of time in the studio before we’d made that record, so we’d started to know what we were doing. We put everything into it.”
Did you know straight away that being a producer was what you wanted to dedicate your life to, or was it just a job?
“Oh I knew I wanted to be a hit record producer. I thought if I could keep going it was only a matter of time and I’d get there.”
Who were your idols?
“I didn’t really model myself on anyone. Back then there was no education for producers. One producer had no idea what another producer did. The only way to learn about a recording studio was to be in one! There was no literature – there was no way of finding out how to do the job other than to learn on the spot yourself, so I’m pretty much self-taught. I think the most I learnt from anybody was Bidu [pioneering disco producer] and his backing track for I Love to Love (But My Baby Loves to Dance) by Tina Charles. I just listened to it and listened to it, then after that I just made it up myself.”
Have there been any other songs that inspired you with their production?
“I thought the best produced song ever was I’m Not In Love by 10cc, where the production really made the song. So I always used to say if you’ve got studio fever and you think your tune’s really good, listen to I’m Not In Love and that’ll sort you right out!”
What would you say is the key to being a successful producer?
”It’s funny, people always say my records have a certain sound to them. I suppose because I used to be a musician, I’m ‘manic’ about how people play on my records – I make sure every overdub is really great. If you took a look at one of my multi-tracks and soloed any of the musicians you’d be impressed. I always use really good musicians and I try to give them the space to work and enjoy the session. I mean, I’m a songwriter and a musician, I’m not an engineer. In fact, I was an awful engineer, but I know what’s going on in the desk. I know how it all works and what it’s capable of.”
Before you’re about to produce a track or an album, how do you like to hear the raw material?
“I don’t like fantastically produced demos. I’m absolutely immune to production. You could do anything with it and that wouldn’t sell it to me. All I’m interested in is the song and the idea, so I prefer to have the roughest demo possible. Then I don’t have to worry about reproducing it.”
When do you get involved in the songwriting?
“It depends who’s written the song. Because I used to be a singer, I’m very conscious of how a singer feels on a song and I try to make the song so it’s good to sing. Sometimes I’m lumbered with a song that I don’t particularly want to do, and then the challenge for me is to get it so I like it.
I FIGURED IT WAS EASIER IF I DIDN’T CLAIM ANY SONGWRITING… THEN PEOPLE WOULD LET ME GET ON WITH IT
How would you deal with that situation if the songwriter is in the studio with you?
“I don’t get the songwriter in; I generally like them not to be there. They’ve written the song, so I want them to let me get on with it and make it into a record!
“I don’t really like to songs by professional songwriters unless they’re really well written. Diane Warren is a great example of somebody who really spends time finishing her songs off properly, so when you’ve got a song from her you’ve generally got everything you need to make a record – you’ll have the bridge, the middle eight… you’ll have everything. I find with other songwriters what I tend to get sometimes is a verse and a chorus, no middle eight, no bridge. Then I have to start working it into something or change all chords. I do all of those things frequently but I don’t often take song publishing. Sometimes I completely fit people’s songs up, changed them around, changed all the chords, but I figured it was easier if I didn’t claim any songwriting, then people would let me get on with it.
You got a writing credit on Owner Of A Lonely Heart with Yes. What was your contribution with that song?
“The verse. I never really liked the one that Trevor Rabin had originally written, so I wrote that. The chorus was so good and the idea was good as well.”
You’ve worked your way to a point where you could work with anyone. How do you choose projects now?
“I choose them purely on the material. It’s whether I like the songs and the person and whether I can add something. They can bring things that are very well produced, and I have to tell them I can’t hear anything else on it. I’ll say ‘You’ve done it, it’s finished, you don’t need me!’”
Interview: Aaron Slater
Simon Jay Price - Rockshot
Wednesday, October 12, 2022 4:37 PM
INTERVIEW: ALAN WHITE. YES DRUMMER.
Simon Jay Price
August 7, 2014
Alan White, a 40 year mainstay of the innovative rock group Yes, took some time out of his busy New York schedule to get all transatlantic with progster questioner Tim Price. They talk about working with the famous Queen producer, roller skating with Virgin’s top dog, the ins and outs of line-up changes and all things Plastic.
Alan, I am calling you in New York from here in the Black Country, in the heartland of the UK and am conscious we only have limited time as you have to do rehearsals today for the new tour?
Yes, I have to take off for rehearsals for the Radio City Music Hall show here in New York straight after this interview.
I saw the promotion for these latest YesShows, are you still doing three classic Yes albums in their entirety?
Actually, we are only two this time, Fragile and the Yes Album.
What about the new album, Heaven & Earth are you not going to be playing that on this current tour?
Yes, but we have to make the overall show a little bit shorter as we have an opening band, so we are cutting down to two classic albums and fielding some of the old hits and favourites which people like.
Excellent, they always go down very well live. The first question I have got for you is after 35 years, and that initial 1979 attempt which never got completed, why did you choose to work with Roy Thomas Baker (RTB) this time around?
Well, the first time around things did not work out so well, which was all basically my fault, as I broke my ankle.
I remember that, were you not on roller skates or in-liners, or something?
That was with Richard Branson, he and I happened to be roller skating around Paris at one o clock in the morning, unfortunately. (Laughs)
That’s a famous old Yes story! Are you pleased with the outcome of the new Yes production, ‘Heaven and Earth’?
Well, yes, I am pleased with it, we have pre-released some tracks on the website, have you heard all of it yet?
Certainly most of it, but I am still exploring some of your rhythms and drum sounds. I have read your comments whereby you claim that under RTB’s production some $50,000 has been spent on the microphone sets ups for your drum sound. How does that work?
Roy would want to get heavy on some tracks and a tidier sound on other tracks and would get microphones around the drums and paying attention to details basically, he is very much into drum sounds being the focus and centre of the recordings.
Which track on the new album you play on is the heaviest? I mean Alan White himself has a unique pedigree sound which you have created on John Lennon’s ‘Instant Karma’ and particularly the opening minutes of Sound Chaser. Do you see moments when these massive signature drum movements are re-created within the new album?
The music on the new album does has a longer approach in some cases, we I adjusted accordingly on different songs, and on this album I think it is actually very song orientated, when we wrote Sound Chaser and that stuff there were a lot of deep sounds and song rallies but there is a mixture of both on this one. It is one of those albums which really grows on you as-well
I think you are right but the first track I heard, Believe Again I thought my goodness the opening keyboard sequences with the Geoff Downes seemed to be very 1980’s?
Well, that is an interesting perspective but my personal favorite, I like Regain, that is a good track and another is To Ascend which is a track I co-wrote with Jon Davison.
Well, there you are, as that was actually my next question I had down for you. How many of these songs did you write yourself?
Basically, I wrote To Ascend and Jon (Davison) went round to each member of the band (actually traveling to their homes to personally visit) and was writing with each member of the band and that is what came out. Jon (Davison) and I had a couple of days to finish things and he also spent a couple of days with Geoff, Steve and Chris. So, we did it that way.
Good, that is quite a unique way of recording and writing, certainly a new way for Yes. Then you bought in Billy Sherwood to finalize the mix, was Billy the last aspect of pulling everything and everyone together?
We were still recording things and we ran out of time basically , so Billy was bought in and he mixed the album and did the vocals.
Well, in old English terms Billy lives just “down the road” from where you are in Seattle and to where he has his recording studios in LA. Have you worked with him on other projects in recent times?
Well we have not seen that much of each recently as he is so busy with his Studio projects and I am committed to Yes touring and my solo projects.
Alan it was 1973 when you came into Yes and we are now talking about Yes life some 40 years later!
Well, actually it is 42 years!
There you go, and you are still churning out those drums as frantically as ever!
The band has just been playing in Europe and we did a Canadian tour and then Cruise To The Edge and that is so far what we have done this year, and of course we are now embarked, as we speak, on yet another US sell out tour, but I have to say Jon Davison has been a real inspiration to the band, we are all keyed in.
Going to the period when you broke your ankle, not finishing that first RTB studio project in ‘79 with Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman leaving, that is when Trevor (Horn) and Geoff (Downes) joined Yes as the Buggles. Back then there was a lot of flak from hard core fans who could not accept an Anderson replacement. Do you think that today Jon Davison is getting a harder time with it all?
The Drama days you mean?
I am sure you know where I am coming from, the current ‘Drama’ more to do with the fact that Davison has now replaced Anderson. There are still many Yes followers who will always want to have Jon Anderson as the singer of Yes.
Well, there is always that but I think what we have seen people go through the changes and the American people, and now Europe, have accepted that Jon Anderson is not in the band anymore. Many have accepted Jon Davison as the voice of the band and he is a great promoter and does have a good voice.
Yes, Jon Davison does have a good voice, I would say that. So, going back over the last 42 years, you have never actually left the band and along with Chris Squire and you are the backbones of Yes. For a long time now you are still considered to be the best rhythm section in the rock business. It is incredible the way you two have stuck together through thick and thin. How do you do it?
Well we are so used to playing with each other, we brush off each other really well (laughs), sometimes we know when we are going to do this bit slowly, but, you know…
You now often use a drum kit constructed from pure glass to create a totally dead sound and next to you have the ‘Squire Meter’, in order that you can hear what Chris is doing as it gets so massively loud, all of these details sum up your total polished professionalism.
The Squire meter is one of those things which have developed over the years but my rhythm relationship with Chris is really tight, and we have small signals we can give each other which have been developed through over 40 years of playing together.
Your own song writing compositions such as ‘Shoot High Aim Low’ (From Big Generator) are often the best tracks on the album. Why don’t you do more writing?
Well, it is the ideas, it just takes a while, you know, on the new album I wrote ‘To Ascend’ and I wrote ‘Changes’ from 90125 and songs like ‘In the Presence of’ from Magnification (the only Yes album credited to only four players replacing the keyboardist slot with an orchestra which was released in 2001)
That is when you came up front stage, from behind your drum kit, to play the opening on keyboards, you wrote the lyrics on that or just the music?
Yes, that was generally just Jon Anderson and myself who wrote In The Presence Of.
I did actually meet you once in 2004 during the after show events in the Oxford Theatre on that Acoustic Tour. We spoke for a while and you told me that you had played on all of the tracks for George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass triple album.
Yes, that was a unique show, small theatre, with opening acts including comedy stand up performers and a fire eater! Thinking back it may have only been 2/3 as the other tracks were played by a guy called Jim……….
Was that Jim Keltner?
No, that was not the same Jim, this particular guy played on ‘Delaney and Bonnie’ (Eric Clapton) and he tried to kill his mother, he went nuts, it was Jim Gordon, he went on to play on Material World and some other George Harrison albums.
Of all the Yes Solo Albums from 1976 I believe your own effort of Ramshackled came out as one of the most listenable. Those opening tracks of Ooh Baby and One Way Rag still sound very up to date and have credence. Did you write all those songs yourself?
One Way Rag was a Reggae song and it came via a band I had been rehearsing with which was originally Griffin and turned into a number of different things when Graham Bell got involved, but I think at the end of the day Chris (Squire) did the best solo album.
Talking about solo projects, with all the time you spend on Yes, is your own band White, with Steve Boyce, still active and kicking around?
Yes, I am doing some gigs with them straight after this current Yes US tour
Last year you cut a fabulous album with David Torn and Tony Levin simply called Levin Torn White with some drum technology where you spent time getting around new rhythms which you were exploring and expanding as never before.
Well, that was a strange album the way it all came together but basically I did the drum tracks I wrote a few years back and had a few Bach melodies in mind with piano, and then Tony Levin developed and contributed with MP3 tracks.
You made a great video explaining how new rhythms’ come to you and it can take days just playing them out. Are any of those Levin Torn White riffs used one on the Yes album?
Sometimes those new things are originally in my head but I am also a believer in playing what is necessary for the song, sometimes, the song is not leaning in that direction, but sometimes you have to let the song work, as song is always evolving and you have to listen to the melody, the vocals and the direction. That is why you will not hear so much of the Levin White Torn type stuff on this new Yes album.
Alan, how Long can you keep going on in this relentless way? Not being disrespectful, but both Bill Bruford and Phil Collins have now retired from drumming.
Well, Big Phil, he has a strong back but we don’t know about all this stuff and King Crimson are back so maybe Bill will return.
From the heavy drumming perspective you have to be the long term master has this something to do with your fitness created from your passion for sailing?
I generally just try to take care of myself, stay healthy eat good food and is pacing is everything now these days and of course am still married to the beautiful Gigi and have two great children, so that keeps me busy.
I don’t want to take any more time of your precious time Alan as I know you have to get over to Radio City in the heavy New York morning traffic!
Thanks, Tim; you have been a great columnist.
Tim Price interviewed Alan White on July 4th 2014. Wolverhampton and New York.
Mike Tiano - Something Else!
Friday, October 14, 2022 8:39 PM
It’s time for prog fans to forgive Rolling Stone magazine
SEPTEMBER 15, 2014
BY MIKE TIANO
Once upon a time when progressive rock was starting to bloom, Rolling Stone magazine looked favorably upon the genre, and particularly the one prog band that epitomized it: Yes. Early Yes albums generally received favorable reviews, and all was right in the Yes, er, world. Then came the monolith that crushed all of the Rolling Stone good will that had come before it: Tales From Topographic Oceans, the most divisive Yes album up to that time.
When it was released, this was the album that separated the true believer from the casual listener. The latter might have had The Yes Album, Fragile and Close to the Edge in their collection alongside releases by, say, the Eagles, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, and Joni Mitchell but, for them, Tales From Topographic Oceans was the end of the line. And, in a sense, RS followed suit. After positive reviews for the Yes albums that preceded it, the largely negative review for TFTO — memorably titled “Psychedelic Doodles” — signaled the end of the magazine’s focusing on progressive rock in general.
Cameron Crowe’s interaction with Yes might be seen as an indicator of what happened to this song we once knew so well. Crowe’s first big article in Rolling Stone was about Yes’ tour right after Alan White replaced Bill Bruford. (Crowe has his articles archived on his own site, and this first about Yes can be found here.) Crowe’s experiences with Yes were later used in Almost Famous, his fictional account of his first flights into rock journalism. His inclusion of Yes songs in that movie was his way of paying tribute to the band that helped launch his own career.
Crowe wrote about Yes again for RS in 1975, but the band wasn’t the main focus of that article. Instead, it was about Rick Wakeman, who had also decided that Tales from Topographic Oceans was too much for him, and was embarking on what appeared to be a promising solo career. In the article Crowe documents a hostile interaction between a Circus magazine reporter and members of Yes. While that journalist found the TFTO concert boring and lacking in cohesion, one can read between the lines that Crowe felt that way too. (It can also be argued that Crowe preferred to attach himself to rising star Wakeman and leave a fading Yes in the dust; whether that is true or not the article about Wakeman can be found here.[Link])
After TFTO any reviews of Yes’ albums were farmed out to unsympathetic RS staff members who didn’t have an ear for progressive rock, instead being more reflective of the magazine’s overall editorial direction — where the focus was on punk and New Wave. And if there was any major news about Yes, it was relegated to a short blurb in Random Notes — even RS couldn’t ignore the news when Jon Anderson and Rick were out and the Buggles were in, but it wasn’t big enough news that it warranted an actual article. And it appears someone wasn’t looking when the first edition of Rolling Stone album reviews was published, as it gave high marks to many of Yes’ albums. Subsequent editions scrapped that and relegated Yes’ best output as merely mediocre, and the rest just plain garbage.
So after an RS about-face with regard to Yes specifically — and prog, in general — it’s understandable that Yes fans are still unforgiving when it comes to how what is arguably the biggest rock journal ignored what is also arguably the most influential prog rock band in the history of rock and roll — along with their brethren including Genesis, Emerson Lake and Palmer, and King Crimson), and full disclosure is that I was among those who thought little of Rolling Stone because of what appeared to be a deliberate snub.
Fast forward to the 21st Century. A few years after launching its web site (ironically with Yes magazine’s Doug Gottlieb on the original web management staff), something must have changed at RS. While having to be selective about what appears in a printed journal, a web edition doesn’t have the same constraints. Web traffic is important, and obviously the aforementioned selectivity probably worked against their web efforts — where the more visits to a site, the better.
(Note that while one is tempted to credit Doug Gottlieb here, he had left Rolling Stone long before the apparent change in attitude towards Yes and prog. While he possibly may have made attempts to influence key staffers, it was more to his professional advantage to not be a fanboy with an ultimatum.)
In the last couple of years, classic prog artists have received prominent space on Rolling Stone‘s web site. For Yes, this included the rift between Jon Anderson and the band; Benoit’s departure; the Cruise to the Edge; Squire on Yes taking a residency on Broadway; a flashback to the Union tour; polls, including the top ten prog albums of all time; and the Yestival. Other prog artists have also been prominently featured, including a recent glowing article by senior staff writer David Fricke on how the currently touring Mark VIII version of King Crimson, whom he dubbed the “best new band in prog.” While these articles indicate a definite shift in the web journal’s attitude towards Yes, I believe it was a bigger event that involved a different band that demonstrated how the times have changed: the induction of Rush into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Before examining the impact of the Canadian trio, let’s review the history (or lack of thereof) of prog in the Hall of Fame. A few years back, the HOF web side listed two bands that were perceived as progressive — the Who and Pink Floyd. Labeling the former as progressive might have appeared to be a bit of a stretch, but in a way the Who helped pave the way for that genre — particularly with Tommy. That album used many concepts that were usually associated with classical music, including an overture that introduced themes that would appear throughout the album, and the restating of those themes in various compositions. They continued to break tradition with compositions like “Won’t Get Fooled Again” they went beyond the compact, then-dominant singles-ready format by bringing expansiveness to their repertoire. Nevertheless, while the Who may have been progressive in certain aspects they never went as far as those acts that are identified with the prog moniker.
There might be some debate as to whether Pink Floyd could be considered prog, but if nothing else they should be from a conceptual standpoint, at the least. In some ways, Floyd initially had more in common with the Grateful Dead than they did with the Who: not in terms of composition, but from an experimental/improvisational standpoint.
Early on, Pink Floyd would delve into space-y forays, later dropping that in favor of more song-based structures that sometimes stood alone but occasionally introduced themes into a larger concept. (The Wall is a good example of this approach.) But the HOF seemed to recognize progressive rock only if the act in question hit it big and/or had a number of hits. Starting with Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd’s albums raced to the top of the charts, and would stay there In fact, Moon stayed on the charts from 1973 to 1988, according to Billboard, selling a whopping 50 million, and still counting.
While prog fans may have been happy by Genesis’ induction into the Hall, it was easy to be cynical that the reason Genesis made the cut was more because of the likes of “Invisible Touch” than it was of “Supper’s Ready.” Kudos to Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio for speaking for prog fans in general (“this is our moment”), for not downplaying Genesis’ prog roots in his introduction speech, and for later performing “Watcher of the Skies” with Phish (in its entirety!) to the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Eddie Vedder and Meryl Streep.
I’ll leave it to those on forums like Facebook to argue if Rush is really prog or not, but it cannot be denied that they were influenced by prog early on — and that has colored their creative output ever since. The following video interview with Rush from 1980 illustrates the point at the 3-minute, 37-second mark… [Link]
Unlike Yes in recent years, Rush has continued to regularly release new studio albums and even sell out large venues, even if they aren’t the stadiums that are expected for the likes of, say, Paul McCartney or Bruce Springsteen.
OK, Rush didn’t play Safeco Field in Seattle, but their show last year at Key Arena sold out, while Yes tries to fill wineries or casinos. It’s ironic that while over a decade ago a board member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame sneered that Rush would never (repeat, never) get in, their perseverance in staying true to their musical principles, pleasing their fan base while maintaining their musical integrity and, of course, their enormous talent finally couldn’t be denied — particularly when the newest crop of rock stars (e.g., Dave Grohl) went on record saying how much Rush influenced them, and that they thought Rush was always cool.
After Rush’s induction for 2013 it almost seemed like Yes was destined to follow suit, but unfortunately that wasn’t to be. While a nomination was a step forward, Yes didn’t make it to the finish line, and it didn’t help that there was some stiff competition from the other nominees — regardless of what the feverish Yes fan (and prog aficionados in general) may think of those other artists. But prog continues to gain support for induction.
One of the bands that beat Yes into the Hall of Fame this year was Kiss, and it was startling yet gratifying to read that guitarist Paul Stanley was quoted as saying that, even though he isn’t a prog fan, it is ridiculous that Yes wasn’t in the Hall.
If Rush is any indication, an induction would mean even more content of Yes on Rolling Stone‘s web site, as before and after Rush’s induction there were numerous articles and video clips prominently featured on the RS site focusing on both their current plans, and past history.
However, while one can surmise that progressive acts getting more exposure on the site is probably a good thing, I’ve noticed that anytime I post an RS article about the band on the Notes From the Edge Facebook page [Link] - inevitably there will be responses from folks who have not forgiven Rolling Stone for their past transgressions. For them, whatever RS does is too little, too late.
This attitude may have been understandable, if ignoring prog continued to be their editorial stance but it hasn’t. It’s time to let bygones be bygones and recognize the fact that prog is getting regular, objective coverage at Rolling Stone. That site is the most prominent one on the internet, when it comes to news about all genres of rock — reaching a large number of individuals who might have been those same casual listeners mentioned at the start of this editorial, the folks who remember buying Fragile and may become newly interested in the fact that Yes is still active, releasing new albums and still touring. As I indicated with Rush, if Yes is inducted, there will more than likely be more items appearing on RS that one could have ever imagined.
So should prog fans forgive Rolling Stone? I almost added a question mark to the title of this editorial. But I decided against it as I don’t see it as a question, but as a statement of fact. Who needs bad vibes?
Let it go.
This is an updated version of an editorial written for Notes From the Edge in October 2013.