Sydney group Home have been signed to appear with English group Yes at their Melbourne concert on March 23. It has also been announced by Sunrise Management that Home will be the first group to record for that agency's label with WEA.
GO-SET Discovering Yes by David Pepperell Saturday, April 7, 1973
At the Melbourne Yes press reception there was a definite chance of speaking to the group members at length, a rare occurrence for such functions. The reason for this was probably the easting and drinking habits of the band. -- Four members of Yes are totally health food orientated, easting only whole foods and grains and eschewing completely the use of liquor and other liquid stimulants. The odd man out is Rick Wakeman who drinks in a the manner of a true Englishman. I was told he only sees the rest of the band at gigs because of their dislike of hotels and bad food.
I was able to chat with the group's guitarist, Steven Howe, for some time unimpaired by the usual problem of inebriated conversation.
Steven Howe has been with Yes for the last three albums -- "The Yes Album", "Fragile" and "Close To The Edge" in collaboration with the vocalist Jon Anderson. He had been playing guitar for many years in various bands before joining the group and had been active in studios.
Steven has had some formal training but like all member of Yes is largely self taught (Rick Wakeman is the only member to go to musical college but his schooling only lasted six months). What impressed most about Howe was his positive attitude to everything he was involved in. He saw Yes in a constant state of change and exploration, rejecting the idea that the band is cold and technical and made the point that if he wasn't enjoying what he played there would be no point of him playing it.
He said that the group was reactive to all that went on around it and in the world as a whole that Yes were concerned with pollution, war destruction, disaster, disease and all the problems besetting humanity at large.
INSIDE YES "Close to the Edge" was a suite based on the premise that Man was on the verge of a universal disaster, brought about particularly by overpopulation.
The music of Yes, according to Steven, is a result of the whole philosophy, spirituality and creativity of all its members, a music with a message and a music that had deep considerations for all the people on the globe. Yes thinks of itself as very much a band of "now". Indeed the equipment it sues and the sound it produces would not have been possible at any other point of time in history.
Their music is a vocal as well as an instrumental entity employing a huge public address system to get across the words of their songs.
Howe could not any definite musical influences. He disclaimed any classical influence, remembering their lack of formal training. He did say however that he like the groups that played a similar music to Yes-groups like King Crimson mainly and perhaps ELP.
He criticized the press in Australia strongly for a lack of professionalism, a negative attitude and a lack of preparation -- he remarked that American journalists do much to "alleviate the intensity" of group members and are also fully versed in the workings, music and individual characteristics of the band that they are writing about.
Their new three LP live set is due for release world wide in April and has, Steven says, definitive live version of all their best tunes. At the outset of the band, some two years ago, there were many requests for a live album so the group decided to record all their performances. At the end of a considerable period of time they discovered that they had so much that was good that it would have been a Philistine act to omit many of the tracks. Since their popularity had skyrocketed throughout the world in the intervening time they decided to keep as much as possible and release a three LP set thus bringing the whole group up to date with itself and also enabling Yes to work on new projects with its past completely chronicled.
Yes did not stay at the reception long (except for Rick Wakeman once again) as it had little to offer them. Jon, Alan, Steve and Chris all left reasonably early to sample the delights of the macrobiotic restaurant Shakahari in Carlton.
SOUND MAN The pre-publicity made no mention of the presence of legendary engineer and producer Eddy Offord. Offord is probably best known for the track dedicated to him on the Emerson Lake Palmer album "Tarkus" entitled "Are you ready Eddy". He is also well known for producing and engineering most of Yes' albums, including "Close to the Edge" and all the Emverson Lake and Palmer albums. His work has taken him all over the world. He produced the "I don't wanna be a Soldier Mama I don't wanna die" track on John Lennon's "Imagine" LP.
An enormously cheerful, carefree person Eddy came out with the group to mix their sound on stage. As the main engineer/producer at London's Advision studios Eddy was approached by Yes to record their live album. He traveled with the group throughout England, the Continent and the USA recording and mixing. At the end of the task found studio life a little dull and decided to continue with the work on the road. He is currently building a studio outside London, equipped with a 24 track machine, that can be taken to any venue and set up to be used as a mixer and a recording unit. He plans to operate the studio free of charge to give him much more creative and artistic control over all that he records. He is able to do this because in England, as in the USA, the producer of an album receives royalties on the records sold (memo to Australian record companies).
He shared, in common with the band, a deep paranoia about Australia occasioned by the Joe Cocker incident, and seemed to think that we had an environment here similar to Alabama or Mississippi but I think later events tended to dispel this impression.
I asked him the next morning when he cam to visit just what exactly was involved in mixing the sound for Yes. He works from half way down the hall with a complete mix board including a tape playback.
He explained that certain parts of the band's music is on recorded tape. The bird calls at the of "Close to the Edge", certain instruments like flute and church organ -- the vocals that come diving out of the music at the beginning of 'Close to the Edge', are all pre-recorded.
Offord also makes drastic level changes for the diversity of instruments and voices used on stage. Many microphones have to be activated and deactivated as the demand for them increases.
His main recording project at present is the YESSONGS album and also the new Yes studio LP which they will begin immediately on their return to the UK. They are all taking five months off live performances to write and record the album. Eddie will be producing and engineering it, probably at his new studio.
Leaving the press reception to return to my shattered car, the victim of another earlier Rock Group reception, I noticed the Yes roadies trying to hail a cab. I offered my services for free and they climbed in. I drove them to the Distillery which, if not known for its good vibes, at least has the distinction of being the only place in Melbourne that serves liquor until 3 a.m. After quite a bit of hassling at the door we finally gained entrance and found a table. Soon afterwards Rick Wakeman arrived with Keith Moon (the drummer of the Who here to play Uncle Ernie in the live presentation of Tommy) as well as Lou Reisner (the Tommy producer).
Rick was enormously upset. having just been to the hotel to pick up Keith and been treated to the spectacle of three bouncers beating up one man for the singular sin of uttering a four letter word in the bar. Alabama seemed to rise again. He did not calm down all evening and remained in a state of apprehension.
WAKEMAN's SOLO I chatted to him about his recent solo album 'The Six Wives of Henry VIII'.
He disagreed with me that it was a little like Emerson Lake & Palmer because he said he didn't particularly like that group very much.
He had been thinking about a solo LP for some eight months but couldn't come up with a theme. He happened to buy a book on Henry VIII and his wives to read on the plane leaving the US after the last Yes tour and became so fascinated with the story that he realized that here was the theme he has been vainly searching for.
He agreed with me that the music on the record corresponded to a kind of electronic high baroque in the manner of Bach's sons and perhaps Vivaldi, although Rick is not a greater admirer of Vivalid. He said that the music played was an honest attempt to interpret the characters of the wives on keyboards and to paint a picture of the times they lived in.
The equipment he used on this tour is worth in the region of $200,000 and weighs several tons.
He seems a reasonably introverted person with a slight lack of confidence, facets which do not appear in his playing. Despite being the only drinker in the group Rick fits in perfectly both musically and personally.
One interesting fact is that he did not see the Keith Michell adaptation of Henry VIII on television so he is basing his work on mostly his own ideas and not on interpretations of visual media. MELB. VIOLENCE Whilst I was chatting with Rick the roadies had busied themselves drinking and there were now two tables together filled with people - managers, interested ladies, sound crew as well as Reizner and Keith Moon. One roadie, Claude, became frustrated at trying to get around the table so he walked across the top of the table causing no small measure of chaos. The event passed without comment but when Claude repeated the maneuver trouble ensued. Two bouncers came over to forcibly eject him from the room. Keith Moon jumped up, looking extremely aggressive and spoiling for a fight but was restrained by his manager. Rick tried to calm Claude but he was in a very confused state and seemed enormously difficult to subdue. The establishment's manager came over, accompanied by more heavies and demanded that Claude leave. Which only worsened the situation. It was after all a terribly small thing to make such an enormous fuss over and certainly no way to show hospitality to visitors for overseas.
Two other roadies, John and Lou, had arrived and John was yelling saying Claude would not be made to leave. The last I saw was Claude outside demanding re-admission and John there arguing with the bouncers seemingly on the verge of being thrown out himself. Once more Alabama and Mississippi.
The roadies with Yes were all experts and included Chris, from Melbourne originally, who operated the lighting at the concert. Lou had worked previously for the Moody Blues and most of the crew had been with Yes for periods of over six months to a year. They all took their work extremely seriously and most were qualified for repairs and sound balancing. They were all music fans liking many other groups both US and UK as well as the band they worked for. They had a close rapport with Yes, although mostly with Wakeman who was more in line with their ideas of entertainment. They all knew about the Cocker incident and were affected by it very much in their attitude to an behavior in Australia.
The only Melbourne concert began with several difficulties. Through some administrative error all of the people holding tickets to Section Three were locked out whilst the opening group Home played wand were only admitted some five minutes after they had finished. Then Rick Wakeman's Hammond broke down and took about three quarters of an hour to fix thus causing a considerable hold up.
The concert was completely sold out and the air of anticipation was so thick it seemed to hang solidly in the air. Despite the delay there were no hand claps or stamping feet. Wakeman came out to supervise the repair of the organ. After playing one note that pealed out through the deadened corridors of Festival Hall, he raised his arm in salute to the repairers, bringing a huge tumult of applause from the crowd.
ON STAGE When Yes took the stage finally they evoked such an atmosphere of awe as to be almost frightening - eyes went first to Rick Wakeman in his mirrored cloak covering the whole five and a half feet distance from his shoulders to his Adidas shoes. Chris Squire wore Robin Hood knee-length boots and full sleeved coat and shirt. Steve Howe was in open shirt and a full spectrum of colors and Jon Anderson wore a pink top somewhat reminiscent of a little girl's party dress making him look as fragile as a porcelain dolly. In fact the whole band looked fragile and immediately vulnerable save for Alan White who seemed power incarnate behind his kit.
Rick's equipment consisted of a Hammond organ, an electric piano, electric harpsichord, mini moog synthesizer, mellotron, grand piano mixer and frequency counter, all grouped around him in a semi-circle. Many times, he played more than one instrument stretching between the keyboards.
Most of the vocals involved three part harmonies by Jon, Chris and Steve although the main part of each tune was carried vocally by Jon's high choir boy voice.
The concert was total - it was not broken up into songs and then more songs. It had an organic whole where each new number was an extension of what had gone before.
Highlights of the concert were -- Before the beginning of 'Close to the Edge' a wheel of mirrors was activated on the roof with a spotlight playing on it, filling the hall with a million colored Tinker Bills of light, finally shut off to usher in the opening bars of the song. In the middle break, smoke pots were set off and the group, basking in blue light which made them appear out of focus, stood still forming a tableau of unmoving statues. Steve Howe used an amazing diversity of guitars on stage - acoustic, electric, Spanish, Hawaiian steel, solid body, lute, open tuning slide. He also played cutaway electric guitar during one tune with a solid body on a microphone stand which he played with the other guitar still strung round his neck, thus changing the tone of this playing completely. With Spanish guitar he executed a complete solo spot embodying Classical, Folk and Picking styles, finishing finally with a version of 'Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport' which was so strangely arranged that no one picked it up for a couple of minutes. Jon Anderson is the epitome of all a rock singer should be - supremely confident, loose, relaxed and yet singing with a passion that is always under control gut not ever restrained. He moved lightly in time to the music whether singing or not. Sometimes he clapped his hands, sometimes played tambourine or a single maraca, played drums with mallets or lightly activated a small synthesizer unit on the stage. The range of his voice was stunning to the senses and he delivered all the vocals with no apparent strain to himself - his voice is without doubt a remarkable instrument and completely suited to the concept that is Yes - it would be difficult to imagine him in any other band. The light show has only a selection of a few spots but was used with such sensitivity that it complemented the music to a degree almost unimaginable adding one more facet to the group's appearance on stage. During their memorable performance of 'Heart of the Sunrise' the lights almost took over the emphasis of the music. When Jon sang 'Sharp! Distance!' they flashed red across the whole stage and broke up into blues and greens that washed the scene in an ocean of color. The tightness of Yes would have made a symphony orchestra look sloppy by comparison, Wakeman and Howe watched each other intensely to see what was to go where and what was to happen next, neither ever took the risk of overplaying or drowning the other out. The sound of the band exploded into all different directions, came together, went off together, then lapsed into silence with just the sound of a tambourine or an acoustic guitar. It was in some ways frightening to see a group that was so outstandingly good as to border on actual physical perfection. Rick Wakeman took a fifteen minute solo break using all of his equipment at different intervals. He played explosions and a mushroom cloud rose from behind the mini-moog: he played a police siren and a blue light began turning around lazily in the background: he played the Hallelujah Chorus with the Mellotron taking the part of the 100 voice male choir: he played some of the pieces from his Henry VIII album on the electronic harpsichord, the jumped 400 years to the mini moog to offer a new definition of both the sixteenth and twentieth centuries; he set the moog for a tempest and then played lightning to it on the Hammond; he created a vast panorama of calculated sounds that were never indulgence or whim. The group played mainly material from their last three albums. Each tune was played similarly to the record with perhaps a slight variance on some of the solos. Their music seems highly arranged in careful interplay between the two soloists. They do not play overloud and the sound system they used was superb. Each note came out pure as a jewel. Yes were in constant movement on stage - Steve stalked across the boards and tore sounds out of this guitar. Jon moved and turned. Chris jumped and thrashed at his instrument, his foot working the console he used for variation of sound, and Rick hunched over the keyboards, or stretched across the distance between instruments spun around to hit another button, another keyboard. They had a stage appearance, though not a slickly choreographed stage act. All they did was natural to themselves and to their music. They did nothing to take your attention from what they were playing.
We have always known that overseas the music is far in advance of what is happening in this country. Yet with Yes it became obvious that some bands in the world are about twenty years ahead of the world itself. I cannot relate them to anything else happening in the musical world at this moment. They may indeed be the greatest band in the world. I don't know. I am sure though that if they're not the best then there's certainly no one better than them.
They finished their encore to the most tumultuous applause I have heard at Festival Hall - the audience was a seething mob of delight, all utterly shattered by the phenomenon of a band that could play with such perfection yet with such feeling and sensitivity. The group left and the applause died quickly for who could ask for more? Everyone was in a position of satiation - never has a group so satisfied a music-hungry public.
Jon and Alan came back to a late-night club looking for some action, found it and were happy for a while chatting with people who, in the main, hadn't seen them. They were very enthusiastic about the food they had been able to buy in both Sydney and Melbourne and said it was in world class. They were also exhilarated with the audience reaction to them, they said one of their best ever. But after a while they became uneasy and left their motel still thinking of Joe Cocker and Alabama and Mississippi. This country just isn't going to live all that down for a long time.