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Sometimes we even agree on what day it is
Yes joke about perpetual arguments but claim they lead to better music.
by Julie Webb (First printed in New Musical Express, January 8, 1972)
It can sometimes be embarrassing interviewing a band who have just returned from an American tour. They feel duty bound to say how well they went down. They might even add tales of the wild hysteria they`ve stirred up in their audiences in New York, and they`ll hint at the enormous amount of money they were paid. All of which, at best, is rather boring, unless you were actually there. Or at worst (and this is most often) rather sad, because you realise it`s a pack of lies.
Fortunately for Yes they didn`t have to lie about their American tour. You know they went down well from the extra time they stayed on doing a gig where they`d been rebooked. And the fact that their album jumped from 192 to the top 30 during the tour speaks for itself.
Despite all this, they are glad to be back.
Organist Rick Wakeman informed me: “When we stepped off that plane Bill (Bruford, the drummer), turned to me and said: `I don`t want to see or hear from you till after christmas.` He didn`t mean it maliciously. I know exactly how he feels. We`d been together for 48 days in America and before that we`d done the British tour together. So it`s good to have a rest from one another.”
If you went backstage after a Yes gig, it`s 10 to one you`d hear them yelling at one another. All part of the Yes musical therapy it seems.
“We do argue a lot,” Rick admits, “But it`s much better than letting things boil up. If someone thinks someone else is a berk then they tell him. And no one ever says he`s sorry. We have ridiculous arguments over things other than the music, but arguing gets us better results musically.”
Most of their arguments, however, are about music, as Wakeman explained: “It`s much better to turn around to someone and say you think something is bloody dreadful than play along and say you think it`s good just because he`s a nice person. And the good thing with us is that if someone suggests a particular part of a number should be changed then we all listen and talk it out. We don`t row all the time – sometimes we agree on things, like what day it is.
“When I first joined I couldn`t believe the arguments they had. Now I think it`s all very funny. I`m shouting with the rest of them. But when you realise that mainly we argue about sound, then it`s not too bad. Someone will say, after we`ve been on stage, `didn`t like the moog sound` and maybe another one of us will say he did. So an argument follows. But the end result will probably be a compromise of sounds, which are far better than the original.”
While talking of sounds, I asked Wakeman if the band had added any new instruments to their line-up.
“Yes, I`ve bought this `thing` in America, which has to be made up and is being sent over to me. It`s a little instrument that sounds a cross between a choir and the Queen Mary sailing under London Bridge.
“It hasn`t got a name and it`s not even a keyboard instrument. A guy came up to me when we were in Cincinatti and brought out this amazing contraption. He said he`d only made three – one he had with him, one didn`t work and the other one he`s sending to me!
“If I get it in time we might be able to use it in our act, say at the Rainbow in London. But there again it might not be right and we may never use it on stage – and I`ll just play it at home.”
“In view of the fact you`re returning for another tour of America in February don`t you think you may be accused by some people of `selling out` to America?”
“No, that`s a load of old cock. We`ll be doing quite a few dates here before we go anyway, and when we come back in March we`ll do some more. You`ve got to remember America is a big place. You can do a tour of Britain in 23 dates, but you need many more to cover America. If we stayed here and did say 36 gigs in London, we wouldn`t expand. We get ideas from our environment and by doing different places and getting different influences we have more to offer when we do come home! Unless you see what other bands are doing, you are not really going to get anywhere. But we`d never do the sellout bit.”
Do they find touring is detracting from the writing and recording side of the band?
“No, we`ve already got ideas for the next album, although we haven`t started working on it. We`re not great believers in bringing out two albums a year because you have to. It`s a waste of time bringing out albums if you have nothing new to offer. We`ve been asked to do part of a sampler album for Atlantic – just one track. It might be a re-work of `America`, though I doubt it. Or it might be `Dear Father`, we really haven`t decided. But whatever it is, it has to be done before we go back to America.
“I don`t think touring stops us from writing material. John is the one who usually comes up with a song, and then we all get together and work out the arrangement. And John seems to be able to write anywhere. Sometimes he just locks himself in his hotel room when we`re on tour and works out a song on his guitar.
“One advantage of doing a lot of gigs is that our stage act keeps changing, only slightly, but the change is evident. If, for instance, you saw us at the beginning of our British tour and came to see us now you`d notice the changes.
“The music is still heavily arranged, and there`s a definite format to the way things are written and worked out, but the changes are there.
“You see, if you only change a slight thing each night, after 70 gigs it is bound to get better. Personally I think our music is now a lot tighter and a lot better because everyone is more confident.”
Personal notes: Anyone know what kind of instrument Wakeman talks about here? The one “that sounds a cross between a choir and the Queen Mary sailing under London Bridge”. Sounds like a really powerful instrument, that one!
This is how the charts looked in Britain at the start of 1972.
This number of the NME also contains articles/interviews with these artists: David Byron (Uriah Heep), Mark Wesley, Mike Patto, The concert for Bangladesh, Paul Simon, The Who, Groundhogs, Pete Sinfield (King Crimson), Pentangle and Kid Jensen.
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