This is my fourth article with the band Yes. I think there will be even more in the future. A very special band indeed, as this article shows quite clearly. They had recently employed a new keyboard player and released their album “Relayer” at the time of this report.
I hope you like it – have fun!
Out of the Moraz and into the Miso soup
Relax. Patrick Moraz is doing fine. But there`s some guy called Wakeman who`s a trifle unpopular with these boys.
`After a few mouthfuls of the stuff I felt my pulse begin to race, and my skin began to glow with a sort of radiant sheen,` reports TONY TYLER with desperate enthusiasm as he joins the austere YES entourage on another clean, healthy, successful tour of America.
The waitress`s name is Giselle, though you can think of her as Shelley Winters. She`s fat, fair and 40 (well, 45), Very Feminine and only moderately floozy.
She hovers anxiously.
“It`s all vegetarian food, every bit”, she confides, to no-one in particular, though she`s doing a surreptitious bit of checking out from under the mascara. Me, I`d say she`s a meat-eater but she seems keen all the same that these boys should enjoy their nuts and stuff.
“Having a party later?”
Well, no, lady, this is a Yes tour. We`re just planning on going quietly to bed. She looks at the table – which is groaning under the assembled weight of Stuffed Summer Squash, Japanese Miso Soup, chopped fresh fruit `n` nuts, quiche a la Holiday Inn – and sighs a little regretfully. She splits in disgust.
Which is not to say that healthfood isn`t culinarily exciting or good for you. In fact, after only a few mouthfuls of the stuff I felt my pulses begin to race and my skin began to glow with a sort of radiant sheen. It`s just that healthfood doesn`t exactly do much for the libido, the satiation of which, as everyone knows, is one of the chief benefits of accompanying a Major English Group on a Stateside Tour.
Personally, I was a little sorry to see Shelley Winters depart but there`s no doubt the members of Yes were utterly indifferent to her presence.
Who needs ageing nookie when there`s a flagon of fresh-squeezed apple juice still unquaffed?
Yes, sir, it`s a clean band. But need that come between us? The spectacle of rock groups making toadstools out of themselves while enjoying the usual US tour debauch is common enough. But Yes means No Excess – and this feature`s initial zeroing in on the healthfood angle was not prompted by any desire on my part to expose the group to ridicule.
Rather, it was a need to acknowledge that, in their case, this clean living works. They exude a quiet confidence in their music. They munch their vitamin-rich food in the pleasant certitude that it`s doing them good.
They do not run shrieking down hotel corridors covered in a mixture of steak sauce and feathers from hotel cushions.
Why, a couple of U.S. tours ago Jon Anderson and Chris Squire cruised round to the New York Hotel of Another Well known Sympho-rock Band and entered to find the suite absolutely stiff with loathsome unclad flesh in any variety of absurd postures, all contorted with ogreish passion and the effects of several hundred dollars` worth of expensive drugs. And Anderson and Squire had come over to talk about music!
But you don`t want to hear about these things. The question On Everyone`s Lips is,: can Patrick Moraz crack the coconut? Does a Keyboard Wizard from Geneva compensate for a Keyboard Wizard from Gerrards Cross?
And another is: what the hell happened to Vangelis Papahanassiou? Whither the Roaming Greek?
More on these burning issues later, friends of Yes. In the meantime let`s move in on the situation. Yes are currently into their second week of a US tour which is widely believed to precede a British tour of similar duration. But Brian Lane, Yes` manager, who is tall, wry and slightly bearded, hints that UK dates may not come together for a while and, when they do, are likely to be few in number.
It`s this damn recession, you see, which is taking the cutting edge off profits that touring groups can make in the US and elsewhere. US tax laws are stiffer than they were. There are anxious eyes on the kitty.
Seems to me there`s little to worry about just yet. Madison Square Gardens was sold out and the stadium at Buffalo N.Y. almost so, which is not bad for a dump like Buffalo. “I get cold feet sometimes worrying about whether the grosses are going to be there”, says Lane, who hasn`t had to sweat too much yet on this particular outing.
Nevertheless, it`s a Moot Period for the group, what with the Wakeman/Papathanassiou/Moraz situation – and, in fact, the reason for my presence is because Lane senses that it`s time Yes were seen to be together and functioning once more. And after all, many Yesfans follow Rick Wakeman`s career. (Brian Lane also manages Wakeman, by the way.)
Does the situation really need a recap? Wakeman split last summer, after much speculation brought about by his successful solo concerts. Silence for a while. Then the Magic Name Vangelis Papathanassiou is mentioned. More silence. Then it`s announced that Patrick Moraz, ex-Refugee keyboardist, is to join the group as a full member. More silence. And now this US tour, which, of course is designed to coincide with the release of a New Album: “Relayer”. And this review/interview is the first publicity the group have actively sought since those troubled times.
A natural place for us to truck on over to would be Madison Square Garden, the evening of last Wednesday. Except that Your Reporter, jet-lagged out of his brain and swaying with fatigue, was in no condition to view or even hear the band and anyway, he was stashed behind the stage beyond the range of even the monitor system.
I can report on the crowd, though, who were extremely numerous (pushing 20,000, I`d say), clad in denim and velvet and very clean. My review: Thunderous Shouts of Applause and otherwise zilch, so for a closer view of the new Yes, a fast change to the following night`s gig, at Buffalo, upstate New York.
Now this town is a dump, no getting away from it. Flat, boring and decidely crummy. Nonetheless, it`s fairly large and can muster at least 15,000 Yes-fans at any given moment so accordingly the group are playing the local stadium.
The concert was – dare I say it? – pretty immaculate and well up to the standards the group have set for themselves. And if the audience applauded the appearance of dry ice… well, we can be charitable in this instance – especially as it was just one of a staggering display of Special Effects.
One assumes it`s the “Topographic Oceans” stage set-up they`re using, though I didn`t see their last Rainbow concerts and can`t be sure. Would that be the one with the Two Gigantic Sea-monsters Locked In Battle? One shaped like a crab and the other like a clamshell? Well, it was the same at Buffalo, N.Y.
These monsters move about, wave their arms, flash alarmingly and contain, within their foetid embrace, two plinths on which are arranged Alan White plus drums and Patrick Moraz plus keyboards. The other three musicians – Steve Howe, Jon Anderson and Chris Squire – occupy their normal left/centre/right positions, each with a portion of carpet to pace.
The best thing is, they all enter via a huge sea-shell (just like Botticelli`s The Birth of Venus, only uglier).
The gig itself was surprisingly good (at least, to a person who has often had reservations about Symphonic Rock and its offshoots). The usual Long Pauses For Individual Soloing have been greatly cut back, and though the music was extraordinarily complicated, these convolutions seem to work much better with Moraz in the group. He`s very much a textural player, and nowhere near as flamboyant as Wakeman. (“Also, Patrick stays in tune”, grunted another member of the band, a little later).
He seemed, in fact, to be more at ease than Steve Howe, who played extremely fast but (I thought) a little jaggedly and nervously. I got the impression he was somewhat hemmed in by his array of guitars, pedal steels, sitar-guitars on stands and so on. He ducked and twitched throughout the concert and seemed uncomfortable, though of course, he never missed a single cue.
But none of them did, so far as I can tell – though even if they had I`m sure no-one would know. If they got paid by the note they`d be richer than Rockefeller, that`s for sure.
My reservations about unnecessary complication are still there, even after I`ve seen their arrangements delivered faultlessly, but it`s all very carefully worked-out. Yet the best moment of the concert was a piece called “Soon”, slow and melodic, from the New Album (it`s actually a coda to another section called “The Gates of Delirium”, but we`ll let that pass).
Material ranged from New Stuff, a tip of the hat towards Older Stuff (a medley from “Yessongs”, thunderously received by the enormous crowd) and, of course, Side Four of “Topographic Oceans” itself. (“We`re still proud of that album,” Alan White later pronounced, and indeed the entire group were heard to wade in on its defence with a kind of cool anger that it should have been criticised in the first place.)
It was an excellent concert, and reminded me of nothing so much as early Crimson, though with a better stage presentation. BUT ENOUGH of this review stuff. By a magical process available only to writers, we now move swiftly through time to Jon Anderson`s hotel room, about four hours later. Seated there are the entire group, plus producer/mixerman Eddie Offord, plus Brian Lane.
Tell me about the Wakeman split.
“Are people still interested in that?” grunts Alan White, and a whole battle ensues. It`s obvious they don`t want to talk about it.
But didn`t he quit because of “Topographic Oceans”?
“The thing is, every time Rick had ideas that he went straight to the Press,” says someone rather bitterly. Anderson adds: “It was his prerogative to state what he wanted to state. But you say he didn`t enjoy the Rainbow concerts? Well, we can tell you he got very upset and emotional about it.”
There are nods and grunts of assent. This feller Wakeman is not too popular, I`d say, though they don`t knock his subsequent musical efforts.
Somebody else says that Wakeman made a noise to promote his own career.
“Basically, Rick was a bit lazy on the album itself,” murmurs Eddie Offord, who I would guess is the only member of the group with anything like a self-deprecatory sense of humour. “And when he came to play it onstage he found he wasn`t getting off on any of it.”
“Do we have to talk about this?” asks Chris Squire.
Tell me about Vangelis the Greek, then.
“After he read the NME article he didn`t want to know,” says Squire.
No, the real story.
The real story is that Vangelis the Greek lives in Paris and makes high-quality free music. For a while the group persuaded themselves that a fusion could be brought about, but somehow interest got lost and the idea was allowed to die.
“Playing on his own he`s quite extraordinary,” admits Anderson. “But when, well, when we got together it just didn`t seem to work for some reason.” Perhaps Vangelis could tell us why, but he ain`t there, and anyway the answer seems obvious to me, though they don`t appear to see it.
(A titbit I later picked up was that Vangelis the Greek is actually something of a raver, and certain members of this most decidedly non-raving band felt a little dubious about his lifestyle. Back to distinguished limbo for Papathanassiou.)
But this Keyboard Search was difficult, no?
“We were looking for something, but we didn`t know what,” says Anderson.
“We were actually fully prepared to make the album as a four-piece,” says Squire.
But Fate intervened and Patrick Moraz (who doesn`t seem to mind being called Morose, or even Morass, and who`s actually rather pleasant) entered stage left with a blare of ARP synthesizers.
“I just came along to see them rehearse,” says Moraz, after a certain silence. (“He just happened to know when and where to come,” chuckles someone else). “And I was in Switzerland doing a film score. I came back one weekend and Brian phoned me up.”
They got together and Patrick sat and watched Yes play the material from the new LP for over an hour without contributing a note. Yet that same evening he was in the band, and they`d already changed some of the arrangements to suit his more textural style of musicianship.
But of course, there was this matter of health food. Was he vegetarian beforehand? “Well, not actually. But I feel much better for it already.”
(He`s a wise cookie. One report I heard said that, when asked if he was a vegetarian, his initial reply was: “If necessary”.)
Did he plan to leave Refugee before receiving the offer from Yes?
“I didn`t plan to leave anyone,” he says – but I heard a strong whisper afterwards that he had in fact already decided to call that band A Day. Yes, he says openly, was the first group he ever saw which he liked, and he was the very last of all to be auditioned for it. He also got the gig, which I suppose is something for all those years of waiting.
There actually seems to be a certain degree of bashfulness concerning the exact circumstances around Moraz` joining Yes, probably out of a desire not to number Refugee`s Lee Jackson or Brian Davison. Yet Moraz, who is understandably treading most warily, speaks highly of both as people, though not as musicians. (“They weren`t…dedicated enough, you know?” he says a little later).
But come on, Patrick, surely there was some personal wrench? Like, you were the main man in Refugee. If Keith Emerson was to leave ELP there`d be no LP, right?
“I don`t think Greg would agree with you,” mutters Chris Squire. Loud laughter.
“Listen”, says Moraz, at last coming out of his shell. “You talk about Refugee…that is something different. I felt I had to do the real thing for once, to step towards something that was…real…and good.”
“And knowing his position as it stood,” says Squire, “you`re instantly told that he put aside his concern for their future. He had to.”
Ah. Now we come to it.
“When I first went to rehearse with Alan and Steve and Jon and Chris,” says Moraz, “they were rehearsing `Sound Chaser` (a track from the New Elpee, and one which currently opens their show). “Steve showed me the chords. But after a while I began to think `What am I doing here?`. There were some good vibes, but they were…uncatchable.”
Did he feel at any time that he wouldn`t be able to do the job?
“I wouldn`t go as far as this but…I have been very frightened”, he says. (Earlier on, he`d told me that he was “playing safe” for the moment, “though I will perhaps prepare some solo piece to do before the end of the tour…(sigh)…there is so much to remember”.)
“Hey fellers,” he suddenly says, “how am I doing?” There is a bashful silence. Jon Anderson wriggles a bit. “Well, you know…great,” he says, his eyes shining.
Yes, this bunch are everything Legend Makes Them Out To Be. They don`t screw on the road, booze and suchlike are kept firmly in moderation – and, of course, there`s all that nutritious brown rice. There are many jokes about the band`s obsession with Clean Living, but perhaps the best illustration of their attitude is the story of how we negotiated for an NME front cover.
Our idea was to pose a picture with the group doing a “Beggars Banquet” – i.e., crouched around an enormous pyramid of brown rice with their fingers covered in grease and lettuce.
I sort of visualised them ferociously thrusting great goblets of food into their mouths and grinning manically. I put this idea to Brian Lane, trying to state that I thought such a picture would lay the ghost of healthfood once and for all.
Like, surely they must be fed up with having the piss taking out of them all the time for a perfectly harmless gastronomic decision?
Back came the answer – after an interlude for deliberation. No, they wouldn`t agree, but not because it would make them look ridiculous.
No, friends of Yes. Their reason for declining the idea was because with So Much Starvation In The World Today It Wouldn`t Do To Come On Like Gannets.
You`ve just got to applaud.
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper and you are free to use it as you like. If you use it on your own webpages – please credit me or put up a link to my blog.
This number of New Musical Express also contains articles/interviews with these people: Elton John, The Crystals, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, John Sebastian, Fanny, Rod Stewart, Johnny Winter, Frank Zappa, Magna Carta, Ray Shulman (Gentle Giant).
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