Always a pleasure to give you an article with this excellent band and their excellent bass player and founder.
Hope you find it as good as I did.
Interview by Pete Erskine
Mr. Goodwin, a well known publicist is on the phone. “They would like,” he is saying, “to answer some of the criticism they`ve received in the press. They`re not angry,” he continues, “in fact, someone else want to see them the other day and he`d written a really bad review and he was amazed that they didn`t seem to mind.”
They really don`t; well, Chris Squire doesn`t, why should he? “Tales Of Topographic Oceans” went gold, representation of a genuine advance order in excess of 250,000, before it even reached the shops.
Squire`s personal attitude to the album is slightly inscrutible.
“On the whole,” he says mildly, “I`m really happy with it. It was like an ever-opening flower as it went along… it just seemed to develop. I mean, playing it and learning the words was like something opening up to me; it wasn`t as if anyone started with a clear conception of what it might turn out like. Jon probably had the clearest vision…
“I honestly couldn`t expect anyone to attempt a review after only having heard it a few times because there is so much in it. It`s not as if there`s been a lot of works like it in the past to relate back to. In many ways the manner in which it developed was a surprise to us. It was an eye-opener. The whole thing seemed to have a strong force behind it. We all felt it but none of us knew what it was. We simply let ourselves be carried along by it to the point where we couldn`t take it any further so we had to wrap it up.
“I think, too, that you have to be involved with Jon`s style to begin to understand his lyrics. You said you didn`t understand the lyrics but I don`t think it that important to get anything across in terms of message. It`s far more important to begin to make people think for themselves.”
Having spent several days attempting to digest the work the only impression I seem to get, is a recurring one of someone tossing a jigsaw into the air and recording the pieces as and where they fall. Squire admits the album is “subtle” while others prefer to describe it as “fragmented”.
“Can you really see it as an overall concept?” I wonder.
“Yes, I can now, I think it`s a powerful work, it`s a double album and yet it is far more than twice as intense as `Close To The Edge`.
“It is eighty minutes long and there`s an awful lot of relating to do. Different sections have got to be heard so many times for you to ascertain any kind of link between them. For example side one and side three are interlinked by identical melodies although they might be manifested in different ways. A phrase in one section might be hinted at again in a different form in another; even I didn`t begin to see those things until much later.
“It may sound egotistical but critics don`t worry me a bit. My attitude is that if they fail to understand now, then I sincerely hope they will later. Someone read me a letter sent in to a music paper by some guy who said he`d always dug us, bought all the albums and so on and that he`d bought the new one, taken it home and played it over and over again and just couldn`t get into it…”
Subjectivity aside, I still think that if Miles Davis and Chick Corea, for example, are supposedly “over the public`s head” then how come a large section can readily devour the complexities of current Yes? Is part of it little more than intellectual snobbery, which feeds on the old “chosen few” sentiment, which of course, thrives in direct proportion to the resistance it encounters?
“Quite possibly,” Squires muses, “I can`t really say yes or no on that one. All I can say is that I don`t believe those things are without foundation – there will always be a percentage who pretend, but, perhaps, even if they start with the wrong attitude they might learn in the end – at least they`re playing the album so in time they might even come to appreciate it. Or else their perverse attitude might turn others on to it.
“From my own point of view the only statement I can make, as a musician, is to say that I think musicians do play for themselves, whatever they might say, and for me `Topographic Oceans` has been a source of personal satisfaction; I haven`t felt as strongly about any of our albums since `The Yes Album` when Steve joined us – then there was a feeling that we were toying with the unknown; but with that album we created a statement which was prially resolved in `Fragile`. That was our first US album and then we made `Close To The Edge` and that was another `searching` album; that`s been the pattern with us – we ask a question or series of questions with one album and seem to answer them with the next. There`s always a `searching` album before the really positive one.
“`The Yes Album` and `Tales Of Topographic Oceans` have been the two album high-points for me, maybe not so much in the intrinsic qualities of the music itself, perhaps more in terms of a feeling captivated.”
The opposing school of thought has always said rock music should be instant and disposable – the throw-away thing it perhaps really is.
Squire concedes that Yes are probably not really a rock band at all.
“Everyone has to have influences,” he says, “gleaned from every kind of source. Some are content to listen to what`s gone before and keep it going, not deviating much from the accepted line. But it is hard for people to accept new things. One should be ready to accept everything that comes along and in that way one can`t help but gain.
“Every member of Yes has gained from making `Topographic Oceans` although in some ways it was a heavy task, but that`s the point; any slightly heavy experience endured is going to increase your knowledge.”
Originally it had been intended to find a suitable situation for recording the album in a custom built studio. Producer Eddie Offord had various plans but none materialised. Even so, rather than return to the familiar surroundings of Advision, the band opted for Morgan Studios and began constructing the piece last May starting with eight weeks of intensive rehearsals leading into the studio proper in July. It could possibly have been the most carefully prepared album in history, which may or may not be a good thing.
It surely has been a surprisingly tense experience, though. It`s rare to encounter anyone nowadays with complete faith in himself and what he`s doing; so rare, in fact, that it seems quite un-natural like being stopped on the street by the automated Jesus freak with the glazed eye and wan smile; blissed-out – Squire appears to be slightly so. There`s a kind of quiet zeal in him. It is certain that he regards the new album as something spiritual because of the amount of faith he has in it that people will understand it, if not at this point in time, then at least in the near future. Correct me, but I`ve always been sort of wary of blind faith, perhaps it`s not truly “blind”, but in the sense of being too heavily involved in one thing and one thing alone… to the exclusion of almost everything else; perhaps Yes`s music has become too personalised, too inward-looking for it to be anything but frigid and slightly distant.
The interview, as such, stumbles off on a tangent. For example, Squire attributes the supposed shortage of good US music to the upsurge in the popularity of the nasal habit (it`s spoon-size folks). Sly seems to have profited by it, he opines, but mostly it`s just another facet of unfulfilled talent becoming prematurely eroded. Other names spring to mind. Squire also laments the demise of the clubs, as does everybody, seemingly, and the lack of space within the business for new talent unless it is heavily subsidised (in which case it is invariably relegated to hype).
“The whole economic advancement has affected the business because it`s taken the action out of the little clubs which was where rock and roll always stemmed from in those times, and it`s taken it into vast arenas and closed circuit TV and I suppose this generation is growing up with different ideas and identities.
“The scene definitely needs livening up… but in a way bands like us are just as guilty of playing along with the game and I`m sure people can see it from that point of view, but on the other hand if a gig arena is a thing to go and play in, and if that is where the business is nowadays then we can only try and make the best possible use of that kind of media, by investing as much as we can in sound equipment and a total investment in the whole ideal of music. We`re therefore trying to bring those kind of bigger events into the close-knit situation where the audience can identify with the band. Despite everything I feel that Yes are getting closer to the audience all the time.”
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!
This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Bob Dylan, Jethro Tull, Bryan Ferry, Nazareth, Rick Wakeman, Paul Butterfield, Sweet, Tim Hardin, Average White Band, Cozy Powell, Robin Dransfield, Andy Roberts.
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