The first part of this story was printed a little while back and here is the just as excellent part two. This story of Yes` beginning deserves to be read as it is an fantastic account of their early days. Enjoy this write-up from one of the most talented music journalists around in 1972, Mrs. Valentine.
Have a good time!
How Yes stopped being the little band round the corner and learnt to cope with success Part 2
Penny Valentine concludes her interview with Jon Anderson and Chris Squire
For Yes, the year of 1969 was almost exclusively devoted to “slogging round the country”. The music seemed to be gaining wider acceptance, still on a small level and there was hardly any money in the coffers. But while the feeling inside the band stayed at peak enthusiasm nobody was worried. At the end of the year they played Bristol University – second on the bill to the Who:
“I`ll never forget that night”, says Jon. “Not because we were so brilliant but because the Who lent us their PA system and Pete Townshend came on stage after our set and really gave the audience an amazing bit of chat about us.
“We couldn`t believe it. It was an enormous pat on the back. When you play with a band like the Who that you`ve admired for years and then something like that happens – well it gave us the incentive to keep going. We knew then we weren`t on the wrong track”.
By then “Time And A Word” was being formulated. Again the band were in desperate search of guidance and strength inside the studios. They got Tony Colton in as a producer and Tony Cox to help out with arrangements:
“In a strange way Tony Colton influenced the band a lot. We needed some sort of egging on and he did that”, says Jon. “Eddie Offard was our engineer on that album and again, because Tony told us we were on the right track, it spurred us on.”
“Jon had a lot more confidence than I did on that album. I think I`d lost a bit by then…”
They both think “Time And A Word” was too sterile and clinical to really get to the public – certainly it didn`t smash the charts apart. But by the beginning of `70 when it came out they had other problems to contend with.
It was getting very obvious that Pete Banks was losing his enthusiasm – and Jon Anderson was the first to be aware of it:
“We were rehearsing so much that it was obvious there was going to be one person lagging behind. It turned out to be Pete. He didn`t have the gall we had, the conviction. During rehearsals he`d always come in right at the end, and when we were cutting the album we were obviously losing pace with him. He`d just sit about and never be that enthusiastic.
“What was even worse was that at the same time we`d stopped being so green and thought we`d got the wrong manager. Roy Flynn booked us on a whole series of really weird European dates, and so just when we thought we ought to have been charging around Britain solidifying ourselves we were somewhere in Europe”.
In Spring of 1970 they came back from Europe depressed and forgotten. Pete Banks officially quit and the band made the decision to lay off. “We weren`t getting anywhere so we decided to do nothing”, says Squire.
There was so much depression inside the band that nobody even felt they wanted to replace Banks. They just wanted to withdraw into themselves, disappear and not have to cope with yet another outsider. But just before they went off to Devon for their withdrawal period, a new young guitarist – Steve Howe – came on the scene.
Chris had already seen him play with Tomorrow and been very impressed with his work. He suggested bringing him in to Anderson. Only Squire and Jon were for the idea but in the end Howe joined them in Devon:
“At the time Chris and I were still the strongest members of the band”, says Jon. “But while we were away we suddenly realised that not only had we found someone who could replace Pete in the group but we`d found someone as strong as we were – which was really a surprise.”
They stayed in Devon for nearly six months. During that time they rehearsed and wrote all the material that was later to appear on “The Yes Album”. Confidence had somehow miraculously returned to everyone – a feeling invigorated when they returned to London to play their first concert dates and were amazed to find that they weren`t the forgotten men they`d supposed.
“Everything around us – management, equipment, money – was in a complete shambles”, says Chris. “But the main thing was that we were confident in our music. So we ignored everything else and hoped it would turn out okay. There was a unity in the band that was like the unity two years before, a unity that had dwindled right off was somehow back again.
“When we got back on stage we even tried things we weren`t really capable of. We`d give anything a try. We didn`t care what was happening behind our backs. All we knew was that we felt really happy we were a group again”.
Apart from the pats of encouragement here and there and the Marquee residency under their belts – (Anderson says that probably the one thing that gave them a feeling of having made any ground at all was the encouragement and help they got from the Marquee people) – Yes were still, on top of it all, having trouble with their albums.
When it came to recording sessions for “The Yes Album” the band again looked round for a really strong producer to put their ideas into action:
“At the time we wanted Paul McCartney but in the end there was Eddie and us and for the first two weeks of recording we were scared stiff”, recalls Anderson. “We suddenly saw what we`d got ourselves into and then slowly we realised we could, in fact, make our own album without needing anyone else to be there. Because we were so sure at that point what we wanted musically to come out on that album it was a lot easier than we thought.”
“The Yes Album” was released at the end of 1970. Because of a national postal strike SOUNDS a few weeks later carried not the national chart, but the Virgin record chart, and in that line-up “The Yes Album” was number one. Chris Squire says now that he firmly believes because of this and because anyone looking at it would think it was the genuine chart it got interest going for the very first time for a Yes album.
Whatever the reason three months later “The Yes Album” made it`s appearance in the top five and the band had their first hit. Meanwhile all the mess that had up until now surrounded the band and hindered it`s advancement sorted itself out. During the beginning of 1970 Chris Squire had met Brian Lane in his hairdressers. Lane was to become the band`s new manager and through him they went with Hemmdale – a public company that had never before been connected with rock music. A lot of people outside the group thought this was a particularly strange move but for Yes it was to give them the hard core security background they needed.
All through the rest of the year Yes`s first American tour was on the cards but never quite materialised. In fact it was the start of 1971 that saw them in the States for the first time – by now the album and a single from it were in the US chart:
“Brian had had a lot trouble getting us a really top agent in America” says Chris. “But eventually we went out with Jethro Tull which was really excellent. We`d never worked with a band as amazingly big as that in our lives and for five weeks we were playing to between 15,000 and 20,000 people every day. The really strange thing was that having thought we`d got out there and nobody would know much about us, we were really strong in a few places like Philadelphia. The guy came out on stage and said `the first band tonight will be this new British band – Yes` and about half the place went into uproar, because they knew about us from earlier albums and what we`d been doing.”
For once the band really had something to be “up” about. But at the smooth passage that had just started unwinding in front of them was coming to another rough patch. On their return from America Tony Kaye left:
“During the course of the tour we were aware that the music we were playing needed more colour” says Jon. “And really at that time Tony wasn`t playing anything other than organ. We all like Tony but – well he was more interested in other things, a bit of a midnight raver. We`d been back about a week when we all agreed it would really be advisable to look for someone else. I`d never seen what Rick Wakeman could get into -but all of a sudden everyone else in the band was very strong on him coming in.”
It turned out that the two people most into the Wakeman replacement were Chris and Steve. Steve it turned out was the one person who`d been having most trouble working with Kaye through the US tour:
“He was the least happy” says Chris “Because he`d spend hours tuning up before a gig and it was really frustrating for him to go on and then have Tony charge in with the wrong chords. And Tony did get very lax. His confidence got to the point where he`d flaunt his body around and then put his fingers in the wrong place. It`s really important to know when you`re with a band everyone`s really trying equally. Everyone`s got to be equally interested in making sure the gigs are as perfect as possible – that`s what makes a band worth their salt.”
It was with Wakeman`s entrance onto the scene that things appeared to settle for the band. Not specifically because of Rick but simply that at the precise time he joined Yes were well on the way to cementing their standing on both the home and US market. More, it was with Rick`s joining, that Yes` future attitude to their work and their musicianship within the group was solidified:
“I remember Rick coming along and telling us what he wanted” says Jon. “Then we turned round and told him what WE wanted. That by then we only wanted musicians who would put their whole entity into Yes – and I must say that`s something that he did learn to do. Rick can now go on stage and combat eight keyboards and on the best of nights he`s amazing to watch. It was at that time that Yes became a band that was very strict with itself in a lot of things besides their music.”
During the American tour Yes had written all the material that was to be laid down on their “Fragile” album – cut just at the time Rick came into the line-up. When “Fragile” emerged from Advision studios onto the open market it sold better in the States than it did in Britain – something both Jon and Chris think was a direct result of the material content:
“`The Yes Album` was conceived in Devon” says Jon. “And I think it was a much more English album because of that. When we got to America that first time we were so shocked in lots of respects – at the situations we face there – it got reflected in the songs we wrote. So I suppose `Fragile` came out as a more American album.”
One of the biggest things “Fragile” did was that, while it may not have clarified the band`s position here, it was the instigator of much of their next work – the “Close To The Edge” album. Of all their work it has been “Close To The Edge” that has possibly really reflected in both critical and commercial terms what Yes stand for now. The zenith of their work to date. The final pat on the back that showed very clearly that Yes are now successful in every term:
“What happened on `Fragile` helped make `Close To The Edge` what it is” says Jon. “Personally I learnt a lot from that about vocals and we used tapes for the first time – something Pete Townshend had been talking about for ages. As Bill Bruford used to say – the rock scene follows Pete Townshend around – which in a sense it does.”
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: Melanie, Roxy Music, Medicine Head, Jimmy Cliff, John Entwhistle, Paul Simon, Fleetwood Mac, Nick Mason, Steve Tilson.
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