Critics and historians often write about the pioneers of musical styles in rock and roll history. We can go all the way back to the 1930’s and the impact Robert Johnson had on early rock and roll and the blues influences that still infiltrate rock music in the modern world. We can also talk Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry and how those acts incorporated the Robert Johnson blues changes into rhythms and lyrical content that shaped early rock music. Then there is the impact The Beatles had on expanding 1950’s rock into a genre that at the time defied classification. In the late 1960’s, a new genre called progressive rock music began to flourish from both sides of the Atlantic. From out of that period, bands like Pink Floyd, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Genesis, King Crimson, The Moody Blues and of course Yes began recording and performing careers that would galvanize an entire generation of rock fans. Sadly, many of those bands have been ignored by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the exception of Pink Floyd and Genesis. We can make arguments for all of those bands. However, if we had to choose one to start our argument, it would easily be Yes.
The band Yes was formed in 1968. Their first album entitled Yes was issued in 1969. The band featured Jon Anderson on lead vocals, Chris Squire on bass guitar, Peter Banks on guitar, Bill Bruford on drums, and Tony Kaye on keyboards. In 1970, they released Time and a Word with the same lineup. In 1971, Peter Banks would be replaced by soon to be legendary guitarist Steve Howe. In that same year the band released their iconic record The Yes Album. It was a record that would come to define a sound completely unique. No one sounded like Jon Anderson. The addition of Howe changed the sound of the band as the group began to mold their progressive rock sound with the release of songs like “Yours is No Disgrace, Starship Trooper and I’ve Seen All Good People. These songs that were all found on The Yes Album helped the band begin to develop an incredibly loyal following of fans.
Over the course of the next 48 plus years, the band has released 21 studio albums. The group has also released an astonishing 17 live albums, of which many were multiple LP and CD sets. None of this counts the amazing collection of solo albums that have been released by Jon Anderson, Chris Squire, Steve Howe,Rick Wakeman, and Bill Bruford. There are bands in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame whom have released less than a handful of albums. “Yes,” as a band has released close to 50 albums, not counting all the solo records, dvds, blu rays, and greatest hits packages. Their abundance of material in the market is almost second to none. Nonetheless, it’s not just the amount of material the band has released that makes the group stand out, it’s the substantial works that were recorded on those albums that made them essentially rock Gods in the 1970’s and 80’s
Works such as(we can’t just call these pieces songs) “Roundabout, Long Distant Runaround, Close to the Edge, Going For the One, Owner of a Lonely Heart, Heart of the Sunrise, The Gates of Delirium, Siberian Khatru, and of course And You and I,” have become standards in the annals of classic rock history. These were selections that were constantly played on FM album oriented radio in the 1970’s when stations played songs longer than three and a half minutes.
What historians and young academy members or anyone who is voting can’t gauge is the impact the band had on culture in the 1970’s. As a teenager growing up in the 1970’s I can remember, seeing on a daily basis, fans wearing Yes shirts, playing Yes music at parties, in cars, at home, just about everywhere young people hung out. The band was completely ingrained in rock youth culture. The band was constantly touring and performing at the biggest arenas in the world.
Yes songs were performed by some of the greatest rock musicians who ever graced the concert stage. These were not garage band musicians playing three chord songs. Rick Wakeman’s classical piano training helped him become one of the most exciting and respected progressive rock keyboardist of all time. Words can not describe the incredible musicianship of Chris Squire, Steve Howe, Tony White and Bill Bruford. Furthermore, has anyone ever heard a singer with the high vocal range of Jon Anderson. While those members remain to be viewed as the legendary core of the bands most successful years, there should also be mention of the various famous musicians who have also played a role in the band’s success over time.
The band has gone thorough multiple lineup changes over the course of a 48 year career. Lets take a look at the various changes over time. Tony Kaye was the band’s original keyboardist from 1969 through 1971 and also spent a 10 year period with the band from 1984 to 1994. Kaye was replaced by Rick Wakeman in 1971. Rick Wakeman performed on and off with Yes from 1971 through 2004. Running parallel at times throughout the Yes years, Rick Wakeman has enjoyed a tremendously successful and respectful career as a solo artist. Besides Kaye and Wakeman, the keyboard corner of Yes was also manned by Patrick Moraz from 1974 to 1976, Eddie Jobson in 1983, Igor Khoroshev from 1997 to 2000, and Rick Wakeman’s son Oliver Wakeman from 2008 to 2011. Geoff Downes enjoyed a short stint with the band in 1981 and has been the band’s keyboard player since 2011.
The drum chair has featured original drummer Tony O’Reilly (1968), Bill Bruford from 1968 to 1972 and 1990 to 1992, and Alan White who has been the most consistent drummer and one of the longest tenured players in the band from 1972 to 1981 and then from 1983 up until the present day.
Steve Howe has been the band’s guitarist for the majority of the Yes years. However, Howe left the band for most of the 1980’s and a small part of the 1990’s and was replaced by Trevor Rabin on guitar during that time period. Howe has been back with Yes since 1995. Peter Banks was the band’s original guitarist from 1968 to the time Howe arrived in 1970.
Up until his passing in 2015, Chris Squire remained the band’s only true bassist. While Chris Squire did release solo albums, the majority of Squire’s musical career was spent as a composer and musician that helped define the Yes sound.
Along with Chris Squire, lead singer Jon Anderson logged the most amount of years with the band. Anderson and Squire were both the founding members of the band in 1968. Anderson sang lead vocals with Yes for the majority of the band’s career. With the exception of Drama in 1980 in which Trevor Horn sang as lead vocalist, Anderson has served as the lead singer in the band up until 2008. The band’s lead vocals in 2016 are currently being served by singer Jon Davison.
When looking at the multiple musicians who have performed with Yes we can’t ignore the other bands that the members performed in that were fueled by the musicianship of these legendary musicians. Bands such as Asia, King Crimson, Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe, XYZ, The Buggles, Jon and Vangelis, and Conspiracy all featured members of various Yes lineups.
The sound of Yes and their brilliant compositions and virtuoustic performances have inspired countless musicians throughout the past 48 years. Bands such as Porcupine Tree, Dream Theater, The Flower Kings, The Tangent and countless other new bands all seem directly inspired by Yes. Even bands from the 1970’s seemed to recognize the brilliance of the music of Yes. It could be argued that bands such as Genesis, Gentle Giant, Hawkwind, and U.K. were inspired by the juggernaut of progressive music that was being made so popular by Yes. And popularity is an important factor, because if we were to gauge the most popular band of the 1970’s as far as progressive music went, it would eventually come down to either Yes or Pink Floyd. And we all know that Pink Floyd was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995. Yet, Yes only became nominated for the first time in 2013.
Even if the band’s sound or compositions were not inspired by the band Yes as a whole, it can easily argued that some of rock and roll’s finest musicians were influenced by the musical skills of Rick Wakeman, Bill Bruford, Steve Howe, Chris Squire, Tony White and Jon Anderson.
Their impact on rock music and musicianship is so vast, it is so incomprehensible that those who vote for induction of artists into to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame have ignored Yes.
Its time to change that.
You can help.
For those who don’t know the band Yes, we hope we have made a valid argument for the band. However, nothing we have written could ever trump the experience of listening to this great band. So if you have never heard their music, please, please, check them out.
YES YES YES