Yes

  • British progressive rock band formed in 1968 from London England. The founding members were Jon Anderson (lead vocals), Peter Banks (guitars, backing vocals), Chris Squire (bass guitar, backing vocals), Tony Kaye (keyboards) and Bill Bruford (drums). Steve Howe took over guitars in 1970 and he has been the guitarist ever since. Alan White became the drummer in 1972 and he continues as the drummer today. There have been several other keyboardists – most notably, Rick Wakeman took over in 1971, leaving and returning to the group four times over the years. All members contributed to songwriting.
  • In 1967, Squire formed a band named Mabel Greer’s Toyshop – Banks was a member of the group. In May the following year, Squire met Anderson, who had recently been dismissed as lead singer of the Gun. Squire and Anderson discovered that they liked vocal harmony, in the style of Simon & Garfunkel, and they wrote a song together titled Sweetness. Mabel Greer’s Toyshop’s drummer left, and Bruford joined after placing an ad in the music magazine Melody Maker. Kaye joined as the final member in June, and they began to rehearse. Anderson suggested the band be named Life, while Squire suggested it be called World. Banks said the word “Yes” and the band selected that to be its name.
  • They performed cover songs at clubs in 1968, and they increased their commitment to their act, aspiring to technical excellence in their musicianship. In 1969, they were signed to a recording contract, and their self-titled album Yes was released in August that year. The album consisted of mostly original songs, including Sweetness, with two covers of songs by the Beatles and the Byrds. While it wasn’t successful, it was well received by critics, with Melody Maker predicting that Yes and Led Zeppelin would be two bands “most likely to succeed.”
  • Three months before the release of their second album, Banks was sacked and replaced by Howe. Time and a Word was released in July 1970 – while the cover of the album shows Howe with the band, Banks performed all of the guitars on the album. It managed make the album chart in the UK, but none of the singles charted.
  • Howe’s guitar work became integral to the sound of the band, as they evolved from a blues rock band to a more progressive art rock sound, steered that way under Anderson’s leadership. Additionally, Anderson’s unique voice, naturally higher than a tenor range, became a signature sound for the group. Their third album, The Yes Album, was released in 1971. It was a breakthrough, reaching #4 in the UK and #40 on the US album chart. The single Your Move (the first movement to the longer song I’ve Seen All Good People) reached #40 on the Hot 100 chart. The album eventually was certified platinum.
  • The band realized that they were on the cusp of becoming huge, and they felt they needed to improve their sound on keyboards. As such, Kaye was dispatched, since he only wanted to perform on piano and organ. The group had seen Wakeman perform with an array of synthesizers, and he was brought into the group. Wakeman brought the sound of the group to new heights, and they became art rockers with the release of their Fragile album in 1971. It reached #4 on the Billboard album chart, and it was certified 2x platinum. The signature song Roundabout reached #13 on the Hot 100 – the single version is a three-and-a-half snippet of their eight-and-a-half minute album masterpiece.
  • The ambitious Close to the Edge album was released in 1972. My favorite Yes album, it contains only three songs. Side one is the title track, nearly 19 minutes in length. The album was certified platinum, peaking at #3 on the album chart. The only single from the album was a radio edit of And You and I – not particularly radio friendly, it reached #42 on the Hot 100. It didn’t matter – Yes had found a legion of prog rock fans with their unique brand of music.
  • Bruford left in 1972 to join King Crimson, and he was replaced by White. Yes released four more albums in the 70s, with Wakeman handling keyboards on three of them, and Patrick Moraz taking over keyboards on the Relayer album while Wakeman worked on solo projects. 1978’s Tormato album managed to be certified platinum, and the albums all charted in the top 10 of the Billboard album chart.
  • Anderson and Wakeman became disillusioned with the direction of the band, and they left in 1980. They were replaced by Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes (from the new wave band The Buggles), and Yes released the Drama album in 1980. Their concert tour to support the album was successful, but after the tour, the band went on hiatus.
  • In 1982, Squire and White regrouped to work on a new project. Eventually, they contacted Anderson and in 1983, Yes was reformed, with Squire, White, Anderson, Kaye back on keyboards, and guitarist Trevor Rabin. Their comeback album, 90125, was a surprise hit. Now using a pop-rock, new wave sound, it became their best selling album, certified 3x platinum. The single Owner of a Lonely Heart topped the Hot 100 chart. They released one more album in the 80s – 1987’s Big Generator was certified platinum, and the single Love Will Find a Way topped the Mainstream Rock chart.
  • Six albums were released in the 90s, one in the 00s, two in the 10s and one in 2021. In 2004, the group went on hiatus until 2010, when they again reformed. The lineup changed over the years, with Howe and White remaining throughout. Anderson left in 2008, focusing on solo and other projects – Jon Davison currently is the lead vocalist for Yes. Squire replaced Rabin and remained a member until his death in 2015 from leukemia – Billy Sherwood currently is the bassist. Geoff Downes returned on keyboards in 2011.
  • Yes was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2017. The Hall recognized Anderson, Howe, Rabin, Squire, Wakeman, Kaye, Bruford and White. Bruford attended the ceremony but did not perform, while Kaye decided not to attend. Anderson, Rabin and Wakeman sat at one table, while the other members of Yes sat at an adjacent table, with the tables ignoring one another.
  • Yes was the band that got me into prog rock, my favorite music genre – so I certainly remain a fan, though their move to pop rock in the 80s was a disappointment to me. Oh well – I guess it’s OK to want to sell records. Here’s a 1972 live version of one of the greatest prog rock songs of all time, Roundabout. I always thought they sounded better in the studio, given how complex their songs from the 70s were, and this clip supports that.

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