Date: 03-17-07 18:15
OK folks... you asked:
I have been thinking about my hesitation in answering in detail about my time with Yes, and have concluded that a full explanation would be incomplete without some understanding of the social background of the London music scene in the ‘70s and ‘80s. To give a thorough and honest answer, I would have to get into some very personal recollections and history… and I have decided that too many personal details, especially of others, would serve nobody well. So, after 23 years of silence on the matter, here is a somewhat abridged version:
I remember, around 1974 and still a fairly fresh teenage transplant to “the South,” observing there to be quite a self-congratulatory social club (of which I was not a member) of successful musicians, moneyed hoorays and fashionistas occupying the trendy upper-end London social tier. They drove Bentleys and Aston Martins, lived in very large houses in Surrey (or trendy apartments within a stone’s throw of Knightsbridge or Chelsea), belonged to the same charities, and met one another for lengthy alcohol-soaked lunches and dinners at London’s most tony restaurants and private clubs. A small subset of this crowd was a sorority of ‘group wives’ who spent large amounts of their husbands’ money shopping on the Kings Road and who effervesced at sharing a charity event with Princess Fergie or being invited to a garden party at McCartney’s mansion.
As a young musician, this social environment formed much of the elite backdrop to the world of the successful ‘art’ bands (Roxy, Genesis, Floyd, Yes, etc…) and I remember vividly—even as Roxy were at the top of their game and at the top of the charts—a strong sense of estrangement from this self-impressed and moneyed social clique. As naïve as it may have been, I really was in it for the music.
However, my Roxy association did allow me some lesser place in the club, and my talent gave rise to many requests for my musical participation, including one call, in 1974, to assess my interest in replacing the newly departed Rick Wakeman in Yes. My impression of Yes was that they were a musically very impressive (and of course, extremely successful) band, but that they, too, were hugely impressed with their own status and were living on a lavishly grand scale. There also was that hippie/cosmic/druggie side that I knew would likely make it even harder for me to connect with them socially. For several years, I had seen Chris Squire showily driving around town in his huge and very distinctive maroon Bentley like some aristocratic Lord, and it seemed obvious that, as dismissively as Roxy and their camarilla were treating me, the Yes milieu would be even more unfriendly to this Northern teenager – so I boldly conveyed my ‘lack of interest’ in the Yes gig (in actual fact, I was somewhat excited by the concept of playing with Yes at their peak, but my instincts told me this would be an unwelcoming situation).
Fast forward almost six years… I had extricated myself from that disturbingly self-important London scene completely, from EG Management and Sun Artists (Yes’ management—who co-managed ‘UK’) and had happily relocated to the U.S., permanently removing myself from what I found to be an uncharitable world of supercilious people and expensive drug habits. Around the same time, I also disbanded U.K.—as part of the same purge. It was a fresh start, and the Green Album would be my solo venture as an independent free-spirit, surrounded by new friends—dare I say ‘all good people,’ with similar values to mine.
However, in early 1983, toward the end of the Green Album period, I received a call from an executive with Atlantic Records who was with Chris Squire and his new band “Cinema” in London. Despite my complete lack of interest in joining Squire’s new band, the phone conversation went on for several hours as he virtually begged me to participate on their new album (the record that would become “90215”) . This time my ‘lack of interest’ was real, I literally had zero enthusiasm for being in Squire’s band back in London. So original Yes keyboardist Tony Kaye was invited in for the album recording (which also apparently didn’t work out either, as he departed at the producer’s request after a very short period, leaving the keyboard duties to the production team.)
Later that year, with the Green Album finally completed, I happened to be visiting London as part of a promotional tour when I received a message (in the U.S.) that ‘Cinema’ was now ‘Yes,’ Jon Anderson had joined the band again, and that the album had come out really well. Oh, and they still needed a keyboard player... When they found out I was actually in London, new boy Trevor Rabin arranged to come round to play me the finished album. Trevor Horn (my favourite producer at the time) had done a fantastic job. All in all, though musically a little superficial, it was a fresh and contemporary recording, and with the ‘Yes’ name, a potential hit song (“Owner of a Lonely Heart”), Atlantic Records, and a well-funded support team behind it, it was clearly destined for considerably more commercial success than my struggling Green Album. With unlimited amounts of money flying around, my living in Connecticut was no problem; Jon was living in France, and Rabin and the new manager were living in Los Angeles. After all these years, maybe it was time for me to finally join Yes?
A couple of days later, we got together in a rehearsal room and thrashed through a few tunes, including ‘Roundabout’ (actually not knowing the song too well, I had to figure out Rick’s tricky keyboard parts on the spot – no easy task). But everyone seemed happy, so I returned to the U.S. as a full member of Yes and with a world tour only two or three months away. There was virtually no contact with anyone for several weeks as I learned all the Yes material in my home studio, although I did attend the mastering of the album with Rabin in New York. In fact, now I think about it, not one single band member ever called me, for any reason, during my entire stint with the group (or since).
The illusion of ‘equal membership’ soon became apparently false, especially once the filming of the “Owner of a Lonely Heart” video took place. Lord Squire’s indulgences (and the ubiquitous Bentley) were back in my face, and money was being squandered at an alarming rate. It was time-warp back to the 1970s. Roadies followed you around making sure you never had to lift even the smallest bag, and Chris was insisting on a private Boeing 707 for the tour! The grand lifestyle was being funded once again and egos were newly inflated. Despite my considerable experiences with Roxy, Zappa, UK, and Tull (a wonderful group of guys who treated me with considerable respect), and with more than 30 albums and a self-managed solo career under my belt, no one was interested in any wisdom I may have been able to impart, on any subject… even on the keyboard rig design which had already been decided upon. It was an inflated ‘Spinal Tap’ on so many levels, and I had unwittingly been sucked back into almost the same world of disregard that I had rejected so many years earlier. But I had made a commitment and I wanted to see it through.
Several weeks later, back in the U.S. where I continued to work on the considerable Yes repertoire, I did finally receive a phone call from someone—it was the manager who had been given the unceremonious task of informing me that Tony Kaye was re-joining the group and would be sharing keyboard duties with me. No discussion, no conferring… a done deal. And the reason? They needed three original members to put to rest a dispute with Brian Lane (their old manager), Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman regarding the legitimacy of the new band using the ‘Yes’ name. My youthful instincts were reawakened, there were red flags waving, and sirens going off... why was I doing this exactly? Still no call from anyone in the band, no discussions of alternate remedies, no apologies, just take it or leave it… so I hearkened to the words of their own song and chose to ‘leave it.’
Of course, the album and world tour went on to enormous success; Tony Kaye’s playing was supplemented by another player hidden off-stage; and the embarrassingly lame video had to be edited at the insistence of the BBC (to remove the disgusting ‘maggot’ scene), during which time they also removed as many of my scenes as possible.
Thanks, guys. All in all, the most disrespectful and unpleasant of all my band experiences (as brief as it was), and, with the occasional derisive remark from Squire or Allan White still showing up on the internet, one that still causes me undeserved anguish, embarrassment, and regret.
Post-script 1: The above description of the smug coterie that made up much of the British music-business elite in the ‘70s and ‘80s also serves the purpose of explaining much of the ill-feeling left percolating in the memories of more than a few of us more music-focused professionals. It also explains, in some part, the continuingly rude behaviour of some of that scene’s most indulgent subscribers (not mentioning any particular Arschlock by name, of course). It is ironic that those most included in that most exclusionary clique, now seem to be the most embittered and malicious.
Post-script 2: Some might ask why I would have a Yes page on the website. My answer is that I don’t have a category for ‘Bands I Didn’t Join and Should Have’ or for ‘Bands I Did Join and Shouldn’t Have.’ It was not a Guest Appearance; I was a member; there is a long history of connectivity (from Bruford to Asia); I am still in the video; I have pictures; it is part of my story.
Post-script 3: Jon Anderson has always been friendly, welcoming and respectful. His only culpability in this hurtful episode was in being so passive.