CURRENT LINE UP
Pioneers of progressive rock, YES have achieved worldwide success with a history spanning 47 years and 21 studio albums.
The band’s current line-up consists of singer Jon Davison, guitarist Steve Howe, drummer Alan White, keyboardist Geoff Downes and bassist Billy Sherwood.
YES alumni are Jon Anderson, Chris Squire, Rick Wakeman, Bill Bruford, Trevor Horn, Trevor Rabin, Tony Kaye, Peter Banks, Patrick Moraz, Benoit David, Oliver Wakeman, Igor Khoroshev and Tom Brislin.
The band is known for its expansive songs, esoteric lyrics, elaborate album art and live stage sets.
Born in 1947, Steve began teaching himself to play the guitar aged 12, and lists Bill Haley, Les Paul, Barney Kessel and Chet Atkins among his influences. Steve first joined YES in 1970, and has also been a member of The Syndicats, Bodast, Tomorrow, Asia and GTR. A prolific performer, Steve released his 19th solo album in 2010 and Anthology in 2015.
Alan White was born in County Durham, England in 1949. With forty-plus years of performance experience and appearances on over fifty albums, Alan’s dossier reads like a who’s-who of rock legends, including John Lennon, George Harrison, Denny Laine and Ginger Baker. He joined YES in 1972 and has been with the band ever since. With his consummate professionalism and easy-going nature, Alan continues to be an inspiration to fellow musicians as well as fans.
Geoff was born into a musical family in Stockport, England, where his father had been organist and choirmaster at a church. He graduated from Leeds School of Music in 1975, making him the first member of YES to graduate with a degree in music. He is also known for his work in The Buggles and Asia.
Jon’s earliest involvement with music began when he sang in a church youth choir led by his mother, who, from an early age, had instilled in him an appreciation for music and love for singing. Prior to joining YES, Jon studied audio and video production at the Art Institute of Seattle, and toured with Sky Cries Mary. He currently also sings in Tennessee band Glass Hammer.
Guitars, Vocals, Keys & Production
Billy Sherwood is a multi-instrumentalist, singer and record producer. He first worked with YES on 1991’s Union album, subsequently joining as a full-time member 1997-2000, and again in 2015. He continues to work with a wide range of artists, names as varied as Nik Turner, Steve Stevens and William Shatner, as well as a long-running collaboration with former YES keyboardist Tony Kaye.
Jon Anderson was born 1944 in Accrington, Lancashire, England and has been making music since 1962. He formed YES with Chris Squire in 1968 and was the band’s lead singer through their classic years, leaving in 2008. He is also an accomplished solo artist and has collaborated with artists such as the Greek musician Vangelis, among others. He is currently playing in the Anderson Ponty Band with Jean-Luc Ponty.
Chris was born in London, England in March 1948. He began his musical career as a choirboy, which gave Chris an insight into vocal arrangements and techniques that were to be of influence throughout his career. His melodic style of playing bass guitar has made him such an influential performer. Chris formed YES in 1968 with vocalist Jon Anderson, and has been the only member of YES to appear on every YES studio album. Chris sadly passed away in 2015.
Born 1949 in London, England, Rick Wakeman secured a place at the Royal College of Music, but dropped out to play rock music instead. After work with acts including The Strawbs, David Bowie and Cat Stevens, he joined YES in 1971, subsequently leaving and re-joining on several occasions. Also a very prolific solo artist, his 1974 solo album Journey to the Centre of the Earth made #1 in the UK and #3 in the US. More recently, he has also moved into presenting, being seen regularly on TV in the UK, including on the BBC comedy series Grumpy Old Men.
Bill Bruford was the original drummer for YES from 1968-1972. Bill has performed for numerous acts since the early 1970s, including Genesis and Gong. Following his departure from YES and at various times until 1997, Bill was the drummer for progressive rock band King Crimson. He latterly moved away from progressive rock to concentrate on jazz, leading his own jazz group, Earthworks, for several years. He retired from public performance in 2009, but continues to run his two record labels and to speak about music. Bill Bruford: The Autobiography was published in early 2009.
Vocals, Keyboards & Production
Trevor Horn CBE is a record producer, songwriter, musician and singer. His production work is rarely out of the charts, and his clients have included Paul McCartney, Tina Turner, Cher, Rod Stewart, Pet Shop Boys, Robbie Williams, t.A.T.u., Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Blackfield. He won a Grammy Award for producing “Kiss from a Rose” by Seal. As a musician, he has been a member of The Buggles, YES, Art of Noise and now Producers.
Guitar & Vocals
Guitarist, vocalist and keyboardist Trevor Rabin’s first success was leading pop band Rabbitt, a huge success in his native South Africa. He started working with Chris Squire and Alan White in 1982 on a project that was to evolve into a new version of Yes and stayed with the band until 1994, when his career changed direction and he started to work as a film composer. He has since won 11 BMI film score awards.
Tony Kaye was the original keyboard player for YES from 1968 to 1971, and rejoined YES from 1983 to 1995. He has, thus, played more shows with YES than any other keyboardist. Between stints with YES, he was also a founding member of the 1970s rock bands Badger and Detective, worked with David Bowie, and joined Badfinger for their last album in 1981. Kaye currently plays with CIRCA, also featuring current YES member Billy Sherwood, and which formerly included YES drummer Alan White.
London-born Peter Banks came to the fore of the progressive rock world for his guitar work on the first two YES albums with YES (1969-1970). He went on to start Flash (1971-1973). In recent years, he had an improvisational group called Harmony in Diversity and guested on Billy Sherwood’s The Prog Collective. Peter passed away in 2013.
Eddy Offord is a record producer and recording engineer who worked on some of the most famous progressive rock albums of the 1970s, often at London’s Advision Studios. Eddie engineered Time and A Word for YES and subsequently produced or co-produced The YES Album, Fragile, Close to the Edge, Yessongs, Tales from Topographic Oceans, Relayer, Drama and Union.
Roger Dean is an internationally recognised artist and designer, whose evocative and visionary images with associated graphics, logos, and lettering, created a new genre of work – transforming the status of the album cover for all time, elevating it from mere packaging to a work of art in its own right.
Roger’s artwork and trademark calligraphy are synonymous with the identity of YES and his album covers for hit YES albums such as Tales from Topographic Oceans, Close to the Edge, Yessongs and Fragile, as well as his more recent releases In The Present, Fly From Here and the Studio Albums Box Set have won admiration from millions of fans globally.
Roger and his brother Martyn also designed many of YES’s stage sets.
YES play JFK Stadium, Philadelphia, USA on 12 June 1976.
From topping the charts to epic pieces taking up a side of vinyl, and even both at the same time, YES are among of the longest lasting and the most successful of the ’70s progressive rock groups, proving to be one of the lasting success stories from that musical genre. The band, founded in 1968, overcame a generational shift in its audience and the departure of its most visible members at key points in its history to reach the end of the century as the definitive progressive rock band. Where rivals such as Emerson, Lake & Palmer withered away commercially after the mid-’70s, and Genesis and King Crimson altered their sounds so radically as to become unrecognizable to their original fans, YES retained the same sound, and performed much of the same repertoire that they were doing in 1971, and for their trouble, found themselves being taken seriously a quarter of a century later. Their audience remained huge because they had always attracted younger listeners drawn to their mix of daunting virtuosity, cosmic (often mystical) lyrics, complex musical textures, and powerful yet delicate lead vocals.
Founding lead singer Jon Anderson (b. October 25, 1944, Accrington, Lancashire) started out during the British beat boom as a member of the Warriors, who recorded a single for Decca in 1964; he was briefly in the band Gun before going solo in 1967 with two singles on the Parlophone label. He was making a meager living cleaning up at a London club called La Chasse during June of 1968, and was thinking of starting a new band. One day at the bar, he chanced to meet bassist/vocalist Chris Squire, a former member of The Syn, who had recorded for Deram, the progressive division of Decca.
The two learned that they shared several musical interests, including an appreciation for the harmony singing of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, and within a matter of days were trying to write songs together. They began developing the beginnings of a sound that incorporated harmonies with a solid rock backing, rooted in Squire’s very precise approach to the bass. Anderson and Squire saw the groups around them as having either strong vocals and weak instrumental backup, or powerful backup and weak lead vocals, and they sought to combine the best of both.
Their initial inspiration, at least as far as the precision of their vocals, according to Squire, was the pop/soul act The Fifth Dimension.
Squire had joined Mabel Greer’s Toy Shop early in 1968 and invited Anderson to sing with them. The band recruited drummer Bill Bruford (b. May 17, 1948) in June 1968. With the addition of Tony Kaye (b. January 11, 1946), formerly of The Federals, on keyboards, and Peter Banks (b. July 7, 1947), previously a member of both The Syn and Mabel Greer’s Toy Shop, on guitar, a new band emerged. They played their first gig on August 3 under the name YES, suggested by Banks as being short, direct, and memorable.
The British music scene at this time was in a state of flux. The pop/psychedelic era, with its pretty melodies and delicate sounds, was drawing to a close, replaced by the heavier sounds of groups like Cream. Progressive rock, with a heavy dose of late 19th century classical music, was also starting to make a noise that was being heard, in the guise of acts such as The Nice (featuring Keith Emerson) and the original Deep Purple.
The group’s break came in September 1968 when the band, on the recommendation of the Nice’s manager, Tony Stratton-Smith (later the founder of Charisma Records), played a gig in London, filling in for an absent Sly & the Family Stone. However, that month also saw Bruford leave the band to go to university.
Tony O’Reilly, formerly of The Koobas, replaced him, but the new arrangement did not work out and Bruford was back just in time, for the group was selected to open for Cream’s November 26, 1968, farewell concert at Royal Albert Hall. This concert, in turn, led to a residency at London’s Marquee Club and their first radio appearance, on John Peel’s Top Gear radio show. They subsequently opened for Janis Joplin at her Royal Albert Hall concert in April 1969, and were soon signed to Atlantic Records.
Their debut single, and the first song Anderson and Squire wrote together, entitled “Sweetness,” was released soon after.
Their first album, YES, followed in November of 1969. The record displayed the basic sound that would characterize the band’s subsequent records, including impeccable high harmonies; clearly defined, emphatic playing; and an approach to music that derived from folk and classical far more than the R&B from which most rock music sprung — but it was much more in a pop music context, featuring covers of Beatles and Byrds songs. Also present was a hint of the space rock sound (on “Beyond and Before”, a song inherited from Mabel Greer’s Toy Shop) in which they would later come to specialize.
Anderson’s high-pitched lead vocals gave the music an ethereal quality, while Banks’ angular guitar, seemingly all picked and none strummed, drew from folk and skiffle elements. Squire’s bass had a huge sound, owing to his playing with a pick, giving him one of the most distinctive sounds on the instrument this side of The Who’s John Entwistle, while Bruford’s drumming was very complex within the pop song context, and Kaye’s playing was rich and melodic.
In February of 1970, while they were preparing their second album, Time and a Word, YES supported The Nice at its Royal Festival Hall show.
By the time Time and a Word was released in the UK in July 1970, Peter Banks had left the group, to be replaced by guitarist Steve Howe (b. April 8, 1947), a former member of The Syndicats, The In Crowd, Tomorrow (“My White Bicycle”), and Bodast.
The female nude on the album cover was deemed inappropriate for the album’s U.S. release (November 1970), so a photo of the new line-up was used, thus putting Howe on the cover of an album on which he does not perform.
Time and a Word was far more sophisticated than its predecessor, and even included an orchestra on some songs. The cosmic and mystical elements of their songwriting were even more evident on this album. It also saw the band’s first chart appearance as they made #45 in the UK.
The group’s fame in England continued to rise as it became an increasingly popular concert attraction, especially after being seen by millions as the opening act for Iron Butterfly.
It was with the release of The YES Album in April of 1971 that the public began to glimpse the group’s full potential.
That record, their first made up entirely of original compositions, was filled with complex, multi-part harmonies. Loud, heavily layered guitar and bass parts, beautiful and melodic drum parts and surging organ (with piano embellishments) passages bridging them all. Everybody was working on a far more expansive level than on any of their previous recordings.
On “Your Move” (which became the group’s first U.S. chart entry, at number 40), the harmonies were woven together in layers and patterns that were dazzling in their own right, while “Starship Trooper” (which drew its name from a Robert Heinlein novel, thus reinforcing the group’s space rock image) and “I’ve Seen All Good People” gave Howe, Squire, and Bruford the opportunity to play extended instrumental passages of tremendous forcefulness.
The YES Album opened a new phase in the group’s history and its approach to music. None of it was pop music in the “Top 40” sense of the term. Rather, it was built on compositions that resembled sound paintings rather than songs; the swelling sound of Kaye’s Moog synthesizer and organ, Howe’s fluid yet stinging guitar passages, Squire’s rippling bass, and Anderson’s haunting leads all evoked sonic landscapes that were strangely compelling to the imagination of the listener.
The YES Album reached number seven in England in the spring of 1971 and later number 40 in America. Early in 1971, YES made their first U.S. tour opening for Jethro Tull, and were back later in the year sharing billing with Ten Years After and the J. Geils Band. The band members began work on their next album, but were interrupted when keyboard player Tony Kaye left in August of 1971. He went on to guest in Flash, the band started by ex-YES guitarist Peter Banks. Kaye was replaced by former Strawbs keyboard player Rick Wakeman, who played his first shows with YES in September 1971.
Wakeman was a far more flamboyant musician than Kaye, not only in his approach to playing, but in the number of instruments he used. In place of the three keyboards Kaye used, Wakeman employed an entire bank of upwards of a dozen instruments, including Mellotron, various synthesizers, organ, two or more pianos, and electric harpsichord. This line-up, Anderson, Squire, Howe, Wakeman and Bruford, which lasted for less than a year (September 1971 to July 1972), is often considered one of the band’s most important.
The group completed its next album Fragile in less than two months, partly out of a need to get a new album out to help pay for all of Wakeman’s equipment. And partly due to this haste, the new album featured only four tracks by the group as a whole, “Roundabout,” “South Side of the Sky,” “Heart of the Sunrise,” and “Long Distance Runaround” — although, significantly, all except “Long Distance Runaround” ran between seven and 13 minutes — and was rounded out by five pieces showcasing each member of the band individually.
Anderson’s voice was represented in multiple overdubs on “We Have Heaven”; Squire’s bass provided the instrumental “The Fish,” which later became an important part of the group’s concerts; Howe’s “Mood for a Day” showed him off as a classical guitarist; Bruford’s drums were the focus of “Five Percent For Nothing”; and Wakeman turned in “Cans And Brahms,” an electronic keyboard fantasy built on one movement from Brahms’ Fourth Symphony.
A contractual issue had prevented Wakeman from including an original piece, “Handle with Care”, which would later emerge under the name “Catherine of Aragon” on his debut solo album The Six Wives of Henry VIII, with Howe, Squire and Bruford all guesting.
Fragile, released in November of 1971, reached number seven in England and number four in America.
The album’s success was enhanced by the release of an edited single of “Roundabout,” the group’s first (and, for over a decade, only) major hit in the US, where it reached number 13. For millions of listeners, “Roundabout,” with its crisp interwoven acoustic and electric guitar parts and very vivid bass textures, exquisite vocals (especially the harmonies), swirling keyboard passages, and brisk beat, proved an ideal introduction to the group’s sound.
Neither Emerson, Lake & Palmer nor King Crimson, the group’s leading rivals at that time, ever had so successful a pop chart entry. The single’s impact among teenage and college- age listeners was far greater than this chart position would indicate; they simply flocked to the band, with the result that not only did Fragile sell in huge numbers, but the group’s earlier records (especially The Yes Album) were suddenly in demand again.
Even the jacket for Fragile, designed by artist Roger Dean, featured distinctive, surreal landscape graphics, which evoked images seemingly related to the music inside.
These paintings would become part and parcel of the audience’s impression of Yes’ music, and later tours by the group would feature stage sets designed by Dean as an integral part of the shows.
Yes’ appeal was multi-level. In some ways, they were the successors to psychedelic metal bands such as Iron Butterfly. “Roundabout” may have been space rock, with a driving beat that carried the listener soaring into the heavens, but lines like “In and around the lake/Mountains come out of the sky/They stand there” evoked a surreal imagery not far removed (in the minds of some listeners) from “In a Gadda Da Vida,” and just as effective, amid Wakeman’s swirling synthesizer and Mellotron passages, as a musical background for any druggy indulgences that fans might pursue. The band’s lyrics often possessed complex subtexts drawn from religious and literary sources that made them good for intellectual analysis, and something that college students could listen to with no shame or rationalizing. In that respect, Yes were as much the successors to The Moody Blues, with a beat and balls in place of the pioneering art rock/psychedelic band’s stateliness and overt seriousness, as they were to Iron Butterfly.
Jon Anderson’s vocals, moreover, compared very well with those of his Atlantic Records labelmate, Robert Plant, the lead singer of Led Zeppelin. Yes’ classical music influences offered a level of intellectual stimulation, the likes of which Led Zeppelin seldom bothered. And Yes played loud and hard; they were progressive, but they weren’t wimps. Their music seemed to evoke the most appealing elements of heavy metal rock, psychedelic music, the work of composers as different as Igor Stravinsky and film composer Jerome Moross (whose “Main Theme from the Big Country” provided the basis for the group’s version of “No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed”), and Eastern religion, all wrapped in songs running upwards of 22 minutes — an entire side of an album.
“Roundabout” would be the group’s biggest single success in the US for the next 12 years, but it was more than enough.
Although they would continue to release 45s periodically, including a cover of Paul Simon’s “America” during the summer of 1972, the future of Yes clearly lay with their albums. On Fragile, “Long Distance Runaround,” as a three-minute song, had been the anomaly; the band members were clearly looking at longer forms in which to write and play their music.
Close to the Edge recorded in the late spring of 1972 and released in September of that year, showed just where they were headed, consisting of only three long tracks, essentially three sound paintings, in which the overall sound and musical textures mattered more than the lyrics or any specific melody, harmonization, or solo.
“Siberian Khatru” was almost a rock adaptation of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, recalling the composer’s most famous work and sounding as though Anderson and company had tapped into a element of ritual and a state of consciousness going back practically to the dawn of time (or stretching to the end of time), while “And You and I” seemed to take “Your Move” to a newly cosmic level.
The fans and critics alike loved Close to the Edge, resplendent in its rich harmonies and keyboard passages of astonishing beauty and complexity, brittle but powerful guitar, and drumming that was gorgeous in its own right. The album reached number four in England, number three in the United States and number one in the Netherlands without help from a hit single (though an edited version of “And You and I” did reach number 42 in America).
By the time of the record’s release, however, Bill Bruford had left the band to join King Crimson, and was replaced by Alan White (b. June 14, 1949, Pelton, Durham), a session drummer who was best known for having played with John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Plastic Ono Band.
With White installed at the drum kit, the group went on tour behind the new album to massive audience response and critical acclaim. As an added bonus for fans, Rick Wakeman had completed his first solo LP, the instrumental concept album The Six Wives of Henry VIII, which was released by A&M Records in February of 1973 (Wakeman had played excerpts from it during his featured solo spot during the previous Yes tour).
A large part of the Close to the Edge tour, like the group’s prior tour with Bruford on the drums, was recorded, and a three-LP (two-CD) set entitled Yessongs, released in May of 1973, was assembled from the best work on the tours. Yessongs became a model for progressive rock live albums; at over 120 minutes, it included the band’s entire stage repertoire, all of it uncut and all of it well played. The live album reached number seven in England and number 12 in the United States.
The group spent the second half of 1973 trying to come up with a follow-up to four successive hit albums. The resulting record, a double LP entitled Tales from Topographic Oceans was released in January of 1974 with such high expectations that it earned a gold record status purely from its advanced orders. Tales from Topographic Oceans broke all previous artistic boundaries, consisting of four long tracks each taking up the full side of an LP, with titles like “The Revealing Science of God (Dance of the Dawn).”
If the group’s prior albums were made up of paintings in sound, then Topographic Oceans was a series of sonic murals, painted across vast spaces on a massive scale that did not make for light listening. Several group members believed they had cultivated an audience for such music, and they were right; Topographic Oceans not only topped the British charts but reached number six on the American charts.
No album had more divided both fans and Yes critics alike. At the time of its release, critics called Tales from Topographic Oceans excessive, representing the height of progressive rock’s self-indulgent nature. Originally inspired when Jon Anderson read a footnote in a book describing a set of Shastric scriptures, the album displayed a sublime beauty in many parts, and immense, mesmerizing stretches of high- energy virtuosity.
The group toured behind Topographic Oceans early in 1974, performing most of the album on-stage. At this point, the group faced another major line-up change as Wakeman, whose second solo album, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, appeared in May of 1974, announced he was leaving Yes to pursue a solo career. In fact, as he revealed in interviews years later, he’d been unhappy with the content of Tales from Topographic Oceans, feeling its music no longer reflected the direction he wanted to go. He felt it was time to part company with the band.
Wakeman’s decision created a major problem for Yes, for the keyboard player had become a star within their ranks, and was the group’s most well-known individual member; people definitely paid to see and hear his keyboards rippling amid the band’s sound. After considering many names (including Greek musician, Vangelis), it was announced in August 1974 that Patrick Moraz (b. June 24, 1948, Morges, Switzerland), formerly of the progressive rock trio Refugee, had replaced Wakeman.
Three months later, the group released their new album Relayer, reaching the British number four spot and the American number five position. Moraz proved an adequate replacement for Wakeman, but lacked his predecessor’s gift for showmanship and extravagance. The group toured in the wake of Relayer’s release in November of 1974, but didn’t record together again for two and a half years.
In order to satisfy the demand for more Yes material in the absence of a new album, Atlantic in March of 1975 released a collection of their early music entitled Yesterdays drawn from the first two albums and various singles, which rose to number 27 in England and number 17 in America.
A film that the group had made along their 1973 tour, Yessongs was released to cinemas at around the same time. The movie received poor reviews, possibly owing to the fact that most reviewers were unfamiliar with the band’s music, but it was profitable and has been popular for years since on home video.
Meanwhile, in the absence of new Yes albums, other bands began trying to capitalize on the Yes sound by creating their own versions of such: the most notable of these were Starcastle, a progressive rock band signed by Epic Records, who made their recording debut in 1976 with a self-titled album that could have been another incarnation of Yes; and Fireballet, a Passport Records quartet who seemed to bridge the music of Yes and ELP.
The band announced that each member of the group would release a solo album. In November of 1975, Chris Squire’s Fish Out of Water and Steve Howe’s Beginnings were both released and climbed into the mid- sixties on the American charts.
Squire’s record saw him re-unite with Bill Bruford on drums, while Patrick Moraz was one of the keyboardists. Virtually a lost Yes album, it saw the bassist exploring new instrumental and orchestral textures, and turning in a lead vocal performance as well.
Howe’s record saw Bruford, Moraz and Alan White guest, as was also the case on his follow-up in 1979, The Steve Howe Album.
These were followed in March 1976 by Alan White’s Ramshackled (on which Howe and Anderson guested), which placed at number 41 in England, and Moraz’s solo venture Patrick Moraz, which reached number 28 in England and number 132 in America.
Finally, in July of 1976, Jon Anderson’s Olias of Sunhollow, a dazzling, Tolkien-esque science fiction/fantasy epic (with packaging on the original LP that must have doubled the basic production cost of the jacket) appeared, reaching number eight in England and number 47 in America. Anderson performed the entire album himself, demonstrating his growth as a multi-instrumentalist.
In late 1976 the band reconvened to begin work on a new studio album, but soon after, the line-up changed once again, as Patrick Moraz departed and Rick Wakeman announced his return to the fold.
The group’s next album Going for the One released in August 1977, represented a return to shorter songs for the most part, while also including the over fifteen minute long “Awaken”, a favourite of both fans and the band. The long-player topped the British charts for two weeks and reached number eight on the American charts.
“Wonderous Stories” from the album became Yes’ first hit single in the UK and still their best UK singles chart performance of number seven.
A second single, “Going for the One”, rose to number 24 in the UK. Yes embarked on a massive tour shortly after the album’s release, including their most successful American appearances ever, playing to record audiences on the East Coast. 1977 also saw Squire and White both guesting on Rick Wakeman’s latest solo album, Criminal Record.
In 1979,”Don’t Kill The Whale” reached the top 10 on both UK and US charts. However, trouble was brewing as sessions for the band’s next album fell apart at the end of 1979, with Wakeman and Anderson leaving the band.
Anderson’s focus was turning to a collaboration with Vangelis. The two released an album, Short Stories, and an accompanying single, “I Hear You,” in January 1980, both of which reached the British top 10. Jon & Vangelis, as the team became known, went on to cut several more records together.
In a surprise move, Trevor Horn (vocals) and Geoffrey Downes (keyboards) of the British band The Buggles (whose “Video Killed the Radio Star” had made number one in several countries), joined Steve Howe, Chris Squire and Alan White in a new Yes.
This configuration recorded a new album, Drama, released August 1980; the record made number two in the UK, but only number 18 in the US. Trevor Horn found the strain of replacing Jon Anderson live hugely challenging and his experience was part of what pushed him into a new focus on record production.
The band announced its break up in early 1981, not long after Atlantic Records released Yesshows, a double live album made up of stage performances dating from 1976 through 1978 that reached number 22 in England and number 43 in America.
A second Buggles album appeared in 1981, but that was to be Horn’s last time fronting a band for over a quarter of a century. Geoff Downes and Steve Howe were soon working together again in Asia, which went on to considerable success in the early ’80s.
Meanwhile, Chris Squire and Alan White released a Christmas single, “Run with the Fox”, in 1981.Also in 1981, there had been an abortive attempt at a supergroup consisting of Jimmy Page on guitar, Chris Squire on bass, and Alan White manning the drumkit; the band was to be called XYZ (which stood for ex-Yes and ex- Zeppelin).
For a year and a half, Yes seemed a dead issue. Squire and White then started working with a South African guitarist/vocalist Trevor Rabin on a new project. With original Yes member Tony Kaye joining on keyboards and Trevor Horn involved in a producing capacity, the new group was announced under the name, Cinema. The connection to Yes was apparent and the band even planned to play some Yes material during its live shows. But then fate intervened.
Having run into each other at a party, Squire shared some of the new Cinema material with Jon Anderson. Jon was impressed and signaled he’d like to offer his vocal talents; the result was Anderson joining the band and the decision made to simply revive the Yes moniker.
But the ongoing line-up changes were not over—before the album was released, Kaye left and was briefly replaced by Eddie Jobson, who had worked with Bill Bruford in the group, UK. Jobson was in the band for the filming of the music video of the album’s lead single, but was gone again with Kaye’s return.
In late 1983, that single was released. It was “Owner of a Lonely Heart“, a huge chart-topper (number one in the U.S. in January of 1984) that displayed a stripped-down modern dance- rock sound unlike anything the group had ever before produced.
The album, 90125 made the top 10 in several countries, although only number 16 in the UK.
After a lengthy tour, including headlining a Rock in Rio show in 1985 in front of a six-figure audience, Yes began work on their next album, initially with Horn again producing, although he was to depart before its completion.
The release of Big Generator, came in late 1987, with the album selling moderately well.
Meanwhile, in 1986, Steve Howe appeared as a member of GTR with former Genesis guitarist, Steve Hackett, whose self- titled album (produced by Geoff Downes) reached number 11 in America.
After the Big Generator tour, Jon Anderson again departed Yes. Inspired by the idea of getting the Fragile line-up back together, he teamed with three other former Yesmen. While unable to call themselves “Yes,” the name Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe (or ABWH for short) was recognizable enough to reach the fans, which sent the resulting eponymous album into the US top 40 and the British top 20. King Crimson’s Tony Levin provided bass. They supported the album and presented the classic Yes repertoire with a tour called “An Evening of Yes Music Plus”. Meanwhile, Yes tried out new singers and began working with American vocalist/multi-instrumentalist, Billy Sherwood.
With ABWH and Yes both struggling to record new albums, and legal squabbles between the two camps over use of the Yes name, a solution emerged by 1991 in the form of a composite “mega Yes” group consisting of Anderson, Howe, Wakeman, Squire, Kaye, White, Rabin and Bruford.
The accompanying album, aptly named Union, (which included contributions from Levin, Sherwood and others), debuted on the British charts at number seven and reached number 15 in America. The accompanying tour allowed the mega-band to showcase music from its two previous incarnations, and had solo spots for nearly every member.
These mammoth three-hour shows and the resulting publicity (even news organizations that normally didn’t cover rock concerts did features on the reunion) only seemed to heighten interest in the four-CD box set YesYears, which was released by Atlantic in 1991.
The 1990s were busy years for the members of Yes, if not always in a group context. Chris Squire, Billy Sherwood and Alan White toured in 1992 as the Chris Squire Experiment. Squire and Sherwood would eventually release an album based on the same material in 2000, entitled Conspiracy, with White guesting. Steve Howe and Bill Bruford, in conjunction with producer Alan Parsons and arranger Dee Palmer, spun off the group’s classic music on an orchestral project called Symphonic Music of Yes (1993), with Jon Anderson furnishing vocals on two songs. Released two years later was the Yes tribute album, Tales from Yesterday, notable for including appearances by several band members across various tracks, namely Steve Howe, Peter Banks, Patrick Moraz and Billy Sherwood. In 1999, Steve Howe released his tribute to Dylan, Portraits of Bob Dylan, with guest appearances by both Anderson and Geoff Downes.
Meanwhile, the ‘Union’ hadn’t lasted. The line-up from 90125 and Big Generator were to re-emerge, namely Rabin, Squire, Anderson, White and Kaye (and supplemented by Sherwood), with the 1994 album Talk and subsequent tour.
Following the tour, Kaye left the music business for more than a decade. Rabin also decided to leave, moving to a successful career in film scoring.
Around this time Atlantic Records released re-masters on CD of the group’s catalog.
In 1995, the classic line-up of Anderson, Howe, Squire, Wakeman and White reunited for a short series of performances, which yielded live recordings combined with new studio material, called Keys to Ascension (released 1996) and Keys to Ascension 2 (1997), but in a dispute over management and touring, the reunion was interrupted by Wakeman’s departure. Sherwood, who had been producing for the band, joined as an official member, taking over keyboards and sharing guitar duties.
The new line-up also released Open Your Eyes in 1997. Just as the band were finishing the album, another new member in keyboardist Igor Khoroshev was added for the tour. The group’s lineup went through further changes amid a plethora of live recordings released on CD and DVD, in the early 21st century.
After their next studio album The Ladder in 1999, Sherwood left the band and Khoroshev was gone after the 2000 Masterworks tour.
Their next album, Magnification saw the band working with a full orchestra and without a dedicated keyboardist. The following YesSymphonic tour saw Anderson, Squire, Howe and White accompanied by Tom Brislin on keys and an orchestra. Wakeman was then back for the group’s 2002 international tour, and Yes toured regularly through to 2004, commemorating their 35th anniversary along the way. All of these performances and new recordings coincided with a massive amount of activity surrounding the group’s catalog.
A second, more expansive career-retrospective five-disc box set In a Word: Yes was released in 2002.
Rhino Records — by now absorbed into the Warner-Elektra-Atlantic family of labels — issued their own remastered editions of most of the band’s Atlantic catalog which included a myriad of bonus tracks and annotation.
Yes, by now carrying so many permutations to their lineup and sound, had transcended their progressive rock origins, and also managed to win over even some of their harshest critics — perhaps in some ways simply by wearing them down with their longevity, but also by using that longevity as proof of their worth.
A new compilation The Ultimate Yes made number 10 when released in the UK in 2003, while the US version (released 2004) included a smattering of new studio recordings.
Trevor Rabin and Geoff Downes returned to the fold for one night, in a performance honoring Trevor Horn at a 2004 concert raising money for the Prince’s Trust (Horn himself was on backing vocals), but Anderson and Wakeman were absent.
The group then became officially inactive, though Rhino did release a third box set, entitled The Word Is Live in 2005.
In 2006, Kaye, Sherwood and White reunited in a new context — calling themselves CIRCA, with an album released the following year.
Plans for a 2008 tour were made with Anderson, Squire, Howe, White and Oliver Wakeman (Rick’s son, at his suggestion when he opted out of the tour plans). But the tour was cancelled when Anderson suffered acute respiratory failure and nearly died, marking the beginning of an extended period of ill health for Jon.
Squire, Howe and White continued with Oliver Wakeman and recruited Canadian Benoit David on vocals for touring later that year. David had been the lead singer in a Yes tribute band before joining the group.
Fly from Here, released in 2011, was the band’s 20th studio album (depending how you count!). Produced by Trevor Horn, it had David on lead vocals. Geoff Downes also returned during the recording sessions and rejoined the band, taking over for Oliver Wakeman. The album sold well around the world, charting better than any Yes album since Talk, including making the top forty in the US and UK, and the top twenty in Germany.
At the beginning of 2012, David departed the band and was replaced by vocalist Jon Davison. Davison was championed by his childhood friend and Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins, who had come to know Squire.
The band have not ruled out working with Jon Anderson or Rick Wakeman again one day, but their current focus is on new material and the new line-up.
On March 1st, 2013, Yes embarked on a World Tour. For the first time since Tales from Topographic Oceans tour, the band are playing three albums in their entirety: The Yes Album, Close to the Edge and Going for the One.
Yes have also talked about going into the studio later in 2013 to record their 21st studio album and the first with Jon Davison.