Ever since PROGENY appeared last year, I’ve been in a Yes-ish mood. As I’ve already written in probably too many other pieces for progarchy, I have gone through massive Yes stages in my life. Yes—at least YESSONGS—was the first prog album that really made an impression on me, though I was only five at the time.
And, I recently had the chance to remember, though briefly, 90125 on progarchy.
Strangely enough, unlike say my love of Rush or Talk Talk, my love of Yes has been hit and miss, hot and cold. Intermittent.
My great friend, Liz, reminded me that I absolutely loved Yes in college and somewhat existed on campus as a Yes evangelist. I was a bit skeptical about this. After going back to letters and journal entries I wrote at the time—I was definitely VERY into Yes. Liz’s memory is far better than mine. My journal entries are full of me trying to explain and understand Yes lyrics.
At age 21, at least according to my own notes from the time, I was even rather convinced that Steve Howe’s guitar spoke its own language. And, yes, I realize I’m starting to sound like a certain Glass Hammer album warning exactly of such dangers and fan obsession.
Since Progeny came out, however, I’ve really jumped back into a very personal Yes fandom. And, for better or worse, I recently reread three books about Yes: Tim Morse’s Yes Stories; Chris Welsh’s Close to the Edge; and one other (can’t remember the title at the moment). I’m struck more than ever how utterly Yes was (and is?) one unbelievably dysfunctional family, always desiring to make art but really letting fame and money get in the way of this. Regret and guilt sets in, confessions are made, penances promised, and Yes starts the cycle all over again.
And, yet, what incredible brilliance to emerge at times as well. I’m not sure it’s worth fighting over which “phase” of Yes is really Yes. Yes is what it is, what it was, and what it will be. Trevor Horn is a part of it, just as Jon Anderson and Steve Howe are. Chris Squire (RIP) is a critical figure, but Geoff Downes and Billy Sherwood are, too. Even seemingly marginal figures in the Yes drama, such as Patrick Moraz and Eddie Jobson, matter deeply in the end. I love Howe’s guitar work, but I also love Rabin’s and Banks’s. Kaye, Moraz, Wakeman, Downes, Rabin—all incredible keyboardists. Really, where does it stop?
Was Yes ever actually a group? Maybe. Maybe not. I’m not sure. And, I’m not sure if they were ever sure or even if there was really a “they.”
In reality, though, Yes is a bizarre, beautiful, organic association of wild egos, all-too human desires, and cosmic longings and glimpses into the realm of the spheres.