We know how much The Beatles influenced Yes. But could Yes have influenced one of the Beatles? Paul Watson explores this amazing revelation.
Late 1973 saw a couple of amazing musical things happen. One of them was the release of Yes’s epic concept album, ’TALES FROM TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS’ and John Lennon’s track, ‘MIND GAMES.’
Let’s see… Going back a few years before that Alan White was drumming for Lennon in 1969 on a number of things such as the Imagine album and touring with the ex-Beatle and his band. Years later John actually expressed over the telephone to Alan that he was a big Yes fan. That “he loved the band.”
John Lennon, Yoko Ono and Alan White 1970 performing Instant Karma! on Top Of The Pops.
Of course we know how much a big of a fan of The Beatles Yes were. When they started playing back in 1968 they were covering Beatles’ tracks, and Sgt Pepper’s was a great inspiration and blueprint to where they would take Progressive Rock in years to come. You only have to listen to “Your Move” to appreciate that. And what about the line – “Send an instant karma to me, initial it with loving care“? This has been attributed to a reference to Lennon’s ‘Instant Karma’ that came out a couple of years before. Yes even has a Beatles cover of “Every Little Thing” on their first album. Even now Jon in concert likes to tell fans how much he loves John Lennon and his music.
So by 1973 Yes had their groove on following the “Perfect Wave” album release of ‘Close To The Edge’ and to top that Jon and Steve huddled down in various hotel/motel rooms while on tour to pen what would become ‘Tales’ inspired by Paramahansa Yogananda’s self-help book, ‘Autobiography of a Yogi‘ (1946) and founder of the Self Realisation Fellowship. That’s important here because this is where either by coincidence or/and synchronicity comes into play by the simple fact that in 1967 while in the Beatles George Harrison started writing the track, ‘See Yourself,’ to which he accredited inspiration of the song to Paramahansa Yogananda. See how this works? Small world, right?
So looking back to 1973 we see with these two events the ducks are lining up in a row, but this is where it gets really spooky. Maybe the connection doesn’t stop there.
Move forward to a couple of hours ago and I’m on my way to work caught in morning traffic once again, but fear not, my faithful car stereo is blasting out songs by the score, literally. Usually I’m listening to either a Rock podcast or Yes/Prog/Rock albums or tracks loaded and compiled on a USB stick, but today I have a taste for a compilation of top 20 hits from the 60’s/70’s/80’s. Billy Joel is rubbing shoulders with Jimi Hendrix who is followed by Fleetwood Mac and the Beach Boys, with Deep Purple bringing up the rear with ‘Burn.’ I’m zoning out in some places, either concentrating on the cars in front of me or mulling over who I’m arguing music with on many of the Yes fan pages. And then for some reason I’m concentrating on John Lennon’s voice crooning out ‘Mind Games’ and maybe it’s the sheer and happy coincidence he’s singing…
“Yes is the answer and you know that for sure
Yes is surrender you got to let it go”
… and I’m thinking of Yes and I’m speculating, could John be wondering and singing about the band as well? If he is then I’m in total agreement with him on that. “Yes is the answer…” and we do “know that for sure.”
And then comes the next few lines….
“So keep on playing those mind games together
Doing the ritual dance in the sun”
“Ritual”? “…dance in the sun”?
Let’s go look at the third track on Tales From Topographic Oceans and ‘Ritual – Nous Sommes du Soleil ‘
” Nous sommes du soleil. We love when we play.”
The first part of this track, “Nous sommes du soleil” which is, I’m lead to believe in French, translates as “We are of the Sun.” So we love when we play in the Sun from where we came from, perhaps. A “Ritual” which John also mentions about dancing in the sun. A happy coincidence? Or did John get to hear parts of the album before it was released? Or did Jon get to hear “Mind Games” before it was released? And if you look at the lyrics as a whole in Mind Games John is getting all spiritual and cosmic and really in a place Jon knows so well. Jon would later on go on to co-write Mind Drive for ‘Keys to Ascension.’ Coincidence?
And what about both tracks being filled with glorious and uplifting mellotron? Coincidence?
Did these two great men have a meeting of the minds at this junction in their careers and put pen to paper?
Let’s look at the facts.
Both tracks came out relatively at the same time.
Both artists loved and admired each other’s work.
Both have worked with Alan White.
Both layered their songs with mellotron.
Both probably knew of Paramahansa Yogananda.
Both were used ‘ritual’ and ‘sun’ in their lyrics.
We probably shall never know the truth but as Jon and John says…
‘Open doors we find our way
We look we see we smile
Surely daybreaks cross our path
And stay maybe a while’
– Ritual: Nous Sommes du Soleil – Yes
“Putting their soul power to the karmic wheel
Keep on playing those mind games forever
Raising the spirit of peace and love”
– Mind Games – John Lennon