“The shape of it is perfect,” Bill Bruford once said of the title track of the 1972 Yes album, CLOSE TO THE EDGE. It’s hard to dispute Bruford on this. If Yes wrote a perfect track, it is certainly “Close to the Edge.” Other songs might be more innovative, more melodic, more complex, or quirkier, but no other Yes song matches the intensity of “Close to the Edge.”
In his own recollections of writing the song, Jon Anderson claims to have been influenced by a dream, and the dreamlike imagery is rather strong. He also believed it to be a comment on the various Christian churches all vying for superiority, with the song actually introducing a “majestic church organ” with a Moog, itself replaced once again by “another organ solo rejoicing in the fact that you can turn your back on churches and find within yourself to be your own church.”
Frankly, Anderson’s explanation sounds like bizarre, New Age, hippie bunk. Folks creating their own religions has usually led to fascism, communism, terrorism, and Jonestown. At least historically.
But, does it matter? Honestly, I’ve been listening to this song–repeatedly–since childhood. I doubt if there’s another track that I more prefer to listen to with headphones. It’s the perfect headphone track.
And, whatever individualist screeds Anderson might offer in hindsight, the song contains these lyrics that are, simply put, at the very heart of all Stoicism and Christianity:
I crucified my hate and held the word within my hand.
Past Second Springs:
- Kevin McCormick’s “Storm Front”
- The Fierce and the Dead, “Part I”
- Big Big Train, “The Permanent Way”
- Talk Talk, “April 5”
- Ayreon, “One Small Step”
- Pure Reason Revolution, “Bright Ambassadors of Morning”
- Sarah McLachlan, “Fear”
- Oceansize, “Massive Bereavement”
Inspired by Craig Breaden’s brilliant 104-part Soundstream, I’ve decided to post music that reveals that rock and jazz (and some other forms of music) are not the end of western civilization, but the culmination of western civilization up to this point in time. A second spring, if you will.
8 thoughts on ““Close to the Edge” by YES (Second Spring 9)”
The heart of Christianity: “And according to the man who showed his outstretched arms to space/ he turned around and pointed revealing all the human race. ” Even more: “Now that it’s all over and done/called to the seed, right to the sun/ now that you find / now that you’re whole/seasons will pass you by/I get up, I get down.”
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Perfect, Brian. Absolutely perfect.
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One of those albums I am incapable of reviewing. Beyond words.
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I think Jon Anderson incorporated a lot from Christianity and the Bible at this stage of the bands career into the songs and Close To The Edge was the first of albums he did so. He very much continued to do so on both Tales Of The Topographic Oceans and Relayer. No doubt his lyrics were bizarre and perhaps even more bizarre on The Yes Album and Fragile.
Sometimes I often wondered if he minced words together just for the sake of them rhyming and even kept some of the words that he sang from the top of his head before he put a pen to paper whilst he was singing a guided vocal to the music.
However bizarre the lyrics was it was certainly a good thing and worked. Simply because it left the fans bewildered, amused and puzzled, and one could make many different interpretations out of them. That’s always a good thing.in my book. Even Jon Anderson himself made many different interpretations out of them over the years you caught him in his rare interviews. You never got quite the same story.
The Yes Album. Fragile and Close To The Edge are my personal all time favourite albums by Yes. If you take the main songs from all 3 of those albums which are on the 4 corners of the first 2 albums and leave out the little ditties and their own solo contributions on them, and put them with the 3 songs which make up a triangle on Close To The Edge.
Musically the material sounds alike, and contain the same atmospheres and production values. You could make a triple album out of them and not one of them would sound out of place. Basically this is because the songs were all structured from more or less the same chords. Yes music was born and no doubt it was an entirely different genre to anything that had been done before. It literally was what it said on the tin. Yes Music there was no other way you could describe it.
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I listened to this album, through headphones, soon after it was released. I was 17 years old and experimenting with hallucinogenics. At 62 my acid days are far behind me, but Close to the Edge is as fresh for me now as it was in ’72. It brought me into the world of progressive rock where I remain firmly planted. Great review!
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Despite being Catholic, Jim, I’m rather jealous of your experience. I never tried ANYTHING at all. Not a big regret; more of a curiosity.
For the record, that was in my pre-Christian life. These days, the music (and perhaps a good glass of beer or wine) is the experience!
Brad, this is brilliant. I’ve always had trouble understanding Yes lyrics, but this helps immensely. I’m still thinking about writing a book about the influences of Christianity on prog (although who the heck would even publish it?!), and this could end up being the basis for a chapter. I hadn’t even considered including Yes before reading this. Thank you!