A Little Prog Rock for Friday

It’s been a serious week for us, so in case it’s been serious for you as well, let’s have some fun. And when I say “fun”, I mean “YouTube links to prog rock”. And when I say “prog rock”, I can only mean one band: YES.

I’m a fan of the band, but even I laugh at their spacey lyrics and 70s-tastic costuming. Here, take a gander at a performance of their song “Roundabout” from 1973.

Rick Wakeman’s wearing his sequined cape, Chris Squire has turquoise wings, and the lyrics! “In and around the lake / mountains come out of the sky / and they STAND THERE”! “The muses dance and sing / They make the children really ring”!

And this awesomeness goes on for over eight minutes.

Pick just about any Yes song and prepare to be bowled over by the lyrics. Don’t believe me? Here, try 1978’s “Don’t Kill the Whale”. It weighs in at barely over 3 minutes long, an aberration for a band better known for eight-to-thirty-minute epics.

“If time will allow / We will judge all who came / In the wake of our new age / to stand for the frail / DON’T KILL THE WHALE / dig it dig it”.

A good chunk of the fun is trying to chart the band’s lineup over thirty-five years. They had so many lineups and personnel changes that the allmusic biography page for the band is the longest I’ve ever seen.

This lineup, Anderson Squire, Howe, Wakeman, and Bruford, which actually only lasted for one year, from August of 1971 until August of 1972, is generally considered the best of all the Yes configurations, and the strongest incarnation of the band.

How can you not love a band whose best lineup lasted for less than a year? That’s less than 3% of the band’s life!

Speaking of that lineup, the apotheosis of the band wasn’t actually called Yes, it was called Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe. The bassist Chris Squire had the rights to the name Yes, so when the other four members of the “strongest incarnation of the band” got together in the late 1980s they couldn’t use the name. But they certainly could use the same approach to writing music and lyrics!

Every time I hear Jon Anderson plaintively wailing, “Nothing can come between us, you’re a sister of time” I smile, and wonder why the new Doctor Who didn’t use this as their theme song. Who wouldn’t want ten minutes worth of intro credits?

There’s more where that came from, and that’s ignoring their turn as a 1980s pop band.

And if that doesn’t brighten your Friday, then there’s no hope for you.

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