They really ARE the best band you’ve never heard! I’m talking about the progressive rock band YES! This British rock band has been producing music since their debut album “YES” in 1969 and they’re still going strong! They’ve enjoyed Gold and Platinum record success, have sold millions upon millions of records, and are considered one of the best “touring bands” ever. Yet, I dare you to bring up their name at a party, or the next time you’re discussing music with your friends. The typical response – “Who..?” No, not the WHO! The progressive rock band YES – the best band you’ve never heard!
Founding members Jon Anderson (vocals), Chris Squire (Bass), Alan White (Drums), Rick Wakeman (Keyboards) and Steve Howe (Guitar) have been thrilling audiences with their superb musicianship and tight harmonies for an incredible 35 years. During progressive rock’s golden age; YES was filling stadiums all over the world, their popularity eclipsed perhaps only by Led Zeppelin. Their 1972 opus ‘Close to the Edge” is considered the epitome of progressive rock. An album consisting of only 3 songs, the title cut “Close to the Edge” logs in at nearly 20 minutes. The second cut “And You and I” is nearly 10 minutes long, and the third selection “Siberian Khatru” is almost 9 minutes long! Great stuff, but music that went against the grain at a time when most hit singles were only 3 minutes long!
So how does YES exist in this paradigm of popularity? YES is well known, yet at the same time the best band you’ve never heard! YES’ 35th Anniversary tour (that wrapped in early 2005) did some of the best business ever on the hectic concert circuit. YES’ special anniversary issue of Billboard (known as the music industry’s “Bible”) sold out and is the only issue in the magazine’s existence ever to merit a second printing. The cover art to their 1975 album “Relayer” is on the list of Rolling Stone’s “100 Best Album Covers of All Time”. Yet, they’ve never made it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, have had only one Number 1 hit (“Owner of a Lonely Heart”) and have suffered a revolving door of personnel changes over the years with keyboard players and guitarists. So what gives? How about giving the band a little respect!
YES’ biggest years were from 1971 to 1979 when progressive rock meant something. Yes albums like fragile, Close to the Edge, Relayer, and Going for the One were mainstays of Fm radio. Eight or nine years is a decent run for any band. But YES soldiered on into the 80’s thanks to the mega-platinum success of their albums 90125, Big Generator, Union and Talk. The 90’s came and went and YES really did fit the bill as “best band you’ve never heard” as they produced music that had become a nitch item only to their many fans. But as the new millennium beckoned, these guys were STILL producing great music and touring like many bands half their age.
Many industry analysts feel the very elements that have made YES music an international entity are the SAME elements that have forever upset rock and roll’s mainstream. In a word, YES refuses to conform to the un-written rule of rock music: all songs must be short, lively tunes that you can dance to, and can be easily fit into a variety of radio formats. Try squeezing one of YES’ typical 8 minute epics onto live radio. Ain’t gonna happen!
YES. The best band you’ve never heard. Well SOMEONE must be listening. A rock band doesn’t survive every fluctuation in the industry – from disco to punk to grunge – without someone enjoying their music! Instead of crooning about teenage love and the angst of breaking up, lead singer Jon Anderson has been forever hammered by critics for writing cosmic lyrics that often sound great but make little sense. What the heck is a “Siberian Khatru” anyway?
Fortunately, to the fans that follow their every move, YES is a hard habit to break. Plug in the word YES in your search engine and you’ll be amazed to find hundreds of internet sites on the band that range from their “Official” websites “Notes From the Edge” and “YES World” to personal fan pages and individual artist profiles.
In early 2005, YES’ 35th Anniversary CD compilation cracked the UK top 10 and stayed there for 3 weeks. Currently the band members are on hiatus and taking a well deserved rest and indulging in solo projects before heading back into the studio once again.
YES. The best band you’ve never heard? Far from it!