Ask accomplished musicians inside and outside rock music which artists have inspired them over the years and they’ll frequently mention Yes.
And rightly so. With their intricate arrangements, virtuoso musicianship and 20-minute epics, Yes isn’t a band that cranks out danceable pop ditties that grab you on the first listen. But give their multi-layered compositions a chance and songs such as “Roundabout,” “I’ve Seen All Good People” and “Close to the Edge” will reveal new colors and textures on listen Nos. 5, 10, 20 and beyond. And likely keep you coming back for more.
Fans have been buying their albums and attending their concerts for 49 years, and now the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has climbed aboard the Yes train, enshrining them with Joan Baez, Electric Light Orchestra, Journey, Pearl Jam, Tupac Shakur and Nile Rodgers in the 2017 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, taped April 7 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., and airing on HBO on Saturday, April 29.
For the band and their fans, it’s the long-awaited correction of a glaring omission – the flag-bearers of the progressive rock movement of the 1970s finally get their due.
“I’m very happy for the fans,” lead singer and founding member Jon Anderson says, “because to have … the band get recognition by the Hall of Fame is just a brilliant time for everybody.”
“Well my first reaction was – well not really ‘about time’ but ‘at last!’ ” adds long-time guitarist Steve Howe. “… I’ve heard a lot about it for a long time and it’s exciting because it’s a one-off thing. I mean, you get one and you move on. So instead of anticipating it next year, we got it this year.”
Going in with Howe and Anderson are members who have come and gone over the years: keyboard players Rick Wakeman and Tony Kaye, drummers Alan White and Bill Bruford, guitarist Trevor Rabin and late bassist and co-founder Chris Squire. They’ll be inducted by Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson of Rush, fellow Rock Hall of Famers, accomplished musicians in their own right, and Yes fans. And then Yes will take the stage to play their two best-known pieces: “Roundabout” from the 1971 album “Fragile,” and “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” from the 1983 release “90125.”
That latter song, which reached No. 1 on Billboard charts that year, gave the band mainstream exposure and success it had never before experienced. But that effort was an outlier in the scheme of the Yes catalog. Their default setting is doing longer, more adventurous pieces, music that interests and excites them. They never wanted to be the band that takes the stage and plays music they pretend to like just for the sake of selling records and concert tickets.
“I don’t believe music is all about having a hit,” Anderson says. “I don’t think music is all about being a pop star or a rock star. Music is a whole world to itself.”
“We’re not a band that’s ever found a way or wanted to find a way of seeking more publicity,” Howe adds. “Of course, a band wants to be successful; a band wants to be more successful than it is. But we’ve never been able to get in the pattern of becoming media maniacs because we’re musicians. I only want to be a musician in this place where I am. I don’t want to be anything else.”
Jon Anderson and Yes are feted in the 2017 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, airing Saturday, April 29, on HBO.