Thursday, December 10, 2015

Yes: Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Justifications and Excuses, Part X

When I was 15, I listened to a lot of Yes. I mean a lot of Yes - I swear to God, I even had a copy of Tormato, although it didn't spend very much time on my turntable. But I did a lot of unwise and not particularly noble things when I was 15, and I can't make my decision now based on how I felt back then.

Having said that, there's an awful lot of Hall of Fame-type things you can say about Yes. They had a long and productive career, with Fragile placing in the Top Five on the album charts in 1971, and "Rhythm of Love" landing as their last Top Forty hit in 1987. They didn't really invent prog rock, but for a while there, they were certainly the most popular prog group, them or ELP, and served as somewhat of a trailblazer in that regard. They could churn out multi-part ten-minute suites as well as the Number One pop hit "Owner of a Lonely Heart." That Chris Squire sure could play some bass.

Like Deep Purple, Yes went through a lot of personnel, but the core was pretty solid: Squire, singer-composer Jon Anderson, guitarist Steve Howe. With his omnipresent cape, Rick Wakeman was self-parodic on keyboards, and before joining Yes, he was a much in-demand session musician, playing piano on both David Bowie's "Changes" and Cat Stevens'  "Morning Has Broken." But I never thought he was all that critical to the Yes sound; I couldn't tell you which albums he played on as opposed to Tony Kaye, or whatever other keysmen they roped in.

One cool thing that Yes did was after the release of Relayer in 1974, they took some time off so each member could record a solo album. You can bet that Kiss was watching that move. Plus, they were one of the first bands to be more recognizable by their logo than by their faces, as I was discussing in the Steve Miller entry the other day. I'm not crazy about that strategy, but I have to give them some credit for being influential like that.

My concern about Yes is a rather quaint one: The music isn't all that good. A year or so ago I dumped The Yes Album onto my iPod, and it just hasn't held up that well. Whenever "I've Seen All Good People" comes up, it is distinguished by the flatness of its composition compared to the other songs I'm generally listening to. (It doesn't help that these days, I'm generally listening to Cole Porter songs, sort of the mathematical inverse of Yessongs.) The musicians are virtuosic and the arrangements fascinating, but the tunes themselves don't really work. Well, "Roundabout" is pretty good, but maybe they should have done more covers, like they did on their first couple of albums.

I can definitely see a Yes vote here, and it wouldn't bother me at all if they were in the Hall of Fame. But personally, I'm just not feeling it; I feel like my support can be put to better use elsewhere. I vote NO on Yes.


  1. Does this mean then you are going to vote for NWA? PLease say no to that one. You don't have many more deicions to make!

  2. "I couldn't tell you which albums he played on as opposed to Tony Kaye, or whatever other keysmen they roped in."
    Patrick Moraz nods a forlorn hello from the corner where he sits, forsaken and weeping.
    (As do the *11* non-band members who are listed as playing keyboards on the Union album. If you wanna talk about playing your way out of the Hall of Fame, now, Union surely qualifies for that discussion.)

    I think the diversity of Yes's career, the distinctive nature of their sound, and their status as leaders in their genre all qualify them for the Hall, but I won't lose any sleep if they don't get in.

  3. Kurt: I entirely cosign your closing statement.