Yes pulled a fast one at a few shows this summer, failing to perform its signature hit, “Roundabout.”
Lead singer Jon Anderson jokingly says some people demanded their money back, but in all honesty, true Yes fans don’t mind. They’re there to experience the entire Yes canon, from 1971’s “Your Move” to the 1984 No. 1 smash “Owner of a Lonely Heart” to last year’s “Magnification” album.
Yes people will get a taste of it all during the venerable British prog-rock group’s next round of U.S. tour dates this fall, along with a special bonus: the return of keyboardist Rick Wakeman.
“The fans who come to see us, they want to hear the music of what Yes is all about,” Anderson said recently from his home in California. “The old songs are part of our lives, just as much as the new songs. ‘Roundabout’ was just one of the records, and it’s just a small part of Yes. The commerciality of the songs is obviously important, but the music of the band and the style we’ve created is unique onto itself. We’re happy to perform it all, because nobody else can.”
Anderson says that even after more than 30 years together, it doesn’t get stale for them.
“A third of the show is songs from the new album; one third is solo work, and the other third is classic stuff we recorded in the ’70s,” he said. “More or less, it’s probably like an orchestra getting up to play Stravinsky or Tchaikovsky. The musicians know that the music is good; they just have to perform it well.
“We know our music is good; we just have to make a good performance. And we really love to hear the music played well. It’s not easy music to perform; it’s very complex, but we built it and we’ve got to play it.”
Though Wakeman left the band in 1980 because he had grown tired of touring, it wasn’t hard to get him back into the fold: He’s the one who approached Anderson, bassist Chris Squire, guitarist Steve Howe and drummer Alan White about rejoining.
“It’s like the family being back together, coming full circle,” Anderson said. “He’s a very humorous person. He makes everyone laugh; he makes life a little bit more lighthearted, and he’s a great player.
“Earlier this year, he got in touch with us and said, ‘I really want to tour again. Is it okay if I come back in the band?’ We said, ‘Of course, why not?’ When he left (in 1980), he had overdosed on touring, and we were upset at the time, but we said, ‘Let’s get on with life. We can’t sit around worrying about it.’
“He said he felt reborn again after he had listened to some live recordings and realized he missed playing with the band. Now he wants to stay for like the next two or three years. We’re going to travel around the world, like we always do, and maybe make an album together next year.”
In the meantime, fans can satisfy their musical palates with the definitive box set, “In a Word: Yes (1969-),” released in July by Rhino. It aptly captures the group’s genre-breaking sound, a sound that has been cited by many modern-day artists (including Radiohead and Phish) as a major influence.
So why haven’t they been invited to the big dance at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
Anderson thinks it will happen in due time.
“They’ve said we can come in 2004, maybe …. maybe,” he said. “At one time, I thought, ‘What’s the matter with them?’ But then I think, I get more out of life than worrying about that. I get so much out of life; my wife, Jane, and I have a great life. I have three beautiful kids, and we travel around the world. I have no problems.
“Eventually, everyone will get into the Hall of Fame. When it first started, it was hokey anyway. But after seeing who’s involved and some of the people who are in there, I think, ‘Yeah, I’d like to be in there, too.’ They have a little place ready for us, and we’ve got all the memorabilia ready. It’s just a question of when the powers that be let us in.”
These days, Anderson is getting a kick out of seeing his daughter, Jade, blossoming into a pop artist of her own. Her debut Columbia album, “Dive Deeper,” features the single “Sugarhigh.”
“She’s excited about being in the business,” Anderson said. “She’s already working on her next album. She’s never asked me for advice. She wants to do her whole career totally on her own. She says, ‘Dad, just stay out of my world. I’ve got to get on with my R&B stuff.’ She’s more organized than me, believe it.”
Yes, meanwhile, will likely head back to the studio next fall, with an album coming out in 2004.
“Hopefully, it’ll come out just in time for our induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,” Anderson said, with a laugh. “Maybe we’ll call it ‘The Hall of Fame Album.’ Maybe that’ll get us in.”
ORDER “IN A WORD: YES (1969-)”: Click here.
BWF (before we forget): A DVD-Audio version of “Fragile” (Rhino) is due Nov. 19.
The Yes album discography – “Yes” (Atlantic, 1969); “Time and a Word” (1970); “The Yes Album” (1971); “Fragile” (1972); “Close to the Edge” (1972); “Yessongs” (1973); “Tales From the Topographic Oceans” (1974); “Relayer” (1974); “Yesterdays” (1975); “Going for the One” (1977); “Tormato” (1978); “Yesshows” (1980); “90125” (Atco, 1983); “90125 Live: The Solos” (1985); “Big Generator” (1987); “Union” (1991); “Yesyears” (1991); “Talk” (Victory Music, 1994); “Keys to Ascension” (CMC, 1996); “Open Your Eyes” (Beyond, 1997); “The Ladder” (Damian, 1999); “House of Yes: Live From House of Blues” (Beyond, 2000); “Magnification” (2001); “In a Word: Yes (1969- )” box set (Rhino, 2002).