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Alan White - RIP Brother

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    Alan White - RIP Brother

    It’s taken me a while to process the great loss of an old friend and colleague. The shock of Alan’s passing has been difficult getting my head around; something necessary to express my heart. I had a lot of fun, laughter, hilarity, memorable times while creating some incredible music with Alan. At our closest – he was my brother, we celebrated birthdays together (mine is the day before his), we performed, we recorded, we ate, we drank, we delighted in each other’s company and we toured together. Together – Alan and I created magic.

    So how does the heart communicate this tragic loss to the head? With great deal of grief at a profound cost. Devastation is a good way to relate this abyss.

    I met Alan White before the release of Talk. I was a last-minute addition to a Microsoft panel regarding technology and artistic creativity (Talk was the first digitally recorded album Yes released) at Microsoft campus venue. It was my first meeting with the man, and the fact that Trevor Rabin had committed to a digital release was of immense interest to me. That was my focus, my reason for being at that meeting.

    After the event, Alan and I chatted and realized that we got on well. We agreed to meet outside of Microsoft and began getting to know each other over beers and chats. Our grand bargain was that I learned how a top band worked (creatively, businesswise, and politically) and Alan asked regarding similar topics about the Microsoft mothership. Of course, the stories were relayed with lots of hilarity – we did enjoy the absurdity of life, and telling the stories authentically made for a strong bond. It was a very cool and special time – something I often think fondly of. Geoff Downes has mentioned how lovely of a guy he was … and those memories absolutely align with that sentiment, those recollections and those special moments.

    Initially, no music, no playing together, no working together or the like was undertaken. This was something I was intentionally steadfast about, as I wanted to know Alan White the man, and not impose anything while exploring friendship and possibly establishing a relationship with him. Too often, while in his presence there were musicians and fans who wanted something from him; wanted his time, a photo, drum sticks, tickets, whatever. This is not what I wanted. Stories to me have always been the ultimate currency, having them be authentic and told comfortably was paramount. I wanted a relationship.

    Over time, we began to play together at jams, and Alan would invite me out to a couple shows. The first one I went to was Yes’ Talk tour out at the Gorge in Washington State. There I briefly met Chris, Jon, Tony and Trevor – the then ascendent Yes West commanding the brand identity. The show setting was spectacular – and Yes were in top form. It was a cool thing to see – the stories at the forefront of my mind against the backdrop of a River Gorge sunset. Singular. Spectacular. Seared into my mind.

    After a couple years of getting to know each other, I finally played Alan some Treason demos as we were working on the eponymous Treason album. Alan heard it, met the band, and offered to play on a track called Bus Stop Door. AW, as he was called in Yes, then introduced me to Billy Sherwood who would mix that album. That meeting began an epic friendship between Billy and myself – one that remains strong today.

    My relationship with Alan expanded and I was invited on more and more tours – traveling with him across the US, Europe and Asia. My first time in Asia (the continent) was traveling with Yes on the Open Your Eyes tour to Japan. It was there that Igor Khoroshev had immigration problems, and by this point I was quite comfortable hanging with Chris Squire, Billy Sherwood and of course AW. The first rehearsal of the Open Your Eyes tour in Tokyo began with Chris, Billy and Alan cornering me and telling me, not asking btw, telling me that they needed me to take the stage with them as it was looking like Igor might not make it on time. I thought they were joking … they were not. Lucky for me, the beer was flowing very well and not much phased me at that moment, so I said “sure – if Igor doesn’t make it, we’ll figure something out.” Igor made it, but that wasn’t the last time I was asked to handle the keyboards for Yes.

    The group and quality of people in the music industry Alan White put in front of me was impressive. Not only did I meet all keyboard players who had played in Yes up to that time (Kaye, Wakeman, Moraz, Downes and Khoroshev), I met the road crew, the accountants, the costume handlers, the seamstresses, the drivers, the tour managers and the (then) management proper. I met them on stage, I met them at clubs, I met them in restaurants I met them in their offices in LA. Always by my side was my friend – my friend – Alan White.

    Alan played on the second Treason album, Spinning, alongside bassista John Giblin (Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Brand X, Annie Lennox, Simple Minds, Kate Bush, etc) at Bear Creek Studios in Seattle. It was a day off from a Yes tour, and AW graciously came up to the studio to lend a hand. Sadly, Ron Saint Germain (Soundgraden, Tool, U2, Creed, RHCP, etc) cut the track during mix. It was a shame, but we were so over budget – choices had to be made. I remain grateful that Alan’s friendship allowed us to spend that time together nonetheless, and in hindsight I should have fought more to have that track included on Spinning.

    It was during this time Yes’ The Ladder was being recorded in Vancouver BC, and Alan invited me up for a week or so. I stayed with the band at their apartments, went to the sessions and hung out with Chris, Billy and Alan. One night, out at a Vancouver club, downstairs in some basement backroom, I was commanded again to join Yes – come in and redo the keyboards and join the band. Chris, Billy and Alan wanted a different keyboard player. I remember the darkness punctuated with strobe lights in the club, seen through the only door out of that cave like room – yet I was blocked from escape by 50% of Yes. I declined a second time as I knew the politics with Jon would be difficult (Igor was Jon’s guy), the crowd acceptance would be hell (I witnessed Billy’s first foray into Yes closely), and Steve was a wildcard. It seemed like a difficult (at best) proposition. Alan was disappointed with me … but I explained how it wouldn’t be good for the band, let alone Alan, if “his guy” came in and upset the applecart. The politics were pretty heavy during those sessions.

    Steve Boyce had managed to recruit AW for the occasional Merkaba show, and after a tumultuous lineup change, Alan and I played live with the remnants of Merkaba, putting us into proximity of future White members Kevin Currie and Steve Boyce. We played large outdoor Cherry Blossom festivals, large indoor venues (there is a video tape in some storage locker in Seattle of that), but the music wasn’t ours. The joy, the comraderie however was undeniable. Fun. The hilarity of it all .. the Spinal Tapness of it at times. I remember the laughter. Lots and lots of laughter.

    Then the inklings of the Original White band had begun. This has been documented on the YouTube Series here, and it really was a magical time. Up until this point, I had seen Alan working, seen his role in the various incarnations of Yes, jammed with him countless times, recorded together in a studio three times and played live in a jam band called Merkaba. THIS.WAS.DIFFERENT.

    The Original White band was Alan White at full power, full focus and doing some of his best work. He was a true collaborator, and when he was behind the kit he was, as Rick Wakeman said “he was so powerful and creative” … I’d add that he was a “friendly monster behind the kit” because he was such a powerhouse and a completely different animal from the times we had played together before.

    As White became a tangible thing, with its own tangible blueprint, sound and identity - Billy Sherwood and I discussed taking Howe, Squire and White’s various side projects out together, and during Yes’ 35th Anniversary Tour, Alan and Chris rehearsed at my studio with me. Chris and I would typically have dinner after rehearsals and Alan went home to his family, and it was during that time that Chris picked up on what he called a Conspiracy and Treason tour based upon Chris’ work with Billy Sherwood in Conspiracy, and what Chris referred to as hearing the White Loyal demos – he labelled it a Treason record as we didn’t have the moniker of White picked out yet.

    This Conspiracy and Treason idea was planned to be a testing ground for a new Yes, it was envisioned as a freeing from some of the Yes politics and it was a chance to reinvent Yes, White, Conspiracy and Steve Howe thrown in with a side of Drama. Alan was engaged, focused and “in the moment” as I had never seen him before. Amazing doesn’t do justice to that creative period. The intensity, the focus, the vision of what White could become – it consumed AW. It was an amazing thing to behold, let alone be a part of.

    History didn’t unfold as we had hoped regarding AW’s last true band outside of Yes, that said the Original White band was something that Alan was passionate about during those initial albums. His creativity and enthusiasm are oozing through his performances and when you hear him on the studio albums Origins and Loyal, not to mention the sheer powerhouse he was under his own moniker during WhiteSongs – that was a testament of Alan’s commitment to his craft. It was fresh, it was new, it was pure, and it was the zenith of my special and lasting bond musically and creatively with my brother.

    My wife Diza and I send our sincerest and heartfelt condolences to Gigi, Cassie and Jessie. A true talent and old friend has been lost, yet it’s comforting to know that his music and genius will live on forever.

    With Love Always,

    Ted Stockwell
    Founding Member of White

    Fun story Ted and thanks for sharing it with us.


      Thank you for sharing. Ted, is your YouTube channel the best way to listen to the early White material?


        Thanks. One doesn’t always think about the sheer size of the entourage of a big band like Yes. So many people involved who get to see what goes on, the good, the bad and the ugly. I must say, even if it’s just a detail, in your appearance, you look as if he might have really been your older brother.


          Originally posted by JMKUSA View Post
          Thank you for sharing. Ted, is your YouTube channel the best way to listen to the early White material?
          So far yes. We are in the works (as has been said before in the old YesFans) for a catalog release. It should now appear obvious that Alan wanted his final focus to be on Yes material, and hence the delay. I'm hoping we will pull a plan together and get it out to the fans this year - IMO, it's truly worthy for Yes fans to hear another side of Alan within White in it's original, full strength formulation.


            Originally posted by Ceasar’s Palace View Post
            Thanks. One doesn’t always think about the sheer size of the entourage of a big band like Yes. So many people involved who get to see what goes on, the good, the bad and the ugly. I must say, even if it’s just a detail, in your appearance, you look as if he might have really been your older brother.
            Alan was born about 10km from where the Stockwell family roots are from ... who knows, maybe there was something in the water there.