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What if Jon and Rick never left Yes

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    What if Jon and Rick never left Yes

    and walked back into that studio and decided to give it another go. Would the trajectory of quality music have been better? I love the energy of the Paris session demos, for all their simplicity, and I think the Does it really Happen demo with Jon is interesting.

    I wonder if they plowed through and stayed, originally, would the music Yes produced have been better than everything that has come since Tormato, which seems to have consistently and gradually been inferior, though much of which I love. Even taking into consideration albums that Jon and Rick have been on together since Tormato.

    Its speculative, and does admittedly come from a classic Yes perspective.

    If Jon and Rick never left Yes . . .

    Drama would have been an entirely different album. It would be devoid of the influence of Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes, and may have reflected the sort of thing that Jon and Rick were into at the time. As I recall, Howe, Squire, and White weren't impressed with what Rick and Jon were bringing to the table, and we've all heard the Paris sessions, so Drama might have sounded more like that.

    Drama was recorded April–June 1980, and released in August.

    In 1980, Wakeman reformed the English Rock Ensemble and completed a European tour. Supposedly he came close to forming a band with Carl Palmer John Wetton, and Trevor Rabin. He later revealed that for several months of 1980 he was homeless due to his financial difficulties, sleeping on benches in in Kensington Gardens, until a former roadie let him sleep at his house.

    In 1981 Wakey released both 1984 and the soundtrack to The Burning.

    Anderson began a long term collaboration with Vangelis.

    So Drama might have sounded more like The Paris Sessions, 1984, and Vangelis.

    Last edited by pianozach; 07-05-2022, 11:11 PM.


      Would've saved me some teenage angst. When that duo left to be replaced by The Buggles. It was like a death in the family. But I grew out of it. Plastic Age was a great album. Likewise Drama. But to indulge the OP, I imagine Jon would continue his fantasy lyrics mergin' into his world music explorations. Though the trend would have continued with big 80's production and streamlined music and lyrics.

      Jon would've stayed in England, creatin' a school for the performin'arts in the NW for underpriviledged farm family kids.

      Rick would've stayed with his first wife. Grow pumpkin and squash. Present Country Life on the BBC. Cook veg soup and start a sanctuary for injured badgers.

      Steve would've stopped buyin' so many guitars and devote his spare time to a local hospice where he would hold the hands of dyin' patients.

      Chris would have taken up triathlon.

      Alan would have become an emergency helicopter pilot.

      But. Alas. It was not meant to be.


        If Jon Anderson didn't leave YES, Billie Jean (Michael Jackson) might not have been the same Billie Jean we know.


          I don't think it would have worked. We would have gotten one more album, which would probably have been a commercial failure (the Paris sessions sound as far removed from what was happening at the time as possible) after which the whole thing would have fallen apart anyway. After that we probably would have gotten a reunion tour every couple of years, but far less new music then we had now over the course of the 80s and 90s (which would have been a curse to some and a blessing to others). Perhaps one or two albums. And that would have been it.


            To me, Tomato is the sound of a band lineup that had run out of creative juice and was starting to actually effect each other's work in a negative way. That's not to say that any individual in that lineup was out of creative juice by any stretch of the imagination, it means the deck needed to be shuffled and the combinations changed to unlock more greatness to come from each of them.

            It's a credit to the guys involved and the level of Yes music being so high that this sort of nadir for '70s Yes still contains some solid tunes and is worth purchasing and listening to all these years later, but it's definitely in the bottom 25% of Yes albums overall. A bad Yes album is still a good album.

            The Paris Sessions came next, and they couldn't even emerge with an album our of them. Some of the demos included years later as bonus tracks to re-releases of various albums have some merit, but others don't, and I feel like the first hypothetical new Yes album in this less-drama alternate timeline would have been a further decline from Tormato.

            I also look at the Jon Anderson solo records in the early 80s- Song of Seven (Which included at least one finished Paris Session song) and Animation- and they strike me as albums that would be very wanting as Yes albums. One can't really take those albums and just assume they'd be Yes' output in that time period if Anderson and Wakeman had stayed in the band, because many Yes albums to that point had featured strong writing input from people like Chris Squire and Steve Howe, who would have been present and probably had things to say. The thing is, given the intra-band issues that caused Anderson and Wakeman to walk away, one wonders if hypothetical alt. earth Yes would have featured the same level of contributions from the other performers or if folks like Howe and Squire would have thrown up their hands and said "Do what you want. I'm not going to stick around in the studio fighting you on this stuff all day every day.".

            I just see things circling the drain, and eventually it would have been some of the opposite faction to quit, and Anderson performing really light new age songs with what would eventually have become sort of a pickup band of session guys calling itself Yes.

            In real history, instead we got Drama, which is a top half-dozen Yes album, from three of the guys in the Tormato lineup, rejuvenated by new members and new techniques and new freedom. Then we'd track two of them uniting with a third guy from that Tormato lineup, a young up and comer, an original Yes member from way back, and Drama's lead singer turned producer, which gave us two more top half dozen Yes albums- 90125 and Big Generator.

            Basically, the three albums after Tormato, which was an underwhelming album by Yes standards, were 50% of their top six records of *all-time*. That's pretty good results from a lineup shakeup. Anderson and Wakeman walking out of the band surely allowed the band to go in directions and experience successes that were not likely to have been visited had they not walked- which isn't a knock on Jon, Jon was part of two of the three great albums I'm talking about. His departure only lasted for one album, but it not only created the room for the album they did without him, but also allowed him to return to a different combination of guys with a different producer and a different musical outlook, allowing him to himself be rejuvenated by the fresh context.

            Meanwhile, Asia, independently one of my very favorite bands, got founded by two former Yes members. Had Steve Howe not been available and Geoff Downes not had his Yes experience, that band would have been very different if it had come into existence at all. That's a dozen albums right there- not all featuring Howe, but he established the sound, Downes is on all of them, and these type of connections later allowed Sherwood to tour with both bands simultaneously, for both bands to have been part of Jay Schellen's career at different times, and for Asia to field cool spin-offs like Dukes of the Orient, etc..

            I can understand why some fans felt anguish when Jon and Rick walked, but in the end, it created a lot of good music that wouldn't have existed in as good of a way or wouldn't have existed at all, to exist. And the positive reverberations of that are still being felt today.
            Last edited by downbyariver; 07-06-2022, 11:01 AM.
            "A lot of the heavier conversations I was having with Chris toward the end were about his desire for this thing to go forward. He kept reiterating that to me. [...] He kept telling me, 'No matter what happens, Yes needs to continue moving forward and make great music. So promise me that that's something you want to do.'. And I have to keep making music. It's just what I do. [...] I'm a fan of the band and I want to see it thrive and that means new music." -Billy Sherwood


              For my tastes there was enough good songwriting on the stuff from the Paris sessions. If, and that’s a big If, Chris, Steve and Alan put as much effort into it as they had on Tormato, that follow up album could have been great. Surface Tension might have been on it, hopefully. Better still, a Yes version of Look Over Your Shoulder. Not so great: some of Rick’s Rhapsodies noodlings...

              After that, I can’t even begin to speculate.


                It depends on the level of fantasy Yes we're playing. If they stayed but the band remained in its creativity rut, then we could have got an album that only consisted of what made the weak parts of Tormato unpleasant to my ears. Bad blood between members usually reflects on the overall atmosphere of albums, and results on more and more unfinished songs or even collection of solo tunes rebranded as Yes.

                If we imagine big, and let's say they all made up, got the creative juices flowing, then I don't have any idea what it would have sounded, but I'm absolutely sure, nothing like the Paris sessions.


                  Things having worked out the way they did, I’m glad we got Drama, a high energy engaging album.

                  My thinking is that if they got through a “Paris sessions” album with finished polished songs , we might have gotten a nice simple classic Yes album. But things would have kicked in and the band would have re-emerged with top class Yes classics (songs). They had a great track record previous, and Rick was critical to their success since he joined originally. Like Howe was when he joined. Took the band a step up. Even Geoff seems to simulate Rick on Drama a bit.
                  Momentum would not have been interrupted, in spite of the changing world musical direction.


                    Ultimately I think things worked out very well for Jon in particular — the late 70s & 80s were very good to him, with three branches of creativity — solo, Vangelis, and ultimately YesWest — all of an amazing high standard. Song of Seven straight through ABWH is a range of albums I adore and play a lot. Creatively, they allowed him to explore different directions from what a Yes record was expected to sound like. And expectations I've found are the albatross with this band more than many — what we want and expect from an album, rather than what it is. A lot of that — looking at you, Mr. Howe and the "no songs after 1980" touring mandate — is self-inflicted, and often keeps the band in a "return to form" hopefulness rather than a "find new forms", which they've done once or twice. The problem, when you've made such a string of "definitive" albums from TYA through Relayer, and then followed that with an album which is almost a greatest hits package of a band's strengths like GFTO, is where to next? While realizing the world and music were changing around them.

                    And this is the trap in what Tormato sounds like to me: not so much a band running on empty, but a band whose members are moving in different directions, which pulls at Jon's analogy that someone gets off the bus, and someone else gets on. For the first time, it felt like there were too many drivers of the bus, or that they all had different maps, or destinations, which led to it going nowhere and everywhere. (This metaphor might be used up at this point.) Until then, they'd pretty much poured almost everything they had creatively into Yes, and now, after the successes of the solo albums, maybe realized they had other avenues to explore, new forms to actually find or horizons to look over, rather than return to.

                    Put another way, to get back to the original question of "would the music Yes produced have been better than everything that has come since Tormato", I know what you're saying, but I also think the music that came after Tormato, including Drama which took me a long time to appreciate on its own virtues, *was* the best outcome, as it allowed them to all get off the bus. The times we seeing them all get back on, like Keys to Ascension, the most obvious callbacks to their quote unquote glory days, represent the same diminishing returns that Tormato was pointing towards.

                    (Apologies for over-reliance on the bus thing; my father was a transit historian [amateur, natch], and trained me to see the world through a trolly bus driver's lens. Exact fare only, no change given.)


                      Yes would have died years ago without fresh blood
                      The Definitive YES Albums

                      -The Yes Album-Fragile-Close to the Edge-Tales From Topographic Oceans-
                      -Relayer-Going for the One-Drama-90125-Big Generator-Union-Talk-
                      -The Ladder-Magnification-Fly From Here-The Quest-


                        Originally posted by soundchaser09 View Post
                        Yes would have died years ago without fresh blood
                        “Tales from Transylvanian Oceans” was the clue!


                          It's fun to speculate, but who knows? Anything could have happened. Ultimately, I'm glad things worked out like they did, because I love 90125.


                            I’m glad it worked out the way it did. I enjoy both Asia and 90125, and their commercial success probably helped them afford to not be as commercially successful since!


                              Originally posted by soundchaser09 View Post
                              Yes would have died years ago without fresh blood
                              I don’t know, a lot of bands thrived without major lineup changes. Maybe there are bumps in the road or hiccups. Which is what I consider Tormato and subsequent events. They probably learned a lot and we’re still young and full of ambition. A little burned out as well.
                              I think Drama is more “Yes” than 90125. But to me neither captured what Tormato did, in spite of its shortcomings. Then again there are fans that think Tormato is awful and 90125 is far superior, without realizing it’s a different band with a different musical direction.