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As we report in this month's feature on Yes, yet another incarnation of the band is soon back in action, this time without Jon Anderson, whose famously fey vocals have been such a distinctive feature of their sound over the many years since I saw them playing small clubs in the late '60s. They were still an exciting rock band at the time, the windy epics that made them so successful still to come.
As it happens, I interviewed Anderson for what used to be Melody Maker after he left Yes for the first time, in 1980. He had a solo album called Song Of Seven coming out, the follow-up to Olias Of Sunhillow, a concept album about an alien exodus from a doomed planet. The new album was less of a space opera, to my immense relief.
Anyway, I flew down to the Riviera to meet him at the villa in which he was spending the summer on the Côte d'Azur. I sat with Anderson in a room the size of a football pitch overlooking the harbour at Saint-Jean-Cap Ferrat under the baleful watch of his new manager, a thin-faced Greek cove named Yannis whose pipe smoke made me cough. Anderson turned out to be entertaining company, and possibly a bit mad.
We talked about the rift with his erstwhile band that climaxed with his departure at the beginning of the year when it became evident he and the rest of Yes were no longer on the same astral wavelength. He should have seen it coming on their last US tour, he said, when the band baulked at a couple of new songs he'd written. One was about a dentist. Another had been a reworking of Randy Newman's Rider In The Rain, written from the viewpoint of the horse.
This sounded great to me, but when I said as much I got a very hard stare from Yannis. How did Anderson spend his time on those interminable American tours? Did he and the band, you know, party together?
Not really, he said, After the gigs, I'd just want to get back to the hotel room and get stuck into some Tolkien, put on something by Sibelius and get really stuck into it. Are you by any chance a Hobbit man?
He shortly became nostalgic for the idealism of the '60s, the subject of a new song whose opening verse he felt pressed to read me.
The children of the flower time have spread their wings and begun to fly he recited, voice catching.
I was tempted to laugh out loud at this, but caught a look in the Greek's eye that suggested reckless mirth would not be appreciated, under which circumstances it was a relief when Anderson's wife turned up and suggested we go for dinner, which we did.