September 2011

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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