Yes co-founder and bassist Chris Squire died last week at age 67. Along with Genesis, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, the Moody Blues, Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, King Crimson and Rush, the British band Yes was a pioneer in progressive rock and influenced many artists. To me and my disco/Top 40 hating high school friends growing up in the 1970s, Yes was one of the greatest bands of that era.
Yes was incredibly popular in suburban Philadelphia, where I grew up. One of the biggest concerts of the 1970s took place at Philadelphia's JFK Stadium in front of over 100,000 people in 1976. The co-headliners were Yes and Peter Frampton. Unfortunately, my parents wouldn't let me go, which in retrospect was understandable.
I went to my first real rock concert when I was 18 years old. I saw Yes in June 1979 at the Spectrum as part of the Tormato album tour. The band had a revolving stage that allowed all of the audience to get a good view at some point. Steve Howe's acoustic performance of The Clap was a highlight, as was Roundabout, one of my all time favorite songs.
That Yes concert inspired my interest in rock music for my entire life. I've attended many rock concerts since then, including Live Aid at JFK, Live 8 at Philadelphia's Ben Franklin Parkway in 2005, the Amnesty International concert at JFK featuring Bruce Springsteen, Sting and Peter Gabriel, Coldplay, U2 (three times), Genesis, the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, The Who, Neil Young and The Police (three times).
People didn't know it at the time, but the Tormato tour would be the last time that lead singer Jon Anderson, guitarists Steve Howe and Chris Squire, keyboardist Rick Wakeman, and drummer Alan White would play together. The group has reformed in various incarnations since. Squire was the only member of Yes who played on every Yes album and played on every Yes tour. The original Yes lineup included Squire, Anderson, Bill Bruford, Tony Kaye and Peter Banks.
Rolling Stone magazine listed two Yes albums in its 50 Greatest Prog Rock Albums of All Time: Fragile (1971) and Close to the Edge (1972). Rush's Geddy Lee told Rolling Stone, "To my mind, Yes may be the single most important of all the progressive rock bands."
In describing the sound of Yes, Peter Keepnews of The New York Times said, "Yes, formed in 1968, was known for its blend of rock, jazz, folk and classical influences and also for its complex time signatures and pristine vocal harmonies. One of the first of the so-called progressive (or prog) rock bands -- among the others were King Crimson and Emerson, Lake & Palmer -- it went on to become the most successful and longest-lasting."
Yes had its detractors. Some found their sound, as well as other progressive bands, to be pompous, pretentious, and boring. Others couldn't stand the high pitched voice of lead singer Jon Anderson.
Despite their critics, Yes clearly belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Their omission is one of the greatest injustices. They were on the voting list in 2013 but didn't get in. Their progressive counterparts Genesis and Rush were admitted to the Hall after being shunned for many years. Regarding the ongoing snub, Squire told Rolling Stone in 2013, "Logistically, it's probably difficult for whoever the committee is to bring in Yes," Squire said. "Rush is fairly simple. It's the same three guys and always has been. They deserve to be there, no doubt about that. But there still seems to be a certain bias towards early-Seventies prog rock bands like Yes and King Crimson... In our case, we're on our 18th member. If we ever do get inducted, it would be only fair to have all the members, old and new. So that may be a problem for the committee. I don't know."
Stop saying "no" to Yes. Unfortunately, Squire won't be around to see Yes get its rightful place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But I know that I, along with other dedicated Yes fans, will continue to urge the Hall of Fame to give Yes their just due.
Clarification: The Rolling Stone interview with Chris Squire was conducted by Andy Greene
Correction: The lineup of Squire, Anderson, Howe, Wakeman, and White subsequently reunited for a brief period of time.