For other uses, see Yes (disambiguation).
Yes in concert in Indianapolis in 1977 (left to right, , , , , )
Yes in concert in Indianapolis in 1977 (left to right, Steve Howe, Alan White, Jon Anderson, Chris Squire, Rick Wakeman)

The popular music group Yes is a progressive rock band that formed in London in 1968. Despite many lineup changes, occasional splits and many changes in popular music, the band has endured for over 30 years and still retains a strong international following.


Membership overview

Founding members Jon Anderson and Chris Squire are often considered the core of the band since Squire has performed on all official Yes albums and Anderson has performed on all but one. Rick Wakeman, on the other hand, has been in Yes five different times.

The following explains the different lineups of Yes. Keep in mind that Yes was split up in 1981 and 1982.

Current lineup

Original members

Other members

Early Days

Yes was formed in 1968 by vocalist Jon Anderson and bassist Chris Squire. The original lineup also included guitarist Peter Banks, keyboardist Tony Kaye, and drummer Bill Bruford. They played their first show at a summer camp in England on August 2, 1968. Early on, the group earned a reputation for taking other people's songs and drastically changing them into expanded, progressive compositions (much like Deep Purple were doing at the time). Their self-titled debut album was released in 1969. From the beginning, Yes was a band of excellent musicians with ambitious goals. Peter Banks was immediately a break-out star among fans and critics, and the harmony vocals of Anderson and Squire were an immediate trademark of the Yes sound.

In 1970, the group took their ambitions to the extreme by recording their second album with a 30-piece symphony orchestra. Time and a Word featured original compositions with the exception of two songs, Richie Havens's "No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed", and "Everydays" by Stephen Stills. The epic reworking of Haven's song also included excerpts from the theme song of the television series The Big Country. Unfortunately, the orchestra (and keyboardist Tony Kaye) overpowered Banks and much of the vocal work, leaving Time and a Word as somewhat of an uneven effort. Before the album's release, guitarist Peter Banks was fired. The American release shows Steve Howe on the front cover along with the other members as if he had played in the album, though the back cover does portray Banks.

The "classic" lineup

Vocalist Jon Anderson performing in concert with Yes in 1977
Vocalist Jon Anderson performing in concert with Yes in 1977

The early 1970s Yes recordings are still considered the classic Yes sound by many fans. These albums feature complex classically-influenced arrangements, unusual time signatures, virtuoso musicianship, dramatic dynamic and metrical changes and oblique, stream-of-consciousness lyrics. Their repertoire often exceeded the standard three-minute pop-song structure with lengthy multi-part suites lasting 20 minutes or more. Vocal verses alternated with atmospheric instrumental interludes, frenetic ensemble passages and extended guitar, keyboard and bass improvisations. The most recognisable sonic features of this 'classic' period are Anderson's distinctive high-register lead vocals, their strong vocal harmonies, Rick Wakeman and Steve Howe's respective keyboard and guitar solos, Bruford's polyrhythmic drumming and the distinctive sound of Squire's Rickenbacker model 4001 stereo bass.

Squire was one of the first rock bass players to successfully adapt electronic guitar effects such as tremolo, phasing and the wah-wah pedal to the instrument. The rhythm section of Squire and Bruford was considered by many to be one of the best in rock music at this time.

Missing image
Steve Howe, lead guitarist for Yes

Their first two Yes LPs mixed original material with covers of songs by their major influences, including The Beatles, The Byrds and Simon & Garfunkel. The departure of Peter Banks in 1970 and his replacement by ex-Tomorrow guitarist Steve Howe gave Yes a new edge. The group's emerging style coalesced on their next LP, the critically acclaimed The Yes Album, which for the first time consisted entirely of original compositions by the band; it was also the record that united them with long-serving producer and engineer Eddie Offord; his studio expertise was a key factor in creating the Yes sound.

In 1971 original keyboard player Tony Kaye left to form his own group, Badger. He was replaced by classically trained Rick Wakeman, who had just left The Strawbs and was already a noted studio musician with credits including David Bowie and Lou Reed.

As a soloist, Wakeman proved to be a perfect foil for Steve Howe. He also brought two vital new additions to the group's instrumentation -- the Mellotron and the Minimoog synthesiser. Surrounded by banks of keyboards, his flowing blonde hair and sequined cape provided a strong visual focus on stage, although they later became the object of ridicule in some quarters.

The first recording by this 'classic' lineup of the group (Anderson, Bruford, Howe, Squire and Wakeman) was a dynamic ten-minute interpretation of Paul Simon's America, which originally appeared on the album "The Age of Atlantic", a compilation with several acts from the roster of Atlantic Records. It was both the end of one era -- their last non-original track -- and the beginning of another, showcasing all the elements of the new Yes sound in place.

With Wakeman on board, Yes entered what some consider their most fertile and successful period, cutting two highly acclaimed LPs. Fragile (1971) went Top Ten in America, and Close to the Edge (1972) was also a huge seller. Yes enjoyed enormous commercial and critical success around the world and became one of the most popular concert attractions of the day. They also notably benefited from the tremendous advances in live music technology that were taking place at that time, and they were renowned for the high quality of both their sound and lighting.

Fragile also marked the beginning of a long collaboration with artist Roger Dean, who designed the group's logo and their album covers, as well as their light shows. Some consider the album Close to the Edge to be the high point of the whole progressive rock genre. Fans of this era commonly describe themselves as "Troopers", after the 3-part track "Starship Trooper" from The Yes Album.

Shortly after the release of Close To The Edge, at the height of the band's success, Bill Bruford stunned fans with the news that he was quitting to join King Crimson; he was replaced by former Plastic Ono Band drummer Alan White who debuted on their next release, the three-record live collection Yessongs, recorded on their world tour in late 1972 and early 1973.

Yessongs was a hugely ambitious project and undoubtedly a major gamble for their label, Atlantic Records. It was one of the first rock triple-album sets, featuring live versions of all-original material from the previous three studio albums. Presented in one of the most lavish album packages to date, Roger Dean's artwork spread across a triple gatefold cover, and continued the cosmic-organic design concepts of the two previous albums. The album was another best seller.

Their next studio album, Tales from Topographic Oceans marked a sea change in the band's fortunes, polarizing fans and critics alike. Although extended compositions were by now a Yes hallmark -- the title track of Close To The Edge took up the entire first side of that album -- the four tracks, each roughly 20 minutes long, that comprised the two-disc Topographic Oceans earned mixed reviews and left many feeling that the band was beginning to overreach itself. Rick Wakeman, in particular, was not pleased with the album and increasing interpersonal tensions between him and the rest of the band led Wakeman to quit at the end of the Tales tour.

Perpetual change

Wakeman was replaced by Swiss musician Patrick Moraz for Relayer in 1974. Again, the album featured a side-long track, "The Gates of Delirium," from which the "Soon" section was put out as a limited single release. This reached no.1 in the Spanish charts. Following an extended tour through 1975-76, each member of the group released their own solo album. At the same time Yesterdays was released, containing tracks from the the first two albums, as well as "America" as the opening track. When Moraz left in 1976, the group commenced sessions for a new album without a keyboard player. After a considerable amount of negotiation, Rick Wakeman rejoined the band on a "session musician" basis. However after hearing and being impressed by the new material he once again became a permanent band member. Apart from the 15 minute track, "Awaken," the album Going for the One was mostly made up of shorter songs. The album, along with 1978's Tormato, was successful in spite of being released at the height of the punk rock era in Britain, during which Yes were often criticized by the music press as representing the most bloated excesses of early 1970s progressive rock. Ironically, Yes outlasted almost all the groups of that era as well.

In 1980, the band's career took a serious left turn, even by its own standards. Wakeman had again grown disenchanted with the band, but this time so had Jon Anderson, who was enjoying success out of the band in partnership with Vangelis. This left Squire, Howe and White to start sessions for a new album without a singer or a keyboard player. Meanwhile, Howe had heard an album called Age of Plastic by a band called The Buggles which contained the world-wide Number One hit, "Video Killed The Radio Star". Howe invited Buggles duo Geoffrey Downes (keyboards) and Trevor Horn (vocals) to help out on a new Yes album. Initially, the plan was that Downes and Horn would help shape the material, ready for the return of Wakeman and Anderson. Eventually though, Howe, Squire and White confessed that their singer and keyboardist had actually left the band. To their surprise, Downes and Horn were invited to join Yes as full-time members; they accepted the invitation and performed on the Drama album in 1980.While Drama was well received by many fans (named "Panthers" after a feature of the album's artwork), many other Yes followers missed Anderson's unique lyrics and vocal style.

After the Drama tour, Yes broke up. Downes and Howe went on to form Asia, Horn went into producing, and Squire and White began sessions with Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, fresh from Led Zeppelin's recent demise. The band was to be called XYZ, said to be short for "ex-Yes-Zeppelin," but nothing came of the sessions.

Reunion/Commercial Success

In 1983, nearly three years after the breakup of Yes, Chris Squire and Alan White met guitarist Trevor Rabin (late of the band Rabbitt) and formed a new group, initially dubbed Cinema, which also included original Yes keyboardist Tony Kaye. They played Jon Anderson some of their new music, and, very impressed, he decided to join the project, resulting in the reformation Yes in 1983.

The album, 90125 (produced by former vocalist Trevor Horn), was a radical departure from their earlier sound. It was simpler and harder, with modern (for the time) electronic effects. The song Owner of a Lonely Heart from this album was even a hit in discos, resulting in the band's only number one single. Fans of this line-up are called "Generators", from this line-up's second album, Big Generator. Yes had major success throughout the rest of the 1980s, playing arenas and scoring major hits with "Leave It," "Love Will Find a Way," and "It Can Happen."

By the end of the 1980s, Anderson grew tired of the new Yes sound and wanted the band to return to its classic sound. While Yes was on break after the 1988 tour, Anderson began working with former Yes members Rick Wakeman, Steve Howe, and Bill Bruford. Some in the group wanted to distance themselves from the "Yes" name that, anyway, they were contractually unable to use, as Squire, White, Kaye, Rabin (and, ironically, Anderson) held rights to it at the time, so the group called themselves "Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe", or simply ABWH. Legal battles later followed over the title of ABWH's tour and live album, An Evening of Yes Music Plus.

ABWH were working on their second album, while Yes were working on their followup to Big Generator, even though Anderson wasn't there to provide vocals. Somewhere along the line, phone calls were made and agreements struck, and Yes joined ABWH, which resulted in the album Union and a world tour which united all eight members on one stage in a short-lived "Mega-Yes". Although looking at each tracks' credits, one can see the album is clearly a combination of two camps (none of the songs on the album actually featured all eight members at once; half were actually ABWH songs, the other half were recorded with the Anderson/Rabin/Kaye/Squire/White Yes lineup), the tour itself featured tracks spanning the band's entire career, and it was one of the highest grossing concert tours of 1991 and 1992.

The 90s and Beyond

After the tour, Bruford quit the band, followed shortly by Howe and then Wakeman. Yes was suddenly back down to its popular 1980s lineup of Anderson, Squire, Rabin, Kaye, and White. In 1994, Yes released Talk on Victory, one of the group's poorest selling releases. Neither the label, nor U.S. radio stations provided much promotion for "The Calling," perhaps their strongest single since "Owner of a Lonely Heart." On the 1994 tour, guitarist/vocalist Billy Sherwood, who co-authored Union's The More We Live with Squire, joined as a sixth member. Both Tony Kaye and Trevor Rabin left in 1995, with Rabin becoming a highly regarded film composer.

Proving the truth of the old adage never say "never again," the band surprised and delighted fans by reforming with the classic '70s line-up of Anderson, Squire, White, Howe and Wakeman for a live performance in the California town of San Luis Obispo in 1996. The resultant live recordings were released, together with new music, on the Keys To Ascension albums, considered by many fans to be their finest music since their 1970s zenith. The new studio cuts from those two albums were later reissued on a single CD called Keystudio. As fans waited for a tour of the classic lineup, Wakeman left the group again before the release of Keys To Ascension 2.

Trevor Rabin was replaced by Billy Sherwood, who not only played guitar, but also now handled keyboard duties. Open Your Eyes was released in 1997. While Sherwood's influence seemed to take the band back in the direction of the 90125 lineup, the tour also featured keyboards from Russian keyboard player Igor Khoroshev, who was later made a full time member for the following album The Ladder. The 1999 tour resulted in a live DVD from The House of Blues in Los Angeles.

Both Sherwood and Khoroshev were fired from the band after the 2000 Masterworks Tour. Khoroshev left in a cloud of controversy over his backstage conduct, while Sherwood received the chop just before the recording of the 2001 orchestral release Magnification. The album, the only Yes album without keyboards, is considered by some stalwarts as the best Yes studio album since the 1970s. The band was not only backed by a 60-piece orchestra, but specific parts and arrangements were written and executed by the orchestra, sounding as if the orchestra was a permanent band member. On tour, however, the band hired a session keyboardist, Tom Brislin, as the orchestra alone could not faithfully reproduce some of the classic hit material.

Fans short-changed in 1996 were delighted as Wakeman announced his return to the group in 2002 and a world tour for Yes followed, including a return to Australia after more than 30 years absence. The classic line up is currently enjoying a somewhat revitalized presence in the public consciousness, especially after the celebration of their 35th anniversary in 2004.

In 2005, DJ Max Graham sampled and remixed Yes' "Owner Of A Lonely Heart", credited to Max Graham Vs. Yes. The song reached the top 10 of the UK Singles Chart.


Sleeve artwork for many of these albums was done by Roger Dean, who also designed the band's logo.

The Yes Atlantic Records catalog has undergone at least two remasterings and re-releases on CD. The initial CD releases appeared in the late 1980s, and the first remasters were released in the mid 1990s, with dramatically improved sound and much original album art restored. In 2003 a further remastering effort was begun by Rhino Records, this time including more original art, extensive booklet liner notes, and rare bonus tracks.

Game covers

A cover version of "Homeworld (The Ladder)", a track from the 1999 album The Ladder, was used in Relic Entertainment's Homeworld real-time strategy as the credits and outro theme.

Tribute bands

There are a number of Yes tribute bands. These include the UK based Fragile, who specialise in performing live cover versions of what they describe as 'classic period' Yes numbers, eg, predominantly material from The Yes Album up until Close to the Edge, interspersed with earlier and later songs such as "Time and a Word", "Asteral Traveller", "Owner of a Lonely Heart", etc. The band have received positive endorsement from members of Yes, including featuring 'guest spots' from Peter Banks and Steve Howe [1] (

Other Yes 'tribute bands' include Roundabout and the Brazillian group Yes Songs.

External links

eo:Yes fr:Yes id:Yes it:Yes ja:イエス (バンド) nl:Yes no:Yes pl:Yes pt:Yes su:Yes sv:Yes


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