By: Robert Cavuoto
Call it a true classic rock triple header–and the quintessential live concert experience.
The iconic progressive rock band, YES, will be kicking off a North America tour on March 1st and performing three of their classic albums in their entirety; The YES Album from 1971, Close to the Edge from 1972 and their 1977 release, Going for the One. Music audiences will experience the albums, each representing an important milestone in YES’ career and performed from beginning to end.
The tour will mark the first time since 1973 that YES have performed an album onstage in its entirety.
YES consists of Chris Squire on bass, Steve Howe on guitar, Alan White on drums , Geoff Downes on keyboardist and newest edition to the band, singer, Jon Davison.
I had the honor and pleasure of speaking with bassist and foundering member, Chris Squire about the tour as well as the album selection process for this exciting undertaking.
Robert: I heard the good news that YES was going back on tour in the spring and will be performing three of your primary albums in their entirety. I assume the selection process was difficult, how did you settle on these three?
Chris Squire: It probably could have been any of our albums. We just narrowed it down, probably because we know the material of most of those. There is only one track on the YES album that we rarely played, which is actually a fairly small track called “A Venture”. It shouldn’t be too difficult for us as it’s a fairly simple thing. That’s why we chose those LPs [Both laughing] actually.
Robert: I was expecting to see Fragile on that list.
Chris Squire: Of course, it was a contender. There again with Fragile, there are certain things that are difficult to pull off, particularly my solo on “The Fish”. Although I’ve done live versions of it in the past, they’ve been quite different from the actual album. I think that’s the purpose of doing it this way.
It was to try and emulate the albums and the order of the songs to come out the same way. We decided there wouldn’t be too much room for improvising. I suspect we’ll probably be getting “Roundabout” as an encore.
Robert: Are you going to be doing each LP based on the release date in the actual track order or will you mix things up?
Chris Squire: We haven’t decided ultimately on the order of the albums until we get into rehearsals. We all need to sit down together and figure that bit out in rehearsal. Let’s just say that we’ll be playing the songs in the sequence of the album.
We’ll probably start with the earliest album and go into the latest album. We could be doing a little of the last one first. That’s not really definite yet.
Robert: Will there be breaks between each of the albums?
Chris Squire: We probably will take an intermission between the second and third ones.
Robert: How long does it take you to ramp up for a tour like this?
Chris Squire: We’re familiar with most of the material. The most difficult piece we’ve played but not that often is probably “Turn of the Century”. That’s probably gonna require the most work in rehearsal, I would imagine. We’re giving ourselves a good week to rehearse before we start the tour.
Robert: That’s pretty quick.
Chris Squire: Prior to that we’ll do homework individually. That’s what we usually use. Check it out at home and then come together and rehearse as a unit.
Robert: Is there any song you’re really looking forward to doing more than anything else from these three albums?
Chris Squire: I’m looking forward to doing the whole concept actually. As I said, “Turn of the Century” is probably gonna be the trickiest one to pull off. It will be a relief if we can do that. Apart from that I’m just looking forward to the whole concept.
Robert: Can you share any fond memories or insights behind these three albums that make them so impactful to you and your fans?
Chris Squire: The YES album was the first album that really put us on the international stage. Up until then we had really been focused on playing in England and Europe. Not long after we made The YES Album we did our first US tour. In itself that was a landmark time for us.
Also with Close to the Edge. It was the first time we attempted to do a track that lasted for a whole side of the vinyl. That in a way was another landmark.
The One album, which we actually made in Switzerland, also has a lot of memories. We were living in Switzerland for six months and we had quite a lot of fun skiing and enjoying the Swiss winter weather. It was okay in the mountains, but down by the lake it was just kind of wet most of the time.
We definitely have a lot of memories being there in Montreux, Switzerland.
Robert: YES been around for close to 45 years. What do you attribute the longevity of the band? So many bands don’t make it half or even a quarter of that time.
Chris Squire: I think probably because we never fit into a format, as many artists do. When the format comes and goes, the artist tends to.
With YES we’ve had personal changes over the years. Having that happen has created times of re-energization of the music. New members come in with new ideas. We try to keep it fresh through our career.
As you probably also know, this year is the first year we’ve been working with our new singer, Jon Davison. He’s been an excellent addition to the lineup. There’s been quite a lot of change in the format of YES over the years and that’s probably also kept us alive as well.
Robert: You’ve had some great hits over the years. Were there any songs that you thought were going to be hits that didn’t turn out to be or vice versa?
Chris Squire: We’ve never been a band that was aiming for hit singles particularly. Even though in 1984 we had the “Owner of a Lonely Heart” single which was more not the normal for us.
It was just something that happened at that point in time. We walked in with Trevor Horn as a producer on the 90125 album and we just happened to hit a streak. We managed to come up with a fresh approach to YES at that point in time and got a big hit single out of it.
Most of the time we haven’t chased that. We really are all about the music being more important. Any bonus that comes out of it from a hit, then that’s just good luck.
Robert: 90125 was my introduction to YES as a teenager. That was a great album. You couldn’t turn on MTV without seeing a video from that album.
Chris Squire: Yeah, I know. It was a really good time for us.
Robert: Will you ever do another tour where you do that album in its entirety?
Chris Squire: We’re gonna see how this works for us with these three albums. The logical thing might be to look at a different three albums. We’ll see how this one goes. We will also probably be looking at doing some new material next year. We’re planning on recording a brand new album. That will probably be the focus in 2014.
Robert: We will be looking forward to that. My last question, you’ve accomplished so much in your career. What do you think is the greatest accomplishment to date?
Chris Squire: Probably just keeping the band going for this long. That’s probably the single most important thing that could happen. It’s sort of extraordinary we’ve lasted this long. Some bands do it like the Beach Boys, but not many. That’s probably my greatest accomplishment.