YES – A progressive rock band from 1968 – present

By Bruce Durward

I saw them in 1980 the first tour without Rick Wakeman on keyboards. The concert started with a stage in the center of the arena spinning and the audience all around. A curtain came up and they were there with the stage rotating around so we could all see. Amazing sound and show from a talented group of artists.

YES are an English progressive rock band formed in London in 1968 by singer Jon Anderson, bassist Chris Squire, guitarist Peter Banks, keyboardist Tony Kaye and drummer Bill Bruford. The band has undergone numerous formations throughout its history; nineteen musicians have been full-time members. Since June 2015, it has consisted of guitarist Steve Howe, drummer Alan White, keyboardist Geoff Downes, singer Jon Davison and bassist Billy Sherwood. YES have explored several musical styles over the years, and are most notably regarded as progressive rock pioneers.

Group members were searching for an appropriate name but needed a name to play their first gig under. They played their first gig on August 3 under the name YES, suggested by Peter Banks as being short, positive, direct, and memorable.  It was originally intended as a temporary solution until a permanent name could be found. Obviously, the name stuck

YES began performing original songs and rearranged covers of rock, pop, blues and jazz songs, as evident on their first two albums. A change of direction in 1970 led to a series of successful progressive rock albums until their disbanding in 1981, their most successful being The YES Album (1971), Fragile (1971) and Close to the Edge (1972). YES toured as a major rock act that earned the band a reputation for their elaborate stage sets, light displays, and album covers designed by Roger Dean. The success of “Roundabout”, the single from Fragile, cemented their popularity across the decade and beyond.

In 1983 YES reformed with a new line-up that included Trevor Rabin and a more commercial and pop-oriented musical direction. The result was 90125 (1983), their highest-selling album, which contained the U.S. number-one single “Owner of a Lonely Heart”. From 1991 to 1992, YES were an eight-member formation after they merged with Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe for Union (1991) and its tour. Since 1994, YES have released albums with varied levels of success and completed tours from 1994 to 2004. After a four-year hiatus, they resumed touring in 2008 and continue to release albums; their most recent is The Quest (2021). From 2016 to 2018, a new group of former YES members began touring and named themselves YES Featuring Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin, Rick Wakeman.

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I have listed the members below with extra going to those inducted into the hall of fame.

Current members

Steve Howe – guitars, vocals (1970–1981, 1990–1992, 1995–present) Stephen James Howe (born 8 April 1947) is an English musician, songwriter and producer, best known as the guitarist in the progressive rock band YES across three stints since 1970. Born in Holloway, North London, Howe developed an interest in the guitar and began to learn the instrument himself at age 12. He embarked on a music career in 1964, first playing in several London-based blues, covers, and psychedelic rock bands for six years, including the Syndicats, Tomorrow, and Bodast.

Upon joining YES in 1970, Howe helped to change the band’s musical direction, leading to more commercial and critical success. His blend of acoustic and electric guitar helped shape the sound of the band. Many of their best-known songs were co-written by Howe, who remained with the band until they briefly disbanded in 1981. Howe returned to the group in 1990 for two years and has remained a full-time member since 1995.

Howe achieved further success in the 1980s and beyond as a member of the rock bands Asia, GTR, and Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe. He has also had a prolific solo career, releasing 20 solo albums that achieved varied levels of success, and collaborating with artists such as Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Martin Taylor, and Queen. He continues to perform with YES, as a member of his jazz group, the Steve Howe Trio, and as a solo act. In April 2017, Howe was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of YES.

Alan White – drums, percussion, piano (1972–1981, 1983–present) Alan White (born 14 June 1949) is an English drummer and songwriter best known for his tenure in the progressive rock band YES, which he joined in 1972. In 1969, he joined the Plastic Ono Band after John Lennon invited him to play at the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival festival. White went on to play on other recordings from artists such as George Harrison, Ginger Baker’s Air Force, and Terry Reid, and Lennon’s “Imagine”.

White joined YES in July 1972 as a replacement for original drummer, Bill Bruford. Following the death of bassist Chris Squire in 2015, White became the longest-remaining member in the band, having never left the group since joining.

Additionally, White has performed on over 50 albums by other performers, notably Joe Cocker, Ginger Baker, and The Ventures. White was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of YES in 2017.

Geoff Downes – keyboards (1980–1981, 2011–present)

Billy Sherwood – bass guitar (2015–present), vocals (1997–2000, 2015–present), guitars (1997–2000), keyboards (1997-1998); touring 1994

Jon Davison – lead vocals, acoustic guitar, percussion, keyboards (2012–present)

Former members

Chris Squire – bass guitar, vocals (1968–1981, 1983–2015, his death) Christopher Russell Edward Squire (4 March 1948 – 27 June 2015) was an English musician, singer and songwriter best known as the bassist, backing vocalist and a founding member of the progressive rock band YES. He was the longest-serving original member, having remained in the band until his death and appearing on every studio album released from 1969 to 2014. In 2017, he was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of YES.

Squire was widely regarded as the dominant bassist among the English progressive rock bands, influencing peers and later generations of bassists with his incisive sound and elaborately contoured, melodic bass lines. His name was associated with his trademark instrument, the Rickenbacker 4001. From 1991 to 2000, Rickenbacker produced a limited edition signature model bass in his name, the 4001CS.

Jon Anderson – lead and backing vocals, guitar, percussion (1968–1980, 1983–1988, 1991–2008) John Roy Anderson (born 25 October 1944), known professionally as Jon Anderson, is a British singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist best known as the former lead singer of the progressive rock band YES, which he formed in 1968 with bassist Chris Squire. He was a member of the band across three tenures until 2008. Anderson was also a member of ARW along with former YES bandmates Rick Wakeman and Trevor Rabin from 2016-2020. Together with bassist Lee Pomeroy and drummer Lou Molino III, they toured under the name “YES featuring Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin, Rick Wakeman”.

Anderson is also noted for his solo career and collaborations with other artists, including Vangelis as Jon and Vangelis, Roine Stolt as Anderson/Stolt, and Jean-Luc Ponty as AndersonPonty Band. He has also appeared on albums by King Crimson, Tangerine Dream, Iron Butterfly, Milton Nascimento, Battles, Mike Oldfield and Kitaro.

Anderson released his first solo album, Olias of Sunhillow, in 1976, while still a member of YES, and subsequently released 14 more albums as a solo artist. Anderson became an American citizen in 2009. In 2017, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of YES

Bill Bruford – drums, percussion (1968–September 1968, November 1968–1972, 1990–1992) William Scott Bruford (born 17 May 1949) is an English former drummer and percussionist who first gained prominence as a founding member of the progressive rock band YES. After leaving YES in 1972, Bruford spent the rest of the 1970s recording and touring with King Crimson (1972–1974) and Roy Harper (1975), and touring with Genesis (1976) and U.K. (1978). In 1978, he formed his own group (Bruford), which was active until 1980.

In the 1980s, Bruford returned to King Crimson for three years (1981–1984), collaborated with several artists (including Patrick Moraz and David Torn), and formed his own electric jazz band Earthworks in 1986. He then played with his former YES bandmates in Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe, which eventually led to a very brief second stint in YES. Bruford played in King Crimson for his third and final tenure from 1994–1997, after which he continued with a new acoustic configuration of Earthworks.

On 1 January 2009, Bruford retired from professional drumming, only briefly returning for a few private gigs. He pursued other projects since then, including the operation of his two record labels, Summerfold and Winterfold, releasing an autobiography in 2009, and speaking and writing about music. In 2016, after four-and-a-half years of study, Bruford earned a PhD in Music at the University of Surrey. That year, Bruford ranked No. 16 on Rolling Stone’s list of the “100 Greatest Drummers of All Time”. In 2017, Bruford was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of YES.

Tony Kaye – keyboards (1968–1971, 1983, 1983–1995; touring 2018–2019) Anthony John Selvidge (born 11 January 1945), known professionally as Tony Kaye, is an English keyboardist, songwriter, producer and manager, best known as a founding member of the progressive rock band YES. Born into a musical family, Kaye was classically trained and intended to become a concert pianist before he developed an interest in jazz and contemporary rock and pop music. He joined several groups through the 1960s, including the Federals, Johnny Taylor’s Star Combo, Jimmy Winston & His Reflections, and Bittersweet.

From 1968 to 1971, Kaye was a member of YES and played on their first three albums. He then formed Badger and relocated to Los Angeles in 1974, after which he toured with David Bowie and joined Detective. Kaye then played in Badfinger and is featured on their final studio album in 1981. He returned to YES in 1983 for their most commercially successful period before he left in 1994.

Kaye has since been involved with several projects with Billy Sherwood and is a current member of CIRCA:. From 2009 to 2011, the two were also members of the supergroup Yoso with members of Toto. In 2017, Kaye was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of YES.

Peter Banks – guitar, backing vocals (1968–1970, died 2013)

Tony O’Reilly – drums (September–November 1968)

Rick Wakeman – keyboards (1971–1974, 1976–1980, 1990–1992, 1995–1997, 2002–2004) Richard Christopher Wakeman CBE (born 18 May 1949) is an English keyboardist. He is best known for being in the progressive rock band YES across five tenures between 1971 and 2004 and for his solo albums released in the 1970s.

Born and raised in West London, Wakeman intended to be a concert pianist but quit his studies at the Royal College of Music in 1969 to become a full-time session musician. His early sessions included playing on “Space Oddity”, among others, for David Bowie, and songs by Junior’s Eyes, T. Rex, Elton John, and Cat Stevens. Wakeman became a member of The Strawbs in 1970 before joining YES a year later, playing on some of their most successful albums across two stints until 1980. Wakeman began his solo career in 1973; his highest-selling solo albums are his first three: The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1973), Journey to the Centre of the Earth (1974), and The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table (1975), all concept albums. He formed his rock band, The English Rock Ensemble, in 1974, with which he continues to perform, and scored his first film, Lisztomania (1975).

Wakeman pursued solo projects in the 1980s that varied in levels of success; his most successful album was 1984, released in 1981, which was followed by his minor pop hit single, “Glory Boys”, from Silent Nights (1985). He hosted the television show Gastank, and recorded his first of several New-age, ambient, and Christian music albums with Country Airs (1986) and The Gospels (1987), respectively. From 1988 to 1990 he was a member of Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe which led to his third YES stint until 1992. He returned twice more between 1995 and 2004, during which he completed several more solo projects and tours, including his most significant of the decade, Return to the Centre of the Earth (1999). From 2016 to 2020, Wakeman was a member of YES Featuring Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin, Rick Wakeman. He continues to record albums and perform concerts worldwide in various capacities; his most recent album is The Red Planet (2020).

Wakeman’s discography includes over 90 solo albums spanning a range of musical styles. He has made many television and radio appearances; in recent years he became known for his contributions to the BBC comedy series Grumpy Old Men, Watchdog and his radio show on Planet Rock that aired from 2005 to 2010. Wakeman has written three books; an autobiography and two memoirs. In 2017, Wakeman was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of YES.

Patrick Moraz – keyboards (1974–1976, touring 2018)

Trevor Horn – lead vocals (1980–1981, 2018)

Trevor Rabin – guitars, lead and backing vocals, keyboards (1983–1995) Trevor Charles Rabin (/ˈreɪbɪn/; born 13 January 1954) is a South African musician, singer-songwriter, producer, and film composer. Born into a musical family and raised in Johannesburg, Rabin took up the piano and guitar at an early age and became a session musician, playing and producing with a variety of artists. In 1972, he joined the rock band Rabbitt who enjoyed considerable success in South Africa, and released his first solo album, Beginnings. In 1978, Rabin moved to London to further his career, working as a solo artist and a producer for various artists including Manfred Mann’s Earth Band.

After moving to Los Angeles in 1981, Rabin gained prominence as the guitarist in the progressive rock band YES from 1983 to 1995. His first album with the group, 1983’s 90125, which was developed mostly from his own demos, remains their biggest selling album helped by the US number one single “Owner of a Lonely Heart”. After Big Generator (1987) and Union (1991), Rabin produced Talk (1994) and left the group after its tour. During his time in YES, Rabin acquired American citizenship.

Rabin became a prolific film composer and has since scored over 40 feature films, most notably his frequent collaborations with producer Jerry Bruckheimer. He has won numerous awards, including 11 BMI Awards. He took a short break from scoring to record his fifth solo album, Jacaranda (2012), and in 2016 to tour and record with YES Featuring Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin, Rick Wakeman. In 2017, Rabin was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of YES.

Eddie Jobson – keyboards (1983)

Igor Khoroshev – keyboards (1997–2000)

Benoît David – lead vocals, acoustic guitar (2008–2012)

Oliver Wakeman – keyboards (2008–2011)

YESs are one of the most successful, influential, and longest-lasting progressive rock bands. They have sold 13.5 million RIAA-certified albums in the US, as well as more than 30 million albums worldwide. In 1985, they won a Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance with “Cinema”, and received five Grammy nominations between 1985 and 1992. They were ranked No. 94 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock. YES have headlined annual progressive rock-themed cruises since 2013 named Cruise to the Edge. Their discography spans 22 studio albums. In April 2017, YES were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which chose to induct current and former members Anderson, Squire, Bruford, Kaye, Howe, Wakeman, White and Rabin.

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One response to “YES – A progressive rock band from 1968 – present

  1. Rather interesting band with a unique style and sound

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