Tell the Moon-dog, Tell the March-hare
September 16, 2019 10:03 PM   Subscribe

It's legendary. If there five albums which define progressive rock, this is always going to be one of them. Yes' 1971 release Fragile never really had a strong chart presence. (A truncated version of its lead song made it to #13 in Billboard.) But growing up (of a certain age *cough), I'd bet everyone knew someone who owned a copy, or whose older brother or sister owned a copy. It was inescapable. Perhaps you've escaped it until now. Or perhaps you've not really listened for a long time. Well, here's your chance. Side A: Roundabout, Cans And Brahms (Extracts From Brahms' 4th Symphony In E Minor, Third Movement) [featuring Rick Wakeman], We Have Heaven[ featuring Jon Anderson], South Side Of The Sky posted by hippybear (48 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm going to say it now -- Yes is nothing without Chris Squire's bass playing. His choices and his ability to make the bottom of everything also a harmony instrument are unequaled ever across rock music, and is what makes Yes unique.
posted by hippybear at 10:09 PM on September 16, 2019 [11 favorites]


Hippybear, thanks for your consistently awesome music posts!
posted by TheCoug at 10:10 PM on September 16, 2019 [4 favorites]


Everyone liked Roundabout but the South Side of the Sky is my fave.
posted by Rash at 10:11 PM on September 16, 2019 [4 favorites]


Everyone liked Roundabout but the South Side of the Sky is my fave.

Were we ever colder on that day
A million miles away
It seemed from all eternity.


Like, that's a long way from all eternity for sometime to seem!
posted by hippybear at 10:22 PM on September 16, 2019 [1 favorite]


And three years later, Bachman-Turner Overdrive released an answer (?), Not Fragile.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 10:42 PM on September 16, 2019 [2 favorites]


"Featuring" is perhaps an understatement; those four tracks (plus Steve Howe's Mood for a Day) are essentially solo pieces. They're also remarkably prescient about where the members of the band would go in further 70s work:

- Jon's Olias of Sunhillow in 1976 would use stacks of overdubbed vocals (and overdubbed instruments, for that matter; an influence coming from his collaborations with Vangelis, seeing the Greek composer moving back and forth between keyboards, drums, and sequences all live).
- Bill would join King Crimson for a spell between 1972 and 1974 and contributed to the rather angular sound Fripp was writing for.
- Rick would record several concept albums with heavy synthesizer overdubbing, which were highly successful in spite of themselves.
- Steve's solos in the band would get longer. To my ears, there isn't an easy equivalent of his work now - most contemporary band guitar solos come from either a jazz or blues idiom, without the same classical or baroque influences. Perhaps classical guitar is due for a resurgence.
- Chris, as any bass player should, would mostly anchor the band in a straightforward way. His solo album Fish Out of Water from 1975 is notable in how much like Yes it sounds when compared to any of the other four. I've always had the sense that while Anderson and Howe would often write the songs, it was Chris who really decided what they sounded like when on record.

I love Fragile.
posted by solarion at 10:44 PM on September 16, 2019 [14 favorites]


Roundabout isolated bass
posted by thelonius at 10:53 PM on September 16, 2019 [4 favorites]


I absolutely loved the use of Heart of the Sunrise in Vincent Gallo's Buffalo '66.

I listen to Fragile semi-regularly.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:00 PM on September 16, 2019 [5 favorites]


And, as Dr Rusty Venture said: Behold, my muse!
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 11:12 PM on September 16, 2019 [5 favorites]


- Bill would join King Crimson for a spell between 1972 and 1974 and contributed to the rather angular sound Fripp was writing for

In discussing his "further 70s work', lets not omit U.K. and then his solo band with Allan Holdsworth and Jeff Berlin.
posted by thelonius at 11:22 PM on September 16, 2019 [4 favorites]


I don't know what's going on but South Side of the Sky is my number one jam this week
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:56 AM on September 17, 2019


“Heart of the Sunrise” always makes me feel what I think other people feel with ASMR.
posted by snowmentality at 2:31 AM on September 17, 2019 [1 favorite]


I can't believe we've got an entire Yes post and no-one's yet posted some freeze-frames, perfectly timed to imply imminent, frequently unfortunate consequences.
posted by Merus at 3:00 AM on September 17, 2019 [3 favorites]


What are the other four?
posted by Auden at 3:38 AM on September 17, 2019 [1 favorite]


The play that is possibly my favorite show ever that I worked on, our sound designer used the very opening chords of "Roundabout" as our opening. I'd fade down the house, put that on, and leave the audience in darkness until right before the singing started, and then bam lights up and our lead would be standing there.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:47 AM on September 17, 2019 [4 favorites]


Roundabout is the best song to play air bass to.
posted by SansPoint at 5:06 AM on September 17, 2019 [1 favorite]


I feel like this conversation is incomplete without acknowledging the inexplicable, audacious and utterly delightful cover of Simon & Garfunkel's "America" that made it onto the CD remasters.

They take a short, whimsical college-boy meditation on the romance of the road and turn it into a 10-minute opus with three movements. On paper, it should never work, but somehow it does. If you're listening to the CD and don't know it's coming, you wind up doing a triple-take as the recognition takes hold in your brain.
posted by DeWalt_Russ at 5:16 AM on September 17, 2019 [8 favorites]


Didn't Bruford play keyboards on the America cover, too? I think I'm remembering that right.

This album rules. Yes rules. Those TikToks rule. This post rules.
posted by saladin at 6:07 AM on September 17, 2019 [2 favorites]


Part of an incredible five-album run starting with The Yes Album and ending with Relayer (yes, I include Tales from Topographic Oceans). Unfortunately the Wakeman "piece" is a big turd in the middle of it; Brahms' 4th is one of my favorite pieces of classical music and to hear it manhandled in this way is really painful. Now that it is easily possible I should just make a personal edit of the album that skips it entirely.

As solarion alluded to above, Squire's Fish Out of Water is effectively the sixth album in that run.
posted by dfan at 6:15 AM on September 17, 2019


i really thought i was being rickrolled when i opened the short version of roundabout. it ... never occurred to me that it was a real song let alone an iconic 70s prog rock song?

also, is today the day i learn what prog rock is. cause this slaps
posted by gaybobbie at 7:00 AM on September 17, 2019 [2 favorites]


Tales from Topographic Oceans is fantastic. I'm not suggesting the tracks aren't a bit lengthier than many people would be comfortable with, but it's still remarkable and probably the Yes album I listen to most (though I need the full, uninterrupted run's worth of time, so a slow Friday afternoon sort of thing).

Going For the One and Drama are also excellent in their own, idiosyncratic, ways and I have a personal soft spot for Tormato.

Also, don't miss out Yessongs - the studio versions of things like Siberian Khatru seem rather dainty compared to the ferocious live versions. They must have been a stunning live experience at that time.
posted by Grangousier at 7:15 AM on September 17, 2019 [6 favorites]


Ah, Yes.
My favorite album is ‘Close To The Edge’.
I was lucky enough to see them live in the 1970s. It was ‘Yes In The Round’ tour and Rick Wakeman had come back to do the tour. It was great.
Thanks for the post, hippybear.
posted by Gadgetenvy at 7:48 AM on September 17, 2019 [2 favorites]


Grangousier: Drama is my favorite Yes album. (Fragile comes in at a very close second.).
posted by SansPoint at 7:54 AM on September 17, 2019 [2 favorites]


Incidentally, as I usually say in a Yes post - there's hours of closed-camera footage of Yes recording Going For the One on YouTube somewhere. Not in a position to find it right now, but it's a combination of very dull and totally amazing. Steve Howe doing the steel guitar overdubs on the title track; Rick Wakeman recording all the church organ by remote; A drums and bass blues jam; Rick Wakeman again doing keyboard overdubs on Awaken while swigging from a bottle of (I think) brandy. Everybody else is Marley-level stoned all the time. There's a long conversation about official Yes uniforms for touring the album.
posted by Grangousier at 8:08 AM on September 17, 2019 [2 favorites]


Ah! Here's part one of that.

It is actually fascinating if you like the album.
posted by Grangousier at 8:14 AM on September 17, 2019 [1 favorite]


Unfortunately the Wakeman "piece" is a big turd in the middle of it; Brahms' 4th is one of my favorite pieces of classical music and to hear it manhandled in this way is really painful.
OTOH there are some of us who were introduced to a lifelong love affair with Brahms' orchestral music by this "turd."
- Rick would record several concept albums with heavy synthesizer overdubbing, which were highly successful in spite of themselves.
Maybe you had to be there. I rather liked Wakeman back in the day, and still find Six Wives kind of charming. White Rock probably hasn't aged well though.
posted by Aardvark Cheeselog at 9:02 AM on September 17, 2019 [1 favorite]


In the UK "America" was first released in 1972 on a sampler album called "The New Age of Atlantic" which I bought at the time. (Also saw Yes in the Close to the Edge tour in September that year just before leaving home to go to University.)
posted by epo at 9:15 AM on September 17, 2019


I knew their radio hits in childhood. In 1987, a relative gave me a used vinyl copy of Yessongs, my first intimation that I might want to check out their early albums. I have been enjoying their 1971-1980 work regularly since that day.

I got to see them play in November 1999 in Seattle. Walking back from the Paramount, I encountered a phalanx of about 100 policemen with billy clubs and shields doing formation drills for the upcoming WTC protests scheduled for the end of that month. Heart of the Sunrise came to mind when I saw that - I feel lost in the city....
posted by Radiophonic Oddity at 9:52 AM on September 17, 2019


I first discovered Yes when I got Close to the Edge through one of those record club memberships. I think it got sent because I forgot to return the notice in time, which was how I got a lot of my early albums… forgetfulness. But once I heard it, I bought Fragile and it quickly became a favorite. I still think that Yessongs (along with The Who's Live at Leeds) is the best concert album ever recorded.
posted by jabo at 9:56 AM on September 17, 2019 [1 favorite]


OTOH there are some of us who were introduced to a lifelong love affair with Brahms' orchestral music by this "turd."
I'm glad there was a silver lining!
posted by dfan at 10:23 AM on September 17, 2019


> i really thought i was being rickrolled when i opened the short version of roundabout. it ... never occurred to me that it was a real song let alone an iconic 70s prog rock song?

Same! I first heard a snippet of the song in a Vine from Griffin McElroy, which I later learned was based off a meme riffing off the "To Be Continued" segments at the end of the s1 episodes of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, which featured "Roundabout" as the ending theme. (Gizmodo writeup providing more context.)

Basically, JJBA creator Hirohiko Araki is a huge fan of rock music and has incorporated tons of allusions to Western music in the JJBA manga, so when the manga began being adapted into an anime, he's been responsible for the inclusion of some of his favorite songs as the end credits. Somehow it all just works. After watching multiple episodes end with that familiar opening guitar riff of "Roundabout" segueing into that killer bass line, it just seems right to hear Jon Anderson's voice at the end of another buckwild supernatural horror-dramedy installment. (I love JJBA btw - one of my favorite pieces of media, storytelling, and art in a long while.)

And yes, I agree: "Roundabout" fuckin' slaps. When it hits that transition around 3:20 and the bass kicks in hard and the riffs start having that extra gritty oomph, and, dare I say, stank? Or around 5:51 when you get that interplay of bass and guitar into a full out funky jam? Duuuuude! Cranking up the volume is a must. Ugh I can't wait to blast it in my car on my way home tonight and feel that bass rumble through my sternum! Love it forever.
posted by rather be jorting at 10:54 AM on September 17, 2019 [2 favorites]


(Da da-da da daaaa dah dum! da-da da da daaaa da dummm!)
posted by rather be jorting at 10:56 AM on September 17, 2019 [2 favorites]


I got to see Yes twice in the 70s, the Relayer tour and Tormato in-the-round tour. I best remember the later one. Every few songs Chris Squire would detach the strap from the body-end of his bass and just hold it out, and a door would open from below, a tech would reach up and grab it, and then hand up another bass.

The lights in the circular rig above the round stage were on arms extending from the center. I distinctly remember their ends raising and lowering during a long instrumental break in one song (Awaken?). I found it very dramatic.

Finally, when they played Roundabout, the whole place seemed to be dancing - I had to yell to my friends "Cosmic boogie!" So fun.

Jon Anderson tells Yes stories on Alec Baldwin's Here's the Thing podcast.
posted by conscious matter at 10:58 AM on September 17, 2019 [3 favorites]


I love this post and I love Fragile.

When I was a kid Yes was a punchline: they were the big pretentious effete 70s band that represented everything punk rock righteously kicked into the dustbin of history.

When I was in college I accompanied my ex to a Yes concert. Was amused to see her lose her shit when we encountered Chris having lunch at the venue before the show. Tagged along to the pre-show meet-and-greet. They all seemed so nice and happy to be interacting with their fans, especially Jon.

We were in, like, the third row. It was a great show -- Rick wasn't there but the guy subbing on keys was really good, closer to my age than anyone in the band, and visibly having the best day of his entire life. But Chris, man, Chris blew my fucking mind.

By the time it was over I was a huge Yes fan. All I wanted to do was grab hold of time and claw my way back two hours to experience the whole thing again, which, after sitting through an entire set of Yes songs, didn't seem entirely impossible.

It was fun when my daughter had a lightbulb moment and realized the "chunk chicka chunk chicka CHUNK" thing I sing to myself whenever we drive through an actual roundabout is the same song as the meme referenced above.
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:12 AM on September 17, 2019 [3 favorites]


P.S. I love this message from the Yes official FB page back when Phantom Blood (Part 1 of the JJBA anime) first aired:
"Hello to our friends in Japan!

We are delighted that Roundabout, performed by YES and written by Jon Anderson & myself, is so popular in your country right now!

I look forward to returning with Yes or on my own in the very near future."

—Steve Howe
posted by rather be jorting at 11:12 AM on September 17, 2019 [1 favorite]


Related: CG3+2 does Heart of the Sunrise. California Guitar Trio with Tony Levin (King Crimson, Peter Gabriel, everyone) on bass & stick. Pat Masteletto (King Crimson, Mr. Mister, xtc, Sugarcubes, Steven Wison, everyone) on skins.
posted by j_curiouser at 12:15 PM on September 17, 2019 [2 favorites]


I saw Yes several times in the Seventies. The first was in '71 when they opened for Jethro Tull - my first ever rock concert. Bruford was still with them, and Tony Kaye on keyboards. They were phenomenal.
posted by Surely This at 12:25 PM on September 17, 2019 [3 favorites]


One of the many reasons I love the original Homeworld so much is that it was my introduction to Yes through the end credits song Homeworld (The Ladder). Makes me want to fly virtual spaceships, just hearing it now.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 1:12 PM on September 17, 2019


What are the other four?

We Have Heaven is Jon's solo piece; Cans and Brahms is Rick's; Five Percent for Nothing is Bill's; and The Fish is Chris's.
posted by solarion at 2:17 PM on September 17, 2019


Maybe you had to be there. I rather liked Wakeman back in the day, and still find Six Wives kind of charming. White Rock probably hasn't aged well though.

I don't mean to cast aspersions on the albums themselves (I'm pretty fond of Journey to the Centre of the Earth); but I do find it puzzling they were such a hit that I still find them in thrift stores frequently. Definitely before my time.
posted by solarion at 2:36 PM on September 17, 2019


Here is a really fun, impressive live studio cover of South Side of the Sky by The Band Geeks, with Tom Brislin on keyboards, who toured with Yes in 2000.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:37 PM on September 17, 2019


Finally listened to the rest of Fragile just now on Spotify, and man, I had no idea the "America" track was a cover - they really made it their own! I thought I wouldn't like any other tracks besides "Roundabout" but I loved what they did with it.
posted by rather be jorting at 4:01 PM on September 17, 2019


Great post title. My favorite track on a very much not neglected album (immediately knew this would be hippybear)
posted by supermedusa at 4:34 PM on September 17, 2019 [1 favorite]


I fave the first comment, everyone is very dexterous, but Squire's bass is distinctive genius. This album had a massive impact on me when I was young. I think I liked Close to The Edge better. I did not really enjoy the Topographic Oceans, but the sleeve artwork was nice.
posted by ovvl at 5:53 PM on September 17, 2019


Mood for a day from Yessongs is one of the reasons I decided I needed to learn how to play guitar.
When I was a kid, we lived close enough to the local AM rock station transmitter that I swear you could sometimes hear it through the fillings in your teeth. When my older brother was loaned an 8 track of Tubular Bells by a friend, the world changed. I can't remember exactly in what order these things came into my awareness, because it was a kind of flood, thanks to my older brother's prog-rock friend, but: Yessongs, Dark Side of the Moon, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Seconds Out, a mono cassette recording of a King Biscuit Flour Hour concert with Wishbone Ash that I wore out THREE times... Until that musical sea-change, the music I heard was my dad's Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, or my mom's show tunes albums (Sweet Charity, Fiddler on the Roof, Stop the World (I want to get off), or the AM radio station playing top 40 stuff.
Man, I would get home from school, put on Yes, or Pink Floyd, or Genesis, put on the headphones and just be GONE. I don't know if I can express in words how much I loved (still love!) that music.
posted by coppertop at 6:49 PM on September 17, 2019 [7 favorites]


Roundabout takes me straight back to dorm life at Illinois State University. Back in the day, it seemed you could catch a few bars every single time the elevator door opened on another floor.

I'll always be partial to Close to the Edge since the first time I did acid was at a Yes concert during that tour. If I remember correctly—and given the circumstances, that's not likely—they had some elaborate stage set. I'm thinking some octopus-like contraption with moving arms/tentacles.
posted by she's not there at 12:56 AM on September 20, 2019 [1 favorite]


I like Close to the Edge more also but I favor The Yes Album mostly for Starship Trooper. Liked the Heinlein novel also and I'm still sad about the ommission from the soundtrack and lost opportunity at the end of the Paul Verhoeven film, when (at a minimum) Würm should've played over the closing credits.

How could they not? It would've been perfect! Please tell me they at least asked, and Jon Anderson said 'No'
posted by Rash at 8:49 PM on September 20, 2019 [1 favorite]


We used to joke that if you bought a used copy of Fragile it almost certainly had pot seeds in the fold.

If there is one thing I don't like it's Prog. But I still like Yes, especially Fragile.
posted by bongo_x at 12:46 AM on September 21, 2019 [2 favorites]


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