By Brian Ives
For decades, progressive rock was one of the most unfairly maligned sub genres of rock music: Rolling Stone was never a friend to progressive rock bands in the ’70s or ’80s, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame closely mirrors the history of rock as told by Rolling Stone (both were founded by Jann Wenner).
However, both the magazine and the Rock Hall have thawed a bit in recent years: Genesis was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010, and Rush followed in 2013 (two years later, more than thirty years into their career, Rush finally got their first Rolling Stone cover as well).
But with Genesis and Yes-disciples Rush included, it’s high time to induct Yes as well. Here’s five reasons that they should be in.
1. They helped rock’s evolution: They were at the center of the progressive rock explosion, and that explosion helped rock music evolve beyond blues-based structures. Virtuoso guitarist Steve Howe and keyboardist Rick Wakeman brought classical influences to rock music. Bill Bruford was a jazz drummer who brought a sense of adventure to the band (and every other band he played with, including U.K. and King Crimson).
2. They stretched the possibilities of what rock songs could be: When Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone,” clocking in at just over six minutes, was played on the radio, it was like a pop culture revelation; rock and roll could extend beyond three minutes! Progressive rock bands, and notably Yes, realized that songs were only limited by the artist’s imagination. They often stretched their songs into multi-part suites; some of their songs took up an entire side of an LP. Not all of those songs worked (hello, Tales From Topographic Oceans), but many of them did (like the title track of Close to the Edge).
3. But they had great songs: Even without keeping their songs to conventional single length, they had tons of radio classics: “Time and a Word,” “Yours Is No Disgrace,” “Starship Trooper,” “I’ve Seen All Good People,” “Roundabout,” “Long Distance Runaround,” “Heart of the Sunrise,” “And You and I,” “Going for the One” and “Don’t Kill the Whale” are amongst the best and most powerful rock songs of the 1970s.
4. Their ’80s Revival: Yes was such a big part of the ’70s, and by their 1981 split, it seemed like their story had been told. Their 1983 reunion wasn’t a huge shock in and of itself; lots of bands come to their senses after splitting up. But it was the fact that the new version of the band scored their first ever #1 hit single with “Owner of a Lonely Heart” (that lineup also had “Hold On,” “It Can Happen,” “Changes,” “Leave It,” “Rhythm of Love,” “Love Will Find a Way,” “Life Me Up” and “The Calling”). It was the rare case of a band’s “second act” successfully finding a new, younger audience.
5. The sum is bigger than the parts: They showed that a band’s spirit could live on through various iterations of the group (similar to 2016 inductees Deep Purple, who had members of three different lineups included). Guitar players, keyboardists and drummers came and went. As long as Chris Squire was on the bass and Jon Anderson was singing, it always felt like “Yes,” whether it was on the almost twenty-two minute “The Gates of Delirium” or the four-minute-ten-second “Leave It.”