Help support the archive where all this comes from: Become a Patron!
Before Yes took a turn for the somewhat over-indulgent and decidedly over-the-top, they were at the forefront of what was to become known at the Progressive Movement. Technical prowess and music that demanded to be listened to, rather than at, Yes were, in the beginning, a pretty raw and exciting outfit.
In 1967, bassist Chris Squire formed the rock band Mabel Greer’s Toyshop, with singer and guitarist Clive Bayley, drummer Bob Hagger, and guitarist Peter Banks. They played at the Marquee Club in Soho, London where Jack Barrie, owner of the nearby La Chasse club, saw them perform. “There was nothing outstanding about them”, he recalled, “the musicianship was very good but it was obvious they weren’t going anywhere”. Barrie introduced Squire to singer Jon Anderson, a worker at the bar in La Chasse, who found they shared interests in Simon & Garfunkel and harmony singing. That evening at Squire’s house they wrote “Sweetness,” which was included on the first Yes album. Meanwhile, Banks had left Mabel Greer’s Toyshop to join Neat Change, but he was dismissed by this group on 7 April 1968. In June 1968, Hagger was replaced in the nascent Yes by Bill Bruford, who had placed an advertisement in Melody Maker, and Banks was recalled by Squire, replacing Bayley as guitarist. Finally, the classically trained organist and pianist Tony Kaye, of Johnny Taylor’s Star Combo and the Federals, became the keyboardist and the fifth member. The newborn band rehearsed in the basement of The Lucky Horseshoe cafe on Shaftesbury Avenue between 10 June and 9 July 1968.
Anderson suggested that they call the new band Life. Squire suggested that it be called World. Banks responded, simply, “yes”, and that was how the band were named. The first gig under the new brand followed at a youth camp in East Mersea, Essex on 4 August 1968. Early sets were formed of cover songs from artists such as the Beatles, the 5th Dimension and Traffic. On 16 September, Yes performed at Blaise’s club in London as a substitute for Sly and the Family Stone, who failed to turn up. They were well received by the audience, including the host Roy Flynn, who became the band’s manager that night. That month, Bruford decided to quit performing to study at the University of Leeds. His replacement, Tony O’Reilly of the Koobas, struggled to perform with the rest of the group on-stage. After Bruford was refused a year’s sabbatical leave from Leeds, Anderson and Squire convinced him to return for Yes’s supporting slot for Cream’s farewell concert at the Royal Albert Hall on 26 November.
After seeing an early King Crimson gig in 1969, Yes realized that there was suddenly stiff competition on the London gigging circuit, and they needed to be much more technically proficient, starting regular rehearsals. They subsequently signed a deal with Atlantic Records, and, that August, released their debut album Yes. Compiled of mostly original material, the record includes renditions of “Every Little Thing” by the Beatles and “I See You” by the Byrds. Although the album failed to break into the UK album charts, Rolling Stone critic Lester Bangs complimented the album’s “sense of style, taste, and subtlety”. Melody Maker columnist Tony Wilson chose Yes and Led Zeppelin as the two bands “most likely to succeed”.
Tonight it’s that formative period, from 1969 to 1970, when the first two albums were out and the original members included Peter Banks and Tony Kaye, on guitars and keyboards respectively, who left right after this period.
Some sessions they did for the BBC and for German radio. Here’s what’s on the player:
1. Looking Around – Dave Symonds Show – August 4, 1969
2. Sweet Dreams – Dave Lee Travis Show – Jan. 19, 1970
3. Then – Dave Lee Travis Show – Jan. 19, 1970
4. No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed – German Radio
The sound is mostly great, but the last track cuts fades out rather quickly. Still, it’s turbo-charged and classic Yes and a few bumps are easily forgiven.
In case you never had a chance to hear what they really sounded like. (Note: Originally posted on December 5, 2012)