About four years ago, Yes frontman Jon Anderson took a tour of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when he was in Cleveland to play a concert with a youth orchestra. "The staff showed me around and I just thought, 'All my heroes are here, from Bob Dylan to the Beatles,'" says Anderson. "They then showed me a space in the corner and said, 'That's where Yes is going to be.' I just said what I always said when it came up: 'It'll happen when it happens.'"
It'll finally happen on April 7th. Hours after he got the news from an early morning phone call that was broadcast on SiriusXM, Anderson phoned up Rolling Stone to talk about the honor, his ongoing work with Anderson, Rabin and Wakeman and the possibility of a massive Yes reunion at the induction ceremony.
Yeah! What a trip!
Are you getting bombarded by well-wishers today?
Just a couple of things, a lot of people saying "well done" from the few friends I have. I'm sure the fans are happy, and that's the most important thing. The fans just love the idea and I'm happy for them.
Who told you the news?
I spoke to Joel [Peresman], who is the head dude at the Hall of Fame. He was on Sirius radio this morning. I got up and phoned him and said, "Hi, how are you?" He said, "Where are you?" I said, "I'm in my pajamas! It's 5:30 in the morning." We had a good chat and I said I was very happy and proud.
Are you surprised you got in?
I'd heard through the grapevine that it could happen this time because it's been happening for 10 years now. My mantra is "It'll happen when it happens" because people have been asking. I'd always say, "It'll happen when it happens. It's not something I've been thinking too much about."
What does this mean to you on a personal level?
It reminds me when I first started the band with Chris [Squire] and we were rehearsing in London in this basement of this cafe called ... the Lucky Horseshoe! Can you believe I just remembered that? That was in 1968. It was impossible to dream you'd still be alive 50 years later and making music still. I think about all those musicians that are still struggling to get it together, get their band going, get their songs written. You just keep going. All I remember saying to the guys in the band is, "We've got to rehearse more!"
We just started off as Yes, and me and Chris went to see King Crimson do their first show at the Speakeasy Club in London. It was frightening. It was so good. They played their whole first album, In The Court of the Crimson King. All the vocals were perfect. The band sounded perfect. I looked at Chris and said, "We've got to rehearse more." No matter what happens, you go through life thinking, "We've got to survive the next tour. I'll see you at the next album." Then slowly but surely, you realize you're becoming well-known. You're becoming famous. You then have a choice. You can either get into the crazy, wild rock & roll life or you start dedicating yourself to music, and I did the latter. I dedicated myself to understanding why I was chosen to be in a band that did so well. It's something you deal with all the time. You're up there in front of 10,000, 20,000 people and you're performing. That's what Yes was all about, the live performance.
I know you've spoken to Trevor Rabin about this. Have you spoken to any of your other bandmates?
Trevor, I'm connected with because of ARW. Surprisingly, we just finished a tour. It's like being in that moment in time when Rick [Wakeman] was in the band and Steve [Howe], Alan [White] and Chris. We felt the most beautiful harmony and it was exactly the same feeling with ARW. We had a beautiful harmony and a great band. We know we're Yes in our senses even though we're calling ourself ARW. We're playing a whole evening of Yes music and the fans are going crazy. This is just the last two months. It reminds you that in some ways I'm so damn fortunate to be singing the way I do and excited about writing new music with Trevor and Rick, which we're doing, as I was in 1972 at that moment in time when we did Fragile and Close to the Edge and we knew we were doing something very unique.
A few months ago, Rick said he's not going to go to the Hall of Fame should Yes get in and that he really doesn't care about any of this.
[Big laugh] The funny thing about Rick is that he's a jokester. He's a remarkable, remarkable musician. You work with people, and I've been fortunate to work with some great musicians over the years, but he was hot as can be, very in the moment, very connected to Trevor. He'd say things like, "It's the Hall of Shame! I don't care about it! They let in someone like the Who when half of them are dead!" I said, "Rick, Chris will be there in spirit." You've just got to turn over to the spiritual side of life.
Do you think Rick is going to change his mind and go?
I'll call you! I'll tell you when he tells me. In some ways, there's that instant feeling you get when people turn their back on you. It's happened to me a few times in my life and my career where people weren't phoning me up to ask about what's happening. You're out there on your own. You've got fame and fortune, but underneath it all you've still got to develop and become a musician and believe in yourself. There are those times when you're out there without a paddle to work the boat. We all go through that and people have a different mindset about how you're treated over the years. I think Rick has had a hard time, but he's come through and he's a great musician. He's revered by musicians and fans alike, so we'll see what comes.
Bands often reunite at the Hall of Fame and play a set together. Do you think you guys will play with Steve and Alan and all the rest?
I'll call you! [Laughs] I'm hoping Bill [Bruford] is going to come because I'm a big friend of Bill's. He was there on so many levels in the beginning, at the foundation of what Yes became with Fragile and Close to the Edge. Then he goes and joins King Crimson. How dare he! [Laughs] That killed me, I got to tell you. I was in desperation for about a month because I was like, "How dare he leave Yes to go join King Crimson!" I know what it was. It was for more freedom. He evolved and got better and better.
If Steve and Alan want to play with you and Trevor, Tony Kaye and everyone else, is that something you'd agree to?
I'm sure it's going to happen. I'm sure we'll all eventually let go of these feelings of frustration you have with people over the years. You go through periods of time where you're totally ... Whenever I think of Alan and Steve, we're still musical brothers. Sometimes brothers don't agree with each other [laughs]. It's the truth. But this is just one night, a lot of fun, a celebration. I think a celebration is good.
What three songs do you want to play?
You've got me there. The interesting things about playing with ARW is that you go onstage and go, "Do I want to play 'Roundabout' again? Do I need to play 'Heart of the Sunrise' again?" Then you do it and you're like, "Man, I just love every moment of this." I think simply because there was a joyous feeling within the band. When we get up there on April 7th, I'll be there with everyone else, and then I'll call you [laughs].
I spoke with Steve yesterday. He said that you're coming up in 2018 on the 50th anniversary. He said it will be "colossal." Do you think anything is going to happen that year to commemorate that?
I'll call you! You'll be the first person I call [laughs]. Like anything, my idea of Yes is ARW at the moment. That's what I feel is the Yes I always dreamed of coming back together with. There was that moment when we were number one all over the world with "Owner [of a Lonely Heart]" and all that. It was the most extraordinary event in my life. You're playing to thousands and thousands of people all over the world who know who you are. You never forget those times. It was very much like that at the Close to the Edge time and Fragile time. You never forget that incredible sense of camaraderie, harmony and friendship. It's spurred on by the fact that you're doing great. It happens to everybody. As far as I can see, every band goes through this.
There's usually a big all-star jam on the end of the night. It would be fun to see you play alongside Jeff Lynne, Journey, Joan Baez and Pearl Jam.
I'm sure it'll be a Jimi Hendrix song or [Hums "Sunshine of Your Love"] Cream! We just finished "Roundabout" with ARW on the last tour and the crowd was going crazy and then all of a sudden the band starts playing that song. I went, "Oh, my God, yes!"
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's class of 2017 will honor Pearl Jam, Tupac, Journey, Yes, Joan Baez, Electric Light Orchestra and Nile Rodgers.