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Ex-Yes Frontman Jon Anderson Opens Up About Getting Fired

As the band gets ready to release a new album and go on tour, Anderson is still bitter about how he was treated

July 6, 2011 4:40 PM ET
Ex-Yes Frontman Jon Anderson Opens Up About Getting Fired
Rob Verhorst/Redferns/Getty Images

When Rolling Stone posted the new Yes song "We Can Fly" last month it didn't just provide fans of the legendary prog band the first glimpse into the band's new album – it also allowed former lead singer Jon Anderson to check out what his band has done in his absence. "I wasn't really convinced," he tells Rolling Stone. "The new singer is singing good, but it sounded a bit dated to me. Also, the production wasn't as good as I expected. They've got a great producer with Trevor Horn, so what the hell are you doing?"

Yes Reunite With 'Owner Of A Lonely Heart' Producer Trevor Horn

Anderson has reason to be bitter. He co-founded the band in 1968 with bassist Chris Squire, and with the exception of 1980's Drama he sang on every album. In 2008 – after illness kept him off the road for four years – Yes replaced him with Benoit David, an Anderson sound-alike who previously fronted the Yes tribute band Close to the Edge.

Nobody in the band called Anderson to tell him the news – he had to hear it from a friend. "They didn't tell me anything," he says. "They were just off and running. But what can you do? I was pissed off in the beginning, but then you say, 'Oh well, the boys want to go on tour and be rock & rollers. Let them to do it.' Now people come see me and I'm suddenly 30 years younger!"

Exclusive: Listen to 'We Can Fly,' the First Yes Single in 10 Years

Even before getting unceremoniously replaced, Anderson had grown disillusioned with Yes. The group toured relentlessly in the early 2000s, even as Anderson's health declined. "I was coughing so much that the only time I wasn't coughing was onstage," he says. "I just needed a break, but the guys were upset about that."

Anderson travelled on a bus with keyboardist Rick Wakeman, while the other three Yes members (Chris Squire, Alan White and Steve Howe) travelled on another one. "We had the happy car," says Anderson. "They were in the grumpy car."

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