The only thing surprising about Yes' decision to launch a tour featuring complete performances of their classic album is that it took them this long to do it. Everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Cheap Trick to Peter Frampton have seen ticket sales spike in recent years by reviving their best-known works, and since Yes tour every year, it was a logical move.
But the prog-rock giants have always thought in big terms, so they aren't just touring around a single album this year. Each show will feature complete performances of three albums: 1971's The Yes Album, 1972's Close to the Edge and 1977's Going for the One.
Rolling Stone spoke with Yes bassist Chris Squire about the tour, whether he plans on ever working with former Yes singer Jon Anderson ever again, and how he feels about being snubbed by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for another year.
What made you want to go on this tour?
For the last couple of years we've been promoting our new album, Fly From Here. We wanted to continue with our touring program this year, but without a new record to promote we were trying to look for a different way of doing it. The idea to do a classic albums tour has been on the backburner for quite a few years. It seems that the ticket-buying fanbase loves the idea. It's selling very well and we're very happy about that.
Lots of bands do one album a night. I've never heard of a band doing three albums in one show.
Well, if you think about it, it's not much of a stretch for us. Back in the day, these albums were all released on vinyl and so they average out at around 40 minutes. Three of those is a couple of hours, and that's not that long of a show for Yes. People are used to us being onstage for a while.
Are you going to play them in the order they came out?
Actually, probably not. The sequence we're looking at now is to play Close to the Edge as the opening piece, and then Going for the One and then The Yes Album as the final part.
Why did you pick these albums?
Over the years, Yes actually made 20 albums of original studio material. But we definitely wanted to focus on some of the landmark albums in Yes' career. These three albums each have their own flavor, but they compliment each other so well. So it wasn't too much of a stretch to pick these three and agree on them.
Did you talk about doing Fragile?
Yeah, Fragile came up. Strangely enough, it's not easy to do some of the pieces on that. There are a bunch of solo pieces on that album. My particular piece, "The Fish," involved me doing a bunch of overdubbed basses tracked on top of each other. It's not easy to pull that off and be faithful to the original production. We'd have to use backing tapes and we don't want to do that. But I'm sure we'll wind up doing a song from Fragile as an encore.
Are there are any songs on those albums you've never done before?
Just one. That's "A Venture."It's a fairly short, simple song, so it won't be too much of a stretch to rehearse and get it represented in the show. I guess the idea of doing albums in their entirety, in sequence, appeals to people. I guess it's the memory of being able to hear the music in the way it was originally presented. So we're going to try and be as faithful as possible to the original arrangements, even though I'm sure some instrumental passages will probably get stretched quite a bit.
It's interesting that The Yes Album is your third LP, but many fans really see it as the first time you really gelled as a band.
Well, yes that's part of the reasons why we're doing that as one of these three albums. It was the first time actually that Steve Howe was a member of the band. We'd done two previous albums, one simply called Yes and the Time and a Word album with a different guitar player, Peter Banks. So Steve Howe was in for The Yes Album and also it was really the first album that got Yes recognized on the international stage. To many people it's sort of Yes' breakthrough record. And then, of course, Close to the Edge was the first time we'd attempted to do the long 20-minute piece that lasted the whole side of the vinyl. And so that was another landmark step for us. And the Going for the One album was the first time actually we recorded outside of the U.K. And, in fact, that album was made in Montreaux, in Switzerland. So that has its own flavor and, sort of, once again, a landmark of Yes' career.
Many fans see Close to the Edge as the peak of that early era. Do you see it that way?
I think all of that period of time Yes was building success internationally and from The Yes Album to Fragile to Close to the Edge, we were always in a building mode and then, of course, we went a little left-field after that and made the Tales from Topographic Oceans album. Which was – you had to be a pretty sincere fan to appreciate that album. It wasn't for the casual listener.
But, then we went on after Topographic Oceans to make Going for the One. And of course there was also Relayer, which was an important album for us as well, prior to Going for the One. So the Seventies were just an interesting time for us because we were building the brand of the name but also varying the style of the music on each of the albums we did. Very creative time of us.
If this tour goes well might you do other albums in the future?
Maybe down the line we might look at a different triple set. What's likely to happen is that after this tour we'll make a new album with our new lead singer, Jon Davison. That should become the focus of our touring in 2014, but down the line there's a possibility that we'll do other albums.
You could do Relayer, Tormato . . .
Yeah, both of those. Then, of course, there's the Eighties Yes as well. That's something we haven't concentrated on for a while, seeing how it was the Trevor Rabin era. We have a wealth of material to pick from.
Rush are getting inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Are you at all miffed they got it before you?
[Laughs] No, I can't object to that. Logistically, it's probably difficult for whoever the committee is to bring in Yes. Rush is fairly simple. It's the same three guys and always has been. They deserve to be there, no doubt about that. But there still seems to be a certain bias towards early-Seventies prog rock bands like Yes and King Crimson.
I still think it's weird that Chicago isn't in. That to me is odd. In our case, we're on our 18th member. If we ever do get inducted, it would be only fair to have all the members, old and new. So that may be a problem for the committee. I don't know.
But you're not angry about it?
No, of course not. I've got plenty of other awards. [Laughs]
You had Rick Wakeman's son Oliver playing keyboards with you a couple of years ago. Why did he leave the band?
That had to do with the fact that we asked Trevor Horn if he wanted to get back together. We started talking about this song "Fly From Here," a song we wrote back in the Drama days. He sort of persuaded us it would be good to have [Drama-era keyboardist] Geoff Downes on board with that particular music.
Oliver, of course, never really did anything wrong. It was just that we made a decision to go with Geoff since he was involved in the original composition.
I'm sure some Yes fans are avoiding your show because Jon Anderson is no longer in the band. What would you say to those fans?
There's always going to be some fans like that, but Jon Davison has been really well received by the fans. This three-album tour is selling very well, so obviously many fans are still interested in seeing us. They've accepted Jon Davison as a good substitute for Jon.
Do you see any scenario where you could play with Jon Anderson again?
I always say in interviews that I've never closed the idea on working with Jon again. It would probably have to be some sort of speciality kind of set, a limited engagement kind of thing. I guess, right now, our plan is to do this tour and then record a new album with Jon Davison towards the end of the year. Then we'll be out promoting that.
So, there's always an open door after that if we want to look at doing something with Jon. But, of course, it also depends on how he feels about it.