The band Yes poses all sorts of philosophical questions. For example, at what point has a band lost so many key members that it becomes nothing more than a tribute to its former self? The current touring incarnation of Yes has only guitarist Steve Howe from the glory days of the 1970s and not a single person from the “Owner of a Lonely Heart” comeback period of the 1980s. At the same time, a new project called Anderson, Rabin and Wakeman has three crucial Yes members, including singer Jon Anderson. Don’t they have a more legitimate right to the Yes name?
The world faced a very similar dilemma back in the late 1980s. Jon Anderson walked away from Yes after the Big Generator tour, unhappy with the group’s new pop direction. He teamed up with Steve Howe, Bill Bruford and Rick Wakeman, all members of the group during their Close to the Edge proggy heyday, and created the new group Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe. Tony Levin took on the difficult role of filling in for Chris Squire on bass, and they cut a new album and went on tour. Here’s video of them doing a killer “Close To The Edge” that year.
There was one little problem: The “Owner of a Lonely Heart” lineup of Yes still existed. And even though they didn’t have a singer, they had the name and they didn’t love seeing another group on the road advertising the fact they’d be playing Yes music. Lawsuits were filed. Bad words were exchanged in the press. All was not well in the world of Yes, even if fans were ecstatic to finally see 4/5th of the early 1970s lineup back together again.
They could have dragged this through the legal process for years on end, but in the end they made the adult (and financially smart decision) to simply merge both bands together, cut a new record and hit the arena circuit. It may have been a little weird to see a band with two keyboardists, two drummers and two guitarists, but they played material from every incarnation of the band and somehow it mostly worked. Tragically, we’ve lost bassist Chris Squire since then, but let’s hope that the two Yes camps find a way to come together yet again. The Union Tour II could be amazing.