The very early 1980s was a scary and confusing times for many rock gods of the previous decade. This new thing called MTV was turning oddball British acts like Kajagoogoo, Adam Ant, Culture Club and Haircut 100 into overnight stars, and 1970s stadium rock giants like the Who, the Eagles, Wings, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Led Zeppelin and Yes were breaking up with stunning regularity. What do you do when you’re in your early thirties and all of a sudden your band is gone and nobody wants a 10-minute drum solo?
Few rockers was more flummoxed by these changes than Jimmy Page. Led Zeppelin was the culmination of his life’s work, and it ended the moment that John Bonham was pronounced dead after downing 40 shots of vodka in a single night. The guitarist wasn’t about to recruit three unknowns and start a new band from scratch. He was playing to places like the Pontiac Silverdome in 1977, and there was no way he was going back to dusty nightclubs.
The guys in Yes faced a similar dilemma. They tried to carry on with Buggles lead singer Trevor Horn after Jon Anderson left in 1979, but fans weren’t ready to embrace Yes with a new frontman and the group split up in 1980. Bassist Chris Squire and Alan White wanted to keep working together, and they lived pretty close to Jimmy Page in Surrey, England. The three of them came together and began jamming with keyboardist Dave Lawson.
“I had great respect for the music of Yes, how precise it was,” Page told Rolling Stone in 2012. “We got together; they had some interesting stuff. It was challenging for me, but I got there. I had some material I brought to them. It was good synchronicity. . . Chris had this wonderful name for it: XYZ, because it was ex-Yes and ex-Zeppelin. Then it was clear that the person who was mediating was approaching Robert [Plant] as to whether he would like to come down and have a listen. Of course, he wasn’t interested at all.”
Plant did show up for a single session on February 25th, 1981, but the music was a little too proggy for his tastes and Bonham’s death was still too recent and painful. He passed on the project, though the others decided to forge ahead with Chris Squire on lead vocals. They cut a series of demos before deciding it wasn’t going to work. “The material was good,” Page said. “I have the multi-tracks. I hope they see the light of day.”
Somehow, the tapes leaked to bootleggers long ago. For years they circulated amongst hardcore Yes and Zeppelin fans, but due to the magic of YouTube you can stream them above. Here are the songs “Mind Drive” and “Fortune Hunter.” (The former was reworked on the 1997 Yes album Keys to Ascension 2 and the latter was used on The Firm’s 1986 LP Mean Business.)