Missing Jon Anderson, Record Bar, but should I get the tat?
Sunday, July 13, 2014 12:00 AM
So Amazon.com, which knows many of my habits at least as well as the NSA and Apple, sent me an email last week to let me know my favorite prog rock band, Yes, has released a new CD.
Some of you will get it, some of you won’t, but anytime Yes released an album (back when albums were actually those larger, petroleum-based products called vinyl records, I snatched up a copy. Yes and I go way back, back to when albums were less than $10 apiece. Heck, even double albums were not much more than that. There was and always has been, for me, something magical about Yes’ music.
In fifth grade I had some sort of presentation to make before my classmates. I have no idea what it was, and I highly doubt Yes’ “Tales from Topographic Oceans” music had anything to do with the presentation, but no matter. It was, after all, Yes. All I had was a portable cassette tape recorder/player with an external hand-held microphone. I put the album on the record player, pressed record and held that microphone close enough to the speaker (mono, not stereo) and recorded one of the songs off that album. Even though I don’t remember what the presentation was about, I do recall that I got an A on the assignment. Not sure if that’s because the music sufficiently distracted the teacher or if she was a Yes fan.
There are only a relatively small number of concerts I’ve attended in my lifetime so far, but Yes is the one group I’ve seen in concert on multiple occasions. I even have DVDs of some of their concerts.
BUT BACK TO THE EMAIL from Amazon.com and a few thoughts that ran through my head and wound up on a Facebook post last week. A bit of nostalgia, I guess.
Jon Anderson is no longer with Yes. I’ve enjoyed a number of incarnations of the group, whose bassist Chris Squire holds rights to the band’s name and essentially launched the band with Jon at his side. While keyboardist Rick Wakeman remains my favorite, I was happy with Patrick Moraz’s contributions to the band. Tony Kaye certainly was great in the inaugural lineup. There were squabbles, as often happens when a handful of creative geniuses come together. While I was OK with the music Yes produced with Trevor Horn on vocals when Jon left, I was glad to see Jon make a return to the group.
All that -- the various incarnations of Yes -- got me thinking about my album purchases and how even that has evolved throughout the years. I remember the fun of going into the PX on the Navy base in Norfolk, Virginia, and buying albums for about 5 bucks apiece. Or entering a Radio Shack, Circuit City or, in college days, the Record Bar at Tarrytown Mall in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Geez. Not only is Record Bar a thing of the past, so is the whole damn mall! It got torn down in 2006 after Hurricane Floyd essentially destroyed it in 1999 and left it a decaying water-damaged shell. Ah, albums. They usually came with great artwork, especially those Yes albums that were graced with the incredible designs by Roger Dean. Lyrics generally accompanied the album sleeve and were, as opposed to CDs that include lyrics, large enough to read.
With the advent of CDs, I found myself returning to my Columbia House Records membership. Anyone else remember that? Terre Haute, Indiana-based Columbia boxes would arrive at the house and it would be like Christmas, even though I already knew what I’d ordered. Back in the day when I ordered albums, those boxes would sit propped up next to the front door. Amazing that they never got stolen. CD boxes, with the exception of when I got a little carried away or took advantage of Columbia’s “you’ve been a helluva customer, so we’re sending you coupons to exchange for free music” deals, fit better in mailboxes. But even then, I could and would hit the various stores that still carried a seemingly endless supply of new and old releases. Anymore, it’s pretty much Amazon.com for the purchases. Gone are the local “record” stores, unless I can make a run up to Greenville. It’s just not the same.
ON TOP OF THAT, it’s kind of weird how Amazon has tracked me and, as if Amazon is some good friend and fellow Yes fan, tells me the band’s newest release is about to be released. I can pre-order. Oh, and while I’m at it, I might want to order the other music Amazon tells me about with its “people who bought X, also bought Y” lineup. It’s like being at the auto dealership buying a new car and having the salesman show you the options in the car next to the one you were thinking of buying -- only with less pressure.
All of this is to say it’s a fast-changing world, and that extends all the way to something as simple as music. Vinyl’s made a resurgence of sorts, but CDs took over in the early 1980s and now even they seem to be disappearing. Soon, I suppose, all music will be in a cloud somewhere. People already pick and choose individual songs they want and download them. Me? I still like buying the whole album, even if it contains a song or two that aren’t my favorites. I have iTunes, but haven’t bought a single song or CD that way. I just keep downloading my CD collection and enjoying the portability of my music. Much to Wendy’s dismay, I still have a wall full of CDs she thinks I should get rid of because I have an iTunes account. She doesn’t get it. They’re tangible, and they’re my backups. So are the vinyl albums I still have, even though they have been replicated in CD format. And yes, I still have cassette tapes.
As for Yes, it’s endured plenty of changes. I’m still having trouble with the fact Jon Anderson is no longer part of the band. He’s had health issues. He got replaced by a Yes cover band’s lead singer, Benoit David, a few years back and that incarnation of Yes, which included keyboardist Wakeman’s son, Oliver, replacing his dad. David took ill and has been replaced by yet another Jon, Jon Davison.
Amazon’s offering Yes’ 21st studio album at just $10 right now. It won’t be the same without the Jon on vocals. It will, however, include another former Yes keyboardist, Geoff Downes (Asia), and that’s good. Steve Howe remains on board, as does a great longtime Yes drummer Alan White. Christmas will be here soon, in the form of an Amazon box delivered to the mailbox. Meanwhile, I wonder if Amazon will have its drone delivery system in place before CDs are extinct.
I also wonder if I’ll ever follow through on the only tattoo I said I’d ever put on my body. It would have to be the interwoven Y, E and S as captured by Roger Dean. Yes, I’m that much of a Yes fan that I’d consider it. Maybe I’ll have to venture inside 7 Sins Tattoo and look around. You know, see if it looks too painful. Or if I’d be brave enough.
Whiting is executive editor of the Index-Journal. Contact him at 864-943-2522; email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter at IJEDITOR. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper’s opinion.