By Brian Ives
Last night at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the venue was transformed to a bit of progressive rock heaven for a little while. After over a decade of eligibility, Yes was finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
That would have been sweet enough, but upping the ante was the fact that the occasion reunited both sides of the band: guitarist Steve Howe and drummer Alan White, who are both still in Yes, reunited with three of their ex-bandmates, Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin and Rick Wakeman, who now play together in (of course) Anderson Rabin Wakeman. Even better, the band’s original drummer, Bill Bruford was there.
On top of all of that, they were presented at the event by Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson of Rush, another band who — at least at one point — seemed unlikely to ever be inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (they were inducted in 2013). And Lee even sat in for the band’s late bassist and leader, Chris Squire.
“We all start somewhere, and my journey with Yes started when I was a teenager,” Lifeson said. “I may have smoked a cigarette…or something. I spent hours picking my way through songs like ‘Starship Trooper’ and ‘Yours is No Disgrace.’ I must have played ‘Starship Trooper’ a million times. Yes helped give me the gift of music, which is everything, as you know.”
“The musical choices we make in our youth, helps to determine who we become.” His advice? “Choose Chris Squire’s amazing bass tone. Choose Jon Anderson’s ethereal vocals. Choose Fragile. Choose ‘Roundabout.’ Choose the glorious guitar work in ‘Owner of a Lonely Heart.’ And definitely, choose Yes.”
Lee added, “Blah blah blah,” a reference to Lifeson’s own acceptance speech from a few years back. “I’d like to ask if the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame would indulge me.” He talked about a friend named Oscar who turned him on to Yes.
“Time and a Word – I still thrill to the bass part of ‘No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed.’ Later Oscar played me ‘Yours is No Disgrace’ and ‘I’ve Seen All Good People.’ Through Yes, I was tuning into a wider world of possibilities.”
He recalled seeing his first Yes concert. “It was like nothing I experienced before, it was profound. It changed the way I played music forever.”
When they introduced the band, first Anderson, Rabin and Wakeman walked on stage, and were soon joined by White, Howe and Bruford. Founding keyboardist Tony Kaye didn’t attend the ceremony.
Jon Anderson accepted and talked about visiting at the Hall of Fame in Cleveland: “All my heroes were there, all of them. All these great people and we’re gonna join then, I can’t believe it.” And he noted that the ceremony fell on a significant date.
“It’s 49 years ago tonight that I met Chris Squire at a bar,” he recalled. “It was a magic moment. He was so tall, I couldn’t believe it. We had a guitarist called Peter Banks. We had a drummer called Bill Bruford. Chris is in heaven, but him and Peter are here with us tonight.”
Alan White added, “This has been a long journey. I’d like to thank Chris Squire, I worked with him for 42 years he was one of my best friends ever.”
“I’m Steve Howe!” the band’s guitarist said. “I’d like to thank all our fans who believed we deserved to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Our fans have a different ear from normal music listeners. As Bill used to say, when asked what Yes music is, ‘Some of it’s fast and some of it’s slow.’”
He also mentioned the current incarnation of the band, which includes keyboardist Geoff Downes, bassist Billy Sherwood and singer Jon Davison: “We look forward to continuing more great works of Yes.”
Rick Wakeman — a huge personality — shared a bit of unexpected info with the audience: “Less than a half a mile from this very building was where I had my very first meaningful sexual experience. It wasn’t very good.”
He discussed the importance of prostate examination, “Which I, in fact, had on Monday!” He then described the process. In detail. And shared a conversation he had with his doctor during the process: “‘Mr. Wakeman, it’s not usual to get an erection with this procedure.’ I said, ‘I haven’t got one..’ And he said, “I know: I have!’”
Bruford didn’t speak, unfortunately, and didn’t play. Then, Anderson, Rabin, Wakeman, Howe and White, with Geddy Lee on bass, played “Roundabout.” Lee left the stage, Howe took over the bass for “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” during which Wakeman — on keytar — and Rabin walked into the audience during their solos, during which point, Joan Baez kissed Wakeman on his cheek , to his amazement. It was one of a series of unlikely events to take place at Barclays last night — none more unlikely than Yes’ induction, given the Hall of Fame voters’ former prejudice towards prog rock. Hopefully for fans, the unlikely events will keep occurring, and this performance will lead to a merger of Yes and ARW.