Close To The Edge (as made famous by Yes)

“Close to the Edge” is a song by the English progressive rock band Yes, featured on their fifth studio album Close to the Edge (1972). The song is over 18 minutes in length and takes up the entire first side of the album. It consists of four movements.

I. The Solid Time of Change
The progressive nature of the piece is revealed immediately as the song fades in with the sounds of running water, wind chimes, and birds chirping; a layering of sounds derived primarily from “environmental tapes” collected by lead vocalist Jon Anderson. These nature sounds move through a crescendo and into a somewhat menacing guitar solo, the backdrop for which is a cacophonous musical passage that serves as a replacement for the natural cacophony that preceded it. The guitar solo is punctuated by a series of sudden vocables. Again, a crescendo signals a transformation, this time into a more down to earth melody. Like a classical composition, this melodic passage is the establishment of a theme that will go through many variations throughout the life of the song.

The lyrics are introduced at 4:00, along with a chorus that remains throughout the song. Like the previously established melody, this chorus will be developed in many different ways, which will include changes to the lyrical content, as well as changes in time and key signatures, tempo, and harmony:

Down at the edge, round by the corner…
Close to the edge, down by a river…

II. Total Mass Retain
“Total Mass Retain” redirects here. For other uses, see Conservation of mass.
The song continues with generally the same melody and style, though the bass part changes significantly. The chorus here changes to a faster pace, and then slows down again at the end of the section. The final words “I get up, I get down” introduce the next segment.

This section, along with a sped-up version of the introduction of birds chirping at the beginning and a small part of the beginning of “I Get Up I Get Down” at the end, was remixed as a 3:21 single prior to the release of the album. It was included as a bonus track on the remastered version of “Close to the Edge”.

This is the shortest of the four sections of “Close to the Edge”.

III. I Get Up I Get Down
The song significantly slows its tempo and lowers its volume. This segment, beginning with a small baroque piece, consists of two sets of vocals: the main vocals, sung by Anderson which contain most of the lyrics, and the backing vocals, sung by Chris Squire and Steve Howe, which are noticeably slower and contain some non-lyrical parts. At about 12 minutes into the song, Rick Wakeman, recorded on the pipe organ of London’s St Giles-without-Cripplegate church, begins the main theme of this segment, which changes from a major to a minor key as the music progresses.

Jon Anderson said: “We have the ‘the I get up, I get down’ part before it goes into a beautiful ocean of energy. You’ve gone through nearly 10 minutes of music that’s very well put-together, but then you want to let go of it. You relax a little bit.

“The song came about because Steve was playing these chords one day, and I started singing, ‘Two million people barely satisfy.’ It’s about the incredible imbalance of the human experience on the planet.

“The vocals came together nicely. I’m a big fan of The Beach Boys and The Association – such great voices. Steve and I were working on this, and at one point he said, ‘I have this other song…’ And I said, ‘Well, start singing it.’ And he went [sings], ‘In her white lace, you could clearly see the lady sadly looking/ saying that she’d take the blame for the crucifixion of her own domain… ’

“When I heard that, I said, ‘Wait. That’s going to be perfect! You start singing that with Chris, and then I’ll sing my part.’ We have an answer-back thing.[2]

IV. Seasons of Man
The original, fast-paced theme picks up followed by musical and lyrical structure which sounds similar to “The Solid Time of Change,” though here Rick Wakeman’s organ parts are particularly complex. The chorus is sung one last time before the vocals build up to the climax of the song in which all three motifs presented in the prior movements (“A seasoned witch…”, “close to the edge, down by the river”, “Seasons will pass you by, I get up I get down”) are combined to a fugue-like whole. Afterwards, the final lyrics “I get up, I get down” are repeated as the song fades away into the “sounds of nature” in which it began. It is worth noting that the bass line of this segment is actually a combination of the bass lines from the first two movements of the song.

In a 27 May 1996 interview with Elizabeth Gips on her show “Changes” (KKUP, Cupertino, CA), transcribed in the Notes From the Edge fanzine, dated 23 August 1996, Jon Anderson mentions that the song—indeed, the whole album—is inspired by the Hindu/Buddhist mysticism of Hermann Hesse’s book Siddhartha.[4] “[We] did one album called Close to the Edge. [It] was based on the Siddhartha… You always come back down to the river. [You] know, all the rivers come to the same ocean. That was the basic idea. And so we made a really beautiful album[….]”

Anderson was concerned about how the words sounded, sometimes more than what they meant, creating, thus, verses that often don’t seem to mean anything, such as “The time between the notes relates the colour to the scenes”.

Jon Anderson – lead vocals
Steve Howe – electric guitars, backing vocals
Chris Squire – bass, backing vocals
Rick Wakeman – Hammond organ, Minimoog, Mellotron, grand piano, RMI 368 Electra-Piano and Harpsichord, pipe organ
Bill Bruford – drums, percussion

Categories Yes

Roundabout (as made famous by Yes)

“Roundabout” is a song by the English rock band Yes from their fourth studio album Fragile, released in November 1971. It was written by singer Jon Anderson and guitarist Steve Howe and produced by the band and Eddy Offord. The song originated when the band were on tour and travelled from Aberdeen to Glasgow, and went through many roundabouts on the way.

The song was released as an edited single in the US in January 1972 with “Long Distance Runaround”, another track from Fragile, as the B-side. It peaked at number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 10 on the Cash Box Top 100 singles charts.[3] In 1973, Anderson and Howe won a BMI Award for writing the song.

The song originated in March 1971 when the band were on tour promoting The Yes Album (1971), travelling from Aberdeen to Glasgow after a gig in Aviemore, Scotland.[4][5] They encountered many roundabouts on the way; Anderson claimed “maybe 40 or so”, which inspired Anderson and Howe to write a song about the journey as they sat in the back of the band’s transit van, and include the roundabouts and the surrounding mountains into the lyrics.[4][6] Anderson had smoked marijuana during the trip, “so everything was vivid and mystical”.[5] Anderson added: “It was a cloudy day, we couldn’t see the top of the mountains. We could only see the clouds because it was sheer straight up … I remember saying, “Oh, the mountains–look! They’re coming out of the sky!”,[4] and began to write the song’s lyrics in his notebook in a free-form style with minimal edits. “I just loved how words sounded when I put them together”.[5] Within 24 hours, the band had arrived back home in London where Anderson reunited with his then wife Jennifer, which inspired the song’s lyric “Twenty-four before my love, you’ll see, I’ll be there with you”.[4] A lake they passed as they neared Glasgow became the idea behind the line “In and around the lake”.[4] Upon their arrival at their hotel in Glasgow, Anderson and Howe began to put down song ideas on their recorder.[5]

In August 1971, Yes regrouped in London to prepare material for their fourth album, Fragile. Early into the sessions, keyboardist Tony Kaye was fired from the group over his lack of interest in learning more keyboards to expand the band’s sound, and was replaced by Rick Wakeman. The group then moved to Advision Studios in September 1971 to record Fragile with audio engineer Eddy Offord as their co-producer, using a 16-track recording machine to layer their ideas at which point, Howe later said, “The song became pure magic”.[5] The rhythm tracks were recorded first, in separate sections.[5] Fragile contains four group-performed songs with five solo tracks written and arranged by each member; “Roundabout” is one of such collaborative tracks.[7]

Howe recalled the track was originally “a guitar instrumental suite” and had a basic outline worked out when he first developed it. “All the ingredients are there—all that’s missing is the song. “Roundabout” was a bit like that; there was a structure, a melody and a few lines.”[4] In 1994, former Yes guitarist Peter Banks whom Howe replaced in 1970, claimed he had originally come up with the song’s main riff several years prior to the band recording it.[8] The song was recorded in sections in a series of tape edits, a method of recording that was still relatively new to the group. They had played it through in rehearsal several times, but Squire recalled the group would make sure to “get the first two verses really good” and record from there.[8]

In its original form, the song began with the acoustic guitar, which Howe played on a 1953 Martin 00-18, but the group soon thought a more dramatic opening was needed.[5] This led to Wakeman playing a note on the piano that was recorded and played backwards, creating an effect that Howe described “as if it’s rushing towards you”. Wakeman played the lowest E note on his grand piano with the E an octave higher which gave it “a fatter feel”.[5] Offord recalled a considerable amount of time was spent to get it right in the studio because it involved a lengthy process of picking the right note to use, and editing it correctly.[8] Howe thought the piano added a sense of drama, intensity, and colour to the song.[8] An early idea had the song start with what Anderson described as “something of a Scottish jig” on Howe’s acoustic guitar, which he had played to Anderson in their Glasgow hotel room.[5]

Squire played his bass guitar parts with an overdub that was one octave higher using Howe’s Gibson ES-150 electric guitar and mixed with his bass track.[8] To complement Squire’s playing, Wakeman played arpeggios on his Hammond C3 organ on his right hand while playing Squire’s bass parts with his left. For the song’s slower section, he plays a Minimoog synthesiser and flute sounds on a Mellotron which he said gave the section a “Strawberry Fields mood”.[5] Apart from his acoustic guitar, Howe plays a 1961 electric Gibson ES-5 Switchmaster throughout the song.[5] Anderson noted the music has a “Scottish feel” to it and described the solo part as like a reel, a traditional Scottish country dance.[7]

Once the music tracks had been put down, Anderson entered the studio early one morning and recorded his lead vocals. When the rest of the group arrived, they recorded the vocal harmonies.[5] At the end of the song Anderson, Squire and Howe perform three-part harmonies that is repeated eight times, during which they also sing a second harmony part that Anderson said resembles the main melody to the nursery rhyme “Three Blind Mice”.[8] He later revealed Wakeman is singing the notes to the rhyme which was placed “against the grain of what we were doing” to make it sound more intriguing. To close, Howe repeated his acoustic guitar introduction but ended on an E major chord.[5] The Song plays in the Key of G Major.

“Roundabout” was first released as the opening track on Fragile, in November 1971 on Atlantic Records. In preparation for its release as a single in the US, the song was cut to 3:27 to make it more suitable for radio airplay. It was released, with “Long Distance Runaround” on the B-side, another group written track on Fragile, on 4 January 1972.[7] The song peaked at number 13 on the US Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, the band’s highest charting single on the chart until 1984 with “”Owner of a Lonely Heart”.[7] Elsewhere, “Roundabout” went to number 23 on the Dutch Top 40 chart.[9] Billboard ranked it at number 91 on its Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1972. The full-length, album version was used as a B-side in 1973 and a live version was released as a bonus single in copies of Classic Yes in 1981.

In June 1973, Anderson and Howe won a BMI Award for the top songwriting and publishing awards held by Broadcast Music, Inc. for 1972.[10]

“Roundabout” has become one of the best-known Yes songs; it has been performed at nearly every concert since its release. It was used as the theme music for the BBC concert programme Sounds for Saturday.[11] “Roundabout” was used in Outside Providence (1999). In 2003, on the DVD commentary of School of Rock, actor Jack Black states that Wakeman’s solo is his personal favourite keyboard solo. “Roundabout” is a playable track in the music game Rock Band 3, but has an extra harmonic at the beginning of the song. The song is referenced in the Season 4 episode of The Venture Bros. “Perchance to Dean”, in which a similar melody is played like the ending to the actual track.

In 2012, “Roundabout” was used as the ending theme song for the first season of the JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure anime series.[12] According to the director, “Roundabout” was one of many songs JoJo creator Hirohiko Araki listened to when he wrote the original manga.[13] The usage of “Roundabout” within JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure has additionally led to both it and the series’ “To Be Continued” insert becoming a collective Internet meme, in which videos feature the song’s introductory guitar riff before coinciding with the “To Be Continued” insert.[14]

“Roundabout” was featured on the re-released version of Grand Theft Auto V’s Los Santos Rock Radio radio station.[15]

“Roundabout” was played during Yes’ induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017. The song was performed by keyboardist Rick Wakeman, vocalist Jon Anderson, guitarists Steve Howe and Trevor Rabin, drummer Alan White, and Rush bassist Geddy Lee.

Jon Anderson – lead vocals
Steve Howe – electric and acoustic guitars, backing vocals
Chris Squire – bass guitar, electric guitar (for basslines), backing vocals
Rick Wakeman – Hammond organ, Minimoog, grand piano, Mellotron
Bill Bruford – drums, percussion

Categories Yes

Owner of a Lonely Heart (as made famous by Yes)

“Owner of a Lonely Heart” is a song by the English progressive rock band Yes. It is the first track and single from their eleventh studio album 90125, released in 1983. Written primarily by guitarist Trevor Rabin, contributions were made to the final version by singer Jon Anderson, bassist Chris Squire, and producer Trevor Horn.

“Owner of a Lonely Heart” was released in October 1983, as the album’s first single. It was a commercial success in the United States, becoming the band’s first and only single to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and its Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.[2][3] In 1984, the song reached No. 8 in the year-end charts in the US.[4] The single was reissued various times throughout the 1980s and 1990s with different remix versions and B-sides.[5] The song has been sampled by various artists including Michael Jackson, Frank Zappa and Max Graham, whose 2005 single reached No. 9 in the UK.[6]

The first version was a four track version Rabin recorded at his home studio in London in 1980 (and which was eventually released in 2003 on his 90124 album). Rabin played all instruments on the demo as well as singing. In 2012, he would reminisce “I had a four-track recorder for demos, so you would record on the first and second tracks and then mix it to a third track. You would be making decisions based on what was coming, and sometimes those decisions would be wrong — but you couldn’t undo them. One of the things, a happy accident, was that all of the brass stabs and those weird things that happen on the record — they were just a product of what happened with the demo. When we started the record, in talking with Trevor Horn, he said we should retain that stuff. We’ll just record that really cleanly. I said I’d like to keep the levels very loud, and he was totally into that. That’s kind of how it evolved. All of the accidents on the demo, ended up on the record.”[7]

“Owner of a Lonely Heart” was turned down by various record companies, including Arista. (Rabin: “Clive Davis mentioned that the song was too strange, and would not be a hit. He suggested that I write stuff more like Foreigner and then come back. I never did.”[8]) The song was first recognized as a potential hit when Rabin played the demo to Ron Fair (then a junior A&R man at RCA Records) who identified it as “a game changer” and offered Rabin an album deal on the strength of it. Although Rabin would assemble various songs for the deal he ultimately turned it down, opting instead to work with Chris Squire and Alan White and rework the material for what would eventually become 90125.[8] Rabin has also implied that the early song may have gained the revived Yes their 1980s record deal – “‘Owner’ was always the flagship song of the 90125 stuff, which I had been shopping around with and landed up being approached by Phil Carson from Atlantic.”[8]

Trevor Horn has claimed a significant part of the credit for the success of “Owner of a Lonely Heart”, including recognising the song’s hit potential and salvaging it for the 90125 sessions. By Horn’s account, when Rabin played him the original tape of songs intended for 90125, “Owner of a Lonely Heart” was tucked away at the end and was only heard because Rabin had gone to the toilet and left the tape running. When Rabin returned, Horn had to persuade him that the song was likely to be a hit and should be used for the album.[9] However, Horn also claims to have had serious reservations about Rabin’s inclinations toward “American rock” songwriting: despite hearing a hit chorus, he also suggests that “the song, as it originally was, was so awful that I was convinced that if we didn’t put loads of whizz-bangs and gags all over the verse that no-one would ever listen to it.”[9]

The song was reworked during the 90125 album sessions in 1982 and 1983, with contributions of various kinds being made by Chris Squire, Trevor Horn and Jon Anderson (resulting in all three getting writer credits).

Horn claims that the development of “Owner of a Lonely Heart” took place over seven months (from January to July 1983) and that he was instrumental in persuading the band to record the song. By Horn’s account, once all of the other tracks on the record had been recorded he was literally “crawling around on the floor” begging Yes to do it, on the grounds that they needed a hit single.[9] Horn brought in the Synclavier to replace the original keyboard parts played by Rabin. For the “whizz-bangs and gags” sound effects, he brought in a Fairlight sampler programmed by J. J. Jeczalik (a technique already tried and tested on Horn’s work on ABC’s The Look of Love and Malcolm McLaren’s Duck Rock).

Horn also went against the wishes of Rabin and drummer Alan White, both of whom wanted big rock drum sounds. Instead, Horn forced a programmed sound onto the arrangement, incorporating a five-second sample of the drum breakdown in Funk, Inc.’s “Kool Is Back” (itself a cover of Kool & the Gang’s “Kool’s Back Again”) and also sampling and looping White’s playing via Fairlight. Influenced by the sound of Stewart Copeland’s recordings with The Police, Horn also insisted that White tuned his snare drum to a high A.[9] According to Questlove, drummer in The Roots, “Owner of a Lonely Heart” contained the first use of a sample as a breakbeat (as opposed to a sound effect).[10]

Regarding rewrites, Horn claims to have rewritten Rabin’s verses (beginning with the first verse and “move yourself”) and that upon joining the band later in proceedings, Jon Anderson was dissatisfied with the second verse and rewrote it, adding the section about the “eagle in the sky”. As a cheeky riposte, Horn and engineer Gary Langan added the gunshot sound effect which immediately followed the verse (thereby “shooting down” the eagle).[9] Squire’s main contribution appears to have been the Motown-styled bridge which originally appears in the song between 1:55 and 2:22 (and which also bears some resemblance to a riff in “Ritual” from Tales from Topographic Oceans).

In September 2014, Rabin clarified his view on the breakdown of credit and royalties: “Jon did add to my lyrics in the verses and deserved what he got, as did Chris. One can hear my development of the song on 90124; sound doesn’t lie. Trevor Horn being allotted a percentage was a thank you for introducing me to the Synclavier, which is one of the keyboards I used on the song and I had not used before. Also, for the fun we had making it. I could go on, but I’ve bitten my lip for a long time — largely because Trevor Horn and I are good friends.”[8]

The song’s music video was shown in heavy rotation on MTV,[13] introducing the revamped Yes lineup and sound to a new generation of fans largely unfamiliar with the band’s very different earlier work, which had helped to define the genre of progressive rock. The music video was directed by graphic designer Storm Thorgerson[14] who, as part of Hipgnosis, had previously designed the covers for the band’s albums Going for the One and Tormato. The video starred actor Danny Webb.

Keyboardist Tony Kaye does not appear in the video as at the time of the video shoot, Eddie Jobson was standing in as the band’s keyboardist. Jobson can be seen briefly in a few quick shots, but he was not part of the video’s “animal transformation” scene in which the other four band members take part. Ultimately Kaye returned to the lineup, and Jobson never recorded any material with the band.[15]

Jon Anderson – lead vocals
Trevor Rabin – guitars, keyboards, backing vocals
Chris Squire – bass, backing vocals
Tony Kaye – keyboards
Alan White – Fairlight CMI, drums

Categories Yes

Long Distance Runaround (as made famous by Yes)

“Long Distance Runaround” is a song by the progressive rock group Yes first recorded for their 1971 album, Fragile. Written by lead singer Jon Anderson, the song was released as a B-side to “Roundabout”, but became a surprise hit in its own right as a staple of album-oriented rock radio. The song’s 3:30 running time was uncharacteristically brief for a group known for expansive songs often longer than ten minutes, though it and “The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus)”, into which it segues, may be considered a single opus of 6:09.

Yes co-founder Jon Anderson wrote the lyrics to this song while allegedly remembering his encounters with religious hypocrisy and competition he experienced in attending church regularly as a youth in northern England. “Long time / waiting to feel the sound” was a sentiment toward wanting to see a real, compassionate, non-threatening example of godliness.[1][2]

The song shifts keys between A minor and B minor and is polymetric in the verses – the drums are playing in 5/8 time against the rest of the group playing in 4/4 time.

Jon Anderson – lead and backing vocals
Steve Howe – electric guitars
Chris Squire – bass
Rick Wakeman – RMI 368 Electra-Piano and Harpsichord, grand piano
Bill Bruford – drums, percussion

Categories Yes