The year 2008 was the year in which Yes celebrated its 40th anniversary. The band, still led by founder Chris Squire, toured America with the latest line-up to bear the name of this rather special band of musicians. This year was also important for another reason for whilst looking for footage for an entirely different project, Voiceprint's researchers were able to secure rarely seen film footage that had only been previously seen either on television or in extract on video. Although the history of Yes is well documented elsewhere it is worth reminding ourselves of the history and background to the production that we can now view it for the first time on DVD.
Yes first came together as Mable Greer’s Toyshop, a name rather in keeping with the previous year’s Summer of Love epithet. However, by 1968 the name was beginning to lose its shine. The final line-up of Mabel Greer’s Toyshop included Jon Anderson, Chris Squire, Peter Banks, Tony Kaye and Bill Bruford. The name change from Mabel Greer’s Toyshop to Yes came in August 1968 when, following a couple of days rehearsing at the Lucky Horseshoe cafe in Shaftsbury Avenue in London's West End, the band played their first gig as Yes at the Mersea Youth Club in Essex, although the first recorded actual billing of Yes was a two show stand at the famous Marquee club some two days later on 5th August.
Why the change of name to Yes? I hear you say. Well, according to Peter Banks, it was instantly recognisable, extremely positive and more importantly, looked big on posters advertising the band's gigs. Between August and the end of December 1968 the band played 55 gigs the length and breadth of the country. One special gig, however, on 26th November gave Yes a taste of what lay just around the corner when the band was added to the bill of Cream’s farewell performance at London’s Royal Albert Hall.
The band were bottom of the bill under Rory Gallagher’s Taste, John Hiseman’s Colosseum and of course, Cream, and despite being incredibly nervous, Yes acquitted itself well. From here on in things moved quickly. The band were invited to record a session for John Peel’s Top Gear show in January 1969, the first of many recorded for the BBC, and shortly after secured a recording contract with the giant Atlantic Records.
Over the coming months the band recorded their debut album the self-titled Yes ( not to be confused with The Yes Album from two years later). The album featured a mix of covers and original material, which was fairly representative of the band's live set at this time. It was released in July of 1969. The band had by now started performing gigs overseas. From the 55 concerts performed by Yes in 1968 the band performed a hectic 203 concerts in 1969.
If anything, 1970 was even more hectic with the band recording their second studio album and taking the daring and unprecedented step of recording with an orchestra. The album was called Time And A Word. It was recorded at Advision studios in London in January 1970. Despite the recording, the album the band still continued to play live dates around the UK.
All was not well, however, and tensions within the band were increasing. Peter Banks felt that he had been sidelined by the producer of the album Tony Colton. By April 1970 the decision was made that Peter should leave the band. Yes took a two-month break while they considered their position and looked for a new guitarist. Former Tomorrow guitarist Steve Howe was soon recruited and the band continued performing concerts and live dates throughout July 1970.
In September 1970 Yes were invited by Belgian Television to make a film featuring selections from their current album Time and A Word, which had been released in July. The band would be seen in many situations around Belgium performing or more precisely, miming to tracks from the album Time and A Word. As Steve Howe had just joined the band, he had to mime his guitar to the tracks already recorded by Peter Banks. Interspersed with off-the-wall interludes by various members of the band, the filming was presented as a television special between September 1st and 4th before they played the Huy Festival in Belgium on 5th September. Four tracks were performed for the cameras including Astral Traveller, Everyday’s, Then and No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed.
Following on from these TV performances Yes would finally break through with their third album The Yes Album recorded in December 1970 and released in January 1971. Following more changes in line-up, Rick Wakeman replaced Tony Kaye. The band went to even greater success during the seventies with albums such as Fragile, Close To The Edge, Tales From Topographic Oceans and on through the Eighties with albums such as 90125 and Big Generator.
In 2001 Yes even returned to the format of recording an album with an orchestra. The result, Magnification, proved to be hugely successful 31 years on from the band's first tentative experiment with a full orchestra on Time And A Word.
Despite short periods of inactivity and a great many changes in personnel, which has seen Chris Squire as the only constant in the band's history, Yes has weathered the storms of fashion and commercial whims so as to release close on twenty studio albums and various live albums in the period 1968-2008. Yes have also remained hugely popular in the live arena and are still able to fill some of the largest venues worldwide to audiences both young and old.
The performances featured on this DVD demonstrate the beginnings of that journey and the creativity of a band that has been so influential in the development of a genre that has defied time and generations so as to become the soundtrack and vision in so many lives.
Footage licensed courtesy of Joe Sweetinburgh Impressive Record (Consultants) LLP firstname.lastname@example.org