Rock Hall of Fame Stop Saying ‘No’ To Yes

Yes

Their third release elevated Yes into supergroup status

(No. 37 in a continuing series on artists who should be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but are not)

By Phill Marder

Many observers believe the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has an extreme bias against bands that fall into the Progressive Rock category. Especially Progressive Rock fans.

Truth or illusion?

Well, there are approximately 260 inductees currently listed in the Rock Hall. Three are considered Progressive Rock bands…Pink Floyd, Genesis and Traffic. That’s about one percent.

Genesis was a Progressive Rock band under the wing of Peter Gabriel, then became a hit making machine when Gabriel left and Phil Collins took over lead vocals. I never thought of Traffic as a Progressive Rock band, but they are listed on several Progressive Rock websites, so what do I know? Pink Floyd certainly makes the grade.

But several Progressive Rock mammoths – the already profiled Moody Blues, Rush and Jethro Tull, for instance – have received the coldest of shoulders from the Rock Hall’s nominating committee, thus far. As has the band atop many Progressive Rock band lists…Yes.

To make the prejudice against this genre even more obvious, Yes was on Atlantic Records most of its heyday. And almost everyone on the Atlantic Records’ roster has been inducted, deserved or not.

Ernesto Lechner, writing in “The New Rolling Stone Album Guide,” points out, “You can say a lot of nasty things about progressive rock, and many people have – most frequently, that the genre emphasizes musical chops over soulful expression.”

To Lechner’s credit, he doesn’t seem to agree with that viewpoint, adding, “…in the case of Yes, the British band’s often overbearing pretentiousness resulted in moments of rare grace and beauty…“

But even the compliments are tinged with disparagement. Anything progressive seems to carry the same label from most critics…pretentious, bombastic etc. If Lou Reed had been around in the 1700s or 1800s, today’s critics probably would have favored him over Beethoven and Bach.

But that we’ll save for a future discussion. For now, let’s get back to Yes – and why this super group belongs in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

First off, Progressive bands don’t usually have hit singles. After all, 10- to 20-minute pieces don’t lend themselves to top 40 radio. Still, Yes has managed several, including the startling “Owner Of A Lonely Heart,” startling because it climbed all the way to No. 1 in 1983, and 1972’s “Roundabout,” which peaked at No. 13. 1971’s “Your Move,” 1984’s “Leave It” and 1987’s “Love Will Find A Way” and “Rhythm Of Love” all also hit the top 40. Only “Owner Of A Lonely Heart” reached the top 40 in their homeland, but that stopped at No. 28 there. However, “Wonderous Stories” climbed to No. 7 in 1977 and “Going For the One” made it to No. 24 later the same year. The next year, “Don’t Kill The Whale” made it No. 36.

Yes

On the album charts, where progressive bands shine best, Yes placed 24 entries in the United States, 12 reaching the top 20 with seven entering the top 10, making Yes one of the highest charting album bands in Billboard history. In the U.K., Yes was even bigger, reaching the top 20 with 14 long-players, 11 climbing into the top 10. In addition, 1973‘s “Tales From Topographic Oceans,” probably the band’s most controversial release, topped the UK charts as did “Going For The One” four years later.

“Topographic Oceans” is a two-record set, each of the four sides consisting of one long piece. I bought it when it came out, but didn’t play it much. A few years back, I tried it again on CD, figuring I now had more time and patience to enjoy it. But, the years didn’t make much difference. It has its moments, but often I find myself anxiously waiting for Elvis or Bo Diddley to interrupt.

Lechner noted, “depending on your point of view, ‘Tales From Topographic Oceans’ is either prog rock’s absolute nadir or its dreamy masterpiece” and Bruce Eder, writing in allmusicguide.com, agrees, saying, “No album has more divided both fans and critics of Yes alike. At the time of its release, critics called ‘Tales From Topographic Oceans’ excessive, representing the height of progressive rock’s self-indulgent nature. Originally inspired by Jon Anderson’s reaction to a set of Shastric scriptures, the album displayed a sublime beauty in many parts, and immense, mesmerizing stretches of high-energy virtuosity for most of its length.”

Anderson, of course, served as the group’s distinctive lead vocalist from its formation until just recently when ill health forced him to step down. He was replaced by Canadian Benoit David, who sings lead on the group’s upcoming release “Fly From Here.” Though Yes has survived a ton of personnel changes over the years, replacing its figurehead may prove the group’s final gasp, no matter how good David is.

The classic lineup remains the group that gave us “The Yes Album,” “Fragile” and “Close To The Edge” classics in 1971 and 1972. The key was the addition of guitarist Steve Howe, who can play rings around almost any other rock guitarist. Howe joined Anderson, keyboardist Tony Kaye, bassist Chris Squire and drummer Bill Bruford for “The Yes Album,” which helped the band turn the corner after two so-so LPs.

The next change came for “Fragile,” when keyboard whiz and showman extraordinaire Rick Wakeman took over for Kaye and that five also gave us “Close To The Edge.” Alan White replaced Bruford for “Tales From Topographic Oceans” with only Anderson and Squire remaining constants over the years. But even Anderson stepped aside for “Drama,” on which Trevor Horn served as vocalist.

Basically, the inductees should include Anderson, Squire, Howe, Wakeman, Bruford, White, Kaye and Trevor Rabin, who contributed guitar and keyboards on various albums.

One thing I find with Progressive Rock recordings – and particularly those of Yes – is that no matter how many times I’ve listened previously, each hearing brings something new thanks to the virtuosity of the players.

The players in Yes are great musicians and this should not be held against them. Great musicians often put their heart and, yes, their soul into their playing. I won’t be around to have the last laugh, but I would almost guarantee that 50 years from now, the music of Yes will have endured while the recordings of several of the artists already inducted into the Hall of Fame will have been long forgotten.

38 thoughts on “Rock Hall of Fame Stop Saying ‘No’ To Yes

  1. I can’t agree that all progressive rock bands (nebulous as that term can be) were pretentious and bombastic mostly due to many long songs. One could put Led Zeppelin’s long songs in that category. If they were so pretentious then I at 10/11 years-old oddly loved ‘Fragile’ to death, listening to it continuously over and over for years. I was even much younger liking the Moody Blues’ ‘On A Threshold Of A Dream’.

    Clearly YES’s music has endured, no less the musicianship was great and still is. They were also able to make a successful transition into the ’80s with their 90125 album which many ’70s bands couldn’t quite do. It doesn’t make sense to me when there are ’60s bands such as Cream, Buffalo Springfield, etc. were together for only a few years. I agree with those but YES lasted much longer. Doesn’t seem right. Thank you, I agree.

  2. Genesis got in, which was an essential step the movement to get more prog groups in the Hall. I’d look for King Crimson next, then Yes.

  3. King Crimson may show up in this series one of these weeks…if I can ever figure out all the guys who have been in the group besides Robert Fripp…just listing the group members may require a two-part series !!

  4. Don’t really follow who’s in the HoF, but I assume the Beatles are. They are one of the biggest prog groups. Whenever some bore tells me how they hate ‘prog’ (as a derogatory term – ‘progressive’ should not be derogatory), I ask if they like the Beatles. Usually it’s ‘yes’ and I can point out that the Beatles were very progressive with George Martin, lush orchestrations, themed albums, electronic sounds reminiscent of Stockhausen (hey, I finally got a copy of Kontakte the other day, must visit HMV London more often!).

    As for TfTO, one should read the Bagavad Gita, Upanishads, Vedas and general Indian philosophy. Jon’s lyrics do have an underlying theme to them. I think only Rick’s criticism of TfTO can be allowed – that there was too much filler, whereas CttE they thought about every note.

    Still, if not being admitted to the HoF is a mark of uniqueness in the rock world, maybe Yes should never get in!

  5. Like the series Phil. You really show why these bands deserve induction. Can’t wait to hear what you say about Styx, Pat Benatar, REO Speedwagon, Kansas, Supertramp, Meat Loaf, Cheap Trick, Judas Priest, ELP, Boston, and so many other deserving acts.

  6. The so-called Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a joke, and not a funny one. It celebrates record sales and notoriety; considerations such as musicianship, artisitc integrity and influence are, at best, utterly secondary. All former and current members of Yes should take great pride in the fact they haven’t been chosen to receive this “honor.”

  7. If some yahoo came along and invented an author’s hall of fame and decided to leave out, say, Hemingway, does that mean Hemingway’s writing is bad compared to those who have been inducted into the “hall of fame”? Of course not! I don’t know why people seem to think that just because Jann Wenner created a museum for his favorite bands and called it a “hall of fame,” being invited into the museum imparts some kind of magical validation on the inductee. The point being, getting into Jann Wenner’s little club doesn’t validate your favorite band; it just means Jann Wenner likes them.

    So who cares who’s in the RRHoF? If Yes someday gets in, fine. If they don’t, it won’t make me love their music any less than I do.

    I just don’t get why their non-inclusion seems to bother people so much. The notion that you can have a hall of fame for an artistic pursuit is ridiculous anyway.

    For the record, this isn’t just sour grapes — my second favorite band, Pink Floyd, is in the RRHoF, and I couldn’t care less.

  8. I’ve long held that the RnR HoF should be ignored and superceded by a new Rock Hall of Fame. Unless there’s some law disallowing a competitor, then a monopoly exists. I used to gripe about my favorite band not being in there, but after they started putting rap in, it stopped being a Rock and Roll Hall to me.

    I say someone starts a “Rock Hall” or “The Pantheon of Rock” and do it right. Let the RnR HoF devolve into the joke it is becoming.

  9. “Pink Floyd certainly makes the grade.”

    I never got why Pink Floyd are classed as Progressive Rock. They seem more regressive to me. OK, I expect a barrage of insults for that comment, so let’s just take them as read. I’m not saying that they’re not great musicians/writers/people, but please point me in the direction of some of their work you would consider Progressive. My overriding impression of them is lots of slow 4/4 rock songs. I can see why the stoners liked them so much. I just feel that I must be missing an album by them somewhere!

  10. Yesspaz –

    I’ve been trying to convince editor Pat Prince that Goldmine should start its own Hall of Fame…He’s been trying to convince me to keep quiet…As you can see, neither of us is having much success !!

  11. Who gives a rat’s %$^? Yes should wear this like “a badge of honor”, which is what Alex Lifeson once said when asked how he felt that Rush—who made, like, 30 gold and platinum albums— had never graced the cover of ROLLING STONE. The RRHF, like ROLLING STONE, is more of a political and cultural institution than a musical one. All this crap—halls of fame, ROLLING STONE, award shows, etc. mean NOTHING. They are commercial enterprises run by people looking to make a buck and they will go with whomever has the widest commercial appeal. Yes is still selling records and playing arenas 40 years on. Their music will leave a lasting legacy and continuing to inspire people who love music more than fashion and “attitude.” All the other stuff is just so much bs. Don’t get sucked into believing it actually means *anything*. It’s a corporate version of a high school popularity contest, and we all know how meaningful those are.

  12. Malcolm –

    I do believe if the HOF went with whoever has the most commercial appeal, Yes & Rush would already be in. After all, your comment points out how popular both bands are. Certainly, they have a lot more commercial appeal than inductees such as Dr. John and more I’ll name in future weeks. Seems to me, the choices are made based on the personal preferences of a select few and not on commercial appeal (read who the public likes). To me, that’s the problem. And rather than throwing up my hands in surrender, I’m going to keep yelling about it whether anyone’s listening or not.

  13. I’m surprised that no comment has yet mentioned the fact that, in essence, if Jann Wenner and his buddies don’t like a band, it ain’t getting in. That’s why a one hit wonder like Percy “When a Man Loves a Woman” Sledge gets in (he didn’t even write the song!) and all the other bands and artists you mention don’t. A more accurate name for the organization/museum is The Hall of Music That Jann Likes.

    The Sex Pistols have the right idea – refusing to attend their own 2006 induction, calling the museum “a piss stain”.

  14. It’s interesting that critics slag on ‘Tales’ so much for ‘overindulgence’, when both Soft Machine and Tangerine Dream had already release 4 side/4 tracks albums before them?

    (and neither “Third” nor “Zeit’, both fine albums in their own rights, reached the top ten in any sales charts.)

  15. Yes also pioneered techniques in recording and live presentation that are used still. Truly, Yes is too hip for the RRHOF. People will be listening to “Close To The Edge” for years to come. People won’t be listening to Jann Wenner for much longer.My “hall of fame” is my music collection, of which Yes reigns supreme!

  16. This is simply silly and ridiculous. YES should been admitted 30 years even though I don’t feel the the RRHOF deserves to have a band as great as YES but to make sure their amazing legacy stays alive in the future, I must demand that the RRHOF get their stupid act together and include one of the greatest modern bands of all time, finally!

  17. RRHOF is a farce and run by a bunch of arse&%$£* who decide who get’s accepted based on popularity, record sales and public exposure through live shows, media etc. You can also add the ‘committees’ own choice and preference. If it was based purely upon musicianship, music, length of time (years) producing albums etc. you would literary have thousands of names and groups up there.
    Getting back to ‘Yes’…yes, they should have been up there a long time ago but who gives a frig about that! There are many other progressive bands that should also have their name included but RRHOF means zilch to me…they’re all in my own ‘hall of fame’ and that’s all that matters.
    Watch RRHOF’s space…soon you’ll see the likes of Britney Tears and Justin Pieper up there!

  18. Peter –

    You forgot Pariah Carey and Clay Bacon. And what about Lady GooGoo (she’s a real doll).

  19. The people who do the inductions into the RnR Hall of Shame often cite whether or not a band or artist was “influential”. It’s not always about albums sales. But idiots like Jann Wenner should realize that YES not only sold lots of albums and charted well over years, they also were definitely influential to so many bands that perform progressive rock today. If you have guitarist friends, I’d bet $$$ that that person has wanted to learn “Mood For a Day”.

    Another concern is who would actually get the award if YES is inducted. We know that Anderson, Wakeman, Squire, Howe, and White would receive it. What about Bruford, Peter Banks, Tony Kaye, Patrick Moraz? YES had only 2 drummers in its career, but way too many keyboardists.

  20. I gave up on the R&RHOF years ago when they started inducting Rap and hip-hop acts! Since when is rap and hip-hop considered rock & roll? Let them have their own HOF for crying out loud! Note to all you trolls out there, call me racist all you want cause sticka and stones……..

  21. As “gmuny2002″ implied, the R&RHOF inducted Rap-Crap and “**it-slop” instead of talented musicians like Yes and others who should have been inducted. I agree with many of you who said it depends on Jann “Weiner” likes, whether they have talent or not. I believe there hasn’t been any talent in the studios (rap-crap or girl singers who have to be “sweetened up” technically) for many years. There probably is talent out there, but it isn’t being recorded by the major labels. Online, there is a movie called “Before the Music Ends” I think it is documenting the demise of good, talented people, and promoting rap-crap, lousy “singers” and those who have to have their voices “electronicized.” ELO and The Alan Parsons Project did a better version of that with the Vocoder back in the ’70’s than that plastic crap which is out there now.

  22. I know these dudes aren’t “Progressive”, but anybody out there have any pious words to say about my Herefordshire heroes, Mott the Hoople? Just wonderin’…

  23. The Hall of Fame is a joke. Imaging ignoring T.Rex all these years.
    But yeah, Yes has definitely a right to be there! Love ‘em…

  24. This is my thoughts on the RnR HoF … Madonna is in – why would any self-respecting RnR band want to be there? It’s a joke. The list of bands (Yes, Moody Blues, etc) and people (Stevie Ray Vaughn, Dick Dale, etc …) show it for what it is – a PR outlet for the music industry. I’m surprised they haven’t pressed for a change in the 25 year rule, so they can stuff it full of American Idol “winners.”

    “I don’t care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members.” – Groucho Marx

  25. From the RRHoF website:

    Eligibility

    “To be eligible for induction as an artist (as a performer, composer, or musician) into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the artist must have released a record, in the generally accepted sense of that phrase, at least 25 years prior to the year of induction; and have demonstrated unquestionable musical excellence.

    We shall consider factors such as an artist’s musical influence on other artists, length and depth of career and the body of work, innovation and superiority in style and technique, but musical excellence shall be the essential qualification of induction.”

    So why aren’t Yes, Rush et al not in yet?

  26. Didn’t think Alice Cooper would ever get in, but he finally did. After all, look at all the “shock rock” bands that have gotten in under the influence of the first shock rocker.

    Now, a quick list of those deserving to get in, but are being held back by a small pompous group of “deciders”, who have a hand-crafted agenda of how “their” RRHOF should be….

    The Moody Blues, Yes , Emerson Lake & Palmer, Rush, Jethro Tull. I could name a few more, but it’s late and I gotta go to work in the morning.

  27. King Crimson, even Yes supreme to pink floyd, Emerson Lake& palmer, also like mike comentend Jethro Tull and I don’t have the time to name more.

    Elfe

  28. I doubt that Crimso will EVER be inducted into a “Hall of Fame”….too obscure for most people. The irony is that these groups like Yes, Crimson, Tull, etc. who are NOT in the HOF should have been the first ones inducted way back when.

  29. I hear (but am not certain) that bands are required to pay a large fee to enter RRHOF!
    You all are the real peers and true judges of excelllence. You all are the real Hall Of Fame collectively! Thanks

  30. It’s sad really. True musicians like Yes, who are still producing today, are overlooked while some who had nothing to do with rock of any kind are inducted. From 1968 to 2012 and beyond is an awfully good run.

  31. It’s just a glorified museum for the acts Jann Wenner likes. Who cares if your favorite bands get in or not?

  32. I have adored the Moody Blues and Yes for decades and don’t understand why their music isn’t considered rock n roll. The Moodies still tour long schedules every year and have a devoted fan following.

  33. Pingback: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame or Shame? | PopMatters « Hypnotik Radio's Blog

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