Almost 50 years ago, another band graced our stages. Their sweet, funky tunes grooved from our speakers and into our hippie homes, brightening dark days—or adding more flavor to an already sunny hour. They were recently welcomed with wide arms into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and now they’re returning to our neck of the woods for a round of gigs. That’s right, the members of Yes are back in town and ready to rock.
Hailing from London, England, Yes is preparing to enter their 50th anniversary. While the group has seen members come and go, the current lineup continues to slam audiences with the eclectic Yes tunes generations have fallen in love with. Members Alan White (drums), Steve Howe (guitar, vocals), Geoff Downes (keyboard), Jon Davison (vocals, guitar), and Billy Sherwood (bass) are spanning the country in celebration of the ongoing Yestival.
In April 2017, the remaining original members were inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in celebration of their decades of achievement. During the ceremony, White and Howe were joined by previous members, Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin, Rick Wakeman, Tony Kaye, and Bill Bruford, making the night truly magical. Before the tour kicked off, I was fortunate to talk to Alan White about his experience as an accomplished drummer, his time as a member of Yes, the current tour, and what it meant to be recognized for his accomplishments in the music industry.
So how’ve you been doing lately? You’ve got the Yestival just around the corner.
I’m doing fine. A lot of people know I’ve had a couple of back injuries. The last one was a couple of months ago, but I’m walking at a normal pace now, so (laughs).
Oh jeez (laughs). Just in time for the tour!
Oh yes. I’m okay now. I’m with my own band now, doing a couple of shows in the area.
Good to hear! Have you had time to prepare for the tour coming up?
Yeah! And, you know, we’re playing songs from every album from 1978 to ’80. We’re playing one song from every album, so it’s kind of an interesting set from the tour.
Yeah, I saw that. How’d you guys choose that set?
I think it came from Steven—Steve Howe—we said, “Yeah! Let’s do that.” It was a good idea.
It is. Do you have all of the tracks picked out?
Oh yeah. We made sure it would work and now we’re ready to go. I mean, there’s a little wear and tear here, but everybody’s ready to go.
That’s good to hear! Have you been working on any new material?
Well, we’re working on new material individually and we’ll put it all together eventually, but we’re not too worried about that yet because next year is the 50th anniversary and we’ll be touring quite a lot.
And that’s a huge achievement. I was going to ask how you’ll be celebrating that.
Well, we’re gonna be touring quite a bit through the year. We’re gonna be doing Europe in the springtime and America in the summer. It should be interesting.
It’ll be a fun time. But this year, you were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame this past spring?
Congratulations—can you tell me about the experience?
Well, it was a great evening and it’s always great to get some kind of recognition, especially in the Hall of Fame, for all of the things you’ve done throughout your career.
What was it like playing on stage during the ceremony?
Oh, well it was fine! You know, we got to play with Anderson—Jon Anderson—Trevor Rabin, Rick Wakeman, and myself, and Steve Howe. And it was, you know. The band sounded great. It was like nothing had changed.
When joining Yes back in the early years, did you think the band would maintain 50 years of success?
Well, when I joined the band, the band was already really talented and ambitious and being invited to join that was great for me and a step in my career. I wouldn’t have guessed it back then, but here I am, I’ve been in the band 45 years now, so it was a great lifetime experience.
You can say that again. You personally have had plenty of success as a drummer. You’ve performed on over 50 albums.
Yep! That’s right.
That list includes the track “Imagine” by John Lennon. Can you describe those experiences?
Yeah, there were quite a few things I’ve performed on: “Imagine,” I’ve performed with George Harrison, Denny Laine, all sorts of people.
How did that work? How did you get involved with all of those artists?
Well, [Lennon] called me and I was only 20 years old when I first performed with him on Live Peace in Toronto, the live album. And then we became pretty good friends after that.
Wow. Now, when you were a kid learning music, what did you think would come of the lessons? Did you think you’d have this booming music career?
(Laughs) I don’t know about that. I only took a couple of drumming lessons. The rest of it was self-taught. I had the music in me and I just knew what to do when I heard music.
Don’t miss as Yes pulls into the Tower Theatre in Upper Darby, PA on Aug. 8, theFord Amphitheater At Coney Island Boardwalk on Aug. 11, the PNC Bank Arts Center on Aug. 12, and The Paramount in Huntington, NY on Sept. 18 and 19. For more on these rockers, visit their site: yesworld.com.