‘I’ve only got myself to argue with now’: Jon Anderson is at peace, even as Yes begins latest tour without him

As Yes prepares to kick off a new tour featuring performances of three classic albums, departed co-founding frontman Jon Anderson wonders what might have been. See, he was the one who first floated the concept.

“It’s a good idea,” Anderson tells us, in an exclusive SER Sitdown. “I actually talked about doing that, a couple of times before.”

Yes begins this new tour, featuring complete readings of 1977’s Going for the One, 1972′s Close to the Edge and 1971’s The Yes Album, on Friday, March 1, 2013, with dates continuing through May across the U.S. and into South America. Anderson co-wrote and sang on all three albums.

“I put forward that idea about 10 years ago, that we should do something very special,” Anderson said. “I wanted to call it The Yes Festival. We would stay in one area, and Friday, Saturday and Sunday we’d play an album or two per night. We’d play over a period of time, and invite people to come — sort of like a Yes camp. I’d do the barbeque! (Laughs.) They thought I was out of my brain! But fans could spend that time with the band. We could do solo performances, then do a big concert. We could create a festival atmosphere. But you talk about stuff like that, because you are itching to do something different.”

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: Jon Anderson talked to us earlier this year about his remarkable creative resurgence since leaving Yes, and what's ahead for him musically in 2013.]

By 2007, Anderson had begun to suffer some respiratory problems, and split with Yes after 18 studio albums. He’d last performed live with the band in 2004.

“They’re carrying on,” Anderson says. “Fans have lost interest in the whole concept, anyway. It’s what it is. It’s going to go the way it’s going to go — that’s really all I can say. I think a lot of people are just disappointed, like I was, that it’s lost that impetus that made Yes music so beautiful and different.”

Canadian singer Benoit David initially succeeded Anderson in Yes, but he too was felled by respiratory issues. David has since been replaced by Jon Davison, who also fronts the American progressive-rock band Glass Hammer.

“I haven’t heard him singing,” Anderson says of Davison. “I heard Benoit when someone sent me a link on YouTube, and he was singing pretty good. He’s a good singer, but he was having a tough time after a year on the road. Singers, it’s a very physical thing, and they are the most affected by long touring. It happened to me two or three times, where I got pretty ill. Of course, Benoit didn’t last too long. This guy Jon, who’s in the band now, he obviously likes Yes, too. Both of them like the singing, and the songs that I wrote. They say that when someone copies you, it’s the sincerest form of flattery.”

Anderson says he’s made overtures about joining the Yes fold again, since getting his health back. His only condition, Anderson says, was that classic-era keyboardist Rick Wakeman return as well. Bassist Chris Squire and guitarist Steve Howe, Anderson adds, weren’t interested.

“Chris and Steve like to have control of things. That’s what they want to do,” Anderson says. “I’ve said two or three times, I’d love to get back together — as long as Rick is back in the band. They don’t seem to be hearing that, at the moment. Maybe, one day it will happen. We’ll see.”

Anderson remains close with Wakeman, who was part of both the original Close to the Edge and Going for the One sessions. The duo has issued two albums together since 2010, one a studio effort and the other a live release. More combined concert dates with Wakeman could be in the offing, perhaps as early as this spring.

“He’s going to be in Australia two weeks before I go to Australia, in April, so we’re talking about maybe linking up, and doing some shows in that area,” Anderson says. “We’re also talking about some new music we want to do together. It’s just finding the right time, as always.”

Ultimately, Anderson has found peace as a solo artist, something that’s borne out in the flurry of activity that’s followed his departure from Yes.

“I’ve only got myself to argue with now, so I’m happy,” Anderson says, laughing.

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Nick DeRiso

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has also explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Ultimate Classic Rock and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.

11 Comments

  1. Sharon Wicks says:

    I saw YES in concert only with Jon as the front, about 4 times in PA. I love his voice, it is truly healing to mt spirit. Glad he is well and happy and I am sure Debbie plays a major role in Jon’s contentment.

  2. Greg Richards says:

    ……i saw yes in the early 70′s in Wilmington NC…..They
    seriously blew people away!!!!
    I would love to see Bill Bruford… Rick Wakeman
    and Jon Anderson… joined by a small brass and string quintet… two backup singers along with a small dance
    troupe… and an awesome lightshow… Then they could …..and do a complete cover of the Olias of Sunhillow album. I think this would simply blow everyone away…. ..completely… not just a little…i mean completely. This would definitely put so much icing on Jon’s cake………
    peace… love… and strength guy’s……!!

  3. Rick Gregory says:

    ……i saw yes in the early 70′s in Wilmington NC…..They

    seriously blew people away!!!!
    I would love to see Bill Bruford… Rick Wakeman
    and Jon Anderson… joined by a small brass and string quintet… two backup singers along with a small dance
    troupe… and an awesome lightshow… Then they could …..and do a complete cover of the Olias of Sunhillow album. I think this would simply blow everyone away…. ..completely… not just a little…i mean completely. This would definitely put so much icing on Jon’s cake………
    peace… love… and strength guy’s……!!

  4. Anderson’s last big contribution to Yes was “Magnification”, an album without Wakeman or any keyboardist at all. Meh. I’m not interested in having a semi-retired vocalist or keyboardist rejoin if they’re only going to want to do a few dates here and there, or want to do shorter shows, or acoustic shows with a bunch of medleys and all the prog drained out of them, or refuse to play material from when they weren’t members. It’s funny to hear Anderson protesting now, after saying for decades that he saw Yes as an orchestra that would continue even after all the original members were unable to perform anymore.

    What I do like is Yes as they exist today.

    • Anderson was more important to YES than any other individual member. Beyond the songs and sound, he was their heart and soul. Yes as they exist today are going through the motions for the paycheck and lifestyle maintenance — a mere shadow of the once majestic and innovative musical force that filled stadiums. You can have them.

      • Aldo Giannantonio says:

        Amen to that…Yes was not just a great Band…they were unique with their musical, lyrical and Spiritual style…basically a Zen of the Cosmos.

        You might get close in imitating a voice, but not the core Spirit.

        The new line up sounds good…but no creativity like they had with Jon Anderson….not to mention his Voice….the Voice…

  5. Patrick Lattanzio says:

    Anderson is the voice of Yes. You cannot deny their best work always was with much of his input. I wish they could put egos aside especially given their age and just either get together or end it once and for all. I mean you’ll never get the quality of material they helmed from the Yes Album through Going for the One. It was lightening in a bottle and served as the very best of prog.

  6. Rob John Meronek says:

    I think it’s really great that they carry on in different combinations through time, but I’d still like to hear Jon and Rick back in the group again. Heaven would be a lonely place if someone was missing.

  7. Your an incredible singer and songwriter. Stay strong and healthy!
    True Yes fans know that you are the only voice of Yes.

  8. I do hope to see Jon and Rick back with YES. The replacement Jon does a pretty good job but there’s nothing like the real thing!!!!!! And I am sorry, but Rick plays the heck out of those keyboards! Come on Chris and Steve, play fair and let those guys back in. WE ARE THE FANS – YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO PLEASE US!!!!!

  9. Lester Czech says:

    I first saw Yes in 1972… I still have the ticket stub… $4.50 for a seat!

    I saw Yes at Jones Beach a few years ago and they were amazing… met Jon Anderson back stage. A really nice guy.

    I was SO tempted to go see them on their most recent tour, but when I found out that they were touring without Jon Anderson, I was like “wtf!?”

    I agree, Rick and Jon should both be back in the band!

    Jon, you’re the best! Take Care of yourself.

    A fan forever.

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