‘It’s a pretty daunting task’: Yes’ Geoff Downes on following Rick Wakeman, and avoiding the capes

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When Geoff Downes was invited, along with fellow Buggles co-founder Trevor Horn, to join Yes just before 1980’s Drama, the keyboardist was taking over a seat once warmed by the legendarily talented, and memorably caped Rick Wakeman.

“It was an awe-inspiring challenge, really — in many respects,” Downes says, in the attached video. “It’s a pretty daunting task.”

Horn assumed vocal duties from Jon Anderson for Drama, before moving to the producer’s role for subsequent efforts like 90125, Big Generator, and Fly From Here. Downes subsequently left to form Asia in the early 1980s, but has since returned for 2011’s Fly From Here and its subsequent tours.

Downes says he considered, briefly, donning a cape similar to Wakeman — but wasn’t sure if he could pull off that legendary sartorial choice. “I thought about the cape,” Downes says, laughing. “But I avoided that one. Rick Wakeman was very good with his capes, and he still is, as far as I know.”

Ultimately, Downes says Horn’s initial task would prove far more difficult — because Yes had already had two or three keyboard players before me. It wasn’t so weird that I would be in there,” Downes adds “Trevor was replacing Jon Anderson who, of course, was a founding member and had been the only singer up to that point.”

Yes is current on tour performing a trio of 1970s albums, two of which — 1977’s Going for the One and 1972’s Close to the Edge — originally featured Wakeman. The shows are rounded out by The Yes Album, a 1971 project that featured founding keyboard player Tony Kaye. Patrick Moraz had been on keys for 1974’s Relayer.

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