Roger Hodgson collaboration represents road not taken for Yes: ‘One of those things that fizzled out’

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The pop-focused single “Walls,” released on December 25, 1994, represents a road not taken for Yes. After all, co-writer Roger Hodgson — best known, of course, as a member of Supertramp — was rumored at one time to be a possible replacement for departed frontman Jon Anderson.

In some ways, it would have made a nice transition, since Hodgson’s vocal range would seem to fit the classic Yes style. Ultimately, however, Jon Anderson returned. “Walls” appeared on 1994’s Talk, with shared writing credits for Hodgson, Rabin and Anderson.

But just how close was this near-miss confluence of blockbuster rock bands?

“Yes, Trevor Rabin contacted me to see if I would like to join Yes,” Hodgson tells CBS. “Even though I did not think that was a good idea, he and I really hit it off and we did spend quite a bit of time in the studio and, yes, there is music that we did together that has not been released.”

Rabin later appeared on “The More I Look,” from Roger Hodgson’s 2000 solo album Open the Door. “Saving My Heart,” which earlier found a home on Yes’ 1991 album Union, was apparently intended at first to be another collaboration between Rabin and Hodgson.

Stalwart Chris Squire, however, says the collaboration evolved organically, before falling apart.

“It wasn’t so much to be the lead singer of Yes, but a different project,” Squire tells Innerviews. “Whether that would have evolved into Yes at some point, I don’t know. We weren’t looking for it to be Yes. Roger is a friend of mine. The band would have been Roger, Trevor Rabin, Alan White, and myself. I stayed at Roger’s house in Northern California once for a few weeks and worked on some material. It was one of those things that fizzled out and didn’t go anywhere.”

“Walls” certainly works in contrast to more explorative prog-leaning efforts found elsewhere on Talk, notably “State of Play” and “Endless Dream” — the latter of which unfolded as a segmented 15-minute narrative, the middle section of which gave the 1994 album its title. It was the Hodgson collaboration that was released, however, and keyboardist Tony Kaye thinks that may have doomed Talk.

“Maybe the singles that came from it were maybe not to people’s liking,” Kaye tells us, in an exclusive Something Else! Sitdown. “Yes fans didn’t want another pop single — even though the album was very much in a ’70s Yes style in a lot of ways, in that there were long pieces and intricate playing and all the rest of it.”

Talk failed to crack the U.S. Top 20, a first for Yes going back more than two decades. Trevor Rabin would soon depart, as well. But “Walls,” whatever the criticisms, actually rose to No. 25 on Billboard’s rock tracks list — becoming Yes’ second-to-last charting single, followed by the title track to Open Your Eyes, which went to No. 33 in 1997.

Roger Hodgson retained the magic touch that made 1979’s Breakfast in America such a huge hit. Who knows where this might have led? “It worked well,” Hodgson later said, “but when getting down to it, I’d rather continue my solo career.”

In an interesting twist, Chris Squire participated in an all-star tribute to Supertramp in 2012 called Songs of the Century, appearing with Billy Sherwood — who worked as second guitarist on the Talk tour in 1994-95.

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