‘Shoot High, Aim Low’ showed where Yes could have gone: ‘It was hard at that time’

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By 1987, in the wake of their first (and so far, only) No. 1 smash, Yes was expected to craft hit singles — leaving canny updates like this one often completely overlooked. Call it the Curse of 90125, from nearly five years before.

There followed undue pressure to chart songs, something that was unlikely to happen with a moody, complicated piece like “Shoot High, Aim Low,” released on December 31, 1987. For those who stubbornly refuse to stop keeping score, despite Yes’ long history as an album-rock band, this track managed to reach No. 11 on the mainstream rock list — though it failed to place on the Billboard Hot 100. Nevertheless, “Shoot High, Aim Low” has proven to be far sturdier than its turbulent history might suggest.

Going back a few years, Trevor Rabin had been unexpectedly thrust into a collaborative environment with Jon Anderson when Yes’ original singer joined the already long-underway sessions for 90125. It wasn’t until the group reformed to begin work on the follow up, 1987’s Big Generator, that Rabin had an opportunity to get to know Anderson creatively — and to work organically.

The results on “Shoot High, Aim Low” represent an undisputed early highpoint. “That’s my favorite track on the album,” Rabin tells us, in an exclusive Something Else! Sitdown. “With 90125, Jon was kind of wheeled in at the end, and in my view had significant input. He really added great stuff. But we’d never really worked together, so when it came to Big Generator, and we were now working as a band, it was strange in the beginning. There were moments that were really special, eventually, like ‘Shoot High, Aim Low.’ They culminated in Jon and I working together really strongly on the following album, Talk — the last album I did with the band.”

The synth-driven “Shoot High, Aim Low” echoes some of Jon Anderson’s most passionate calls for peace, updating it for a new generation, even as Rabin effectively vocalizes in counterpoint. Trevor Rabin offers a series of crisp asides on the guitar, too, including a nifty Spanish-themed section.

Alas, the pressures to create another 90125-level hit impacted the album, and the band. Big Generator took so long to complete that Anderson was able to start, and finish, two other solo projects.

Yet, singing together in concert, something magical still happened, Anderson concedes — even if, alas, it wasn’t to last. “It was a very difficult period, with a lot of drugs and too much money,” Anderson tells us. “But, on stage, ‘Shoot High Aim Low’ was magical. I was pushing the band back to doing Yes music, basically. We were just making hit records, and that was the problem of the 1980s. I said, ‘No, we have to make great music.’ It was hard at that time.”

“Shoot High, Aim Low” ends with Trevor Rabin prophetically singing: “We didn’t get much farther.” Jon Anderson took another hiatus from the band not long after: “There were a lot of dark emotions,” Anderson says. “It wasn’t fulfilling what I wanted from the band. So I went off.” Yes only released one more album with Rabin as leader — and then he was gone, too.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, 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 U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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  • Allison Kirkpatrick

    All of Yes’s best work was in the 1970s. 90125 was actually a pretty good album but Big Generator was a real drop-off, as was nearly everything that followed.

  • m97402

    If you were into the acid fueled pieces of the early 70s you might wonder who the hell 80s yes was. I think that you can’t really pigeonhole this band. They’ve done over 20 studio albums and hundreds of songs. They explored a lot of different styles of music. As much as I like the long “symphonic” pieces, I really like the songs like ‘Shoot High, Aim Low’ as well.

  • carl peart

    not a bad album, except for that godawful lyric in Love Will Find A Way–‘…here is my heart/waiting for you/here is my heart/I EAT AT CHEZ NOUS’?????????!@#$%^&!!!

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