Yes, “Don’t Kill The Whale” from Tormato (1978): YESterdays

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“You’re first I’m last
You’re thirst I’m asked to justify
Killing our last heaven beast
Don’t hunt the whale
In beauty vision
Do we offer much
If we reason with destiny, gonna lose our touch
Don’t kill the whale … .”

Hardly the lyrics you’d expect from a song released as a single, yet Yes’ “Don’t Kill The Whale” did surprisingly well in the U.K. – reaching No. 36. This second song from 1978’s Tormato relies on a more straight-ahead rock sensibility than we usually expect from the world’s greatest progressive rock band.

Yes drummer Alan While provides a chunky back beat, which propels the song along. His octoban-sounding tom tom rolls give “Don’t Kill The Whale” a needed kick. While effective, however, Steve Howe’s turn on a Gibson Les Paul custom is hardly his best guitar work. Indeed, Howe’s playing is as solid as always, but the guitar sounds muddy and filtered.

Bassist Chris Squire is also an unfortunate victim of the mix. The same cannot be said of Rick Wakeman, whose Moog keyboard round screeches and whines. Wakeman’s soundscape is an albatross around the neck of what would otherwise be an effective protect song. Jon Anderson provides an impassioned lead vocal which is echoed by co-writer Squire’s always-effective harmony.

“Don’t Kill The Whale” has an almost punk aesthetic, but can’t overcome its plodding mix and laymen production. Tormato would greatly benefit from a Steve Wilson sonic makeover, as there are many solid Yes elements which are hampered by the production and mix.

Despite all of that, “Don’t Kill The Whale” is actually one of the stronger tracks on this Yes lackluster album. It certainly would have made a more inspiring choice to open Tormato than “Future Times/Rejoice.”

Preston Frazier’s YESterdays is a song-by-song feature that explores the unforgettable musical legacy of Yes. The series runs every other Tuesday.

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier is a bass-playing lawyer living in Atlanta. His first Steely Dan exposure was with an eight-track cassette of 'Pretzel Logic.' He can be reached at; follow him on Twitter: @slangofages. Contact Something Else! at
Preston Frazier
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