Yes, “Into the Lens” from Drama (1980): YESterdays

Given the current state of the Yes world now, it’s easy to see why “Into the Lens” – the only single from 1980’s Drama – was not a huge sales success.

The Yes fandom’s resistance to anything but the original band is baffling, especially when Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman where not in the initial lineup. Indeed, Wakeman contributed to seven studio albums, the same number as original keyboardist Tony Kaye – and Alan White has been the Yes drummer four times as long as the now-very retired Bill Bruford. Perhaps the most resistance to Drama stems from the fact that someone other than Jon Anderson is singing.

Regardless of what problems Trevor Horn may have had on the Drama tour, he contributed some of the best songs in the Yes canon. Furthermore, without him stepping in twice, there would be no Yes today.

“Into the Lens” builds on the strengths of the song “I Am a Camera,” composed by Horn and Geoff Downes for their second Buggles project. The album version of the track adds a staccato snare and synthesizer opening which followed a very prominent Chris Squire bass counter point. Steve Howe quickly joins the proceedings with his lap steel guitar, adding an element of distortion while Downes adds a cleaner synth patch to the overture.

By the time Trevor Horn comes in with his pleading tenor, things have calmed down – but only for a minute. “Into the Lens” is multilayered and mystical like the best of Yes songs, but it’s never labored or overwrought. Horn’s lyrics are cryptic yet descriptive. The theme of time passing is reflected in Downes’ osculating keyboards, just before Horn presses the main theme. Howe returns, but this time with a Gibson which seems to run through a filter and floats over the urgent melodic playing of Alan White.

This is another song where White clearly shines, but Squire, the instrumental hero of “Does It Really Happen,” continues to impress with his descending sweeps and innovative passages. Yes has never sounded more like a cohesive unit than here. All the pieces fit, as the band is at their arranging heights. They even throw in a tasty recapitulation then give Howe more room for his stirring leads. All this builds to a climax which transforms the listener.

“Into the Lens” is a classic which I’ve had the pleasure of seeing performed live during the 2016 summer and 2017 winter tours. The world’s greatest progressive rock band did edit to song for single release, but not all the great elements exist there as are present in the album version.

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 slangofages@icloud.com; follow him on Twitter: @slangofages. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Preston Frazier