Yes, “Big Generator” from Big Generator (1987): YESterdays

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The title track to Yes’ 12th studio album contains writing contributions from the entire group, but sounds very little like the music of old from the world’s greatest progressive rock band.

The song “Big Generator” evolved from a riff by Yes’ late stalwart bassist Chris Squire, which was then embellished by Trevor Rabin. Alan White’s snare is tuned high and tight, and the guitar and drum onslaught almost buries the vocals by Jon Anderson.

If the lyrics were actually buried, however, that would not have been a bad thing:

Such a strange pre-occupation
Such a strange peculiar breed
How it’s shining in its armour
Made of gold and made of steel
It can strike a chord inside you
Like a generation’s need
Speaking happy words of promise
Big generator
Lives out of sight
Big generator
Hands upon the wheel

“Big Generator” seems desperate in its need to sound modern. Even the drum/guitar interlude seems like an afterthought, and the sampled horns verge on painful.

Taken as a whole, this Yes song is like your favorite donut. It tastes good at first, but you know there’s little nutritional value – and it will eventually lead to decay.

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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