Well, they finally made it. If you read the short bio on the site, it’s actually pretty good. The piccie they chose for arguably the defining progressive rock group? Nicht so gut. Bill looks a bit out of place. And Rick? That hat? Oy veh. (He never did quite look comfortable in the mold of astral traveller, now did he?)
Regardless, THREE CHEERS. Look, I’ve made no secret of the fact that Yes is my personal fave of all times. Lots of people say they have one record that “literally changed my life!!!!!!!” And for me, Yessongs is it. I can never say enough good things about that album and what it means to me.
And frankly, I thought they’d never get in. Time has passed and the whole idea of the Hall Of Fame has become (like the Grammys) truly diluted and polluted with stuff that is a million miles from the original ‘mission’. It’s like so many lenses of pop culture where what seems to matter most is what has happened in the past ten years–or what is politically and culturally au courant.
But Yes was no flash in the pan. As I said, for many of us, they were Progressive Rock. And Progressive Rock mattered. It has become the butt of so many Spinal Tap jokes that most forget how truly influential (and financially lucrative) the genre was before it faded from view in the early 80’s.
In my view, the genre now exists only as a shadow of itself as (cough) ‘prog’. There are only a few Obi Wans who really do it properly and the rest are utter rubbish. But then… I could say the same for 1973. Back then, most of the groups were awful too. The difference being that so many of them had record deals! 😀
My regret about ‘prog’ is that, unlike so many other rock genres, it had room to grow. The basic premise: a synthesis of classical and ‘folk’ elements into long-form music done by a rock band? Coulda been, shoulda been an ongoing concern for decades, like big bands in jazz–maybe not a huge money-maker, but a respected art form. Sadly, no Duke Ellington came along to make that happen.
It’s only fitting that the Rabin-era band were also inducted. That configuration brought them the longevity and MTV popularity that one seems to need in order to get into ‘the hall’. I don’t particularly think of the music of that era as particularly ‘prog’ but again, a band needs to be ‘culturally significant’ in order to make the grade. And it’s tough to imagine Yes getting in -without- a song like ‘Owner Of A Lonely Heart’ blasting away every hour on MTV in the early 80’s.
But forget all the quibbles and asterisks and let’s celebrate Yes for what they’ve left us. As cliché as it sounds, they’ve left us at least half a dozen records that were truly revolutionary and sound as great today as they did fifty (!) years ago. Their music is far more important than most critics will admit and their influence on bands that achieved even greater popularity is undeniable.
My recommended albums:
Yessongs (1973) Start here. As I gushed, it’s my fave live album of all time. It not only gives one their ‘essential catalogue’ from the ‘classic period’, but the playing is totally happening–many performances completely surpassing their studio counterparts.
Relayer (1975) For me this album is an elegy. Rick Wakeman left, replaced by keyboardist Patrick Moraz and their direction started towards a jazz/fusion place which I find utterly compelling, tantalising and a bit frustrating. If this configuration had stayed together, they could’ve literally re-invented the genre. But they didn’t stay together. So I find every record after this (as much as I love a lot of it) wanting, because it’s all something of a retrenchment. And in my view, Progressive Rock should always be moving forward.
Big Generator (1983) This is, in my opinion the best Rabin-era record. It recaptures at least -some- of the Progressive Rock ethos they lost when reaching for pop stardom.