May 012010

In our recent thread examining things singers do during long solos and other instrumental breaks, we discussed the move known as The Anderson, named after Yes singer Jon Anderson‘s surprisingly effective, drama-free approach to commanding the stage during long stretches when he could have had nothing better to do than iron out the wrinkles in his dashiki. Someone wondered if the reference to the move’s lack of “drama” was a commentary on the brief period when the Drama-era Yes was led by Trevor Horn, then of The Buggles’ fame and soon to be better known as a producer of slick, fairly interesting ’80s (and beyond) pop. Although the reference to the Horn era was unintentional, this observation necessitated a full-blown examination of the contrasting instrumental break styles of Anderson and Horn.

It takes almost a minute into the opening clip before the camera cuts to Horn, who by that point in the song is ready to sing. He stands is ground calmly, much like Anderson, but he’s more apt to grab the shaft of the mic stand. For comparison, check out Anderson at the 1:45 mark of the following video, where he’s grabbing the mic itself, a mic mounted on a boom stand, I might add. Then, as the the instrumental break in “Long Distance Runaround” takes off Anderson is seen clapping along in 23/9 time. Consistent with the principles of The Anderson, it’s as if to say, “I’m not just a dumb singer; I understand the intricacies of this music as much as Wakeman or Howe!”

Getting back to the Horn-era clip, you’ll notice a reliance on dramatic hand gestures. For a guy who didn’t have a fraction of the live experience of Jon Anderson, Trevor Horn is a pretty accomplished, if conventional, frontman. It’s when Chris Squire’s bass solo kicks in, at the 3:17 mark, that I first miss the leadership of Jon Anderson. Horn tries to soulfully clutch onto the mic stand, in a move reminiscent of that Blood, Sweat & Tears-replacement singer’s Blinded by da Blooz move. Then…he’s got nothing else.

Word is, when this song was composed Squire and Howe intended to trade licks for a good 3 minutes. Because of Horn’s inability to hold center stage during the long instrumental break, the break had to be cut to a scant 30 seconds. (By the way, can we take a moment to appreciated Howe’s use of 3 guitars on this short song?)

Beside the video for “Tempus Fugit,” likely filmed on the same day, I could not find further video evidence of Horn performing with Yes. I was hoping to compare a Horn performance of an Anderson-era classic. Too bad. My research did lead me to contemplate many things I had no business contemplating, such as why Anderson split from the band, how the band so quickly adopted worse fashions than what they wore in the ’70s, whether Squire’s switch from the Rickenbacker bass to the hideous thing he plays in this clip was a requirement to match his new outfit, and so forth. I think I’m going to have to read up on this weird period in Yes’ history and reflect on the destructive forces of the 1980s. Feel free to spare me the journey to some Yes fanboy websites and fill me in on some of these details in the comfort of our hallowed halls. Thanks.


  6 Responses to “Things Trevor Horn Did During Long Solos”

  1. Mr. Moderator

    No one saved me the trouble of looking up Yes’ years of change on Wikipedia, but now that I have, I can’t complain. For anyone interested in an amazing tale of a crumbling empire, scroll down to the “Upheaval (Pais Sessions)” section and read through the end.

  2. I spent a little bit of the morning reading Yes’ Wikipedia page and found it pretty fascinating. Same as those clips with Horn in the band. Speaking as someone who’s not a huge prog fan, those performances weren’t bad

  3. jeangray

    WoW! Talk about some crimes against fashion. Who would have thought that Horn would be the most tasteful dresser in the group????? Too funny.

    As I read the wiki-entry, I had a flashback to my ol’ record store daze. One day a customer claimed that he had a bootleg of XYZ, and that it was some of the most’ mind blowing musik he had ever heard. If you haven’t read the wiki, XYZ was the band that Squire & White started w/Page & Plant in ’81 after the demise of Yes & Zep. They never released any official recorded output.

    In all my travels, I have never seen nor heard this XYZ bootleg, and now wonder if it actually exists at all.

    Anybody else out there know about this one????????

  4. hrrundivbakshi

    Hey, jeangray — check this forum out for more G2 on XYZ:

    There’s a link to one of the tunes on YouTube, from whence you can find more tunage if you want.

  5. Trevor Horn’s 7 months in Yes remains one of the oddest substitutions in the annals of rock. I saw Yes on the Drama tour in high school and I was amazed that Horn wasn’t pelted by glowsticks a la the infamous “Blondie opening for Rush” incident. His voice was not far from Anderson’s, so as a studio choice it sort of makes sense, but his Look was totally incongruous. He does look like he’s at a loss for how to act like himself and the singer of Yes in that video.

    This episode strikes me as part of the zeitgeist of the “Hedging Their Bets” era of rock ca. 1977-80. The twin evils of disco and punk really seemed like an insidious threat to some. While the old-line dinosaurs denounced disco/punk/new wave as a fad, the also went out of their way (probably with a lot of prodding from managers, producers and record companies) to co-opt disco and punk/new-wave music and mannerisms at a surface level just in case Rock really was going to die once and for all. So you get some skinny ties, leather pants, sunglasses and Buggles with your prog-lite. Why not?

  6. Why not? I saw Yes tour behind “90125” in Hersheypark stadium. Hearing them try to duplicate the swoopy stereo effects in an echo-y concrete stadium was migraine inducing.

    As I recall, they stuck to 90215 and Drama tracks. I vaguely remember an instrumental medley including bits from Starship Trooper, Long Distance Runaround, etc. kind of like what late-period Genesis used to do with earlier Peter Gabriel numbers.

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