Throughout 2022, Bill Bruford has been populating his YouTube channel with brilliant video material covering his whole career. One of the most fascinating pieces of film he’s posted is the first episode of Sounding Out – a short-lived, late-night BBC1 music show – featuring Yes.
Originally broadcast 10 January 1972, it is, as Bruford notes, “one of very few extant TV shows of the early Yes”, and captures the band on the cusp of serious renown in both Britain and the US just prior to the release of their fourth album Fragile.
Featuring tremendous footage of the band playing the previous October at the Pavilion in Hemel Hempstead, and including excerpts from Perpetual Change, Yours Is No Disgrace, Long Distance Runaround and Heart Of The Sunrise, this would be one of the band’s last appearances on Britain’s provincial gig circuit before crossing the Atlantic to conquer America.
But perhaps even more fascinating are the interviews with the individual band members interspersed throughout. The trailer for the programme said, “When a rock band goes on stage these days, it faces a host of challenges, vocal, instrumental, electronic and psychological. Yes plays more complex music than most groups. How do they see the problems?”
The members attempt to address these questions, but it’s the way their personalities come over that’s more interesting.
First up is Jon Anderson, who in contrast to his angelic, arm-flapping persona on stage, is down to earth and rather shy, reminiscing in his lilting Lancashire accent about pretending to be Paul McCartney in his old band The Warriors, and finding meaning in Yes’s songs after they’ve been written. (And if you’re wondering what that unusual keyboard is that Anderson is seen playing at 6:20, it’s actually Chris Squire’s Dewtron Mister Bassman bass pedal.)
Next is the well-spoken and self-assured Mr Bruford himself, who makes the interesting comment, “I like hearing mistakes in my music, because it seems to me that people are trying and that risks are being run.” However, Squire wins no prizes in 2022 when he observes that, “the audiences are much more educated these days,” but then adds, “even some of the chicks are aware of what strings are used on certain bass guitars.”
Predictably, it’s Rick Wakeman who provides the most comedic value when he remembers forgetting a cue during his first gig with the band: “There was dead silence, and I thought, somebody’s meant to play. But they all know the piece very well – so it’s got to be me… The gap wasn’t very long, but it seemed like days.” (And this all delivered in the style of Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnell.)
Lastly, Steve Howe gives a masterclass in co-opting Vivaldi while apparently dressed as an extra from The Prisoner, before snarkily opining, “I didn’t think the sound that the BBC got was very good, I wish you’d taken the sound from our mix.”
The final word comes from Bruford, reflecting on Yes’s audience following shots of the crowd going wild after a fabulous version of Yours Is No Disgrace: “They’re going to be 16-20, the young, white, affluent kids of the town you’re in, they’re all going to have long hair, and wearing slightly tattier clothes than they need to wear.” Thankfully, we’ve come a long way since then.
Watch the interview below,