by Paul Watson
Four amazing new Prog book releases [Part One]. I can’t believe how much literature around Prog has been published over the past year. Even this year! Initially I was going to include all four books I want to mention here in one go but after a brief conversation with Jon for research and background purposes it turned into a worthy interview, so I will devote one page for each book.
Phew…! This lockdown means we’re all stuck at home left to our own devices to stave off repetition and boredom as best we can. That means our work and leisure time is consumed with mostly being inside our own respective bubbles, and for the most part it seems to be working out for a lot of us. Some not so lucky and our best wishes to them during this planetary-defining epidemic. Truly. But it begs the question for a fair few of us of, “what to do… what to do…” especially when our leisure activity is measured by the width and breath of your living habitat. So what to do….
There’s an old adage around response which sums it up nicely with, “fight or flight,” but for our own individual intents and purposes how about, “fight or flight, or read a good Prog book lately“? I’ve got four of them I recently received that I would recommend to make your self imposed bubble open up new worlds and possibilities into the music we hold so dear to our hearts and ears.
We may not being going to any concerts for some time yet. I can tell you how long Close To The Edge is but I’m not having much luck with guessing the length of a piece of string is, and I imagine a lot of bands and their management and promoters and concert facilities, not to mention fans are struggling with this very equation at the moment.
If you’re missing going to concerts and being as one with the crowd then do I have the book for you. What better way to be social closening when you’re social distancing. In fact what you will have in your hands when you purchase this book is a half century plus in celebration of Yes and their fans, and a precious slice of the almost 3,000 concerts which also includes Yes Featuring ARW, including some of their solo accomplishments for Jon, Trevor and Rick over the years. Of course I’m talking about Jon Kirkman‘s new coffee table-sized book TALES FROM PHOTOGRAPHIC OCEANS: GIANTS UNDER THE SUN [Classic Rock Vaults Books]. And when Jon says “giants” he isn’t just talking about that wonderful concept double album of 1973. He isn’t just talking about one of the super Prog bands from the 70’s. He’s also talking about the size of this book with some amazing photos of these times captured in such vibrant clarity and sense of the occasion. All caught on film and lovingly retained and shared here from an orchestrated gathering of fan’s very own private collections.
The past 51 years or so have not been uneventful for the members of this band. And then some. Neither have they been unkind. Jon has segmented these events into 35 chapters starting with a concert at Bristol University on the 4th of October 1969. In fact 1969 saw them playing the most gigs of any year Yes have been together with a worthy 200 under their belt. And that includes going into two studios (Advision Studios and Trident Studios) to record their first album during April and May of that year. The second highest concert count would be in 1971 with 165.
Each chapter is devoted to a certain concert and not only do you get photos taken at these events Jon has included the setlist they played and some interesting tidbits around that period taken from his vast knowledge of the band and their music. Chapter 35 is actually devoted to some of the many times Jon has meet the various members and lineups with a myriad of photos taken. Within those chapters you will find Yes and most of their lineups over the years; a section devoted to Trevor Rabin in 1989; then further on to 2006 and Rick Wakeman‘s ‘Return To The Centre Of The Earth Tour‘ followed in the next pages with Jon Anderson‘s solo tour captured in Canada in 2008. ARW (Anderson Rabin Wakeman or Yes Featuring Anderson Rabin Wakeman – they were a band who liked to cover their bases that’s for sure) have 2016 (they performed 36 concerts that year) and then 2018 (with 18 concerts that year) at Huber Heights in Ohio, 9th of September which to date is considered their last concert. Although there has been no official announcement ARW have disbanded, a couple of members of the band have publicly expressed to the music media that they’re finished and moved on. ♫ They get up… they get down… ♫ Such are these lineups. By Chapter 33 we are now up to 2019 where Yes performed the very popular ‘Royal Affair Tour‘ which included in the setlist. ‘The Gates of Delirium.’ Sadly this Coronavirus pandemic has put paid to a Yes tour this year (for now) of the band playing ‘Relayer‘ in it’s entirety. Watch this space.
One of the highlights for a lot of Yes fans (well, Prog fans in general) are the ‘Cruise To The Edge‘ events over the past years from 2013 to 2019 where some of the best Prog bands around the globe including Yes take to the ocean with their fans and enjoy a wide range of music in a holiday setting. Jon Kirkman (who also MC’s these events) has devoted a number of pages for each year capturing Yes on stage on a cruise ship sailing the high seas. What a life!
So all in all, what a fantastic recollection of Yes over the years for either your coffee table (it will definitely be a talking point) or bookshelf. A collation of treasured pics generously shared in this volume for you to experience for yourself the bounty of Yes live over the many decades all around the world. Photos taken by fans for fans like you and I. As mentioned above, I contacted Jon on the 27th April just to get a bit of additional background for my article and it turned into somewhat of an interview of sorts so I have instead decided to include it here in its entirety around his new book release for your interest as well.
What motivated you to put together this book?
Jon: I thought about it 8 years ago when I published my first Yes book “Time And A Word: The Yes Interviews.” It didn’t take flight in terms of what I wanted to do until the second book “Dialogue” came out some three years ago but then there were legal problems with the publisher so it went on the back burner. Real work on the book started in earnest in about September 2019.
How long did it take from conception to print?
Jon: From really starting on the book, and by that I mean getting the photos and designing the cover and laying out the book, around six months.
How many photos would you say you received and looked at?
Jon: A couple of thousand. So many that we had to leave some out due to space and some due to quality issues but we have more than enough for Volume 2 if the demand is there.
How challenging was it finding some of these photos?
Jon: Actually it wasn’t really challenging because once word got out, there were so many photographs. The challenge was choosing what went in the book really.
A good number of these photos have never been seen outside some of the private collections? Why is that?
Jon: Well, even professionals always take more than they need and maybe use a handful and file the rest away. Many fans take photos for their own benefit as a reminder of the gig and that moment captured in time so only show them to a few friends. It is a bit different now in the internet age (as opposed to “The Plastic Age”), so many photos get shared from website to website and some fans do not like that I guess so keep the photos to themselves
You’ve collaborated a lot on a number of your books in the past with musicologist, Holly Quibell. What did she bring to this project?
Jon: Holly has a degree in musicology and superb sub editing skills. She is also very well versed in Photoshop and editing which is important in the laying out stage of the book, too. She also designed the cover which includes the camera that contributor, Tony Howard used to take many pictures featured within the book. She was invaluable on this book and others in the pipeline and planning stages.
Did you reach out to any Yes members from their own collections or was this more from a fan’s perspective of these amazing concerts over the decades?
Jon: The Yes members know about the book because I have told them and in so far as they can be, have been really supportive. The management have been incredible and supported and promoted the book on their websites and social media pages. They liked the Drama pics but liked what they saw.
If not then what kind of feedback or reaction from the Yes family have you received if any, firstly approaching them about this project, and secondly from viewing your book?
Jon: There are some photos from Patrick Moraz but largely the photographs are pretty much fans with a couple of pro shots in there, too. The management of Yes have been incredibly supportive and helpful though.
What was it like for you personally looking at some of these photos for the first time?
Jon: My favourite photo in the book is the earliest photo in the book, too. It is of Peter Banks from October 1969. [Mine too, with Peter on stage holding his guitar above his head with both hands in exaltation. An amazing shot – Paul) Probably my favourite in the book. I love the photos by Michael Flynn of the first gig with Jon Davison in Auckland [I was there! Not to mention Yes’s first ever concert in New Zealand – Paul]. It is one thing seeing the pdf file of the complete book before going to print but when you finally have the finished book in your hands it really is a totally different thing and very satisfying
Were there any concerts you would have also loved to have included from the near 3000 these artists have performed at?
Jon: I wanted some photos from the Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe period but everyone I spoke to said they could not get their camera past security back then. Some of the ways fans had to bypass security in the seventies and eighties were amazing in their ingenuity. Some of those fans were very persistent in getting their photographs and in many ways we should all be thankful they managed to do that
Do you have any more coffee table books like this in mind?
Jon: Possibly another Photographic Oceans book. A book concentrating on the Cruise To The Edge and Moody Blues Cruise and books on David Bowie, Wings, The Beatles, Eric Clapton…. So plenty to come along with my series of interviews with Yes, a reprint of Dialogue and more in the Tales From The Prog Vaults and Tales From The Rock Vaults. I am supposed to be working on my biography too, if I get time Ha Ha!
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