Join Jean-Michel Jarre and me as we take the second part of our walk through his ENTIRE discography of studio albums, while sitting talking in his flat in Paris. In this part we talk about making an album out of being the very first Western musician to play China, making a record that is pressed in one single copy and playing for 1.3 million people. And the pope! A fascinating talk with a true innovator, who is now out with a brand new album called Equinoxe Infinity.
Join Jean-Michel Jarre and me as we take a walk through his ENTIRE discography of studio albums, while sitting talking in his flat in Paris. Did you think Oxygene was his first album? Then you are in for a surprise! A fascinating talk with a true innovator, who is now out with a brand new album called Equinoxe Infinity.
Hey, old people! Get out of here! Let the new generation of club musicians show you what good disco is all about!
This autumn Jean-Michel Jarre turned 70. In the past three years he has released two double albums, one single album and this September, a huge compilation box called Planet Jarre. The latter to celebrate his 50th anniversary as an artist. He’s also been touring most of these years with a ground breaking light and laser show, and he also played Coachella this year.
You know that moment, the very special moment, where you hear a song that just grabs you by the throat, creeps into your ears and brain, and just sends chills down your spine? Ladies and germs, I give you Age of Man by Greta Van Fleet!
A while back I sat backstage, chatting with a friend of mine who is a singer and musician. We started talking about Robyn, because we were both huge fans of her Body Talk trilogy. It was then we realised that it was 8 years since that release!
It was when vocalist Jon Anderson gave his all at the beginning of the last section of “Heart of the Sunrise” that the hairs on the back of my neck were higher up than a Republican’s hackles if you mention Hillary Clinton.
I had chills running down my spine, and it wasn’t because the guy behind me had poured the ice cubes from his drink down my back (they had melted a long time ago and the water was now mixed in with my sweat). The stage was flooded with light from the spotlights, and I saw that the almost sold out concert venue Sentrum Scene in Oslo were having the exact same experience as me. “Love comes to you, and you foloooooooow” Anderson sang, and I realised I could either have an orgasm or start crying. I chose the latter…
But which Yes was on stage this evening? Don’t worry. If you are uninitiated, I’m not even going to attempt to explain the complicated story of exactly who is or isn’t a member of Yes at any given moment. Let’s just say that it’s complicated. I mean, really complicated. Just take my word for it, ok?
It’s so complicated that these days there are two versions of Yes currently on their 50th anniversary tours. I saw the other Yes this Easter during the 50th anniversary celebrations at the London Palladium. Said band has no original members left after bassist Chris Squire died. Still, they are the ones named just Yes, and they also are in possession of the rights to the famous Yes logo.
The band playing at Sentrum Scene in the Norwegian capital this evening, on the other hand, has Yes founder Jon Anderson as their leader and vocalist. His voice, and name, are what everybody thinks of when identifying Yes. With him he as guitarist Trevor Rabin, who came into the band in 1983 and gave the band their comeback hit “Owner of a Lonely Heart.”
Third man out is keyboardist Rick Wakeman, who’s been in and out of Yes so many times that I ran out of fingers trying to count them. However, say “Yes” and “keyboardist” in the same sentence, and most people will say “Rick Wakeman.” He’s also had a solo career that resulted him selling more records than Yes ever did.
The last time I saw Yes on Norwegian ground it was the other Yes, with Benoit David on vocals. That was an unmitigated disaster of the biggest proportions. David sang so out of tune that a dead hamster buried in the basement of a 30 storey house under a ton of bricks would have tried to get away. And people left the concert in droves.
However, with Wakeman and Anderson on the bill, it seemed that Norwegian Yes fans were willing to give this version of Yes a chance. I was also pleased to see so many young faces there, even if I was below the medium age in the room. But it didn’t really matter, because the band was welcomed with arms that were more open than a Scotsman being told he will be paid in cash. And it’s been a long time since I saw that many people at this particular venue.
The concert started with the instrumental “Cinema” from the album “90125,” before we jumped into “Hold On” from the same album. Then it was straight back to the 70s to perform “South Side of the Sky,” a song Yes almost never played in their 70s heyday. We stayed in that decade to be served one of Yes’ most famous songs, “I’ve Seen All Good People” (- For all the good people of Oslo, as Anderson said).
And so it went. We were in the 70s (“And you and I,” “Perpetual Change,” “Heart of the Sunrise” and “Awaken), with the occasional trip to the 80s (“Changes,” “Rhythm of Love” and “Owner of a Lonely Heart.”) At one point we even visited 1994 and the album “Talk” through the song “I am Waiting.”
Wakeman was in character in a long glittering cape going all the way from his shoulders to the floor (you get away with that sort of thing if your name is Rick Wakeman). His fingers were dancing over the keys like they were made of air. All the soup diets he’s constantly tweeting about didn’t seem to have had much effect, but my oh my how he played. It wasn’t quite up there where it used to be, but my music teacher in middle school would have given him a A-. At least!
And then it’s Jon Anderson. The man who was described as “slightly to the right of Hitler,” by original drummer Bill Bruford, when it came to the treatment of his bandmates… Anderson is 73 years old, and even if his voice isn’t as flawless as it used to be, I know quite a few aging rock vocalists who are green with envy when they hear what Jon Anderson is still able to pull off, vocally. (A certain other Anderson, who’s first name starts with I, I’m looking at you!)
Rabin is a few years younger than Wakeman and Anderson, but he is the one who has been seeing a plastic surgeon on a regular basis, as well as getting lots of hair transplants. He looked like a cross between Ray Monroe in Twin Peaks, Michael Jackson and Little Richard. Still, he’s a great guitarist and I didn’t mind the rearrangements he did of some of the 70s material.
Drummer Lou Molino III played the drums and percussion just brilliantly, and bassist Lee Pomeroy got to play around with “Heart of the Sunrise,” where the entire opening riff is carried by the bass. However, for a band that was started by one of the most brilliant, and original, bass players of all time, Chris Squire, it’s just plain wrong to hide the bass in the mix the way they are doing on this tour. Stop it!
The concert also lasted for just over two hours, way too short for a Yes concert!
But that is just nitpicking when you think back on such magic moments like “Awaken,” where harp, church organ and Jon’s cosmic lyrics made you fly so high that you wondered if you had consumed other remedies than just beer that night. The version they did of “Owner of a Lonely Heart” was also fantastic. Especially the incredible jam session they did towards the end, including a keytar solo.
And when the whole thing was concluded with an encore consisting of a flaming version of “Roundabout,” we all could just dance (or at least as close to a dance as a stiff and aging body is able to) out in the summer warm Oslo, knowing full well we had just seen “all good people.”
Please come back soon, Yes featuring ARW. I am waiting! I am ready!
An English translation of my story from the 50th Yes anniversary fan convention at the London Palladium
– I’ve been a fan since I was very young. The comment from Jonathan Grierson shouldn’t surprise me. After all, we are at the London Palladium at a fan convention to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Yes. And even if the average age of the convention participants is pretty high, a lot of the fans weren’t even born when the band started out. Yours truly was born four days after the band’s fifth album, the artistic peak of the band, Close to the Edge was released.
No, what surprises me is that Jonathan is 9 years old! And I have just witnessed him getting the autograph of Roger Dean, Yes’ legendary cover artist.
– I listen to Yes a lot, I was introduced to them via 90125, says Jonathan. – At night I always have a radio on, I listen to Planet Rock a lot and I’m also a great fan of Queen. But at my school I don’t think anyone has ever heard of Yes. It’s kind of cool to like something the others don’t. And my friends would think it is bad music. But I listen to a variety of music. Nothing modern, though.
His mom, Melanie Grierson has been a fan for over 30 years and admits her son was kind of force fed Yes growing up. She attended the Yes concert the night before the fan convention but thought it was a bit late in the evening for a nine year old to be up. So Jonathan will have to wait a bit longer for his first Yes gig but it’s good to see that the recruitment of new Yes fans is still going on.
However, the fan convention is by no means a bad consolation price. It was organised by Yes memorabilia collector extraordinaire, David Watkinson and Brian Neeson, the founder of Scottish Yes Network. The event is sponsored by PROG, and editor Jerry Ewing was hosting and doing Q&As on stage during the day. Tribute bands SeyYes and Fragile were also performing. Everything was done in cooperation with Yes and their management.
Yes also played two gigs at London Palladium the same weekend. Both nights Trevor Horn did a guest spot on vocals on during Tempus Fugit from the Drama album. Horn was the lead vocalist on that album in 1980. He also produced their two other albums in the 80s (90125 and Big Generator) as well as their 2011 album Fly From Here. During the convention Yes also released a remixed version of Fly From Here, with Horn on lead vocals.
The profits from the convention will go the Christie Hospital in Manchester and the organisation Kangaroos, that works with children with special needs. And with over 500 fans, from all over the world attending, quite a lot of money came in.
Jerry from PROG
Host and PROG editor Jerry Ewing is delighted when I tell him about the 9 year old Yes fan. Ewing is friends with members of both bands touring as Yes at the moment (see further down for details) and was asked by their management to be host.
– It’s one of my favourite bands, so I said yes. It’s also safe to say that without Yes, neither Prog nor Classic Rock Magazine, would have been started by me. They are the one of the quintessential prog band, no doubts about it. And even if I know most about the band’s history, I have to take into account that people in the audience don’t. So, I have to ask questions accordingly during the Q&As.
Ewing lead several panels, one with Roger Dean and the authors of various Yes books. And later on in the day, he lead the Q&A with the whole band. Nothing Earth shattering came out of the Q&A, but the band looked be in good spirits. And vocalist Jon Davis, currently in his 7th year as their singer, admitted it was a dream come true to be in Yes.
The convention was spread over two floors at London Palladium. Downstairs was the bar and the concert venue. Upstairs was a wonderful exhibition of Yes memorabilia, courtesy of David Watkinson, author of the book Yes: Perpetual Change. One of the most popular items to take selfies with was the reproduction of the mannequin head from the cover of The Yes Album (1971).
But those who took the time to have a closer look at the framed newspaper clippings, got to see a lot of band history and trivia, written back when it actually happened. This is a refreshing change from reading modern day biographies that are written with the huge benefit of hindsight.
– I’ve collected for 40 years, says Watkinson. – And in the pre-Internet days, that involved writing letters, sending faxes to Japanese collectors and to America and so on. It could take months from you had tracked a collectable down until you had it in the post.
Another one who was delighted to be at the convention was Kevin Mulryne. He is one of the hosts of the Yes Music podcast. Over the last seven years, Kevin and Mark Anthony K from Canada (– I’ve never met him, says Kevin), have made over 300 podcasts where they are discussing Yes’ career and doing interviews with Yes members and others. You can check them out yesmusicpodcast.com. Currently they are going through all of Yes’ singles.
– We have met so many Yes fans here today who listen to the podcast, and that has been very nice, said Mulryne.
Personally I started listening to the podcast after speaking to Mulryne, and I have to say that I’m seriously impressed with how good Mulryne is in front of a microphone. I’ve worked in radio myself for years, and that is a good radio voice. And he never ever messes up any words.
The new version of Fly from Here wasn’t the only thing launched at the convention. Simon Barrow is out with a new book, Solid Mental Grace: Listening to the Music of Yes. He’s a professional writer, who also happens to be a Yes fan.
– It’s about how you can tell a story about Yes from the music, rather than through the personnel changes and soap opera surrounding the music business.
The book seems to have struck a nerve, because he ran out of copies and had to jot down names and addresses of people who wanted a copy of the book.
During the entire convention, there was a constant line of people waiting for Roger Dean to sign books, pieces of art and of course album covers. There was also a lot of his artwork on display and to be bought.
– I think I have signed around 400 items today, he tells me after the whole thing is over.
We are just about to have a small chat when a record company representative comes over to talk about some problems surrounding a new Yes box set Dean has done the artwork for. (The problems referred to here ended up in the entire box set, which was curated by Jon Anderson from the other Yes band touring these days, being cancelled -Hogne).
– There are always some complications, he tells me afterwards. – I remember when I came to Yes with my cover ideas for Going for the One in 1977. Vocalist Jon Anderson was painting pictures, pointed at them and told me that this was what he was after. And I basically said no. So, I didn’t make the cover for that album, even if they kept the Yes logo. Although if it’s been a bit on and off, my relationship with Yes has been going on for at least 45 years, give or take.
On and off relationships like that are something Yes is known for. There has been a ludicrous amount of lineup changes, and the band celebrating this weekend has no original members left, after bassist Chris Squire sadly died a few years back. The current lineup is Steve Howe (guitars), Billy Sherwood (bass), Geoff Downes (keyboards), Alan White (drums) and Jon Davison (vocals). Steve Howe and Alan White, have been an integral part of Yes for most of their career, and Howe is these days in charge.
However, there is also another Yes in existence. They consist of Yes founder Jon Anderson, their most famous keyboard player Rick Wakemand and guitarist Trevor Rabin, who saved the band in the 80s. Under the monicker Yes featuring ARW they are currently touring the world, playing Yes music. None of them were at the convenion, a fact that drummer Bill Bruford pointed out when he introduced Sunday night’s gig, by stating he was the only original member present that evening… Jon Anderson was invited to the event, but he had commitments that prevented him from being able to come.
– I would call it the nature of the beast, says Jerry Ewing about this situation. – It’s the music business. But as a fan I have to say that I’m happy to see two bands playing Yes music. It’s the best of both worlds.
All other Yes fans I talk to at the convention agrees. But podcaster Kevin Mulryne adds:
– I think Yes featuring ARW is hiding the bass in the background at the concerts. Chris Squire’s bass playing was an integral part of the Yes sound. So, pump up the bass!
Stephen Hawking died yesterday. A huge loss to the world, and no matter his very human shortcomings, the world truly should pay tribute to this man. I am among those millions who bought his book “A Brief History of Time” in the early 90s. It opened my mind up on so many levels, and taught me complex concepts that I had only scratched the surface of before.
I met several of my heroes within science and last year I almost made a hat trick by meeting and interviewing both Neil deGrasse Tyson, Brian Cox and Stephen Hawking at the Starmus science festival in Trondheim, Norway. However, Hawking couldn’t make it because of his declining health. And now I never will be able to meet him. But last weekend I bought a new copy of “A Brief History of Time”, because I lost my old copy, and will read it this weekend in tribute.
As the years went by, Hawking became quite the celebrity. He appeared in numerous TV shows, probably most memorably “The Simpsons” and “The Big Bang Theory”. And loads of artists made songs with or about him. I have created a playlist of 12 of my favourites of these songs:
1) “Into the Party Zone” – Turbonegro
The Norwegian hard rock band Turbonegro’s opening track to the album “Party Animals” called “Intro: The Party Zone,” features Hawking’s familiar electronic voice saying, “Greetings, my name is Stephen Hawking. Anyway, please follow our denim leaders as they enter the final black hole – a new dimension in rock music. Welcome to the party zone.” I don’t think it is Hawking’s voice, though, even if the band have always refused to confirm or deny it.
2) “Stephen Hawking Sings Monty Python… Galaxy Song” – Monty Python & Stephen Hawking
For Record Store Day in 2015, Hawking recorded a version of Monty Python’s “Galaxy Song,” originally sung by Eric Idle for 1983’s film “The Meaning of Life” (he also appeared in a short video clip featuring fellow physicist and professor Brian Cox filmed for a documentary about the British comedy stalwarts’ reunion shows the year before).
3) “E=MC Hawking” – MC Hawking
When I attended the aforementioned Starmus festival last year, they showed us a documentary about Stephen Hawking’s career as a rap artist… It was hilarious, and taken from the works of Ken Lawrence, who created the MC Hawking rap persona in the late 90s. The lyrics are side splitting, and also spoofs N.W.A (“Fuck the Creationists”). Stephen Hawking was a big fan too.
4) “A Glorious Dawn” – Carl Sagan
Ok, so it’s not really Carl Sagan who performs this track. In 2009, John D. Boswell, a.k.a. Melodysheep, a.k.a. the man behind online video series Symphony of Science, concocted a genius mind-meld between two cosmologists, Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking. The result is a “cheesy, synthesizer-strewn odyssey that sounds like Auto-Tuning the Cosmos, that could also gently lull you to sleep on dreams of Milky Ways and nebulae nurseries” as Spin Magazine described it.
5) “Keep Talking” – Pink Floyd
David Gilmour insisted that the Pink Floyd albums released under his leadership were concept albums, just like the earlier Pink Floyd albums. 1994’s “The Division Bell” was about communication. So when British Telecom did an advert featuring one of Stephen Hawking’s most powerful monologues, Gilmour thought it fit the bill for his song “Keep Talking.”
“This was the most powerful piece of television advertising that I’ve ever seen in my life,” Gilmour said soon after The Division Bell’s release. “I just found it so moving that I felt that I had to try and do something with it, or with him or something, in some way.”
6) “Hawking Radiation” – Philip Glass
The mastermind of minimalistic music created an album of the same title as the book “A Brief History of Time.” This is a short, but very nice ditty. Unfortunately this is not on Tidal, so the Tidal playlist below only has 11 tracks.
7) “Me and Stephen Hawking” – Manic Street Preachers
The once huge stadium filling band, who used to be an underground band, name checks Hawking in this nice pop track.
8) “Hawking” – Todd Rundgren
Todd is a strange one. Part jazz, part prog, part rock, part pop and part psychedlia. Not only on one and the same album, but preferrably in one and the same song! This one however is dangerously close to lounge jazz.
9) “Da Vinci” – Weezer
Don’t remember what happened to this band, but mentioning Da Vinci and and Hawking in one and the same song just feels right.
10) “White & Nerdy” – Weird Al Yankowic
Come to think of it, I saw Yankowic in Trondheim as well. Oh well, this is a parody of a hiphop song I’ve never heard. But the lyrics are hilarious and the video is awesome too.
11) “Chronologie Part 4” – Jean-Michel Jarre
When the French electronica hero created an album about time, called Chronologie, in 1993, he name checked Stephen Hawking and thanked him for his book “A Brief History of Time,” in the liner notes. The book was a huge source of inspiration for Jarre when he worked on this album.
Last year when I was in Trondheim Jean-Michel Jarre received “The Stephen Hawking Award,” together with Neil deGrasse Tyson and the producers of the TV Show “The Big Bang Theory.”
12) “Talkin’ Hawkin'” – Pink Floyd
Hawking pops up again on the very last Pink Floyd album, “The Endless River.” I think this is a beautiful track, and a nice closer to this playlist.
What did you think of this list? Should I create other lists? Leave your comments below.