Yes guitarist, and current band leader, Steve Howe has a over 60 year long and successful musical career behind him. Now he tells his story. Is it worth reading?
Right before last weekend, master guitarist Steve Howe released his autobiography. Since I’m a huge Yes fan, a fan of Asia, love GTR and Steve Howe is my favorite guitarist of all time, I naturally got a copy and read it this weekend.
I guess I should give kudos to Howe for writing the book him itself. There’s not doubt he did, because when reading it, it’s blatantly obvious that it’s not written by a professional writer. English isn’t my native language, but even I balked at some of the grammar and the way certain sections and sentences are constructed.
There are also quite a few factual and geographical errors as well. Helsinki, Iceland? Really?
In the first chapter, he writes something at the top of the page that is repeated, almost verbally in the same way, at the bottom of the page. He also touches on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in the opening chapter, and then towards the end of the book he comes back to it. And when he does, he writes about it in such way it’s almost like he’s forgotten he already told us about it at the start.
Now, I’m no master writer, and most authors need a guiding hand, but this book most definitely is in dire need of an editor.
There are parts of the book I find very interesting but I was disappointed about how little he goes into the writing process for a lot of the music he has been a part of creating.
It’s a lot of “then I did this, and then two days later I did that, and then the week after that I did….” And this goes on for a lot of the book. He should have spent all those pages on the inner workings of Yes, Asia or GTR. Or his writing process for the big classic Yes songs together with Jon and the other guys.
I realise that this is Steve’s story, but hes been such an integral part of all the bands he’s been involved with that more anecdotes about those groups would still make it his story.
The result is a very superficial book with a lot tour, release and family dates listed, page up and page down.
Even so, I did enjoy many parts of the book. And my jaw was on the floor when he wrote about original Yes vocalist (and band founder) Jon Anderson and former Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman from the induction ceremony in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It’s obvious that there’s no love lost between them anymore.
He’s also surprisingly open about Chris Squire, Yes-founder and bassist, who sadly passed away in 2015, and the latter’s substance and alcohol problems. He also writes that current drummer Alan White still lives the rock and roll lifestyle. There are also some details about how dysfunctional Yes really is but he doesn’t delve too deep into that either.
Now, considering how many classic songs Jon Anderson and Steve wrote together, there must have been a great friendship there at one time. But Steve doesn’t touch upon that at all in the book. He only mentions Jon very superficially, even if he does give Jon lot of credit. And when he does go into some detail about Jon, it’s from the 90s and 00s, and then it’s no longer very complimentary.
A lot of Yes-fans were furious when Jon was kicked out of the band in 2008. I was really surprised about the reason Steve gives for this: Jon wanted a larger cut of the band’s income. Just because he was Jon. I have no reason to think Steve is lying about this, because other band members have told similar stories about Jon from when he left Yes for the first time in 1979.
I also know that Jon Anderson’s insistence on dragging his wife Janeeeeee into band interviews and documentaries annoyed the hell out of some fractions of the band. But Steve makes no mention of it in the book.
And there’s too little, or nothing, about:
- How he felt when Yes came back in 83 without him
- What was going on during the Union tour (he does mention some of the problems, and it’s refreshing to finally see his perspective)
- What exactly happened with Asia when first they threw out lead singer, co-founder and main song writer John Wetton, who upon his return demanded Steve leave the band (he does go a little bit into that one)
- Why GTR folded so quickly
- More about the inner workings of Yes throughout the decades
- Former Yes manager Brian Lane
- When he appeared on Innuendo by Queen
- More about his session work (he mentions some of it)
- His thoughts about two Yes being in existence (the other one with Jon Anderson, Rick Wakeman and Yes guitarist in the 80s and 90s: Trevor Rabin)
I know us reviewers have a tendency to write about what’s not there instead of what is there. But when I see some wasted opportunities, I just have to point them out.
Steve does present his solo career very well. And it has made me listen through my Steve Howe records in the past few days. And Steve’s a good song writer. He’s written som nice pop songs and other great instrumental tunes in various styles. And he’s an awesome musician and guitarist!
So: Should you buy the book? If you are a die hard Yes fan (like me) or a huge Steve Howe fan, most definitely. If you are a casual music fan or a fan of Asia? Not really