Cameron Carpenter: The ABC’s Of Rock – Y

The Yobs

Greatest collection of Christmas singles of all time? Had to be The Yobs. Their three singles from 1977-1979 (“Run Rudolph Run”/”Silent Night”/”Rub A Dum Dum”) were the perfect renditions for the time and place, and their very existence would pave the way for another band with members under assumed names Me First & The Gimme Gimmes. The Yobs were actually British punk/powerpop band The Boys who swapped a couple of letters in their name in order to work around a bad record company deal that they were stuck in.

Featuring Casino Steele, mentioned in an earlier column as a member of The Hollywood Brats, the Yobs released a full Christmas album in 1980. The Boys had a few hits with “Brickfield Nights”, “First Time” and “Weekend” and are still playing a select few gigs.

Yachts

Yachts were contemporaries of The Boys and released a series of powerpop singles that were a cross between The Fabulous Poodles (from a lyrical sense) and Elvis Costello & The Attractions instrumentally as most were driven by cheap keyboard sound mixed with a crunchy guitar. They were one of the first bands signed to Stiff Records (their single “Suffice To Stay” was Stiff Buy 19) but left the label when co-founder Jake Rivera split with his Stiff partner Dave Robinson. As part of the settlement Rivera took Yachts, Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello to his new label Radar. On Radar they released their two classic singles “Yachting Type” and “Look Back In Love (Not Anger)” in 1978. I seem to remember a pretty entertaining late seventies show at The El Mocambo. After two albums it was all over by 1981 for the Liverpool band.

Yes

It’s hard to believe a triple live album would turn me on to a band but that is what happened with the 1973 release of “Yessongs”. There was no reason for me to like them; there was a mystic inner design by Roger Dean that I didn’t understand, I didn’t understand their lyrics (it took me about 20 years to realize one of their songs was about chess), and I have never even heard of them. However, there was something about the music that captured me; I think it was the bass in “Roundabout”.  That song was a huge hit in Canada and the version on this album is rumoured to have been recorded in Ottawa.  The bass playing in “Roundabout” was our gauge of a band that would play at high school dances; if they could nail that they got our nod of approval.

“Yessongs” was recorded during 1972 tours for “Fragile” and “Close To The Edge”. I had not heard those albums when I purchased “Yessongs” and to this day I still prefer the live versions as these were the ones that made the first impression. Once I was engaged in the band I went back and bought those two as well as “The Yes Album” with many tracks featured prominently on “Yessongs”. I stuck with them until 1977’s “Going For The One” but had to jump ship do to a little punk rock explosion happening in Toronto. Scares me to think of what might have happened wearing a Yes patch at a Viletones gig. They do get bonus marks for “Owner Of A Lonely Heart” in the early eighties.

Most consider the “Yessongs” line-ups as the classic incarnations of Yes. Drummer’s Bill Bruford and Alan White both appear on the recordings complimented by vocalist Jon Anderson, guitarist Steve Howe, bassist Chris Squire and keyboardist Rick Wakeman. Over the years there have been close to twenty different members of the group including everyone from Trevor Horn & Geoff Downs previously of the band Buggles (“Video Killed The Radio Star”) to Rick Wakeman’s son Oliver. Chris Squire is the only member of the band who has been with them since day one, although long timers Alan White and Steve Howe are in the current configuration.

Very different takes on the band can be found in a couple of books from alumni. Rick Wakeman’s “Grumpy Old Rock Star And Other Wondrous Stories” is a hilarious collection of stories dealing with everything in his very twisted life. You don’t need to be a music fan to read this one. Bill Bruford’s “The Autobiography – Yes, King Crimson, Earthworks And More” is a more serious take on his career and of special interest to drummers and jazz players, a compelling but less funny read.

I did host an interesting dinner in the early nineties with a lot of the original line-up but I think I will save that one for about 27 weeks when Y rolls around again.

It is now patio weather at The Shanghai Cowgirl at 538 Queen Street West, right beside the world famous Bovine. Speaking of The Bovine there has been a major reno inside and the bar is now on the right hand side. A little disorienting at first but it makes a lot more sense when you go to see a band.

Cam’s column appears every Wednesday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

Cameron Carpenter has written for The New Music Magazine, Music Express, The Asylum, The Varsity, The Eye Opener,  The New Edition, Shades, Bomp!, Driven Magazine, FYI Music News, The Daily XY and Don’t Believe A Word I Say.

4 Responses to “Cameron Carpenter: The ABC’s Of Rock – Y”

  1. Bobby Gottesman Says:

    Nice piece. ALso became a huge YES fan after Yessongs and saw them live on 2 occassions-particularly enjoyed the Tales from Topographic Oceans tour. And yes, dropped them as soon as they changed their sound by adding Trevor and Geoff. Still listen to Yessongs when I get nostalgic.

  2. Cam…you’re only the 4th person I’ve ever met who knows the Yachts. “Semaphore Love” is still my favourite.

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