Chugging along to make sure this summer goes out with a blast as I finish up dipping my Roger Dean Yes logo designed cookie cutters into a peyote pancake batter to serve up a steaming stack of old cosmic rocking pigs in a blanket classic smorgasbord.extravaganza I’ve got my fingers crossed for that special Fed Ex package arriving from Bogotá to show up any minute now. So here I currently am on a high memory lane by playing a classic Yes album per day.
We have now probably reached the pinnacle in Yes’ young career with their fourth studio release of Fragile– released on January 4, 1972 (US version the English version was released two months earlier) – just a week’s shy of my eighth birthday. Fragile was the bubblegum point where everything about the band practically changed overnight an event that probably wouldn’t repeat its’ pop success until the reformation of the band in 1983 for the 90125 album. The format of the songs spread across the gamut of two to three-minute interludes spotlighting each solo member to 10 minute dramatic epics such as the likes of South Side of the Sky & Heart of the Sunrise composed and performed by the entire band. The addition of Royal College of Music alumni Rick Wakeman whose skills in classical and jazz keyboard improvisations was unsurpassed with perhaps the exception of Keith Emerson, brought a distinctive new sound and palate to accompany Jon Anderson’s celestial crisp choir voice and Chris Squire’s melodic bass playing and the album cover itself was the first to feature the wispy aerial lustrous landscapes of contemporary artist Roger Dean – although his trademark snake bubble logo for the band wouldn’t be making its’ debut until next year’s Close to the Edge.
The most riveting landmark achievement that cemented Yes’s hold in the pop music culture was that the first track off this album, Roundabout became nearly an American FM staple anthem for many years to come as well as their first breakout US single, although the version I had in looping in my preadolescent mind was severely edited down to four minutes.
Roundabout has practically been around long enough since I could do basic arithmetic, read Doc Savage books, and write long-winded aspiring cornball comic book dialogue in hand drawn pamphlets.
Updated Wiki knowledge states:
Fragile is the fourth studio album from the English progressive rock band Yes, released in November 1971 on Atlantic Records. It is their first album recorded with keyboardist Rick Wakeman after the departure of Tony Kaye earlier in the year. Formed of nine tracks, four of which are group performances while five are solo features written by each member. It marked the band’s first collaboration with artist Roger Dean, who would design their logo and many of their future covers.
Fragile was the band’s greatest commercial and critical success at the time of its release. It peaked at number 4 in the US and number 7 in the UK. “Roundabout” was released as a single in the US and is one of the band’s best-known songs. The album is certified double Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America for selling over two million copies.
On 31 July 1971, Yes performed the final concert of their 1970–71 tour of Europe and North America at Crystal Palace Park to support The Yes Album (1971). The line-up during this time consisted of singer Jon Anderson, bassist Chris Squire, drummer Bill Bruford, keyboardist Tony Kaye, and guitarist Steve Howe. Following the tour, Yes started work on their next studio record that was originally conceived as a double album with a combination of studio and live tracks. The concept could not be realised due to the time required to make it. Ideas to have the album recorded in Miami, Florida with producer Tom Dowd also never came to fruition.
Rehearsals took place in August 1971 in what Squire described as “a little rehearsal studio in Shepherd’s Market” in London. Working with Kaye became unsuccessful; he was reluctant to expand his sound, other than his usual Hammond organ and piano, and play newer instruments like the Moog synthesiser. Anderson and Squire ultimately asked Kaye to leave Yes, and found their replacement in Rick Wakeman, a classically trained player of the folk rock group Strawbs. Wakeman joined the group as they rehearsed “Heart of the Sunrise“. Squire spoke about that first session: “That marked the first real appearance of the Mellotron and the Moog—adding the flavour of those instruments to a piece we’d basically already worked out”. According to Wakeman, the basis of “Roundabout” was also put down on the same day.
Recording for the album took place in September 1971 at Advision Studios using a 16-track tape machine. Eddy Offord, who served as a recording engineer on Time and a Word (1970), assumed his role while sharing production duties with the band. Rolling Stone reported the album cost $30,000 to produce.
According to Michael Tait, the band’s lighting director, the album’s title came from their manager Brian Lane who, while on the phone to “some press guy” asking Lane about the new album, “was looking at some photos from that Crystal Palace gig, saw the monitors at the front of the stage and, like all equipment, they had ‘Fragile’ stamped on the back”. Bruford claimed he in fact suggested the title because he thought the band “was breakable” at the time. While the band were recording, Wakeman remembered children being brought into the studio to watch them play.
Fragile is formed of nine tracks; four are “group arranged and performed” with the remaining five being “the individual ideas, personally arranged and organised” by the five members. Squire reasoned this approach was necessary in part to save time and reduce studio costs, as money was used to purchase keyboard equipment for Wakeman. According to Bruford: “There was this endless discussion about how the band could be used … I felt we could use all five musicians differently … So I said—brightly—’Why don’t we do some individual things, whereby we all use the group for our own musical fantasy? I’ll be the director, conductor, and maestro for the day, then you do your track, and so on.'” Wakeman commented on the album’s structure. “Some critics thought this was just being flash. The thinking behind this was that we realised there would be a lot of new listeners coming to the band. They could find out where each individual player’s contribution lay.”
THE SONGS / TRACK LISTING
Side one begins with “Roundabout”, a song written by Anderson and Howe (Total time: 8:30) that has become one of Yes’s best-known songs. Howe recalled the track was originally “a guitar instrumental suite … I sort of write a song without a song. All the ingredients are there—all that’s missing is the song. ‘Roundabout’ was a bit like that; there was a structure, a melody and a few lines.” The introduction was made by recording a piano note played backwards.
“Cans and Brahms” is Wakeman’s adaptation of the third movement of Symphony No. 4 in E minor by Johannes Brahms, (Total time: 1:36) with an electric piano used for the string section, an electric harpsichord used for the reeds, and a synthesiser used for the contrabassoon. Wakeman later described the track as “dreadful”, as contractual problems with A&M Records, who he was with as a solo artist, prevented him from writing a composition of his own.
Anderson described “We Have Heaven” (Total time 1:40) as a “rolling idea of voices and things”, with its two main set of chants containing the phrases “Tell the Moon dog, tell the March hare” and “He is here, to look around” (from my own aural observation there are overdubs toward the end that repeat “Tell the Monument). His multi vocal layering technique on this piece would later be explored on his first solo album, “Olias of Sunhillow” released in 1976.
Side one closes with “South Side of the Sky.” (Anderson/Squire) Total time 8:02 Wakeman also claimed to have made writing contributions to “South Side of the Sky” and “Heart of the Sunrise” by adding piano interludes, but did not receive credit because of the contract disputes. He was promised more money by executives at Atlantic Records, but claims he never received it. Hey, I believe him, so I say let’s give him the long overdue credit (Anderson/Squire/Wakeman)
Side two of the album opens with Bruford’s track, “Five Per Cent for Nothing”. With a running time of thirty-five seconds, (Total time: 0:35) it is his “first attempt composition—but we’ve all got to start somewhere”. According to Tait, its original title was “Suddenly It’s Wednesday”, but it was changed in reference to Yes paying off their former manager Roy Flynn with the deal of five percent of future royalties. Unfortunately, this did not transfer well live on the last tour, I barely observed Alan White even hitting a high hat as Chris Squire, Steve Howe, and Geoff Downes carried the weight of this piece – but Alan White is no Bill Bruford and vice versa, Bill Bruford is no Alan White for that matter.)
“Long Distance Runaround” (Anderson) Total time 3:30 Anderson wrote the lyrics to this song while allegedly remembering his encounters with religious hypocrisy and competition he experienced in attending church regularly as a youth in northern England. “Long time / waiting to feel the sound” was a sentiment toward wanting to see a real, compassionate, non-threatening example of godliness.
‘Long Distance Runaround then segues into Squire’s solo track, “The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus)”. Total time: 2:39 Tait recalled Anderson calling him “at ten o’clock one night from Advision and said, ‘I want the name of prehistoric fish in eight syllables. Call me back in half an hour'”. Tait subsequently found Schindleria praematurus, a species of marine fish, in a copy of Guinness Book of Records.
Howe performs his solo guitar piece “Mood for a Day” Total time 3:00 on a Conde flamenco guitar. Previous motifs from this piece appear on the studio version of “Clap” on the bonus material of the 2003 remaster and the 2014 5.1 surround sound remix edition.
- “Heart of the Sunrise” (Anderson/Bruford/Squire/Wakeman) (Total time on the 2003 remastered edition 11:27) is a track where Wakeman’s classically trained background came into play; he introduced the band to the idea of recapitulation where previous segments in music are revisited. Several seconds after “Heart of the Sunrise” is a reprise of “We Have Heaven” that begins with the sound of a door being unlatched (“We Have Heaven” ends with the sound of a slamming door). This hidden track is not referenced on the album’s track listing. Original pressings list the duration of “Heart of the Sunrise” as 10:34, thereby omitting the timing of the reprise.
Wait a minute, that would mean that the band didn’t perform the entire Fragile album if the reprise of ‘We Have Heaven” was left off. Seems as if the old boys weren’t as though as we all originally thought.
I remember the moment when I first heard the 2003 remaster and how this reprise just appeared out of a nowhere and I had thought that a nuclear bomb went off on my studio. I never had heard this on my handy-dandy 1977 RCA Record Club edition. Maybe future pressings of the album just decided it was a waste of space.
The 2003 Remastered edition also includes the full edition ten and half-minute version cover of Simon and Garfunkel s America which would be better justice discussed tomorrow as it is included on the 2013 5.1 surround sound remaster of Close to the Edge.
The total time for the studio run through of “Roundabout on the 2003 remastered edition is 8:35 (probably an extra 5 seconds longer than the original allotted in case of goof ups).
The album’s sleeve was designed and illustrated by English artist Roger Dean, who would design many of Yes’s future album covers, including their “bubble” logo. On reflection of the design, Dean said: “‘Fragile’ was very literal, really. I think the band has named a number of their albums after their current psychological state, and ‘Fragile’ described the psyche of the band. And I thought about that very literally, painting a fragile world that would eventually break up.” He commented further: “‘Fragile’ was quite a complicated cover because there was a book inside. It was elaborate although it wasn’t one of the most striking of all the Yes covers. I was kind of learning my trade at the time. The main feature on the cover was a little Bonsai world with a wooden space ship flying overhead! It was literally meant to be a fragile world”.
The band had wished for an image of a fractured piece of porcelain; to compromise, Dean ended up breaking the planet into two pieces. This idea of a broken world would continue on the band’s live album, Yessongs. Bruford thought Dean “brilliantly parlayed that idea [one of Fragile] up to the prescient image of the fragile planet earth, with implications of a delicate and breakable eco-system”.
The LP’s accompanying promotional booklet contains two additional Dean paintings; the front cover depict five creatures huddled under a root system; the back cover depicts a person climbing up a rock formation. The inside shows several photographs of the band with an individual page dedicated to each member, with smaller illustrations and photographs of their wives and children. Anderson’s page contains a short poem, while Wakeman contains a list of acknowledgements, including Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, The White Bear pub in Hounslow, and Brentford F.C..
Fragile was first reissued on CD in the United States and Europe in 1990. A remastered edition for CD and cassette by Joe Gastwirt followed in 1994, which includes a reprise of “We Have Heaven” after “Heart of the Sunrise” for a track running time of 11:32. In 2002, Rhino and Elektra Records released Fragile in stereo and 5.1 surround sound mixes for the DVD-Audio format (Yeah, but is it a Steven Wilson remix? No? Then it doesn’t count!!). The band’s cover of “America” is included, along with other supplemental features. 2003 saw Rhino and Elektra put out a new remastered CD conducted by Dan Hersch, with “America” and an early rough mix of “Roundabout” as bonus tracks. Make sure to spot the coming in too soon dubs of Anderson’s vocal in the middle and Howe’s acoustic guitar being dropped in towards the end. Hey, anyone in this band is not immune from making a mistake from time to time.
I still remember the dream there it was the first actual tune that heard the single played on my handheld AM transistor radio that I could happily sing along and snap his fingers (although not in syncopation) during the spring and summer (another one, Billy Paul’s Me and Mrs. Jones – we’ve got a thing going on – comes to forefront of my memory) . When the my half-sister got a record player for her birthday my twin aunts, Megan and Priscilla both pitched in to buy me for Christmas a Kay Tel 4 disc record collection featuring the Superstars of the 70’s to play on it when she wasn’t around. The collection included the Roundabout single, and also featured artists that would instrumental in my musical musings such as Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love, Deep Purple’s Hush, Jimi Hendrix’s Foxy Lady, Crosby, Stills & Nash’s Marakesh Express, and Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s Lucky Man, along with others too numerous to mention.
For the longest time, I thought that Roundabout was nothing more than a four-minute song but imagine my surprise when all places, my home economics class in seventh grade, some fellow female classmate (a fat and ugly one too) brought in Fragile as an easy listening day record we could listen to after winding up a seventh period on a Friday afternoon. It was the first time I was ever transfixed by a Roger Dean album cover and when that opening ominous backward recorded piano note (not to mention engineer Eddie Offord’s genius of patching in those phase cancellation effects behind the monitoring board) resonated off of Steve Howe’s gentle acoustic guitar pickings and then to just lavishly explode into a jagged razor-sharp rhythm percussive canon of Bill Bruford’s thumping toms toms with Squire trying to overtake him with a rapid attack of distorted bass lines, I knew I was in for the listening experience of my life – not knowing that the original version of the song clocked in at over 8 and a half minutes! There was a whole middle section I never knew existed with Anderson’s elvish voice chirping something about a sailor who sees the rim of the land and eagles dancing wings flourished by Wakeman’s stoic organ passages that was left off the single (FM radio wasn’t a big thing in my house at the time). I knew from that moment forward that this was a monumental sonic odyssey that would help mentor me along a pathway of experimental music to follow.
So one day back in 1977 I clipped out a RCA record of the month club ad out of a Marvel Comic – I doesn’t know offhand which one it actually was, but it might as well have been this one:
A Amazing Spider-Man comic I bought with my allowance money and therefore proceeded to order Fragile along with Led Zeppelin II and IV and some long ago forgotten Black Sabbath record with a measly quarter. Within a few weeks they were delivered within a few weeks to my doorstep. My mom didn’t dig the fact that a bill came along asking for an additional two dollars and change for postage and handling which I didn’t see in the fine print but hey ma, those are the fucking breaks. I finally had my first copy of Fragile in my cagey little hands and that was more important than life itself to a budding teen ager.
Favorite tracks: Roundabout, South Side of the Sky, and the magnificent 10 minute jam of Simon & Garfunkel’s America (now included on the remastered version which also incidentally has the demo version of Roundabout with lots of gags and goofs). South Side of the Sky is still one of my favorite all-time Yes songs (the subject dealing with a real Arctic exploration gone awry) – The hormonal middle section with the piano accompaniment was one of the first things that the PP Guru ever learned how to play from his Yessongs transcribed fakebook! The song, a perennial fan favorite has been missing from their set lists for over twenty years has finally now been re-arranged and resurrected to sheer popular Yes Fan demand the wide world over as most recent as the last summer tour when the entire album was performed live (with some computerized enhancements).
Favorite all time lyric: Were we ever colder on that day, a million miles away/ it seemed of all eternity……..YEAH! – South Side of the Sky by Jon Anderson & Chris Squire.
Tomorrow the ground breaking epic fantasy that was copied and pasted unto a James Cameron science fiction movie and was recently voted as the number one progressive rock album of all-time (according to Prog Magazine), Close To The Edge)