HAPPY BIRTHDAY – TO JON ANDERSON THE LYRICAL PRINCE OF PEYOTE !!
Let the (yes)festivities commence! The once influential vocalist and chief grand poobah lyricist of Yes turns 70 tomorrow!!
Jon Anderson – 70 years old.
Jeez, that’s a full two decades ahead of me, but only three years younger than my own natural parents.
I’m pressed for time today, so I’ll try to make this short and sweet.
Wikpedia sums up Jon Anderson’s history until he helped formed one of the most able-bodied group of musicians who have ever graced an arena-sized rock and roll stage.
John Roy “Jon” Anderson (born 25 October 1944) is an English singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist musician best known as the former lead vocalist in the progressive rock band Yes. He is also an accomplished solo artist and has collaborated with Greek musician Vangelis and others.
Jon Anderson was born John Roy Anderson in Accrington, Lancashire, England, to Albert and Kathleen Anderson. His father was from Scotland and his mother was of Irish ancestry. Anderson dropped the “h” from his first name in 1970.
Anderson attended St. John’s Infants School in Accrington. There he made a tentative start to a musical career playing the washboard in “Little John’s Skiffle Group”, which played songs by Lonnie Donegan, among others. After leaving school at the age of fifteen he tried a series of jobs, including farm hand, lorry driver and milkman. He also tried to pursue a football career at Accrington Stanley F.C., but at 5 feet 5 inches (1.65 m) tall he was turned down because of his frail constitution. He remains a fan of the club.
In 1962, Anderson joined The Warriors (also known as The Electric Warriors), where he and his brother Tony shared the role of lead vocalist. He quit this band in 1967, released two solo singles in 1968 under the pseudonym Hans Christian, One of which was a cover of The Association’s “Never My Love”. One of Anderson’s first producers at EMI was songwriter Paul Korda.
In March 1968, Anderson met bassist Chris Squire and joined him in a group called Mabel Greer’s Toyshop, which had previously included guitarist Peter Banks. Anderson fronted this band but ended up leaving again before the summer was over. He remarks on his website that his time with the band consisted of “too many drugs, not enough fun.”
Anderson, Squire and Banks went on to form Yes with drummer Bill Bruford and keyboardist Tony Kaye. Their debut album was released in 1969. Although the band had no formal leader, Anderson served as its main motivating force in the early days, doing most of the hustling for gigs and originating most of the songs. He also played a key part in initiating some of the band’s more ambitious artistic ideas, serving as the main instigator of a series of complex, epic Yes pieces including “Close to the Edge“, “Awaken” and especially the “musical version of War and Peace which later became “The Gates of Delirium” on the Relayer album., as well as bringing in the yogic philosophy behind Tales from Topographic Oceans. Despite his own initial lack of instrumental skills, Anderson was strongly involved in the selection of successive Yes members chosen for their musicality – guitarist Steve Howe (who replaced Banks in 1970), Kaye’s successive replacements Rick Wakeman and Patrick Moraz, and drummer Alan White (who replaced Bruford when the latter departed for King Crimson in 1972).
Ambitious and stubborn (he was sometimes referred to as “the hippy with the iron hand”) Anderson was also fond of sonic and psychological creative experiments, and in so doing contributed to occasionally conflicted relationships within the band and with management. One celebrated example of Anderson’s approach was his original desire to record Tales from Topographic Oceans in the middle of the woods: instead, when the band opted to use a standard recording studio Anderson decided to arrange hay and animal cut-outs all over the floor to create atmosphere. In another “Tales” incident, Anderson had tiles installed in the studio to simulate the echo effect of one’s vocals in a bathroom.
Anderson stayed with Yes until a “bitter dispute” in 1979., following which he went solo for four years. Although he did not appear on the band’s 1980 album Drama, he rejoined a reformed and restructured Yes in 1983, singing on their most commercially successful album 90125 and its follow-up Big Generator. Anderson ultimately felt sidelined by the band’s more pop-oriented 1980s approach (creatively dominated by then-guitarist Trevor Rabin, and aimed at major commercial success and mainstream radio play). He left the band again in 1988, and teamed up with other former Yes members in 1989 to form the group Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, Howe (ABWH) (augmented by bassist Tony Levin, who had played with drummer Bruford in King Crimson.
After the successful first ABWH album, a series of business deals caused ABWH to reunite with the then-current members of Yes, who had been out of the public eye while searching for a new lead singer. The resulting eight-man band assumed the name Yes, and the album Union (1991) was assembled from various pieces of an in-progress second ABWH album, as well as recordings that the “Yes proper” band had been working on without Anderson. A successful tour followed, but the eight-man line-up of Yes never recorded a complete album together before splintering in 1992: Anderson remained in the next version of the band, which reunited the 90125 lineup. Many more personnel changes (including assorted full or partial reunions) followed, all of which featured Anderson until 2004, when health issues began to impact on his ability to play live. A Yes tour planned for summer 2008 was cancelled when Anderson suffered acute respiratory failure, precipitating his replacement within the band by Benoît David, the lead vocalist in Yes tribute act Close to the Edge. (and, subsequently, by Glass Hammer vocalist Jon Davison).
It is a commonly held misconception that Anderson sings falsetto, a vocal technique which artificially produces high, airy notes by using only the ligamentous edges of the vocal cords; however, this is not the case. Anderson’s normal singing/speaking voice is naturally above the tenor range. In a 2008 interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Anderson stated, “I’m an alto tenor and I can sing certain high notes, but I could never sing falsetto, so I go and hit them high.” He is also noted for singing in his original Lancashire accent.
Anderson is also responsible for most of the mystically themed lyrics and concepts which are part of many Yes releases. These have occasionally alienated some members of the band (most notably drummer Bill Bruford and keyboardist Rick Wakeman), contributing to their leaving the group. The lyrics are frequently inspired by various books Anderson has enjoyed, from Tolstoy‘s War and Peace to Hermann Hesse‘s Siddhartha, and Carlos Castaneda. A footnote in Paramahansa Yogananda‘s Autobiography of a Yogi inspired an entire double album Tales from Topographic Oceans (1973). Recurring themes include environmentalism, pacifism and sun worship.
I can’t really sum up the crux of his career better than that.
In addition to the above-mentioned Vangelis, (of which they recorded four studio albums together), Jon has also worked with Kitaro, King Crimson, Iron Butterfly, Toto, Glass Hammer, Mike Oldfield, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and the Paul Green School of Rock, amongst a host of others.
Jon also has children who are sometimes involved with his music activities, they are his son, Damian (born 1972) daughters, Deborah (born 1970, who’s also a famous magazine photographer), and Jade (born 1980). His second wife Jane Luttenberger has assisted Jon on a couple of music projects (including one recorded entirely in a San Luis Obispo area Irish pub).
He has been an US citizen now since 2009. He moved to the Los Angeles area at the time when 90125 was released, (1983? 1984? working heavily with guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist Trevor Rabin on its’ follow up Big Generator and recorded a solo album, In The City of Angels with several members of Toto guest starring on the project.
Currently, Jon is involved with ex-Yes members Rick Wakeman and Trevor Rabin, cobbling a new project together and recently started a Kickstarter campaign to fund his new project with jazz fusion violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, which goes a little like this on Wikipedia:
“On 25 July 2014, Jon announced the formation of a new ensemble, the Anderson Ponty Band, with French virtuoso violinist and jazz composer Jean-Luc Ponty and the recording of an album. The Anderson Ponty Band also includes Jamie Dunlap on guitars, Wally Minko on keyboards, Baron Browne on bass and Rayford Griffin on drums & percussion.
The band will visit the music created by Jon Anderson and Jean-Luc Ponty over the years with new arrangements while creating new compositions as well. The Anderson Ponty Band have been writing and arranging old favorites during the past three months May, June and July 2014. They will be in residence for three weeks in September 2014 at Wheeler Opera House in Aspen, Colorado rehearsing, recording and playing a public performance on Saturday 20 September 2014. An album will be finished in Los Angeles and is yet scheduled for release in early 2015. Also, a videography documenting the making of the album will be released as well as videos of performances. A world tour beginning in March 2015 is in the planning stages.”
I’ve met Jon Anderson personally on three occasions – 1994 at his appearance at the YesFestival in Glendale. A 1997 store signing at the Tower Records in Glendale for the Open Your Eyes album, and a 2004 store signing and performance at the Tower Records in Sherman Oaks Galleria for the release of the The Ultimate Yes collection and Yesspeak DVD with my recently deceased best friend Harry Perzigian.
I’ve only had the occasion to hear Jon perform solo at three shows – two for his Animation tour in 1982 at the New York Palladium and Asbury Park Convention Center in New Jersey, and at one time at the Roxy Theater in 2008.
My favorite five solo albums of Jon are:
1. Olias of Sunhillow 1976
Olias of Sunhillow is a progressive rock concept album which tells the story of an alien race and their journey to a new world (the story printed in the LP jacket calls it “the earth”, lowercase ‘e’) due to a volcanic catastrophe. Olias, the title character, is the chosen architect of the glider Moorglade Mover, which will be used to fly his people to their new home. Ranyart is the navigator for the glider, and Qoquaq (pronounced ‘ko-quake’) is the leader who unites the four tribes of Sunhillow to partake in the exodus.
The album represented 8 months of physical work, but it took two years from conception to release. Anderson used more than a hundred tracks in putting the album together, overdubbing strings, organ, harp and percussion (see complete list of instruments further down).
Since Anderson produced Olias soon after Vangelis had auditioned to be a part of Yes, there has been widespread speculation that Vangelis contributed to the album, with some fans going so far as to say that Olias represents the kind of sound that Yes would have created if Vangelis had in fact joined the band. However, both Vangelis and Anderson have denied that they collaborated on the album.
I still hark back to those days of having three paper routes to my name back in Parsippany NJ throwing papers at doorsteps with one hand while trying to balance my ‘ghetto blaster’ blasting “Solid Space” at full volume with the other hand.
2. Animation 1982
Animation was produced by producer Tony Visconti (who had worked with more mainstream British acts such as David Bowie and T. Rex) and was released on vinyl but no CD version was published until 2006, when a limited edition CD re-release of the album (with two bonus tracks, one titled “Spider” which was originally the b-side to “Surrender”) was issued by Opio Media.
“Surrender” and “All in a Matter of Time” were released as singles.
The album was promoted with a world tour where Anderson would perform songs from the album as well as several Yes classics, mostly in medley form.
A follow-up album entitled Chagall was recorded but never released.
One track on the album, “Boundaries”, would later appear on other works by Anderson himself (entitled “O’er” on The Promise Ring) and Yes (entitled ‘”Somehow, Someday” on 1997’s Open Your Eyes.
The title track, Animation was a very touching and moving 10 minute epic piece dedicated to the birth of Jon’s youngest daughter Jade.
3. Jon and Vangelis – The Friends of Mr. Cairo 1981
The Friends of Mr Cairo is the second album by Jon and Vangelis, released in 1981. There are two editions of this album, with different sleeves. Both versions were released in 1981 within a few weeks of each other. The title track, “The Friends of Mr Cairo”, peaked at No. 1 on the Canadian singles late 1981, though this track was not a hit elsewhere. The second edition of the album includes the single “I’ll Find My Way Home“, which stayed for 14 weeks in the Swiss charts and peaked at No. 1 on 7 March 1982. “State of Independence” was later a hit single for Donna Summer, and a decade later for Moodswings with Chrissie Hynde on vocal. Anderson also later re-recorded that song on his solo album Change We Must, released in 1994.
The title track and its accompanying music video serve as an ode to classic Hollywood films of the 1930s and 1940s. Most notable references are to the classic film noir The Maltese Falcon. The track incorporates sound effects and voice impressions of the stars of the era most notably Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre and Jimmy Stewart. At the beginning of the track, the screeching of tyres and a car horn are heard, presumably as a car makes an attempted getaway, which then gives way to the sound of gunfire. This screeching sound/car horn is identical to that heard in the 1970 feature film Get Carter (at 1.1.52-1.1.56), and was probably sampled for use on the track. Joel Cairo (Mr Cairo) is the name of the character played by Peter Lorre in The Maltese Falcon.
I remember the Canadian comedy sketch show, SCTV did a whole parody on gumshoe detectives with the title track used as background music. THIS was a very big selling album in Canada, if I remember scouring though the billboard magazine foreign charts at the Lake Hiawatha Library magazine section correctly, which was where I read all the trades that came in back in my high school days.
4. 3 Ships 1985
3 Ships is the fourth solo album by Yes lead singer Jon Anderson, released on Elektra Records in 1985. It includes versions of traditional Christmas carols and original material by Yes lead singer Jon Anderson. The three ships reference comes from the song “I Saw Three Ships,” which states, “I saw three ships come sailing in, on Christmas day in the morning”.
The album was dedicated to the organisation Beyond War.
The ‘Holiday Card Pack, Jon Anderson Special Edition’ came with a personal autograph from Jon, as well as a set of five Christmas cards. Each card displayed an image of an Anderson watercolour painting.
3 Ships was reissued on Compact Disc in 2007. This remastered ’22nd Anniversary Edition’ contains all of the album’s original songs, plus five bonus tracks, two of which were previously unreleased.
Yeah, but does it also include that embarrassingly bad MTV video he made of “Easier Said Than Done”with all the VJs running around like loony little elves at the MTV studios? Still, it’s the only album of Christmas carols that I don’t have to put a gun to my head to listen to every year.
5. Toltec 1996
The 1996 Toltec release is made up of 13 cuts divided into three parts. (it was originally supposed to be called the Power of Silence to be released by Geffen Records) It tells the tale of the Toltec, a Native American concept of a group of people who have been all over the Earth, existing within different cultures throughout the centuries. They are described in the album liner as “Creators of the circles of power, color, perfume, and music healing domes.” Musically, it is progressive rock with elements of new age, world music, electronic, and jazz. Anderson provided the vocals, wrote, arranged, and produced the work.
I also bought a copy of this album to share with native American adult film actress Hyapatia Lee.
Well, I want to thank everyone for checking out these blogs, they were absolutely a privilege to research and write and to sit back reliving memories both good and bad. No matter how bleak or how jubilant life gets from time to time, just remember you’ll always have your Yes albums to fall back on. I’m thankful for the memories and thankful for the friends I made along the way, and will always mourn the ones who are not with me any longer. Thanks ever to the tantalizing Tamara Shain for the stimulating stand in models for Jennifer Ellis and Marlene, original editor Sparky Santos for the original editing and blog formatting, and former Yes (or sometimes stand in utility) member Billy Sherwood for the words of encouragement and thumbs up of approval.
And of course, Wikipedia for increasing the word count on these blogs
Blog is going dark for a while. I’m exhausted with going with this project five weeks straight. I’ll be back next month with a blog about the future of the Deposit Man.
Cary Coatney 10/24/2014