Although I’d been a music fan and buying records since I was eight, I didn’t get around to the live experience until I was sixteen. As with my first album, my partner in crime was my friend Charles Razzall, although I was the instigator, having moved on from a brief obsession with the Moody Blues (Don’t go there. Just leave it.) to an interest in the emerging prog rock band Yes, who had announced a gig at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on the South Bank on October 31st 1970. “Oh yes of course, the Q.E. Hall!”, Mum said. She had produced a play there in 1967 when it had just opened. Typical.
But a word for the support band, who were called Dada, a jazz rock fusion outfit containing two future big names, Elkie Brooks and Robert Palmer. The latter sadly died in 2003 but the Elk is still going. I think I liked them. I certainly remember Elkie, she was the original wild rock chick, and a great live performer.
Scribbled on the back of the programme was: “With Charles Razzall. Astral Traveller, Yours is no disgrace, The Clap, Then, All Good People, Perpetual Change, Everydays, America.”
These were a mixture of tracks from the second album (cover image shown here on the programme cover), Time and a Word, and The Yes Album, which was yet to be released, and was their big breakthrough. I was hooked, especially after the 10 minute version of America by Paul Simon, a virtuoso show closer. The guitarist, Steve Howe, was a new and dazzlingly impressive upgrade on the previous incumbent, Pete Banks. Chris Squire on bass had a massive sound – he was the first rock bassist to be put at the front of the mix, a kind of second lead. Pure joy for musos.
This was my favourite period of Yes, when they were still melodic and funky, before Rick Wakeman, before they disappeared up their own importance and made Tales from Topographic Oceans, a sprawling, self-indulgent mess, partly due to their replacing drummer Bill Bruford with the stodgy Alan White. It’s usually more exciting to discover a band at an early stage when they’re still full of energy and ideas and not under pressure to produce more product for the fanbase. I had to go out and buy Time and a Word, then wait with bated breath for the release of The Yes Album. Would you believe, America wasn’t on it.