Yes Respected Genesis, But Tried Not to Listen Much
Steve Howe recalled that Yes had great respect for their prog counterparts in the genre’s early days – but said his group tried hard to avoid being influenced by any of them.
The guitarist said he and his colleagues intentionally worked to “decommercialize” their music as they aimed to take their own creative path.
“We had respect for Genesis and certainly ELP, but I’d have to say King Crimson,” Howe told Rock Cellar recently when asked which groups he appreciated most. “I mean, King Crimson were kind of the lords of prog in a way. They were a problematic band because they weren’t easy to grasp… it was sometimes very kind of aggressive music, like ‘[21st] Century Schizoid Man.’ They had all sorts of levels to their music.”
While he emphasized that “Yes always had respect for” Crimson and ELP, they deliberately “didn’t bother a lot with Genesis.” He explained: “[W]e didn’t sit home listening to them to see if our next record should be like them. That’s the worst thing we could have done because we didn’t want to be influenced by them. So wherever Genesis was going, we were going somewhere else!”
Howe continued: “We were not going to allow ourselves to be influenced because it’s very easy… especially if the music is all around you anyway. And that happened to me with the guitar in the late ’60s. There was Hendrix and there was Clapton and everyone was playing like that; but I said, ‘I’m not going to play like that. I don’t need to copy that because that’s not me.’… I certainly wasn’t going to suddenly say, ‘Well, that’s where I should be going,’ because it was already happening. … I was looking for something individual, and I wanted Yes to be that individual – so we didn’t want to be like Genesis, ELP or Crimson.”
The guitarist reflected of his group’s output: “They were not commercial-style records where we had a few hits, so we thought we were gonna write another hit! We didn’t even like hits. We used to decommercialize music quite often. Purposely. ‘Don’t repeat that course. That’s what pop bands do.’ So basically we had our own method, and I think each decade in Yes’s career had some sort of turning point, Close to the Edge is the one that I can remember.”
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