I am relaxing, watching Yes perform at the induction ceremony for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with a glass of smooth California Merlot. What I love about Yes is that it is all about the music. They did not rely on posturing, hipness, or trendy political sloganeering. Like the best art and literature, their music takes you away – it spurs you to think and to dream.
I really appreciated how Jon Anderson remembered Chris Squire, but, also included Peter Banks. And Rick Wakeman’s acceptance speech was a real hoot.
Their performance tonight (well, actually it was performed on April 7th) was as good as back in the day. Jon was in great voice, and Steve and Rick were dazzling, as usual. Geddy Lee of Rush filled in for Chris on bass during Roundabout and Steve Howe played a Rickenbacker on Owner of a Lonely Heart. It was a shame that Bill Bruford couldn’t join them for their performance, but, it was good to see him on stage to be inducted. In addition to having the privilege of witnessing the Yes Album and Tales From Topographic Oceans tours, I saw Bill Bruford with King Crimson in 1974 and Genesis in 1976. It was also essential to have Trevor Rabin there since he played a big role in the band’s resurgence in the 1980’s.
As I have said on this blog before, it is gratifying to see Yes finally inducted – though it would have been more satisfying if they had not waited until Chris Squire had passed. Yet, where are the other great progressive artists? Jethro Tull preceded Yes, forming in 1968. Where are Procol Harum, the Moody Blues, King Crimson, and, ELP? It is not as if these bands didn’t sell records or get radio airplay, after all.
The Hall of Fame says that the nominees are chosen by music historians and critics, as well as by fellow music artists. Well, Progressive Rock didn’t die. It was killed by critics and music historians who thought that it wasn’t authentic enough, didn’t have enough street cred. They preferred artists who feigned ignorance of musicianship (I once knew a jazz guitarist who turned to punk music to make a living). Many may not remember that in the late 1960’s rock musicians were being criticized for the same thing – that they were not as authentic as the rock and rollers of the 1950’s. And, you must understand that many of the current crop of musical artists have been shaped by the views critics, and, the historians (who more than occasionally get history about as right as Donald Trump does).
I have heard one theory that posits that the powers that be in the Hall (such as my neighbor Jann Wenner) favor American music. This may have some merit. Ian Anderson has said that he felt phony trying to sound as if he came from the Mississippi delta and so he began reconnecting with his British heritage and its folk music. Progressive rock is very European by nature. It is rooted in European folk and classical music. However, rock music has always been eclectic. I see no reason at all that Progressive rock, and, God forbid, Jazz-Rock, cannot coexist peacefully alongside good old three chord rock and roll.