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Yes Thank Fans’ Discerning Tastes as They’re Inducted Into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Theo Wargo, Getty Images
Theo Wargo, Getty Images

Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson of Rush inducted Yes into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame tonight. And as you can imagine, it was a total nerdfest.

“And we thought we waited a long time to get into the Hall of Fame,” Lee said as he walked onstage. “We all start somewhere, and for me, my journey with Yes began when I was a teenager, gently fishing a Yes album out of its sleeve, being just a bit freaked by the disembodied head on the cover, placing the needle on the groove and letting the music wash over me. I may have smoked a cigarette or something. Yes were my gateway band in so many ways.”

He went on to talk about how he learned parts of “Starship Trooper,” “but I never really mastered them.” “Yes gave me the gift of music, which is everything, as you know,” he said. “The musical choices we make in our youth help to mold who we become.”

Lee shared personal reflections from his teen years, too, including Monty Python skits and early Yes LPs. “I still thrill to the bass part in ‘No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed’ the way I did the first time I heard it that day.” Backstage, he was asked if it was difficult to learn the bass lines from Yes songs. “At first, difficult,” he said. “After a while … difficult.”

Jon Anderson spoke first at the ceremony. He was inducted along with a string of his former collaborators in Yes, including fellow co-founding members Bill Bruford and Tony Kaye. The late Chris Squire, who died after a cancer battle in 2015, was given special recognition for his contributions to the band. Steve Howe and Alan White continue to lead the modern-day edition of Yes. Rick Wakeman, who served in five different stints with the group, and 90125-era contributor Trevor Rabin rounded out the evening’s honorees on Friday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

“I went to the Hall of Fame about four years ago … and I walked around, and all my heroes were there,” Anderson said. “All these great people, and we’re going to join them. I can’t believe it.” Like White, who spoke next, he paid respect to Squire. “This has been a long journey,” White said. “I’d like to acknowledge Chris Squire. I worked with him for 43 years and he was one of my best friends ever.”

“We’d like to thank our fans for believing all of these years that we deserve and needed to be inducted into this Hall of Fame anyway,” Howe said during his speech. “Nothing can take away the response we’ve gotten from our fans, who obviously have a different ear from the general music lover’s, fortunately for us, and able to distinguish the textures and the harmony and the discords and the dynamics and the dramatic and the soft and the low and the quiet. As Bill would say, when asked, ‘What is Yes music?’ Bill would say simply, ‘Some of it’s fast, and some of it’s slow.”

Wakeman spoke last, telling the audience, “Less than half a mile away from this very building is where I had my first meaningful sexual experience. It wasn’t very good — it never is when you’re on your own.” He kept his speech light, poking fun at his wife, his dad and his prostate.

That core lineup memorably toured together behind 1991’s Union album. Still, Howe was frank in questioning early on whether the group – which some 20 former members – could manage a reunion, even in the midst of such a celebratory event.

Kaye and Rabin left Yes after 1994’s Talk, Bruford ultimately retired after the Union era, Wakeman departed in 2004 and Anderson has been gone since 2008. Yes appears today with a lineup also featuring frontman Jon Davison, bassist Billy Sherwood and keyboardist Geoff Downes, focusing more recently on complete-album concerts. Kaye and Sherwood have since co-founded Circa, while Wakeman, Anderson and Rabin split off on their own to take part of a well-received partial reunion of their own.

This year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony will debut on HBO at 8PM ET on April 29.

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Next: Yes Albums Ranked Worst to Best

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