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This song describes the paradox of loneliness. Once you've been hurt, loneliness is better than a broken heart.
This is the first single from 90125, and was the group's one and only #1 charting hit. The album was a drastic departure from Yes' progressive sound in the '70s, containing distorted guitar and synthesizers that were popular at the time. With help from MTV, Yes suddenly found a new audience, who were sometimes shocked to learn that much of their back catalog consisted of complex pieces that would often run well over 10 minutes.
Those familiar with the Yes catalog were shocked to hear this tightly packaged concoction from the band that once released a double album containing just four songs (Tales from Topographic Oceans
). This was a different variation of the band, however, and they weren't opposed to chasing a hit. "It was already deemed to be a hit record," Jon Anderson told us
. "The record company had invested a lot of money in making a record. They brought me in to make it Yes. They said, 'This is going to be a hit, and we're going to make sure.' They promoted it like crazy and did a good video - MTV had just started up. So everything just sort of happened at the same time."
The driving force at Yes' label, Atlantic Records, was Ahmet Ertegun, who insisted that this song be a hit. Ertegun held considerable sway, having guided the careers of Aretha Franklin, Led Zeppelin, and many other major acts.
This was written by Yes members Jon Anderson, Trevor Horn, Trevor Rabin and Chris Squire
. It was sung by Anderson, who had just returned to the group since leaving in 1980. He told us about his role in writing it: "The song was already finished, but there were no verses. They had tried some verses and it really wasn't working. They had the chorus, they had the arrangement. I came in and all the songs were virtually put together, but there was a lack of choruses here, verses there. I went in for three weeks with Trevor and sort of filled everything in.
I remember sitting with Trevor Rabin and we started off, 'Move yourself, you always live your life never thinking of the future.' That was the line I wrote. And then he'd say, 'Prove yourself, win or loser.' And then he said, 'Jon, I've got to go. You carry on.' So I just carried on writing the lyrics to the verses. The chorus was already well organized by Trevor."
According to Trevor Rabin on the DVD Yes Video Hits
, he wrote the bass line to this song and came up with the title in his bathroom (which had very good acoustics), during a "particularly long visit." Rabin says he often sings in the loo. (thanks, Evna - São Paulo, Brazil)
Trevor Horn, formerly of the Buggles, produced the 90125
album. Horn took over for Jon Anderson as lead singer of Yes for for their 1980 album Drama
, and after a tour to support the album the band broke up and Horn focused on production work. When Yes re-formed for 90125
, Anderson returned along with Tony Kaye, Chris Squire and Alan White, and Horn produced the album. This song hit #1 in the US the week of January 21, 1984, and held the position the following week, when in the UK another Horn-produced song, "Relax
" by Frankie Goes To Hollywood, claimed the top spot. This made Horn the only producer to have simultaneous #1 hits in both the UK and the US with different songs by different artists.
The video was directed by the team of Aubrey Powell and Storm Thorgerson, who went by "Po & Storm." In it's full form, the video runs 6:46 and contains various non-musical scenes where the band members transform into different animals. MTV usually played the condensed version, but they played it often, as they were especially keen on Rock bands in their early years.
Storm Thorgerson is the same guy who did the artwork for Pink Floyd, including the Dark Side of the Moon album cover. He died on April 18, 2013.
90125's logo was designed on an Apple IIe computer (very modern at the time,) and would be used on Yes' next album Big Generator. (thanks, Wil - Brentwood, TN)
This song was once parodied on Mystery Science Theater 3000. Tom Servo thought Yes didn't go far enough by saying "The owner of a lonely heart is much better than the owner of a broken heart...". He wanted them to come up with a comparison between the owner of a broken heart and the owner of other various other things, like a perfectly functional cheese slicer, a pie, a pencil, etc. (thanks, Homer - Versailles, IL)
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