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Close To The Edge

by

Yes



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

This song was written by Yes lead singer Jon Anderson and guitarist Steve Howe. Jon Anderson has said that many times the lyrics he writes reveal their meanings to him later. He told us that this song is one such example. "The lyrics, 'Season witch could call you from the depths of your disgrace,' I realized what I was singing was all about the idea that your higher self will always save you if you keep your heart in the right place," he said. (Here's our full Jon Anderson interview.)
This song came about at a time when the members of Yes were concerned with how to follow up their successful Fragile album. Rick Wakeman had joined Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Chris Squire, and Bill Bruford on that album. Yes had already amassed an impressive collection of epics that hovered around the ten-minute mark, exceeding what was perceived as the standard length in popular music. But song length itself wasn't the point: the band wanted to take the time to say what they had to say. (thanks, Joe - Albion, NY)
It was during the recording of this album, and particularly this song that Bill Bruford decided to part with the band. He felt the group was going too far with the progressive music and he also felt he had nothing to contribute to the new direction (Rick Wakeman would leave for similar reasons after the band's next album, Tales From Topographic Oceans). He quit shortly after they finished the album, prompting Jon Anderson and Chris Squire to politely ask session drummer Alan White to join for the upcoming tour just days away, or be thrown out of the window of the room they were in. He agreed and has been with the band ever since. (thanks, Adrian - Brookings, SD)
This was one of the songs Yes recorded that couldn't be recreated live without some outside help. They solved this problem by bringing their producer, Eddy Offord, on the road. He put various church organs, sound effects and vocal bits onto tape, and played them during performances at opportune times from a Revox tape machine. On this track, he was the live sound of the pipe organ and the waterfall.
During a radio show call Yes Music: An Evening With Jon Anderson, the singer explained: "The end verse is a dream that I had a long time ago about passing on from this world to another world, yet feeling so fantastic about it that death never frightened me ever since. That's what seemed to come out in this song, that it was a very pastoral kind of experience rather than a very frightening one."
Jon Anderson is no fan of organized religion, and he takes some shots at the institution in this song, both in the lyrics ("How many millions do we deceive each day?") and in the music: a church organ comes in, which is replaced by a Moog synthesizer. "This leads to another organ solo rejoicing in the fact that you can turn your back on churches and find it within yourself to be your own church," Anderson said.
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Comments (25):

Wow, I just saw YES two days ago, they played this song, in its entirety, as they played the whole album, plus the Yes Album , and Going for the One Album, including Awaken and Chris' new triple neck bass. CttE played for the first time ever, I believe, live, in entirety. See the tour!!!!!
- DC, Seattle, WA
Read all the previous comments and decided to check out the Hermann Hesse "Siddhartha" theory. Whoa ... right on! I downloaded the book onto my Kindle for free using the gutenberg.org site. It's an interesting fun read thus far, and it's also quite evident from the first few pages that CTTE was influenced by this book. I look forward to reading the rest while listening to YES.
- Hikin4Views, Fishkill, NY
Jon Anderson has always been a big Hermann Hesse fan. When YES played an open-air concert high on top of a mountain near Lake Constance, Jon explained to the audience that Hesse had once lived somewhere down there near the lake. Then he called out his name loudly, so you could probably hear it over in Switzerland. Quite an appreciation!
- Tom, Freiburg, Germany
I think the best explanation for this song comes from markprindle.com: Simply put, "Close to the Edge" is AN EPIC ABOUT TAKING A s--t. The four movements (HA! Pun intended) of the piece illustrate this quite amusingly:

I. "The Solid Time of Change" - A rather poetic euphemism for a bowel movement. There's a time...
II. "Total Mass Retain" - Seems our protagonist is having some trouble getting the job done.
III. "I Get Up, I Get Down" - With that obstacle overcome, our protagonist keeps having to "go" just when he thinks he's finished. He gets up, and then....
IV. "Seasons of Man" - Seasons pass... and he's still there.
- brian, Rochester, NY
I have a Yes documentary that includes Bruford's comments on leaving the band, and I didn't take them to mean he thought CTTE was "too far." (King Crimson, which he then joined, was no pop band.) I thought he meant he didn't see anything else Yes could do aside from CTTE II. In other words, he didn't want to try to follow up such a masterpiece.
- BD, Vienna, VA
In "Bill Bruford The autobiography" the author states he named the 'Fragile' and 'Close to the Edge' albums based on the state of the band (YES) as he saw it at the time. He tells a great story about how Eddie Offord spliced Close To The Edge together from numerous takes on each of the sections of the song- he had to rescue the last tape splice from a dumpster- it had fallen on the mixing room floor and been taken out with the trash. I love CTTE buy really look at it differently since reading Bruford's book. It is a suite and should be tracked that way -never understood why it wasn't. The ultimate Yes suite. The ultimate Yes song is 'Heart of the Sunrise'.
- Mark, Raleigh, NC
Saw Yes at Cobo hall spring of 74,they did the whole CTTE album,then did Tales,very very "heady"times,security guys were cool,didn't give a s--t about pot or pills just didn't want glass taken in
- Rick, plainwell,mich, MI
I'm with Justin from Montpelier (hello from N.H.!) - they do seem heavily invested in this song. The live concert film shows this. They're not just playing, they're channelling whatever this means to them personally.
I did see a brief segment of Steve Howe talking about some of his contribution to the song; he said he was living at the time near the Thames (?) river, but unfortunately the clip was too short to explain much.
I love art rock and tho some of it can be pretty cerebral, Yes can really tugs my heartstrings on a totally nonverbal level. Funny that Igor Stravinsky was one of their big influences, because he does the same thing for me. (minus the inscrutible lyrics)
- Liz, Wilton, NH
The first time I listened to this, I was 8 years old (When it came out in 1973). Still one of my favorite albums of all time. Love the Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman and Howe version from the live album of their 1989 tour.
- Rick, Mount Ephraim, NJ
Well, I don't know what to think!
- Michael, Oxford, -
"none of the guys in Yes took any drugs... " • lol •
::G-'8 HAhahahaha- ackack gack... omg . . . 8,-D::
omg... OMFG *rofl* So,so roRoWROoong ©-8]}
Let's just take note of one lyric from one song,
*BIG GENERATOR*=>
"There is a reason to experience Psychedelics so we can see..."
But the same is everywhere for those with eyes to see and ears:
"Green Leaves [=Japanese slang for Cannabis] reveal the heartSpoken Khatru"
Ever wonder what's a KHATru? ew??
"Spiritual Jon" is always talking about gettin' high. He's continually spoken in interviews about his own proficient ability to humble himself with overindulgence in fun & substance; as well he's onto the grandeaur of magnifying and shrinking self under the "entheogenic" plant wisdoms.
He's written about this on his blog. re: his BBC interview for Olias he states that he was 'obviously high' from [what was at the time a customary] pre-performance smoke ... see4 yerself :: uk.youtube.com/watch?v=LE87R5boAkA

Now about this Puritan prudery infecting America,
saying that drugs are not "Spiritual"...?
Where does anthropology tell us our religions come from? Do your reading.
Then consider humbling yourself to the grandparents, , the teaching plants.
- hilarleo, berkeley, CA
I agree with Justin about the middle part of this song (starting at 8:28 in the studio version, at least on my 2003 remastered CD). I think the point of the completely gibberish lyrics is that you can interpret this as being about anything you like (same with "Awaken"). For about 30 seconds before 8:28, the band has been playing a "wandering" sort of sound, with the main theme being played on the organ... then the big moment itself is very sudden and unexpected - not unlike seeing an attractive person when you're not expecting it. And of course, you come back down to earth just as abruptly, at 14:13. If I were to make a film about my life (so far - I'm only 17 so hopefully still plenty to come), then I'd like to have this on the soundtrack.
- Michael, Oxford, -
i think that if people smoked bananas more in the present, the meaning of the specific lyrics "close to the edge, down by the corner", would be more wider known. I have taken a fair share of trips with bananas. i once got a hold of a bunch of 100 bananas. this particular bunch of bananas was not an ordinary bunch of bananas, it was a funky bunch. what i mean is this bunch of 100 bananas was taken from a tree that had somewhere around 2200 bananas in it. (thats alot of bananas folks) now when this particular bunch of 2200 was being peeled, it was layed down flat. because it was layed down flat to dry, the very edges and especially the very corners of the bunch are the last to dry. because the edges of the bunch dry last, blah blah blah. God I talk a lot when I smoke bananas!

- jeremy, funkytown, Botswana
- ben, swerty, Austria
Actually, the song was inspired by the book "Siddartha" by Herman Hesse. Siddhartha is an allegorical novel by Hermann Hesse which deals with the spiritual journey of an Indian man called Siddhartha during the time of the Buddha.

And since Jon, Chris, and Steve were all into the eastern religion thing (like so many other musical artists of the 60s and 70s), this makes a lot of sense.

And besides, I thought none of the guys in Yes took any drugs. Sure, it was a big thing back then, but I think that they were one of the few bands who didn't take drugs. Jon just has a beautiful, spiritual mind.
- Corey, Barrie, ON
Jon and Rick have stated that it also has relevance to the flat Rick was living in at that time.."close to the edge..down by the river.."
- Jules, Negaunee, MI
this song describes yes better than any other. melodic, intricate, and very strange lyrics. you may not know (or care) what the song is about, but you listen to it intently, trying to figure it out. maybe you got it? saw them during the 72/73 tour in philly. that's when i got hooked
- mike, baltimore, MD
crack is bad, dont experiment with crack
- jordan, calgary, Canada
i think that if people dosed on acid more in the present, the meaning of the specific lyrics "close to the edge, down by the corner", would be more wider known. I have taken a fair share of trips with LSD. i once got a hold of a sheet of 100 blotters/tabs of acid. this particular sheet of acid was not an ordinary sheet of acid, it was a corner sheet. what i mean is this chunk of 100 tabs was taken from a sheet that had somewhere around 2200 tabs/blotters in it. (thats alot of acid folks) now when this particular sheet of 2200 was being dryed after it had been dipped and soaked with LSD, it was layed down flat. because it was layed down flat to dry, the very edges and especially the very corners of the sheet are the last to dry. because the edges of the sheet dry last, the very edges are extremely strong. so since i had the corner sheet of 100 tiny squares out of a larger sheet that was 2200 tiny squares, the two sides that made up the corner of the larger 2200 squares were soaked with acid.

if you have ever seen how the cover of close to the edge is light green on the top and dark on the bottom, it looks just like a tab/blotter of acid that has been taken from the very edge of a large sheet of acid that was layed flat to dry. the lighter shade representing the edge of the sheet that contains aloooot of acid. however the album cover is about a square foot, and tab/blotter of acid is about a square centimetre.

if you ever come across a tab/blotter of acid that is shaded like the album cover or your told that it is a tab taken from close to the edge, down by the corner of the sheet that will definitly "take away the plain in which you move and choose the course your ruling". the tab will make you go waaaaay up at points then get down at others, thats the ways lsd trips pan out. if you were to chart how high you were on a graph it would go up and down through out the course of the trip. hence the lines "i get up, i get down". there are many other connections ive made but i think you should experiment with acid and crack the mystery to many lyrics that were written in that era.
- jordan, calgary, Canada
I heard the live version of CTTE from "Yessongs" before I ever heard the studio version and have to say I prefer the stage version.
- Charles, Charlotte, NC
Absolutely amazing. The first time i heard it i was blown away, and my tape player got quite a workout playing it over and over again. The lyrics are somewhat obscure but seem fitting, and the way that they are sang conveys more raw emotion than just meaning. All the members of Yes really gave this song their all, especially Rick. The Break in the middle is so ethereal it almost transports you to another place.
- Justin, Montpelier, VT
flawless epic, not a second wasted
- ruben, nsw, Australia
For many years, I maintained that CTTE was one of, if not THE most flawless rock albums ever produced- up there with Sgt. Pepper, Dark Side of the Moon, & the like. Stiil do.
Mike, Madison Hts,Mi.
- Mike, Madison Heights, MI
I remember experiencing CTTE live in 1977 like it was yesterday. Rick's keyboard parts in particular blew me away.
- Lou, Charlotte, NC
The Definitive Song by Yes.
- Mister, Medina, OH
Words cant begin to describe my feelings for this song, so all I can say is that this songs is unbelievable.The lyrics are so ethereal/mystical and everything in general is "close to the edge" of perfection.
- Alex, Fort Mill, SC
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Christopher CrossChristopher Cross
The man who created Yacht Rock with "Sailing" wrote one of his biggest hits while on acid.
Jonathan Edwards - "Sunshine"Jonathan Edwards - "Sunshine"
"How much does it cost? I'll buy it?" Another songwriter told Jonathan to change these lyrics. Good thing he ignored this advice.
Pegi YoungPegi Young
After many years working on the Bridge School, Pegi is establishing her career as a singer/songwriter.
Marvin GayeMarvin Gaye
Did Marvin try out with the Detroit Lions? Did he fake crazy to get out of military service? And what about the cross-dressing?