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Close To The Edge by Yes
Album: Close To The EdgeReleased: 1972
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.
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.
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.