Jon Anderson of Yes

by Carl Wiser

Jon is the exuberant frontman, the prescient lyricist, and the musical steward of Yes. On many of their classic albums - Fragile, Close to the Edge, The Yes Album among them - he developed themes and tied together the startling musicianship of guitarist Steve Howe, bassist Chris Squire, keyboard player Rick Wakeman, and drummer Bill Bruford.

Yes songs are works of inspiration. Jon draws on the divine for his words, and says that lyrics often reveal their meanings to him long after they have been recorded. His passion for these songs comes through not just when he performs them, but also as he tells their stories: the guardian angel that looks over "Starship Trooper," the higher self in "Close to the Edge," the collective beauty of "And You and I."

It was 1969 when Yes released their first (self-titled) album. On the set was a song called "Survival," which deals with the power of nature and our relationship with the Earth. In 2011, survival, healing and humanity were some of subjects Jon explored on his acclaimed solo album Survival & Other Stories. The project began with an ad on Jon's website reading "Musicians Wanted." He received hundreds of MP3s, leading to collaborations with musicians around the world. Later that year, Jon released Open, a 21-minute piece in four movements based on the classical music that framed the early Yes material.
Carl Wiser (Songfacts): Survival and Other Stories, is the title at all related to the Yes song "Survival"?

Jon Anderson: Not really. But it's funny, because I was working on some music one day and I found a recording of the band playing the song at the BBC in England recording - it's a really good recording. It was the original band, and we played "Survival" 40 years ago. [Laughs] And it sounded so good. I was very, very surprised.

When I was doing the album I was thinking about that word - that we all survive. Somehow we survive.

Songfacts: Is it at all related to your Open project?

Anderson: I think in a way they're all connected. Open leads into the next piece, which I'm working on now, which leads into a whole flurry of musical ideas that I'm trying to put together in an app that people can download and then go on this musical journey that lasts forever.

Songfacts: On your musical journey, when you were writing songs in the early years of Yes, specifically for The Yes Album, how did you go about writing lyrics while the music was being recorded?

Anderson: Well, generally, I would go along with a song, like "Heart of the Sunrise," "Starship Trooper," "Yours Is No Disgrace." Those periods of time, I would go along with ideas for a song, and then talk about how rather than just play the song, we should really make it into a sort of theme and then a section of song, and then a bridge, and then a chorus, then the theme again, then the solo section. I was very into structure at that time and realizing that everybody in the band was very interested in creating this structure for songs, rather than the norm, which was what you hear on the radio, which is verse-verse-chorus-bridge-verse-chorus-bridge-bridge-chorus-chorus thank you. So it was always a question of adventure in music.

I'd been listening a lot to Stravinsky at that time, who was quite an amazing composer, and the band were fans of modern music at that time. Weather Report and bands like that were doing far reaching jazz-rock influenced music. So we were jumping into different structural composition.

Songfacts: It sounds like you were taking a producer role in the making of an album like that. Because you're not only writing the lyrics, you're overseeing the composition and the overall themes.

Anderson: Well, that was my job. I wasn't just the singer in the band. I was always in the center of the circle of musicians and always challenging them to try new ideas, rather than just play the chords. You know, "Steve, don't just play the chords, try doing the phrase or a lick that blends it together."

When people are playing a song they tend to rehearse and be very adventurous in rehearsal. I would tape everything and listen back to it and then pick out parts: "This really works, so let's stick to this sort of groove, let's try a little bit of this. Anybody got an idea for the next section?" And Chris would say, "I've got this bass line." "Well, let's do that."

I'd be this sort of central pivot for everybody to bounce off. Chris used to say, "As long as you're happy, Jon, we're happy."

Songfacts: That's a good place to be. What were some of the compositions that you thought came out just fantastic?

Anderson: Well, obviously, in those early days The Yes Album, Fragile, of course, "Heart of the Sunrise" is a great piece. One of the things that was always important for Yes was to create music for the stage to perform, not to make a record. We were very lucky to go in the studio and make records, but our main game was to put on a show and entertain the audience, and in doing so we put that into the record. So by '71, '72, we were stretching our wings to do longer-form pieces on stage. I got into this whole thing about doing a 20 minute piece, because in those days you could only have 20 minutes on each side of an album. If it had been 30 minutes, it would have been a 30 minute piece.

But Close to the Edge was the first inkling that we were really jumping into a different world that hadn't really been tried out by very many people. And as I see now, a lot of young people are gravitating to that period, the Fragile and Close to the Edge albums.

"And You and I" was a wonderful, wonderful composition on stage. Some of the performances we did in the years to come were just unbelievable. The energy of the band performing that music... you know, when you make a record, it's the first time you've created it, so you haven't really tested it on tour. So you create an album and then you go on tour, and about six months later you're playing it 10 times more enthusiastically, or with more feeling, because you understand the piece better.

Songfacts: What were some of your favorite songs to perform live?

Anderson: "Close to the Edge," "Revealing," "Ritual," "Gates of Delirium," "Awaken." These are really epic pieces of music that would hold 20,000 people in the balance. We were playing in front of big audiences in arenas through the '70s, and people would just sit there and listen for 20 minutes each time, and feel the energy at the end of the piece. We were so convinced about the music, we played it like it was a symphony, and then we finished the piece totally exhausted. And the audience would erupt for about five minutes.

It was an amazing experience to create music of that caliber and it still survives today. This is a wonderful thing that a lot of people are learning about Yes music. They might have found a song here or there and then they opened this door thinking, "My God, what the hell were these people doing?"

Songfacts: It is remarkable how well the music, and specifically your lyrics, hold up. You've mentioned that in many cases the songs will reveal themselves to you later. In other words, you'll finally figure out what a lyric you wrote was about. Are there some songs that are examples of that, where you've performed it or listened to it and all of a sudden had an inkling of what you were actually writing about?

Anderson: Well, at the back of my mind I knew what I was trying to say lyrically, but I was always afraid of being too clear or too defined. When I wrote it, it never sounded right. When I wrote about "Your guardian angel would always be around you," I would sing, "Sister bluebird flying high above, though you've seen me, just look after my soul."

The sci-fi novel Starship Troopers was written by Robert Heinlein in 1959. It was the basis for a 1997 movie starring Casper Van Dien and Denise Richards.
"Starship Troopers" was a great title of a book by Heinlein. And I just like the idea of Starship Trooper being another guardian angel and Mother Earth. The third verse was all about, "you know who I am, just take care of my soul." So it was as though I was writing about my search for truth and search for an understanding of what God truly is.

And during the course of "Close to the Edge," 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.

Songfacts: How has your spirituality evolved over the years?

Anderson: Amazing to me. It's something I was just thinking about this morning. I was out there shopping and I always say hi to everybody in the store. People smile and say hello, and I think it's wonderful how no matter where I go I'm greeted with smiles. And I think it's because I'm very open and very conscious of my love of life and love of Mother Earth and love of the god within rather than the god out there - the God in the sky. God is here around us. We are collectively this energy force field. It's a wonderful experience to grow into that as you get older.

Songfacts: You've mentioned how many times your references to nature are about specific places, like the Loch Ness Lake is the lake in "Roundabout." In "Starship Trooper," the talks by the water, was that a specific place?

Anderson: I think it was more to do with in the days of the '60s, when there was a lot of energy about being a hippie, being a spirit, a force to love, peace. All that kind of energy that came from The Beatles. So there was always that feeling you would sit down with friends down by the lake. You sit together and you would say how beautiful life truly is, and that love is all we need. So when I'm singing it, I'm always thinking about my brothers and my sister. I have two brothers and a sister. Then I think about my family, my son and my daughters.

So it's interconnected with the realization that the most peaceful place is down by the lake, down by the river close to water. I think that has something to do with our ancient evolvement as human beings. I know that whenever I sing that - and I sing that at every show - I'm always thinking about my family, my connection with the Royal family, the oneness of being and things like that.

I know it's a far cry from what you see on the TV and what you read about, but there are billions of people out there that are all connected on the same level, and no matter where I go, there are people that are just so wonderful. I've traveled quite a lot, and no matter where I go, people are the same everywhere.

Songfacts: Yes. You get to see the inherent goodness if you actually leave the house and go see people.

Anderson: It's true.

Songfacts: In the song "And You and I," who or what were you referring to as the "you"?

Anderson: Probably God. Or it could be we collectively. The audience and I, collectively we look for reality of being a true understanding of the beauty of life. We reach over the rainbow for an understanding of things. You and I climb closer to the light.

Songfacts: Why did you start the title with "and" instead of just making it "You and I"?

Anderson: That's a good question. I sang it that way as I was writing it with Steve and it just stuck: "And you and I climb over the sea to the valley." It's all about the reasons that we have to call our connection with the Divine. So it was something that just rhythmically worked.

Songfacts: Here in America, Caesar's Palace is famous as a casino. When you wrote about Caesar's Palace in the song "Yours Is No Disgrace" ("Caesar's Palace, morning glory, silly human race"), what were you meaning?

Anderson: Well, I'd just been to Vegas and it was amazing how crazy the place was and how silly we are. Silly human race. It was something to do with how crazy we can be as a human race to be out there flittering money around and gambling, trying to earn that big payout, when actually that's not what life is truly about. Our life is truly about finding our divine connection with God, if you like. You know, that's why we live.

And whenever I sing that song, it always comes back to me that I'm singing about that kind of Caesar's Palace, morning glory, sweet human race - it's on a sailing ship to nowhere, planet earth. The planet earth is not going anywhere. It's going around the sun, of course, but we're on this sailing ship to nowhere, leaving anyplace. It's like Earth Mother. So don't worry about stuff, it's not our fault if things go wrong.

Songfacts: Did the politics of the time ever creep into your songs?

Anderson: I suppose I've always been very aware of politics. There was one song that I did, "Long Distance Runaround," the second verse is all about Kent State and government cracking down on young people because they were trying to tell the truth about the war in Vietnam. It was just one of the crazy fears of time.

"Long Distance Runaround" was all about the craziness of religion. You're taught that Christianity is the only way. All those people in China are going to the devil [laughing], stupid doctrine, you know. And when you're a kid, you're 9 years old, you don't know any better. You were taught at school that everything started in Greece. Sorry. Not true.

Songfacts: Here in America, "Your Move" and "Roundabout" were released as nice, tidy, three and a half minute singles. How did you feel about that?

Anderson: A bit disjointed. When we first heard the "Roundabout" single, it was on the radio. We didn't know it was released. We were busy being a band on the road, and then we heard the edit and we thought, "Wow, that must have been a big pair of scissors to edit that song." I mean, it was just totally wrong musically. It actually worked and all of a sudden we became famous, we had a hit record and more people came to see us, which was great, because then they would see the progression of music we'd been doing and they'd see us more as a band and not just wait for "Roundabout." Because we didn't do that "Roundabout" in those days. We did the 8 minute version.

So a lot of fans would come along and really lock into Yes and realize that this is more to do with an experimental band, a very musical band, a very outgoing band, an adventurous band. We weren't really that concerned about having a hit record. We were thankful, but it wasn't something that we were going to be tied to. I didn't feel as part of the band we should ever try to make another "Roundabout" or make another Fragile record. That's why within a space of time, three years, the record companies got very upset with us, because we were doing diverse music and Topographic Oceans.

"Gates of Delirium," the record company didn't know what to do with it, but we did, because we were performing it on stage and that was our legacy, to be able to go on stage and perform this music that would never be heard on radio.

"Owner of a Lonely Heart" was a US #1 hit for Yes in 1983, thanks in large part to its video, which was directed by Aubrey Powell and Storm Thorgerson, who worked under the moniker "Po & Storm." Thorgerson, who died on April 18, 2013, is most famous as an artist - he created many of the visuals for Pink Floyd, including their Dark Side of the Moon album cover.

Yes scored another MTV hit with "Leave It," which was directed by Godley & Creme, but subsequent videos - for "Hold On," "Rhythm of Love," and "Love Will Find a Way" - got little airplay.
Songfacts: Was there ever a time when you did cave to the pressure and set out simply to make a hit record?

Anderson: There was a couple of times, and I just left the group. Because I was sick and tired of the yakkity yakkity yak. It's nothing to do with progressive, and I'm very interested in progression. To make a hit record is like going to Vegas and throwing all your money on 36 or 22. You never know if it's going to be a hit.

We spent a lot of time in the '80s doing videos for songs that MTV wouldn't even play. We just couldn't get them played because we weren't cool. "Owner of a Lonely Heart" was cool, it was fantastic, it was an amazing experience. Then we tried three or four times later and we just couldn't have hit records, and it made the band implode. By the time we got to [1987 album] Big Generator I was ready to leave because nobody was happy. We were scrambling to try to make a hit record, and the record company, the management, that's all they talked about. They'd play records and say, "This is a hit record, make something like this." And I'd say, "I've got to go." And then I'd go off and do Anderson Bruford Wakeman and Howe.

The funny thing is there's a song on there [the 1989 self-titled Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe album] called "Long Lost Brother of Mine," and it's all about our connection with indigenous people - our brothers around the world that we're all connected to. I know a DJ said, "If they'd called it 'Long Lost Lover of Mine' it would have been a hit." And he's probably right.

Songfacts: What was your role in writing "Owner of a Lonely Heart"?

Anderson: Well, 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.

It was already deemed to be a hit record. 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.

Songfacts: Storm Thorgerson worked on that video, didn't he?

Anderson: Yeah. Really, very good people.

Songfacts: Is the video related to the song very much?

Anderson: I've got no idea. Probably because there's that guy walking along the bridge and he then turns around and walks the other way. He's lonely and he's lost and he's looking for himself. It's a great video.

Songfacts: It is a very interesting video. I can't necessarily figure it out. I'm kind of glad to hear you can't, either.

Anderson: Well, it's hard, too. Sometimes it doesn't have to be explained.

After leaving Yes in 1980, Jon teamed up with the Greek composer Vangelis to form the duo Jon and Vangelis. They released three albums from 1980-1983 and charted in the US with the songs "I Hear You Now" (#58, 1980) and "I'll Find My Way Home" (#51, 1982). Their song "State Of Independence" was a #41 hit for Donna Summer in 1982, the same year Vangelis had a #1 with the theme to the movie Chariots of Fire.
Songfacts: The Jon and Vangelis song "I Hear You Now," what was the inspiration for that?

Anderson: I think it's because I was working with such an interesting musician, I hear him. I see you, I hear you. I hear you, at least I'm singing with a really very modern musician. And that's the line, "I hear you now." The song is a romantic song.

Songfacts: Absolutely. You also did "State of Independence," which Donna Summer ended up recording. There's some very interesting stuff in there. The chant, for instance, and then you have a line, "The Flame of Oroladian." Can you tell me about where those lines came from?

Anderson: Well, the concept of the song is the state of independence that we are growing into. And Oroladian was the sort of mythical person that opened the remembering gate. It's a poem by a famous English poet, The Remembering Gate. [The poem is called On Passing the New Menin Gate, and is by Siegfried Sassoon] We start to remember our truth, we start to remember our reality. So each line is very, very positive. It's a worldwide collection of each line. It was the idea that it's easier to discern truth and life as a game. It's not as complicated as we make it in the West.

The Caribbean sense of freedom derives from the meditative state. Meditation, something to do with the Caribbean, is African, very Ethiopian, essentially. The music from Ethiopia created reggae, calypso, all these kind of rhythms. Ska. It all comes from Ethiopia.

I was really aware in my head about all that, so I was trying to do this worldwide oneness again, and that's what the song is about. "State of Independence" is all about how the truth will come.

Songfacts: Where did the chant come from, the Shablamidi?

Anderson: That just popped up. Shablamidi, Shablamida. It just popped up and I sang it.

Songfacts: It's great to have that kind of thing come into your head. It's remarkable.

Anderson: Oh, yeah. It happens all the time. [Laughing] I'm an open vessel. As I learned again yet today, music never leaves you. I was riding back from the store and I started singing this melody, an orchestral piece. I thought, Wow, where does that come from? Oh, my gosh, that's 30 years ago I remember putting this down on keyboards. So I came home and put it down on piano again. Thirty years ago I wrote this piece of music and I had forgotten totally about it. And it came back and so I was playing it on the piano before you called.

Songfacts: Is there anything you do to keep your vessel open?

Anderson: Totally believe in your path, believe in your musical dream. At times it's hard. I've got to say sometimes it's hard to have faith in everything you do. Because, like anybody, sometimes you doubt a lot of what you're trying to do. But then again, I take a deep breath, I meditate on it, and then the following day I'll go into the studio and say, "Okay, let's get back to that piece of music I was doing 7 years ago." I'll bring it up on the computer, I'll listen to it, I'll say, "This is really good. I've got to get it finished."

It's an endless procession of events, music. When you're open to receive ideas without questioning them, it's beautiful. I was singing a reggae song the other day from a beautiful guy who lives in London who does real great reggae music. He sent me some tracks that I just love singing. It's very, very reggae. It's very, very opposite to where I am tomorrow.

Songfacts: How do you organize your ideas? Are there a stack of notebooks somewhere?

Anderson: In my brain. I actually wrote out a lot of things yesterday. I do have a stack of lyrics - I'm still trying to decide where the lyrics are from and will I use these ever. I have hours of music in the computer, and it's a question of deciding when will it come together correctly enough for me to feel good enough to let it go into the wide world.

Songfacts: Is it ever a challenge creating these ideas that very often have to do with the outdoors and nature in the confines of a studio?

Anderson: Well, my studio is a cottage in a garden. So it's not a studio. There are windows everywhere and the door's open and the bells are ringing, because I have chimes everywhere and the birds are singing. So I'm surrounded by nature all the time. There was a giant snake the other day on our doorstep. A giant beautiful king snake, four foot long. And then there's a little snake in a nest - my wife, she very, very quickly saved the life of these two chickens. We're surrounded by all this energy. It's kind of amazing.

Songfacts: See, that sounds like a delightful recording environment. But when you were with Yes, I can't imagine you had a nice outdoor studio to work with. It was probably a much more sterile place.

Anderson: Well, in especially the early days I would sleep in the studios, because I just loved the concept of life in the studio. It seemed like the pure dream, it's like a dream of any musician to have a studio available to him on the 24 hour level. When we were doing The Yes Album, Fragile, Close to the Edge, I virtually lived in the studio. It was like heaven. And when we weren't in the studio, we were on tour.

So it was a blessing to have a studio and obviously now it's more of a blessing because you can have a studio on your laptop. No matter where I go, I've got a studio system available, and I can compose no matter where I am. If I go away, like the summer, me and my wife are going away to Europe for our 20th anniversary. And I'm very excited, because I'll take my little keyboard and I'll be painting and relaxing and composing and things like that. Because of the Internet I get music; at least three times a week I'll get somebody sending me music. So it's like opening the Pandora's box.

Songfacts: When you did the song, "It Can Happen," what was your role in that one?

Anderson: That was really Chris and Trevor. Chris wrote most of the lyrics of that. I just became more like the singalong.

Songfacts: How has your songwriting changed over the years?

Anderson: I don't think it's changed that much. I'm learning more chords, which is nice, on the guitar. My approach to production has changed a little bit. If you listen to Open, I was able to work with a great friend of mind who is a wonderful composer, Stefan Podell, working with two other people and learned some more music. It gave me a very open-ended attitude to music again. It's not that I'd lost it, I just felt that record companies were not interested in long-form pieces of music so I don't work with record companies. I haven't really worked with anybody for 10 years. And so now I release things through the Internet.

And I think the next step is to create an app, and just releasing music ad infinitum, because that will enable whoever wants to hear what I'm up to just to log into the app and see what I've done this last month, and there it is.

When Yes was at their commercial peak, high earners in England were taxed at a rate of 83%. This drove many successful British musicians into "tax exile," leaving the country in an effort to keep more of their profits (Wishbone Ash moved to Connecticut; Emerson, Lake & Palmer went to Canada). The Rolling Stones titled their album Exile on Main Street after their tax exile status.
Songfacts: You were talking about how you were influenced by the events in America in the early '70s, like Kent State and how you made the trip to Vegas. You guys were not living in America then, were you?

Anderson: No, no.

Songfacts: So how did you avoid paying 83% in taxes, or did you?

Anderson: We did a whole tour just to pay off taxes. A lot of bands do this: you spend a lot of money doing the tour, the production. By the end of the touring year you don't finish it with as much money as people think because you spent it on production and touring and everything, and then you pay taxes. Generally taxes were withholding tax, I think it was called. So it all becomes something that you have to pay eventually, and goes against your tax in England. I'm not sure how it all worked, but I know we did one whole tour, six months, just to pay off the taxes that we hadn't been paying.

Songfacts: But you never moved to another country to avoid those taxes?

Anderson: We actually did it for one year and it was a disaster. Because it's just nothing to do with music. It worked out one time we went to Switzerland to do the Going for the One album [1977] and we didn't really save any money, we just made a damn good album. So it didn't make any sense in the long run.

I think it was tried again in the '80s and it still wasn't comfortable, because when everything is centered around money, you lose the focus of creating music. And in some ways you look back and say, Well, I started off as a guy in a band singing, and that's what I want to be. I want to be a singer, songwriter, composer in my later years. And that's what I've grown into over the years. I'm still growing and I want to do some great compositions in the next 20, 30 years. I want to do some really great work, and you can't think about money.

Somebody said to me the other day, "What do you think about music generally?" I said, Well, I believe you make music for the beauty of your soul, your realization of life, and the joy of making music. You don't make music for money. And unfortunately, as you know, a lot of it's done for that.

May 17, 2013. Get tour dates and more info on Jon's Open and Survival & Other Stories projects at
Other interviews:
John Wetton
Chris Squire

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Comments: 32

  • 45yrs A Yes Fan from West IndiesPersonally, I like Jon's obscure lyrics. To me they keep the song 'fresh' as I have found over the years at different times in my life I have interpreted the words differently most times that I hear them depending on what was/is going on around me.
    I remember reading years ago, perhaps around the time of 'Top. Oceans' that Jon picked words to fit the rhythm/structure of the song and not necessarily to make sense, prima facie.
  • David Gold from New York CityJon seems to me to be a humanitarian with a deep love for people. This shows through to me in the beauty and depth of his music and lyrics. He'll tell an audience several times "Oh, you're so beautiful." I wish there were more people like Jon Anderson. Carl, thanks for your great interview of a great person.
  • David Sumeray from London, UkI love the spirituality of Jon Anderson. Chakras and God are all experientially real to me rather than belief systems and when I hear Jon speak of them they ring true. He was the soul of Yes...he was the YES in Yes. I don’t know if his voice is angelic but it’s certainly not your typical rock voice. There’s something fragile about it (pun unintended) and to hear it soaring above the power of some of their music is a wonderful blend. I’ve never struggled to understand Jon’s lyrics because I’ve not listened to them with the logical side of my brain. To risk sounding clichéd he paints word pictures. His lyrics give me an impression, they conjure images that are supported by the complex music and rhythms beneath them. “A season witch will call you from the depths of your disgrace and rearrange your liver to the solid mental grace”. I guess I could try and find a meaning in there but it’s the imagery and sense of power that the lyric conveys that is most important to me. “I crucified my hate and held the word within my hand. There’s you, the time, the logic or the reasons we don’t understand” is another lyric that is most effective by not focusing on it. It’s like those 3D images hidden inside complex patterns. You see it clearly if you don’t try and look straight at it. You need to allow it in rather than impose your focus or ideas upon it (A bit like seeing auras and chakras as it happens). Listen to a peace of music like Close to the Edge or Heart of the Sunrise or so many of Yes’ longer pieces and like a great classical piece of music it takes you both somewhere ancient and familiar yet new and strange. You’re transported by lyrics and music to some archetypal realm that simultaneously opens your eyes to see the world afresh. The music transforms. Simply put, the way to approach the music of Yes is with an attitude of ‘yes’; unprejudiced and open, willing to be informed by taking you through a door you’ve never entered before to a place you’ve never been only to realise that it has always been within, waiting for your ‘Yes’ to turn the key, open the door and step into your spiritual heart and realise we are one.
  • Anthony Clark from Midlothian VirginiaThe Beatles, Yes, Zepplin and Floyd what can I say lol! Love y'all!
  • Miserable Git from EcuadorI don't like Anderson's voice - it sounds robotic to me rather than "angelic", as some here describe it - and let's be honest, not all his lyrics work ("Going for the One", for example, wisely not referenced here, is a cringingly awful piece of writing by any metric) but I have to be honest and say I love Yes and the music wouldn't be the same without his occasional flashes of inspiration. "He controlled the horses with a handclap or a whisper/Drink he couldn't combat but in all he was no sinner" are lines most lyricists would dearly love to have penned. My take on the Anderson lyric is that it's simply non-representational, like abstract art. Most rock lyrics are cubist, i.e. they are broadly representational, they say something coherent, but often in an oblique and fractured way, where the requirements of a pre-established rhythmic pattern impose characteristic shapes on the syntax and word choice. Anderson goes further and appears to simply not care what the representational meaning (denotation) of his words adds up to (usually nothing much) and is guided purely by connotation (word association) and, of course, the rhythm and mood of the music. At its best, this approach yields some glorious moments (e.g. on the Yes album and CTTE), but only if you're disposed to collaborate by switching off the part of your mind that looks for coherent meaning and expects intransitive verbs not to have objects.

    THe money quote "I was always afraid of being too clear or too defined" sums it up for me. The more he strives for a coherent meaning, the more cringy his lyrics are. I don't believe in God, the Astral plane, chakras, guardian angels and all that pseudo-religious or sub-SF mumbo jumbo so it's kind of a relief that he ignored the advice of every writing instructor who ever lived and didn't go for clarity. Just my take on things, no intention of starting any arguments.
  • Phil from IndianaJon and Yes have given me more pleasure than I can ever express over the years. I've seen Yes/ABWH/ARW well over 20 times, and Jon solo twice. He was the heart and soul of Yes. The band hasn't been the same since they left him behind. He is a totally unique person and personality. He has truly made the world a better place. This interview gave me a new look into what makes him Jon Anderson.
  • Joyce from Long IslandAmazing! Saw Yes Last night and plan on seeing Yes Featuring Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin, Rick Wakeman in September at The Tilles Center. Thanks for sharing and Jon Anderson thanks for taking the time to share with your fans. <3

  • Kevin Simala from AmericaJon rules! No doubt! Today's generation is missing so much, musically castrated,if I'm allowed the term. Radio used to be so diverse, truly amazing. You never knew what strings of seemingly obscure songs would be played, but they worked so well! Hitting that pleasure center in the musical part of your brain and leaving you with a sense of wonder, amazement and serenity and Yes (let's be fair, mostly Jon's music) was in many ways the Pinnacle of that music. I long for the days of FM when everyone listened with an open mind and the artists, and DJ's, obliged with some of the most pleasing and ethereal ever. I miss those songs so much and I can only name a few yet their sound and the feeling they gave us will remain with me forever. Thanks for everything, Jon.
  • Gregg from Las Cruces NmGreat interview ! jon just seems to be this creative dynamo that comes from everything that is peaceful and good in life. I feel blessed to have had yes's music in my life.
  • Chrissie from Sheffield Uk I,ve just learnt about Jon from Find my way home TOTP his voice just seems to reaches a perfect pitch that does something to your soul .moves me to tears love you Jon
  • Marco from ChileJon was my personal mesías, an ángel whose voice has delighted me my whole life. Thank you forma coming to this planet at this ephoc.
  • Joseph A. Vargas from Burbank,ilI first saw YES in Chicago, 73 right after an Emerson, Lake and Palmer concert. You talk about having an eargasm! Thank all of you blokes that fulfilled my hunger for real music instead of that rot that some called music. I'm always popping in a Close to the Edge C.D. just to listen to Jon's voice.
  • Glenn Weissel from Elizabeth, ColoradoThe music of Yes has influenced my life since 1971 and my creative photographic art over the years, and continues to this day. In fact there are many times when I'll listen to Yessongs on my iPod during an outdoor filming session to weave the creative energy into the day. Thank you for this interview Jon! Many blessings to all.
  • Charlie Nolan from Aston, Pennsylvania3/24/2015...Thank you for the interview! YES fan from 1971 to date! OLIAS, fave album for 1976. The most important aspect that I learned from YES, musically, was/is that they influenced me so intently, that I was then able to repeat crossing the musical threshold, that their music instilled in me to understand, and follow every other progressive styled band, for the past 41 years!
    Thank you Jon, SHABLAMIDI, SHABLAMIDA !!!
  • Ian from Kent, U.k.I was fortunate enough to see Jon and the band in 1972 during The Yes Album tour and - some 43 years later - I saw Rick Wakeman in concert last week. The band - and especially Jon- have all played a vital part in my life: thank you.
  • Eldon from Arkansas I had the honor of meeting Jon face to face in Pittsburg 1976! He was standing on a street corner, walking stick in hand, a few hours before Yes in concert that night. Refreshing soul, wonderful music!
  • Daniel Heslop from CanadaTales from Topographic Oceans changed my life musically and spiritually. Jon and Rick Wakeman remain my biggest musical influences along with the Beatles, but Jon probably influenced my life, especially spiritually more than any other musician, and I will forever be grateful.
    Great interview! I have long hoped Jon would write a book on his lyrics. I know what they mean to me, would be interesting to know what they meant to him.
  • Rango Keshavan from Fairfield, IaThis is why I love Jon. Thank you for the interview.
  • Laura from New YorkNice....real nice interview!
  • Sheila Forte from Baltimore, MarylandThank you for the YES music ! I have always Loved you and your music! I'm very glad that I was able to tell you this to your face, and bow before you and kiss your hand. I would have kissed your feet. Thank you! Hope you are healing well!
  • Tom Townsend from Bloomington, Indiana, UsSo nice to read this! I have been and continue to be a huge Yes fan. I am going to investigate more if Jon;s solo and other projects too. It;s very interesting, the comments about the songwriting/compsiong process for this amazing band.
  • R.g. Cousins from Niagara, Ontario, Canadaas singer, songwriter, and musican myself, i found the interview re-affirming and down-to-earth...phil from long island has it right: never be another like you, jon - thank you!
  • Laurie Lambe from Telluride, CoI am a life long fan of Jon and Yes. They are in a class by themselves and Jon is the crucial element to me. Jon is a spiritual guide of mine. He gives fantastic interviews; like his music, full of inspiration, authenticity, and spirituality. He is a treasure to be always treated with great respect and gratitude. Carl, that was an excellent interview! Thank-you!
  • Bill Magee from Abita Springs, LaYes came along in my life around 1970 when I was 17 years old. Their most creative time, IMHO, was the Yes Album, Fragile, Close to the Edge and Tales. It is pure joy to listen to any of these albums through a nice pair of headphones and appreciate the raw talent this group possessed. I have never heard music like this before or since. We followed the group over the years and usually made several dates on each tour. It was a special time for me and I am grateful for the privilege of having such a talented group of guys making their special music for all of us. Enjoyed the interview with the angelic Jon Anderson. Named my first son after him and my farm, Sunhillow, after his solo album, Olias of Sunhillow. Would love to see them all together again.
  • Phil from Long Island, New YorkGreat interview!! Jon is so amazing and unique there will never be another like him. I too am hoping for one more shot at seeing YES together again!!
  • Kenton from Phoenix, ArizonaJon still explains my music to me and my spiritual journey better to me than most anyone else. Chris is busy citing how he watches Fox News. Jon is talking about deep spiritual things and how he is a true channel for music and the divine. That attitude of Jon's is why YES became instrumental to me in my growth, my music, my esoteric understanding. Thank you again Jon for better explaining me to me.
  • Kevin from Maspeth,queens,nyJon yes will never be the same with out you please come back
  • David from Hazlet, New JerseyThis is a great interview with great detail of the songs. Jon is one of the great vocalists I have had the fortune to hear for many years. "Starship Trooper","Roundabout","And You and I", "Going for the One" and many more great songs. I love the song "I'm Running" from Big Generator, such powerful and passionate vocals. Truly, you are and always will be the spiritual center of Yes! Thank you the great music!
  • Tony M. from Morgan Hill, CaWow - I just stumbled onto this fantastic interview! Jon is an incredible artist and he's been part of my life for 40 years now. I was lucky enough to see him perform last year. I'd love to bump into him in a supermarket! How could you NOT smile at this guy?
  • Laura B. from New YorkWhat a guy! I love the man and his beautiful music
  • Bill Kilpatrick from Carlsbad, CaliforniaI concur with the comment above - that was an excellent interview, one of the best with Jon I've read!

    Here is a song that Jon & I wrote via our internet collaborating. I hope you enjoy it!

    Please enjoy the YouTube video "Surfing With God", which pays homage to several influential surfers who have left this world, and are now truly "Surfing With God". The song was written by Jon Anderson, beloved founding vocalist of the rock band "YES" and Bill Kilpatrick of Carlsbad, California. Cheers!
  • CwVery inspiring. Another fantastic interview. Thanks for all that you do.
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