I've Seen All Good People
by Yes

Album: The Yes Album (1971)
Charted: 40
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  • This is an anti-war song. The term "I've seen all good people" is ALL the people, including the so-called enemy.

    The line, "Don't surround yourself with yourself" refers to self-righteous behavior; "Move on back two squares" is a chess term meaning to retreat and rethink your position. The lyrics also refer to the queen, which is the most versatile and powerful chess piece. It talks about how news is captured for use by the queen, which uses forces to take control and manipulate troops against the enemy. War is like a game of chess.

    In a Songfacts interview with Yes frontman Jon Anderson, he explained: "The song is about initiation of yourself into the idea that there is more to life than war and fighting within religions and things like that. So when we were singing 'see all good people,' it's like, 'we can see you all in the audience because you're good people no matter what, and when you're with music you're enlightened, you're good, you're happy, you're excited.' And music is the kingpin of it all. It's not just Yes, it's music that brings people together like no other energy on such a level."
  • The song is divided into two sections, which are listed on the album as:

    a. Your Move (running 3:35)
    b. All Good People (running 3:21)

    "Your Move" was written by lead singer Jon Anderson, "All Good People" by bassist Chris Squire.

    In America, a single version of the song was released as "Your Move (I've Seen All Good People)," which reached #40 in December 1971. This version credits lead singer Jon Anderson as the sole composer, and was the first chart hit for Yes. When we asked Anderson what he thought of the cut-down release, he replied, "A bit disjointed." Radio stations typically play the full 6:56 version of the song.
  • Lead singer/lyricist Jon Anderson says that on the "Your Move" portion of this song, he was using the game of chess in this song as a metaphor for life's spiritual challenges. "Life is a game of strategically placed situations presented to you, and you have to learn to live with them and work with them," he said. "Doors are open and sometimes they're closed. It's the idea that we are surrounded by a spirit or god or energy is in time with our understanding of who we are.
  • With the line, "Send an instant comment to me, initial it with loving care," this song references "Instant Karma," which was a song recorded by John Lennon a year earlier. Lennon was a huge influence on Yes, who covered The Beatles song "Every Little Thing" on their first album.
  • The line, "Just remember that the gold is for us to capture all we want, anywhere, Yea, yea, yea," refers to the rich and powerful victimizing the weak and poor. The US was taken off the Gold standard by Richard Nixon August 15, 1971 the same year this was released. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Mike - Mountlake Terrace, Washington

Comments: 58

  • David from Fort ScottNo has mentioned this chess view. "Take a straight and stronger course, to the corner of your Life. make the white Queen run so fast, she hasn't got timer to make you a wife." (perhaps "wise" rather than wife.) "Straight and stronger" adequately describes a Rook, which is properly positioned in the Corner. But the corner is a "corner of your life." And the White Queen runs. This makes the Rook (that's "you") a black rook, to make the White Queen Run. But is she truly an opponent? This is "your life" we are talking about. She hasn't got time to make you a wife, or perhaps make you a wise--man? "A wife" is of course better grammar, not requiring an unspoken presumption after the fact.

    This song is fascinating. I once had a debate on Quora where I confronted a Russian, formerly a Soviet Union executive propagandist, if his credentials were to be believed. I challenged, and he soon conceded. His flaw? he had sidestepped the question of whether Jesus was a propagandist at all to answer he was the greatest propagandist of all time. Jesus had no political purpose, nor can he be shown to have made any false claims. Without proving that first, we put the cart ahead of the horse to say he was the greatest of all time. My opponent soon conceded but hedged-- "We are all propagandists for the things that are important to us."

    Too true.

    Afterwards, I described the encounter, line for line, as an illustration of this song's meaning, the way we danced around with words, it was just like a chess game.

    My black Rook dominated the game.

    Stevie Nicks once described something about her song meanings--I forget the quote exactly-- but I had the conclusion that, as a song writer myself: It's important that they mean something to everyone in each listener's interpretation.

    Just look at the evolution in Tommy Shaw's understanding of the meaning Fooling Yourself. First it was about Dennis. Then it was Himself. Then it was Chuck (though Chuck suggested it first) and eventually, he agreed it was about me, too. But only because I wondered if it was. Fooling Yourself is about everybody, bottom line.

    And all Good People is one of those songs, too.

    Don't write songs about sex, drugs and Rock and Roll, folks. it's the more meaningful ones that get talked about for a long, long time; to wit.
  • Sally from North CarolinaI'm nearly 100% positive that the line should be "'cause His time is time in time with your time", referring to God. I believe this transcription of the lyrics fits in with public comments that Jon Anderson has made about the meaning of this son.
  • Dalisuan from New York, NyA game of chess, and nothing more? Sir, where is your imagination? Do you not see the poetry in these lyrics, attesting to the words standing for more than the purely obvious and mundane?
  • William from New JerseyIt's a song about a game of chess; nothing more, nothing less
  • Charrisse from Texas"Ive seen all good people turn their heads each so satisfied I'm on my way". .I feel like although people are generally good, they see things that bother them yet don't want to be bothered by them and turn away rather than do something. "...so satisfied I'm on my way" could be the part that is not good in people. Turning their heads away satisfied they are not the ones experiencing the difficulty they are seeing and them saying "I'm out of here. Im on my way."
    "Send an instant karma to me. Initial it with loving care"...To me karma happens, and the people you turn away from wouldn't wish their experience on you but, karma catches you and its already initialed with loving care by the ones you turn away from. "...it's time in time with your time and it's news is captured for the queen to use." The word captured is the culprit. Earlier the lyrics said to make the white queen run so fast she hasn't got time to make you wife. Perhaps you, we, the common people of thie world are the pawns and the media is the queen. Don't let the media become your wife. Don't rely, trust or believe evething she [media] shows you, tells you. If you do, she's got you and can now rule your thoughts. This is exactly what the media has become in this world. The queen, and we didn't run fast enough and now, she is wife. What Anderson saw coming has arrived.
  • Jason F. from Los Osos, Ca. U.s.a.This one reminds of the beginning of an epic adventure. Packing your rucksack and heading out across the mountains of Middle Earth. Love the Greek sounding instrument (mandolin? lute?) that Steve plays in the beginning of this song. Chess references are clever.
  • Caroline from Buffalo, NyYou can interpret this song however you'd like, but I think a large portion of it is just that Jon Anderson wrote it this way for no particular reason.
    It's also worth mentioning that 1971 is during the Vietnam war and Jon Anderson is a very spiritual man who wrote other songs that were protesting war.
    The lines "give peace a chance" support this theory even more.
  • Mybal Zarichi from MichiganMy thoughts on the "comment" vs. "Karma" controversy--I had always heard the follow on lyric as "initial it with a loving K"! Makes no sense (as with many of the other lyrics), but lends some weight to the use of "Karma" as opposed to "comment." Also, along with the others who have noted the John Lennon connection--"Instant Karma" was a John Lennon song released in 70. Seems to make sense that Yes was referring to Instant Karma--with a loving K.
  • Ekristheh from Halath"Making the White Queen run so fast" is possibly a reference to the Red Queen's Race in Alice Through the Looking Glass ...
  • Jon from Sparks, NvWell, a few, and I mean a few of you are on the right track. Most of you will be trying to unravel a stick for a long time. Let's see - the lyrics do NOT say "turn their heads away". It is "heads EACH day", and the grammar is that 'all good people' are the ones satisfied, and then the singer is resolute to be "on my way". Otherwise it would have to say "on THEIR way". 'People' cannot be "on my way". But, the point is moot. Well, sort of. Jon Anderson has given a working philosophy behind the song, and that does show itself to concur with the lyrics (when they are transcribed and read accurately). And, hats off to anyone who can hear "all we are saying - is give peace a chance". I know people who have owned this album since the 70's and they don't know it's there. So, now, here is one thing about Yes that cannot, or should not be ignored, basically because it is Yes band history: Most of the lines of most of their songs are not entirely meant to convey a clear thought. It can be seen, however, that these phrases, when strung together, could, in an almost mystical way, invoke some degree of direction, in purpose and vision. The cold, hard fact is that Yes was a band that went about their songwriting process in what we could call an unfinished state. You may be aware of a writing technique in which the music is finalized and the lyrics are just a "scratch vocal" to allow for meter, and melody while a final lyric is developed. Everyone knows the story of how the Beatles "Yesterday" was only "Scrambled Eggs" until Paul McCartney finally had the verses come to him that we know today. When writing lyrics, the band Yes, specifically, Jon Anderson, would look first to words and phrases that simply matched the meter of the music given, and then find a rhyme to tie them together. A good example is in the song "The Fish". The music had been written and rehearsed - that step-down, undulating scale as a recurring riff. Anderson merely wanting something to lay over the riff vocally, so he began a search of an actual fish whose name contained 9 syllables - "Schindleria Praematurus" was what he found, and so it is. And, so it is with many, many of Yes' songs. Give "Long Distance Runaround" a listen. Great, epic lyrics - that mean . . .eh . . . yea. The take-away - Yes did a lot of things most bands of that time could not pull off - and they succeeded quite well.
    Happy Listening
  • Steve Johnson from Manchester, WaHere is another one to add to the "goal vs gold" and "comment vs kharma" "controversy" (perhaps these lyrics were chosen PRECISELY because it would be difficult to puzzle out which word they had used?) - at the end of the lyric "Initial it with loving care" there are differences between the studio version, in which Jon sings "yourself" and the much later live recordings, in which he repeatedly croons "for yourself" - to date, I haven't found ANY lyric sites on the net that make mention of the word "for" and plenty that ignore the "yourself" or "for yourself" entirely - so much for Internet accuracy...really makes you wonder! It sure exemplifies how a single word, added in long after the original song was penned, can change the meaning of the song dramatically...
  • Kelroy from Sidney, NeHow did they send "instant comments" in 1971? "send an instant comment to me, initial it with loving care"
  • Andrew from Ringgold, GaAre there going to be any comments about this song being used in so many Wal-Mart commercial??
  • Camille from Toronto, OhWhat does that mean "I've seen all good people turn their heads away so satisfied I'm on my way." I have no clue, yet repeat it twice and then some beautiful guitar playing precedes the lyrics sung in such a clear, beautiful voice: "Take a straight and stronger course to the corner of your life." Then add a certain beat to it all, and this was always one of my favorite songs to hear on the radio in the 70's when I was a teenager. Here it is 2011, heard it tonight and it still sounds just as good. Lyrics make not much sense to me, but it's such a different sounding song from any other that you hear, in a very good way. There's something about the pace of the song, not fast, or slow, or screaming in your face. Just right.
  • Jim from Morgantown, WvAndy from Tulsa, there is a line that goes "Send an Instant Karma to me. Initial it with loving care".
  • Steve from Trabuco Canyon, CaI think this song is about not being self-focused and focusing on those around you. I have listened to the song hundreds of times and never made any connection to it being anti-war. "The Yes Album" (1971) is one of the great Art Rock albums of all time that I throw in with "Genesis-Trick of the Tale" (1976), "Sumertramp-Crime of the Century" (1974), "ELO-Eldorado" (1974), and Pink Floyd-Dark Side of the Moon" (1973).
  • Andy Barber from Tulsa, OkHey Dudes on this song they sing in the background: "Give Peace a Chance not Instant Karma"!
    I just got giged on your material here @KJSR-Tulsa
  • Debra from Collegdale, TnI think the song is about love...dont surround yourself with yourself
  • Wayne from Sydney, AustraliaHe has seen All Good people do what? = Turn their heads. When? Each day. Therefore? = So, satisfied, he is on his way. I think this means he is taking a straight and stronger course to the "corner of" his life to avoid having his head turned by extraneous things like false goals and temptations = white Queen. The "white Queen" will never catch you if you make her run so fast she can't keep up. I think this means you lead, let your fantasies follow and fit into your actual life, not lead it and perhaps ruin it. The squares are the rank and file of everyday reality and normality. Maybe he just doesn't want to be a freak anymore. He certainly wants to escape the prospect of having his head turned by temptation and being taken off his true path (the "straight and stronger course"). As for the John Lennon references in the later live versions (they don't exist on the original studio version) does it not occur to some of you that Alan Whyte was the drummer in the Plastic Ono Band? There is nothing at all remotely connected to Vietnamn, or Nixon or the Gold Standard in these lyrics.
  • Daniel from Minneapolus, MnI can't believe no one else knows this; listen to th lyrics again -- don't read the ones posted here; they're completely wrong. But do read the comment by Dave from Scottsdale, he has it almost right. The song is not ABOUT anything. That's not how Yes did things in the good old days. However the song was inspired by the break-up of the Beatles. Who's the white queen? Linda and/or Yoko. Both were factors in the break-up. Listen more closely: "Don't surround yourself with yourself, move on back to squares." Not TWO squares; TO squares. Is it also a clever chess metaphore? Yes, but at that time, Paul had just released his first solo album, on which he played all the instruments. The line "Move on back to squares" encourages him to move back to the quartet of the Beatles. "Send an instant Karma to me" -- obvious, encourages John to try and make up. "Initial it with loving care" is another Beatles lyric referrance. "Give peace a chance"? Also obvious; in their own words: can't you guys (John and Paul) just get along?
  • Jo from So Tx, TxHe had matured and tired of the crazy rock and roll groupie druggy life, He was tired about being a Roundabout (he speaks of this in Roundabout)He no longer wants do deceive his Lady
    (Queen Reference), He knows its time to settle down and not make the Queen run so fast. Rock life and rock heroes can easily have new women in every concert town.
  • Jo from So Tx, TxRated 0 Rock n roll life is fastpaced & crazy (but its time to grow up), dont be self satisfied & selfish (shallow), your life should have a better purpose, Life and people are not games to be used (chess ref.)a queen is your partner, now is time to share time & love with one or those you love, don't be selfish. (Don't surround yourslf with yourself). Remember make best of life & time, move on back 2 Squares = reacess your life priorities, your love in life with others is your Karma ( a nod to John Lennon's "Instant Karma", Yes were Beatle admirers were influenced by them, send an Instant Karma =is asking for same love he gives.(you can hear John Lenon song Instant Karma & Give Peace a Chance in original version in background) Didi didi didi didi didi dada (sending instant Karma like sending message in Western Union (60's song(By Jay & The Americans Didi didi didi, didi didi didi didi.)

  • Rob from Wilkes-barre, PaPerfect usage in Almost Famous, I wish I was alive for the true golden age of music and not this dirge that continues on today.
  • Liz from Wilton, NhInstant COMMENT?? I dunno about you youngsters, I suppose you'll be hearing "text message" in some Yes song pretty soon ;-)
    By the way, Yes covered several Beatles songs early on.
  • Bob from Oakland, CaThe song does *not* reference John Lennon's "Instant Karma." The correct lyric throughout is, "Send an instant *comment* to me."
  • Margaret Moore from Portland, OrThis song is also used near the end of "Dick" (1999) when President Nixon was finally brought down by two teeny boppers who had accidently discovered the Watergate caper. It's a delightful movie, absurd but very funny, particularly if you're old enough to remember the 70s, as I am. This song was one of my favorites back then. Glad to see the lyrics discussed here.
  • Andy from Boston, Mabrian from wilmington delaware you are right this song is simply about a chess game! nothing more. andy,boston mass
  • Bob from St. Louis, MoSaw Yes in '74 in LA, great show. Saw 'em again in St. Louis in about 2004, and they can still do it...I was afraid they'd have arthritis by now, but Howe did "The Ancient" flawlessly. And I maintain that it's "instant comment" despite what the website says. The guitar book I trust more as it came out at the time, plus I think Anderson knows his lyrics are the loopiest anywhere, and goes with "karma" now just so he doesn't get accused of actually having written something that makes sense!
  • David from Deerfield Beach, FlPosted 10/20/2007. I'm not going to pretend that I can actually interpret the intent of the lyrics to this or many other Yes / Jon Anderson songs. Their lyrical style is so unusual & unclear, who can really say, but I've always enjoyed the spirituality in them. There is an obvious chess metaphor on this song, but exactly what it's about I can't say. What I can say (atleast it appears obvious to me anyway) is that they seemed to like John Lennon. This song seems to reference atleast 2 John Lennon songs, "Instant Karma", and "Give Peace A Chance" (where they are actually quoting JL's song verbatim - "All we are saying is give peace a chance" during the organ part in the middle). This Yes song's a classic.
  • Dave from Scottsdale, AzYou have to be real careful interpreting Yes' lyrics. If you are a fan of the band, you soon realize that the words are joined together because they make a line that sounds poetic and fits the melody. Quite often they are gibberish. I recall hearing this as a single and on albums but never hearing "give peace a chance" background until it came out on CD. I beleive it was mixed way down but later, was pulled up. the same can be said for the "instant kharma" reference. In the context of the line "send an instant comment to me" makes more sense. I'm sure Jon Anderson now sings "kharma". As far as Yes writing about politics and the economy- that is absurd to Yes fans.
  • George from New York, NyThe lyrics are goal not gold. Also the use of the black dark bishop as the piece talked about displays their thought that they turned the soldiers into "dark knights" if you will fighting for some evil purpose.
  • Nate from Michigan City, In"Don't surround yourself with yourself" is also a chess reference. A king can be easily checkmated by a knight if all of his escape squares are occupied. The saying is to encourage you to give your king some space.

    FYI -- The opposite is when you give your king too much space; this is called "playing soccer" and usually happens when your king is drawn towards the middle of the board.
  • Luis from Madrid, SpainJust for the record: John Lennon died in December, 1980. Jon Anderson had left Yes several months before that and would not rejoin until 1983.
  • John from Boonville, NyThere is a whole lot of chess references in this, and some of the stuff that refers to politics and society at the time also reminded me of Chess. "Make the white queen run so fast..." White Queen? "Move me on to any black square." Like the bishop on the black square? "Don't surround yourself with yourself." If you play chess, you know that surrounding your king with pieces is a bad idea, since it easily leads to you being trapped and check-mated.

    That's just my view.
  • John from Mountain Lakes, NjI dont know if anyone else realized this, but they definitely seem to be referring to a board game of some kind.
  • Andrew Horne from Richmond, VaI only like the "Your Move" segment better
  • Graham from Leeds, ChinaOn Yessongs (the live album) they don't seem to sing "all we are saying, etc". Could this have been added to the song later? I haven't got my ancient vinyl copy of the yes album anymore in order to check.
  • Max from Sydney, AustraliaI Did that comment early 2005 patrick. I've done some re-search and found out that he didn't so ALL the albums with Yes...like 90125 and Big Genorator and also, Talk
  • Patrick from Des Moines, IaActually Max Steve Howe left Yes and did some solo work and also played guitar for the band Asia (Heat of the Moment) and thats when Trevor Rabin played for Yes and helped them with Yes's #1 hit Owner Of A Lonely Heart.
  • Max from Sydney, AustraliaThis is the first album with the gutairist, Steve Howe and he's been with yes ever since.
  • Nick from Nyc, Nyit does say "instant comment" in the yes guitar book i have, but it's "kharma". i've seen them perform this live at least 20 times, jon makes sure you know he's saying kharma. also mentions another lennon song, (war is over) with "all we are saying is give peace a chance" - the guitar book fails to include those lyrics entirely.
  • Dirk from Nashville, TnI never knew that about Yes recording a song about the Nixon Administration's decision to remove the United States from the goal standard. That's astounding. There are some really fascinating facts you learn from reading these songfacts. Hats off to the guys at the website for doing their homework.
  • Kevin from Rocky River, OhThis song is featured in the movie "Big Fish"
  • Max from Sydney, AustraliaThis is a great song and Yes's albums are as good as ever.
  • Charles from Bronxville, NyA good friend was schedule to hear Jon speak about his time with the band in December of 1982. After Lennon's death, Anderson went into a deep depression and cancelled the tour. I had no idea that Jon felt so stongly about Lennon's work, but it you listen to YES's music, the clues are all there.
  • Otto from Miami, FlActually Michael, if you go to Yes' official website, you will find that it is in fact "goal" and not "gold" and it is "Instant Karma" not "Instant Comment".
  • Michael from Nyc, United StatesAccording to their own published lyrics, it says, "just remember that the gold, is for us all to capture". It also says "instant comment", not instant karma. It's in a Yes guitar songbook. Who am I to argue. MJ NYC
  • Sean from Newmarket, CanadaThe best of yes' commercial hits
  • Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, ScGrieat song by Yes. I with I had seen them for the recent tour. That would have been cool. Didn't know the song's actually about war. I got the chess terms though.
  • Savannah from Salem, InI really like this song. Probably one of the best songs ever.
  • Kent Lyle from Palo Alto, CaIronically enough, future Yes drummer Alan White played the drums on Lennon's "Instant Karma".
  • Antony from Eastbourne, EnglandSomeone has already mentioned that this song references "Instant Karma" by John Lennon, but no one has mentioned that the refrain "All we are saying is give peace a chance" is also by John Lennon ("Give Peace a Chance", 1969)
  • Christina from Ramstein, GermanyThis song was played in the background of one of the previews for the Tim Burton film, Big Fish; however, it is not actually in the movie nor on the soundtrack.
  • Jonathan from Ann Arbor, MiYeah this really is a great Yes song. I saw Yes in detroit for thier 35th anniversery tour and I'll tell ya, they were spectacular. None of them have lost any talants due to the aging process. They were so rockin' and they made the whole experience unforgettable. They played this and it was extraordinary.
  • Mark from Savannah, GaIt does say "Goal", but it IS an anti-war song. If you listen closely to the harmonizing lyrics, you can hear the refrain "All we are saying is give peace a chance".
  • Brian from Wilmington, DeThe actual line is " Just remember that the GOAL is for us to...it has nothing to do with Nixon or the gold standard. The song is simply about a chess game.
  • Robert from Chicago, IlGreat Yes song. First hit in America, only using Your Move as a single selection. Nevertheless, a nice introduction to the band.
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