by Yes

Album: Fragile (1971)
Charted: 13


  • This was Yes' breakthrough hit and one of their most well-known songs, but the band wasn't looking for a hit at the time. The album version runs 8:29, but it was edited to 3:27 for release as a single, which climbed to #13 on the US Hot 100, giving the band their biggest hit until they eclipsed it with "Owner Of A Lonely Heart" in 1983.

    In our interview with Jon Anderson, he explained: "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."
  • Yes lead singer Jon Anderson and guitarist Steve Howe wrote this song near the end of a tour when they were traveling in Scotland. They were in the back of a van going from Aberdeen to Glasgow when the song came together. Awed by the scenery, Anderson came up with lyrics like "Mountains come out of the sky and they stand there," as the mountains would disappear into the clouds.

    The band had been touring for about a month, and Anderson was looking forward to his imminent return to London, where he could once again see his wife at the time, Jennifer. The lyrics, "Twenty four before my love you'll see I'll be there with you" indicate that he is just 24 hours away from being with her again.
  • The lyrics describe a psychedelic-country life, with allusions to driving. A roundabout is a kind of traffic circle that substitutes for a stoplight and confounds tourists who are unfamiliar with them. Traffic patterns don't always make the most poetic lyrics, but the word "Roundabout" sings very well and fits with the theme of the song, as when Jon Anderson came to a roundabout in Scotland, he knew that he was almost home.
  • Glen Burtnik, who wrote several Styx songs when he was with the band and also co-wrote the songs "Sometimes Love Just Ain't Enough" and "Spirit of a Boy, Wisdom of a Man," tells us that "Roundabout" is a great example of a songwriting technique called "deceptive cadence," which means putting a note or chord where it is not expected. Says Glen: "Even though all the indications lead you to expecting a certain outcome, the writer/arranger intentionally surprises you by going someplace else musically." Another example of this technique is "A Day In The Life" by The Beatles.
  • The lake mentioned in this song ("In and around the lake...") is Loch Ness, which Jon Anderson saw when he was riding through Scotland. This lake is supposedly inhabited by a rarely seen creature known as the Loch Ness Monster.
  • This song is known as a showcase for the musicianship of Yes, notably the keyboard work of Rick Wakeman and the acoustic guitar intro played by Howe. Fragile was Wakeman's first album with the band. Anderson says it's a "happy song" and describes it as a "Scottish jig."
  • The odd sound at the beginning of this song is a piano played back backwards. Their engineer Eddy Offord spent a lot of time stringing up tape the wrong way and picking out just the right notes to make it work.
  • Yes was split into two groups in the '10s, with Chris Squire, Steve Howe and Alan White leading one faction, and Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman leading another. Both permutations of the group made "Roundabout" a focal point of their sets, and when Yes reunited for their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 2017, it was one of two songs they performed. The other, "Owner Of A Lonely Heart," is a song associated with guitarist Trevor Rabin, who was part of the Anderson/Wakeman lineup.

Comments: 22

  • Rick from PhiladelphiaGlen Burtnik played Paul McCartney in "Beatlemania".
  • Mary Gerdt from Central Virginia Love this explanation...Been listening to this song for so long. Just love the way it feels. More so now.
  • Allison from Las Vegas My memory of this song was in the late 70s when I lived along the lake by Cleveland, Ohio. A major fireworks show, accompanied by this song, could be seen and heard for miles. The song was perfect for the occasion and is what I remember most- it might have been the 4th of July. i used to think the lyrics were "in and around the lake. Bombers come out of the sky and they stand there."
  • John from OhioIn 2012, "Roundabout" was used as the ending theme song for the first season of the JoJo's Bizarre Adventure anime series. According to the director, "Roundabout" was one of many songs JoJo creator Hirohiko Araki listened to when he wrote the original manga. The usage of "Roundabout" within JoJo's Bizarre Adventure has additionally led to both it and the series' "To Be Continued" insert becoming a collective internet meme, in which videos feature the song's introductory guitar riff before coinciding with the "To Be Continued" insert.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn February 6th 1972, "Roundabout" by Yes entered Billboard’s Hot Top 100 chart at position #88; and nine weeks later on April 9th, 1972 it peaked at #13 {for 2 weeks} and also spent 13 weeks on the Top 100...
    Was track one of side one from the group's fourth studio album, 'Fragile', and the album peaked at #4 on Billboard's Top 200 Albums chart...
    The song was their highest charted record on the Top 100 until 1984, then on January 15th, 1984 "Owner of a Lonely Heart" peaked at #1 {for 2 weeks}.
  • Tom from Marietta, OhBefore it was possible to look up the lyrics for this song on the internet, I always heard the chorus as, "...mallards come out of the sky, and they stand there." It actually makes more sense than the correct line, with a guy sitting on the shore of a lake, watching ducks fly down out of the sky and land. Oh, well.
  • Ron from Tyler, TxThe opening sound is a backwards recording of a piano chord. My college roommate had a reel to reel tape recording of the song and he could play it backwards. When you listen closely you can hear the piano tone. It is repeated once in the song.
  • Tanner from Fort Jones, CaI had heard that this song was about a ski run at tahoe called round about. hence the mountains and the lake
  • Ron from Tyler, TxWhen I was in college, my roommate had a reel-to-reel tape player and this album on tape. If you ran the tape backwards, the first sound on the opening is a piano chord. It repeats again in the opening. Very cool.
  • Mario Anthar from Tijuana, MexicoReply to Bryan of KY. Thanks for sharing that story, it also happened to me, with another band, growing up un Mexico there weren`t many listening options, one day I heard a riff and singing so powerful it blew me away, no one could tell me who it was, the song, black dog from zep. from then one it was a world of seeking, discovery and awe. YES sprung it to another level. Zeppelin opened the door but YES opened a gate. As I started sharing this music with others the Lyrics became a challenge, being a spanish speaker explaining the songs was not easy, long story short, I became an english teacher.
  • Dean from Miami , FlI liked the stage costumes the band members of Yes wore when the performed on stage back in the early seventies. The stage costumes were very rock n roll.
  • Sam from Hipsville, CaJust ONE of the many songs that made the 70's a very memorable time in music. Right up there with Steely Dan, Led Zeppelin, Stones, etc.
  • Wayne from Salem, VaA great YES song,classic! The whole band is excellent. And Chris Squire rocks it on the bass.
  • Liz from Wilton, Nh"twenty-four before my love we'll see, I'll be there with you..."
    phone conversation on tour? trying to reassure a girlfriend they'll be together soon?

    trying to make sense of Jon's writing would take forever, that's why god gave him that wonderful voice!
  • Ed from Raleigh, NcIn high school, I brought these lyrics to an English class doing a section on lyrics interpretation. This one had the teacher scratching her head. Sort of cruel. Luckily, she didn't ask me what I thought they were about.
  • Hilarleo from Berkeley, Cadescribing days of driving, supposedly the lyric was generated on tour thru England, where the 'lake' was 'Lake' [or Loch] Ness, one day [24 hrs] out of London. ABSTRACT?? yay :-)
  • Roger from Waterford, MiGood driving song.
  • Guy from Benson, NcChris Squire is probably one of the best bass players who uses a pick. Very agressive yet so clean.
  • Michael from OxfordGotta love that middle eight!
  • Charles from Charlotte, NcThe song was inspired by a short trip to Scotland (" and around the lake, mountains come out of the sky...")
  • Bryan from Morgantown, KyIn 1970, my parents bought a house in the deep country and my sister and I were stranded in the middle of nowhere, 13 miles from town (population 2000) and a mile and a half from any neighbors! That Christmas we got matching AM radios that were shaped like a globe with two eyes. Remember those? Anyway, the only thing we could pick up was WLS in Chicago. Late at night, when we were supposed to be asleep, we'd listen to WLS. One night, she in her room with her little earplug in and I in my room with my little earplug in also, this amazing song came on the radio. The disc jockey neither front-announced or back-announced the song, so we didn't know who the artist was or even the title, but we both remarked the next day that it was the most incredible song we'd ever heard and we were on a mission to find out who it was. Fast-forward two years later and we found out it was Yes. Now, many years later after having seen them live probably a dozen times on just about every tour, even meeting them and interviewing them a couple of times, and collecting every solo album/cd of every member and their offshoot bands and what-not...I can say this song still gives me chills. I got to tell Jon Anderson this story one of the times in our meeting and he was so genuinely pleased upon hearing the story of the unknown song...Cheers Jon!
  • Caleb from Camp Point, IlChris Squire is very inventive when it comes to creating basslines. This is his very best. Wakeman on the keyboards, what more needs to be said?
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