When Christopher Squire passed away two years ago, I thought I’d missed my chance to see Yes live. While never fanatical, I’ve been a fan of the band for a long time. But without Chris Squire or Jon Anderson in the band, I thought I should leave well enough alone and move on. My mentality changed in April 2017 with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction. I already had my ticket to see Anderson Rabin Wakeman (ARW) and was quite looking forward to the show. Then overnight I suddenly found myself going to see “Yes featuring Anderson, Rabin, and Wakeman” through no fault of my own. When I saw that BOTH versions of Yes were touring in my area, I suddenly had the itch to see what each of the bands had to offer. Thus began my adventure into the world of Yes vs. Yes.
This article is the first in a two part series that presents a comparative study of the two bands currently using the Yes moniker. If you didn’t know there were two bands, don’t worry… just keep reading. We will take a look at both bands from two perspectives: numerical and empirical. In part one (this article), we use numerical analysis to quantify which band has more claim to the name “Yes.” In part two of the series, we conduct an empirical field study by reviewing both bands live on their Fall 2017 US tours to see which one puts on a better show.
So, which Yes will win? What will the outcome be? Well… it will be subjective based on your own personal preference and scientifically inconclusive. But let’s just pretend we don’t already know that in advance and go along for the ride, shall we?
So, how did we wind up with two versions of Yes again? In 2008, Jon Anderson was diagnosed with acute respiratory failure that sidelined him temporarily. Rather than wait for Anderson’s recovery, the remaining Yes members decided to resume touring with a replacement singer under the billing “Steve Howe, Chris Squire, and Alan White of Yes,” much to Anderson’s disappointment. By 2009, this line-up began touring as Yes and have continued ever since, with some line-up changes along the way. The most significant of these was the passing of Squire in 2015 and his replacement by Billy Sherwood, his chosen heir, on bass and vocals.
Meanwhile, in 2010, former Yes-men Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin, and Rick Wakeman announced a new project together. In 2016, they began touring under the name Anderson, Rabin, and Wakeman (ARW) and performing Yes music live. Then in April 2017, two days after the Yes were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, ARW announced the name change to “Yes featuring Anderson, Rabin, and Wakeman.” Tensions between the two camps seem to have escalated from there, with the other version of Yes claiming that two touring bands with the same name will confuse fans.
With both bands claiming the Yes moniker, writing about them clearly and concisely can be a challenge. You could call them “Yes” and “ARW,” but this comes across as a subtle judgement that ARW have less of a right to the name. In an attempt at neutrality, we will refer to the two bands using their key members–an approach that Jon Anderson proposed according to an interview with Prog Magazine, although his proposal was declined by Steve Howe and company. But for the sake of discussion, we will use the names “Yes featuring Howe and White” (HW) and “Yes featuring Anderson, Rabin, and Wakeman” (ARW).
Which Yes is more Yes?
So, who has more right to use the name “Yes?” The answer to that question involves more legal and personal intricacies than I will ever know, I’m sure. But since we enjoy rigorous analysis here at Proglodytes, we will take a look at the question numerically and see how the two bands measure up. Is this the only way to look at it? Absolutely not! Is it the best way? Well, no… still probably not. But hopefully it will help inform the debate.
For this analysis, we take a look at each band member in both the HW and ARW camps using a point-based system. We turn our sights to the studio albums recorded by Yes. Each member will earn points for their respective band for the studio albums on which they perform, with the requirement that they are credited with playing an instrument (voice included). Live albums and compilations are not included simply because there are too many. Furthermore, we look at two algorithms for awarding points, a simple one and a weighted one, as described below.
Caveat: We have chosen to include Keys to Ascension 1 & 2 in the analysis even though they are part studio, part live. However, it must be noted that these albums affect both bands equally in terms of points and do not impact the outcome of the analysis.
For this algorithm, each band member earns a single point for every official Yes studio album on which they appear. There is no weighting for popularity. So, “Fragile,” “90125,” and “Union” (for example) all score equal points. The result is that HW come out on top with 39 points versus 30 points for ARW.
For this algorithm, the number of points associated with each studio album is weighted based on album sales certification. This metric was chosen because it is an objective indicator of how popular an album was commercially. Weights are assigned as follows. An album certified silver or no certification gets 1 point. Gold records get 2 points. Platinum records get 3 points. And multi-platinum records get an additional point for each multiplier. Certifications from any country are accepted and data are based on Wikipedia. The result is a marginal win for ARW, with 65 points going to HW versus 66 points for ARW.
Caveat: The flaw with the weighted algorithm is that it only looks at commercial popularity. It does not account for critical popularity or quality of the albums, which tend to be more subjective and harder to quantify. As a result, Tormato, which went platinum in the US, earns more points than Tales From Topographic Oceans, Relayer, or Going for the One, all of which went gold. If you can think of a better approach, leave us a comment!
The simple algorithm clearly favors HW. Using this algorithm, there are three key members who dominate the points: Anderson, Howe, and White. Since HW has two such members, and ARW only has one, this is enough to tip the scales in favor of HW.
The weighted algorithm, however, paints a very different picture. Anderson is the only member whose tenure in the band spans every studio album with a sales certification above silver, making him the clear points leader. He’s followed by Howe and White, each of whom were absent from some key platinum albums in the band’s history. Rabin and Wakeman’s contributions are amplified under the weighted algorithm as well, with their combined points matching that of Howe or White. Interestingly, both bands score nearly the same under the weighted algorithm, with ARW winning by a single point. This result suggests that both bands have approximately equal claim to the Yes moniker.
Stay tuned for more Yes vs. Yes! Next time, we provide a head-to-head live review of each band from their Fall 2017 US tours to see which is better on stage. In the meantime, check out some of our other great articles on Yes.