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.
Album Reclamation Project: Yes, Tormato
Album Reclamation Project: Yes, Big Generator
Yes and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Incredible! 10 Things You Already Knew About Yes
Why did you put Trevor Rabin as playing on “Keys to Ascension” ? 🙂
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Good catch! It was supposed to be Wakeman… not Rabin. Doesn’t affect the outcome, but I’ll post a correction later today.
Why is Trevor Rabin listed as performing on Keys to Ascension and not Rick Wakeman. Does this throw off your analysis? Also, if you are comparing live shows, it would be more instructive if you focused on Yes’s Topographic/Drama tour. Their tour this fall was highly edited for a short time slot.
Thanks for the comment, Nick. Glad to see people are interested in our analysis! The points for Keys to Ascension were in the wrong column… should have been Wakeman, not Rabin. We “fixed the glitch.” But as it turns out, it does not throw off the analysis. The totals remain the same.
PS: The live review will be from this fall just because those are the shows I saw. Though it would have been cool to catch the Topographic/Drama tour. Hopefully readers like yourself will chime in with their thoughts from other shows and bring in a broader perspective.
If your caveat of no live albums is to upheld, shouldn’t you have gone with Keystudio instead of Keys 1 & 2?
Great suggestion, Kevin. I didn’t realize they released the studio tracks from Keys 1 & 2 as a standalone compilation. Keystudio probably would have been a better choice, but it wouldn’t affect the winner. It still awards equal points to each band (Howe & White vs. Anderson & Wakeman). Just subtract 2 points from each band total for each algorithm.
and NONE of the albums since UNION has reached even Silver in sales……
Good observation… though Silver can be misleading since it isn’t used in many countries, such as the US. That’s why we didn’t add any weighting for Silver albums in the weighted algorithm.
Both bands are about to release live material so that will further assist any comparison. As will new material to be released during the bands 50th anniversary in 2018 (if any eventuates). In the meantime we, as Yes fans, can choose to have a preference for one lineup over another … or both… or neither.
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Great article! I am looking forward to part two. Well written with a unique spin on things.
Interesting study. I’ve posted the non-weighted version of this study all over Facebook and other place going back to the middle of April and even have a Facebook group with the results mentioned in the group description. (But I counted Keys as one album and did not include Sherwood’s Union appearance. But, I’m glad you did.) So, I’m assuming you saw my study at some point and got the idea from me. If not, then I have to give you credit for thinking like me in that regard. Lol. (Anyway, for the record, my loyalty lies with the real Yes for several reasons.) I do have one question/obervation. I’m curious as to why you included sidemen, at all, in the study when everyone who knows the band, at all, already knows that their totals were zero?
Great minds think alike. Sounds like we came up with this independently. Would be interested to see your approach if you want to post a link. Also, I included all touring band members to recognize that it’s not just the 5 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees up there. Pomeroy really brings a lot to the ARW shows, for example.
That’s cool. I will accept the great minds theory. Lol. Anyway, I felt it only relevant to include the actual official members. (But to each his own.) So, basically, I did almost exactly what you did. But, the main difference is that I did not do the album sales factors. I just did the basic one. And, like I say, I only included them playing on albums as members of Yes and didnt include Keys twice. So, instead of 39-30, I got, simply, 36-28. But, it’s essentially the same net end result. The albums sales thing is a bit more of a subjective-based criteria, of course, to which you alluded, but I still found it all pretty interesting.
They should do a joint tour, both bands on the same bill. I bet no ones thought of that.
That’s like someone honeymooning with their ex wives. It aint gonna happen. Lol. No one has thought of that just like most people don’t think of putting out their own eyes (or anyone’s eyes) with a rusty ice pick. Lol.
They should do a joint tour, the same bill. Has no one thought of that?
That was done back in the 90s with the union tour. Lots of personality conflicts between the starship troopers and the big generators. I guess that didn’t go over too well. I saw them at Alpine Valley in Wisconsin. I thought it was good and I like the Union album.
FYI,Yes’ tour was in the summer, not fall.
Yes vs yes. I remember back in the 90’s a Rolling Stone article “The Starship Troopers vs The Big Generators “. Chris Squire and Trevor Rabin were going to call their band Cinema. Jon got involved and it had to be Yes. Anderson, Buford, Waksman & Howe were going to be Yes Alumni but Chris owned the rights to “YES” so they simplified it to ABWH.
Yeah… when I learned about Cinema, the whole 80s Yes thing made sense. Never knew about the “Yes Alumni” thing… that’s interesting.