The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame recently made its annual announcement of nominees. Out of the 16 artists, half of them are nominated for the first time; one of those is prog-rock flagship Yes.
Earlier this year, Rolling Stone interviewed Yes bassist Chris Squire about their recent “classic albums” tour, but the conversation quickly shifted to the Rock Hall. Asked whether or not he cared about getting inducted, Squire seemed unfazed: “No, of course not,” he laughed. “I’ve got plenty of other awards!”
But he did acknowledge the Hall’s “bias” toward progressive rock, and many of the genre’s obsessive fans share that opinion. And, eight months after that interview, to the delight of nerds around the world (myself included), Squire’s band has finally earned a nomination. Better late than never, I suppose.
Regardless of whether or not Yes care about the award, they still deserve it. Below are five reasons why.
1. Yes have been making music for over four decades
Like their prog peers King Crimson (who also deserve a nomination, by the way), Yes have been making music since the late 1960s. And, yes, longevity is important. Most bands can’t survive dozens of member fluctuations and cultural shifts and critical disinterest and still flourish as both a recording and touring act. And they’re still really fucking good: Fly From Here, the band’s latest studio album (and 20th overall) is their finest work since the early ’80s, and they remain a potent live force.
2. They’re one of the only prog-rock bands who have survived punk with their heads (and credibility) held high
While most prog-rock bands went extinct in the late ’70s (soundtracked by the opening power-chords of The Sex Pistols’ Never Mind the Bollocks), Yes have been able to flourish. They’ve adapted to the sonic changes throughout the decades (particularly in the Trevor Rabin era, embracing arena-friendly guitars and studio gloss), and, barring a few missteps in the early ’90s, they’ve continued to make interesting, challenging music.
3. In terms of pure musicianship, they’re arguably the greatest band in rock history
This is certainly debatable (and I’d be happy to debate it), but Yes are certainly toward the top of that list. Just look at their roster history in list form: They’ve featured one of the most distinctive voices (Jon Anderson) in recorded music, along with a one of the greatest guitarists (Steve Howe), bassists (Chris Squire), keyboardists (Rick Wakeman, among other talented players), and two top-tier drummers (Bill Bruford and Alan White).
4. Their influence is so widespread, it’s almost untraceable
How many bands can write one of the most iconic pop songs of the 1980s (“Owner of a Lonely Heart”) and the indulgent symphonic-rock sprawl that is Tales from Topographic Oceans? From The Mars Volta to The Flaming Lips to Kanye West, Yes have influenced just about everybody making music in the 21st century — even if those bands don’t realize it.
5. We need progressive rock bands in the Hall of Fame
The Rock Hall has recently inducted both Rush and Genesis — a massive step in the right direction. But there’s clearly still a bias against prog-rock as a whole. This Yes induction would be huge. (Plus, maybe it’ll give Jon Anderson a chance to reunite with his old bandmates.)
Also, be sure to check out Charlie Moss’ recent piece on why The Replacements also deserve an induction.