One of my favorite places in the entire Valley is the little music nook section at The Bookworm in Edwards. Here is where my youth has been transcribed. A place to find the thoughts of Keith Richards and Anthony Kiedis committed to the page along with numerous interpretations of music from Springsteen to the Beatles. And it’s the place where I came upon “Yes Is The Answer And Other Prog Rock Tales.”
Even though I comment on rock music and from time to time have used this space to espouse my feelings about a particular piece of recorded music, I do not fancy myself a true rock critic. Mainly because if I did I would have to declare that I hate Progressive Rock and nothing could be further from the truth. And in this brand new book of essays I find I am not alone.
Accomplished artists in their own right like Seth Greenland, writer/producer of HBO’s “Big Love,” Grammy nominated musician Peter Case and renown Esquire journalist Tom Junod* all share their blatant love for a genre of music that is the ire of many and shares the infamous gallows of hatred often associated with the likes of disco. Unlike some of the standard fair on the bookshelves these days, “Yes is The Answer,” as edited by Marc Weingarten and Tyson Cornell, is a compassioned collection of youthful recollections of what the music of Yes, Genesis, Pink Floyd and others meant to a mostly rich suburban America in the Post Beatles/Pre-punk era.
The essays themselves have a few things in common. Every one of the authors apologizes for their passion and most of them end up admitting they still revel in the memories and often times seek out their heroes even to this day to watch them perform. As I read I felt companionship and often laughed at their memories, mostly because they paralleled mine.
Growing up as a target demographic for this music of shifting time signatures, overwrought solos and trippy lyrics, I, like many of the contributors to this homage to the genre, never found the music pretentious- though many a critic (as well as artists like the Sex Pistol’s Johnny Rotten) did. To me the music was transformative and took me to places beyond my bedroom. Admiring Roger Dean’s album art while taking in the high register vocals of Jon Anderson transported me the way a great novel can. It was a lazy boys way to read and escape.
Curiously enough, right before I walked into The Bookworm and discovered this new release, I was listening to Yes in my car. I had felt a need to take in “Yours Is No Disgrace” with its reassuring refrain of ‘yesterday a morning came/A smile upon your face. “ I yearned for the grandeur of Chris Squire’s bass lines flowing into Steve Howe’s rampant, unparalleled guitar work on “Starship Trooper” and the joyful chess inspired “And You And I” as it samples John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance” while delivering a timeless message of hope.
Let it just be said that if the above paragraph resonates with you at all pick up this collection of essays simply because it feels good not to be alone. Which reminds me of the time when I stumbled into Jon Anderson and told him that the critics were wrong when they universally dissed “Tales From A Topographic Ocean.” He said “You’re right and thanks.” If you are a progressive rock fan you will say the same to me about this book.
* Note: Junod’s homage to Peter Gabriel’s music as enduring salvation is one fine piece of writing.