Magazine article The Spectator

Yes Man

Magazine article The Spectator

Yes Man

Article excerpt

'Why do you buy so many CDs?' asked my girlfriend. It was not an unreasonable question, although obviously I wasn't going to admit that. There are all sorts of reasons why you might buy too many CDs. You are bored of the ones you have. There are things you want. You are terrified you might miss something. It was only £8.49. It was only £6.99. It was only £4.99. Alternatively, it's a compulsion, and you need professional help.

And there's also the irrefutable truth, which may be the essence of pop music's appeal, that you never know where the next fantastic song is going to come from. If you only bought all the CDs you knew you were going to like, you would wear out your tastes at about the same rate as most rock artists wear out their talent. Risks have to be taken. New bands have to be tried. Sometimes, old abandoned bands need to be tried again. Good music, even great music, can be found in the least likely places.

A few months ago, when I was knee-deep in a book that needed finishing, I worked in my neighbour's flat for a couple of weeks while he went on holiday. As I like to work with music, and he has a wide selection of CDs I would never dream of buying, I went through his CD collection with a typically jaundiced eye and ear. Didn't like this, didn't like that, but what I did like, to my genuine surprise, was an old Yes compilation, which I think you can still get. It's called Highlights: The Very Best Of Yes (Atlantic) and it's a useful primer of their Seventies and Eighties stuff. Ah yes, the heyday of progressive rock, when daft time signatures and Rick Wakeman's mad keyboards strode the world. Fashionable for eight minutes in 1972, Yes never actually ceased trading, although their line-up seems to have changed most weeks. I once owned Fragile, which I found incomprehensible, and particularly liked Going For The One, which appeared at the height of punk in 1977 and was the enemy, as far as most punks were concerned. Yes's problem, for me, was their love of complexity for its own sake, which gave the impression of five musicians playing in competition with each other rather than in concord and harmony. And over the years they made some shockingly bad records, several of which I foolishly bought. At one point in the late 1980s there were two competing Yeses, one called Yes and the other called Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe, which sounds like a particularly unappealing advertising agency. …

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