The Hippo


Apr 25, 2019








Yes. Courtesy photo.

An Evening With Yes
When: Wednesday, July 11, 8 p.m. 
Where: Casino Ballroom, 169 Ocean Blvd., Hampton
Tickets: $25-$79 at

Yes man
Drummer Alan White reflects on band’s 50th


 Rock & Roll Hall of Famers Yes are celebrating 50 years as a band, and Alan White has played drums for nearly all of them. Yes’s true identity is a tricky topic, however. Two groups share the name — one led by original singer Jon Anderson and keyboard player Rick Wakeman and another with White and guitarist Steve Howe, which hits Hampton Beach on July 11.

White doesn’t dwell on the rift. 
“They can do whatever they want. I don’t complain or talk about it really,” White said in a recent phone interview. “I just get on playing Yes music, which is what I’ve always done for the last 46 years.”
White replaced Bill Bruford on the kit in 1972 as Close to the Edge was rising in the charts, after an impromptu audition in the basement of a London shop. Bruford had abruptly stepped out. 
“He said he had a dinner appointment,” White said. “The rest of the band was just standing round tuning their guitars and going, ‘What do we do?’ We were rehearsing, and he just left. [Yes engineer] Eddie Offord was with me. He said, ‘Alan can play that kind of stuff,’ and I just sat in with them.”
Prior to joining Yes, he’d played with John Lennon, first with Plastic Ono Band and later on his solo albums. White also worked on George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass. Moving from ex-Beatles to the intricate time signatures of “Siberian Khatru,” his first song with the prog rock pioneers, was easier than it appeared for White.
“A lot of people didn’t know that I had my own band,” he said. “We all lived in a house in the country and played things like Frank Zappa songs. We wrote all of our own material, which was pretty complex. … I had a very good knowledge of 7/8 and 5/8 and that kind of stuff.”
He played on the Yessongs live set; White’s first studio album with the band was 1974’s Tales From Topographic Oceans. As the longest continuous member of Yes (Howe left from 1981 to 1990), he was a part of every subsequent LP. Asked to pick a favorite, he hedged a bit.
“There are so many different eras. A good time was Going for the One; we made that album in Switzerland, spent about eight months there eating very good food, skiing and then working in the studio … a lot of fun,” he said. “All the albums have been great in different ways. The kind of time we had goes with each; we can relate to it through the music.”
Bothered with back problems, White had a limited role in the recent European leg of the Yes50 tour, playing on only a few songs; he’s feeling better now. 
“I’m going to be doing more on this next tour but not the full show; I’m pacing myself,” he said. “I’m playing five or six songs.”
Adding to the tour’s historical nature, founding keyboard player Tony Kaye is appearing as a special guest on the three-song encore: “Yours Is No Disgrace,” “Starship Trooper” and “Roundabout.” After being replaced by Wakeman in 1971, Kaye played with Badfinger and David Bowie before rejoining the MTV-era Yes. He departed again in 1994. 
“It’s interesting playing with him again,” White said. 
Regarding his time as a Lennon sideman, White said he was plucked from a London bar at age 20 to play the ex-Beatles’ solo debut at the 1969 Toronto Peace Festival — a band that included Eric Clapton — he had a critical role in one of the 20th century’s most iconic songs, “Imagine.” It was White who suggested the spare solo piano that opens the track. 
“We were playing the song with the whole band from the word go,” he said. “I was in the studio and Phil Spector was there and John, and we went to listen to the playback. I said, ‘John, you know that piano part is really really good — why don’t you just start by using the piano and singing and the band comes in?’ ... and that’s what happened.”
When he’s not touring with Yes, White plays with his own band. “Imagine” is a frequent request at his shows, as is “Instant Karma,” which he also helped make. 
“It’s really an incredible feeling to have been a part of that,” he said. “Every time I go to a party and jam with a band, everybody wants me to play [those songs]. ... It’s a good few memories I’ve had.” 

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