Here it is, at long last: the post wherein I finally compare a YES song to a sandwich. I have carefully considered which song to use; I wanted something representative, something long and complicated and full of
whales YES-ness. Well, I found it. Those of you who are nerdy brave enough to handle it, join me below the fold at my favourite YES-centric eatery: Chez Nous.
The rest of you may want a real sandwich, after all this. Anything with melted cheese sounds good about now.
Welcome! The menu is painted on the wall, because we’re a little eccentric that way, Chez Nous. There are a number of fine options to choose from. “The Revealing Science of God” is a bit heavy for lunchtime; “Arriving UFO” is always half-baked. No, what I’d recommend — since I eat here all the time — is “And You and I”. It’s got an interesting texture, and it comes with YES-wine. Those of you who are underaged, don’t worry: YES-wine is not particularly intoxicating. It’s just that wine, being full of complicated flavours, fits our analogy better than YES-soda (which exists! It goes flat really fast).
Here’s the song. Obviously, if this linkage is a problem I will remove it, but it IS hard to talk about music without the music accessible. Also: I aspire to pass the YES love on to a whole new generation of
nerds fans. That strikes me as a worthy goal.
Have a listen. If it sounds like a mess the first time, don’t be dismayed. Here’s a guide to the things I think are interesting, important, and delicious.
I. Intro – In the beginning is Steve Howe, tuning his guitar. He plays a few notes, establishing the basic key, and it’s a moment of contemplation and anticipation. Here comes the waiter with your food.
II. Sandwich – Your sandwich arrives at 1:14, with Steve Howe laying down some chords. This is your bread: nothing fancy or challenging, just a solid, predictable progression, a consistent texture underlying everything else.
Slowly, other things layer in. At about 1:25 that Rick Wakeman comes in on keyboard with a gooey, syrupy timbre, the auditory equivalent of Japanese mayonnaise. Or, even sweeter, that “teremayo” teriyaki-and-mayo combo you can get at Japadog. As with all things Rick Wakeman, my first inclination is to wince a little and say, “Ew! Why is he doing that?”
In this context, however, I do see the point. Jon Anderson’s vocals (1:39) are the meat of the sandwich; they carry a dual weight – the melody and the meaning of the words – which gives them more substance and significance. However, Anderson’s voice is pretty bland, kind of like turkey. Turkey sandwiches are great, but you have to be careful or they get boring. The initial drizzle of teremayo/keyboard timbre makes Anderson’s voice sound meatier by contrast.
There are some other synth textures here — lettuce, veggies, what have you — but all of it pretty light. You’ll notice there isn’t much bass, which I think of as a much darker flavour (olives, pickles, cheese). There’s a pleasant simplicity to the sandwich at this stage. What is Jon Anderson actually singing about? Who knows. The ocean, and… uh… you. And I.
III. Wine – 3:37 – And all of a sudden we are in a different world. This is a swallow of YES-wine, friends. You can tell it’s YES-wine because it has whales in it (Steve Howe on the pedal steel guitar). I actually quite like the synth timbre here (see? I’m not always hating on Rick Wakeman) because it has a slightly fizzy texture, as if this were a sparkling wine.
4:46 – Here at the climax of the first wine section, the melody bends back toward sandwich again, subtly at first, but then full-blown sandwich theme at 5:16. Just like a well-paired wine will give you new insights into your food, this is an opportunity to understand the sandwich theme differently. (I have actually experienced this, with Beaujolais and olives. It was the first time I saw the point of olives, really. Or wine.)
IV. Clearing the palate – 5:47 – Back to our anticipation/contemplation theme. Clear your palate. It’s time for some more sandwich.
V. Sandwich, reconsidered – 6:16 – Here’s the bread again, but it’s different this time, crunchier. That drizzly mayo is still there, but it just seems to underscore the crunchiness of the guitar.
6:51 – I generally don’t find YES’s lyrics that interesting, but this is a strong example of something I think they do well: Jon Anderson’s lyrics have suddenly taken a dramatic shift toward the weird, and it adds a kind of texture to his vocals. This is what I meant by “semantic timbre” previously (see “Gathering the Ingredients” in last month’s Journal of Crackpot Musicology). When the man who’s been singing about oceans and emotions suddenly sings, “Sad preacher nailed upon the coloured door of time,” or even better, “There’ll be no mutant enemy, we shall certify,” it’s the aural equivalent of biting into a peppercorn. He was turkey, but now he’s cotto salami (admittedly, the blandest salami, except for the peppercorns).
7:15 – The other point of note in this sandwich iteration is that we finally get some good strong cheese in the form of Chris Squire on bass. Seriously, a sandwich without cheese is barely worth the name. LOVE THE CHEESE.
VI. Last of the wine – 8:35 – One last great whale-ful surge, chew that last little crust of bread, and then we’re done.
I hope you found it as delicious as I did. It’s really all right if you didn’t. I revel in textures, perhaps more than most. Even when it comes to real food, I’m kind of a texture person because my nose doesn’t work very well. Anyway, until I get another wild hare, this is the Journal of Crackpot Musicology, reminding you that it’s probably lunchtime somewhere.