In the group’s outlandish 1983 clip for “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” you’ll catch a few lightning-fast glimpses of keyboardist Eddie Jobson. The virtuoso — who’d previously played with Frank Zappa, Roxy Music, Jethro Tull and prog supergroup U.K. — had recently joined as a potential replacement for Tony Kaye, who clashed with producer Trevor Horn during the sessions for 90125. But the “Lonely Heart” clip became Jobson’s only Yes contribution: The band eventually re-recruited Kaye, and Jobson was mostly edited out of the final product — making his time in the lineup a bizarre footnote.
That’s Yes in a nutshell — even a frivolous video, one in which band members transform into animals, became a catalyst for chaos. It’s only fitting that their videography is a bit topsy-turvy: a mixture of straight-ahead “performance” footage, low-budget silliness and high-concept stabs at profundity.
Below, we dive into the lens and rank all 22 Yes videos.
22. “Future Memories” / “The Ice Bridge” / “Dare to Know” / “A Living Island”
Yes promoted their solid 22nd LP, The Quest, with a quartet of digitally crafted videos — all of which feel like afterthoughts. There are plenty of nods to Roger Dean’s kaleidoscopic artwork, random band photos that float around in what looks like stock footage, and various landscapes and scenery. They make you thankful for clips with static album cover backdrops.
18. “Don’t Go”
Computer animation never ages well, does it? The video for this orchestral prog-pop sing-along, a highlight from 2001’s Magnification, pairs dorky digital bubbles and vortexes with random stage footage and backstage snippets. At one point, Steve Howe plays an acoustic guitar behind his head, Hendrix style.
17. “Love Will Find a Way”
The scene: The Big Generator lineup sits outside next to a (private?) plane and some fake palm trees, warming themselves by a fire; three members (Kaye, bassist Chris Squire, drummer Alan White) are dressed in tan trench coats; Jon Anderson, looking a bit puzzled, strums an acoustic guitar; Kaye plays accordion for some reason; White awkwardly slaps at a tambourine. Why? Why … to all of this. At least it’s unintentionally amusing: During one sequence, Kaye wields a keytar while Squire semi-mimes a harmonica part.
16. “Leave It”
Former 10cc members Kevin Godley and Lol Creme were briefly a hot commodity for their visual work, having helmed innovative clips for both themselves (“Cry”) and others (Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit,” Peter Gabriel‘s “Don’t Give Up,” the Police‘s “Every Breath You Take”). But they misfired with 90125‘s “Leave It,” filming 18 variations of one subpar concept: The band members stand in black suits against a white backdrop, as they’re turned — wait for it — upside down! Cool? In the famous version below, the musicians’ images are bent and stretched through space — at the end, they’re folded up multiple times. Luckily MTV filmed the whole process for a behind-the-scenes documentary, and the band looks hilariously perplexed. Both Rabin and White playfully call the idea “crazy,” and it’s hard to figure out their tone.
15. “Don’t Kill the Whale”
Anderson, decked out in large sunglasses, looks like he’s dressed for a Miami Vice guest spot; the suit-clad Squire is formal enough to be working at a funeral home; and Rick Wakeman plays his shrieking synth solo in an orange T-shirt. It’s an odd combo befitting the jumbled aesthetic of 1978’s Tormato, still one of the band’s most polarizing albums. (Oh, yeah, and there are some images of whales thrown in because … well, sure.)
14. “Lift Me Up”
Nobody had much fun making 1991’s Union, a hodgepodge affair that grafted the 90125 lineup with spin-off band Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe (oh, plus an army of outside session players). The “Lift Me Up” video feels fittingly disjointed, pairing candle-lit performance sequences, washed-out live footage and a snippet of the eight-piece group miming vocals like some kind of unwilling choir.
13. “Wonderous Stories”
Easily their most straightforward performance-style clip, “Wonderous Stories” does little to distract from the ballad’s majestic twinkle. Highlights: Anderson’s flowing, kimono-like garments and Howe attentively strumming his Portuguese guitar.
12. “Into the Lens”
Based on the outfits and staging, Yes appear to have filmed “performance” videos for two Drama tunes, “Into the Lens” and “Tempus Fugit,” in one go. This one’s a bit less grabby than the other, highlighted by Howe juggling electric guitar and a Fender lap steel.
11. “We Can Fly”
A man walks into an airport, sits down and reads an article about a “Hollywood mogul lost in tragic car crash.” But the story bleeds into reality after he boards the plane: The mystery mogul is seated nearby, and suddenly the protagonist is piloting the aircraft toward a crash. The time-warp concept is intriguing — the problem is the execution, with handheld cameras and hammy reaction shots creating an overall feel somewhere between B-movie and student film.
10. “Hold On”
White kicks off live this legit live video by pounding the open hi-hat and snare, displaying one of rock’s most menacing drum faces. The energy level remains high throughout, with a spiky-haired Squire sneaking in some heavy bass work amid audience cheers. Also, no clue what they’re supposed to mean, but the old film clips (a merry-go-round, a hand drawing a box, people looking through binoculars) inject some interesting visual texture.
9. “Tempus Fugit“
Squire, decked out in a zebra-print shirt, really gets in some bass reps. Horn belts the Drama track from center stage, wearing enormous sunglasses. Howe, clad in a sort of sleeveless jumpsuit, looks like he should be painting houses or something. But it’s a joy to watch him bang out ska-styled chords on his Fender Strat — he looks positively elated to be hammering out those triplet fills after the chorus.
8. “It Can Happen”
Yes videos remind us just how weird rock fashion became in the ’80s. For “It Can Happen,” this crew is at its most motley: Anderson in a bow tie; White in leather pants; Squire dressed like some kind of glam Viking; everyone plastered with makeup. It’s hard to focus on anything else! The director keeps things minimal anyway, capturing the quintet as it mimes in a glowing, futuristic-looking room. (Oh, and for some reason, there are shots of someone in a fishing boat. No idea … )
7. “Rhythm of Love”
Different directors have different styles: Some translate the lyrics into action; others film the band doing its thing; some just use the medium to make weird stuff. A perfect example is “Rhythm of Love,” filled with David Lynchian red curtains, alarm clocks with wings, stop-motion birds and Anderson’s face singing in a sort of silhouette to a woman in lingerie. Cheesy and ridiculous, but endearing so.
Wakeman looks like he’s straight out of the Victorian era, dressed in frilly garments, sitting down to play the harpsichord part from this Tormato track. Anderson’s face fades in over the top of the instrument, and eventually, all the band members appear between the keys. In the end, Wakeman leaves his seat and takes a polite bow — but wait, who’s watching? An unseen figure taps their hand on a chair arm, revealing a Yes ring.
5. “Owner of a Lonely Heart”
Storm Thorgerson, the creator of rock’s most striking and surreal album sleeves, seems like an odd choice to direct “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” the most commercial song in the Yes catalog. (A video for, say, “Close to the Edge”? That would have made more sense.) But the Hipgnosis founder brings his usual grandiosity to the project. The weirdness involves each band member (minus Kaye, who wasn’t around at the time) transforming into an animal: Anderson a bird, Squire a snake, Rabin a lizard, White a cat. Elsewhere a stranger is accosted on the street and tormented by flashbacks to animals; he escapes from a fight onto a rooftop, where he finds the band members — only to jump off amid the hysteria.
We open on a beach, the camera zooming in on the musicians playing amid the rocks and waves. For whatever reason, Squire handles the organ and Kaye mimes the bass (using a very clumsy-looking technique). Everything is a bit off: Howe is on hand, as he is in all the Time and a Word-era videos, even though he didn’t play on the album. But it’s still a fun atmosphere — drummer Bill Bruford even sneaks in some hilarious mugging for the camera.
3. “Astral Traveller”
Paul Leleu directed this clip — and the other Time and a Word promos — for Belgian TV. And he brings a joyful buzz and ingenuity to each of them, capturing the prog band during a period of youthful innocence. After an opening where the band exits its plane, we settle into an unadorned film studio performance, Anderson cast as the star in his flowing black threads. (Props to Leleu for the subtle tracking shot. Here, the singer strums his acoustic as he glides next to the camera.)
The “Everydays” video is kinda like Yes’ A Hard Days Night, following the young men as they ping-pong through adventures. It’s not exactly clear how the events are interconnected, but their wild afternoon includes hanging out near what appears to be a convent, making goofy faces near some trees and drifting in a boat along a canal with a nun. You had to be there, one supposes.
1. “No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed”
You don’t need excessive amounts of cash to make an enjoyable video. But you do need willing participants. For “No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed,” director Leleu used a simple foundation: filming the band as it crams into a car, cruises around and does dumb stuff. Anderson flashes the peace sign and dangerously sits on the hood as the vehicle rolls; Bruford, who at one point finds himself stripped shirtless, yells something inaudible from a megaphone. Elsewhere, Yes mime the song in a junkyard — as good a spot as any.
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