Wherever there is online discussion about the new Yes album, arguments about Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman’s absence are not far behind. The fateful decision in 2008 by Steve Howe, Chris Squire and Alan White to continue Yes without them won’t go away. Every time the band or Anderson are interviewed, the same questions come up… and judging by comparisons with Genesis, the same questions will go on being asked for decades.
Much has been made of Anderson’s comment that only White contacted him immediately after his acute respiratory failure, yet it’s the communication a few months later, when Howe/Squire/White were putting together the new line-up, that are more significant. Squire has always insisted that they had Anderson’s blessing, but this seemed at odds with criticisms by both Anderson and Wakeman.
Two recent interviews show that Howe/Squire/White were in contact with both Anderson and Wakeman, and suggest both Anderson and Wakeman gave explicit permission for the new band.
Rick Wakeman was interviewed recently by Anil Prasad in his Innerviews series. It’s another great interview from Anil, reaching parts other interviewers do not. In it, Wakeman discussed how he was approached by Howe/Squire/White in 2008:
“Chris Squire called me up and I said “I will not play in the band if Jon isn’t singing.” Then Chris said to me “Who would you recommend to do it?” [Rick describes recommending Oliver] I’m not being critical. What anybody wants to do, they can do. But when I’m asked, I will explain my feelings.”
Here’s Anderson talking to Planet Rock, explaining his criticism at the time of the 2008 tour:
"The problem was [that] they weren't telling anyone that I was not in the band and they weren't advertising Yes as Chris Squire, Steve Howe and Alan White, which is what we agreed upon if they wanted to go out there. I actually gave them my blessing and said 'If you want to go out there, you've got to make a living. I'm just not ready at this time to do that kind of touring.'
"Then they found a singer that sounds like me […] I thought, well, that's what they wanna do. It's not what I call in my heart what Yes is all about but that's what they wanted to do so I had to say something. "
So, Howe/Squire/White were in contact with both Anderson and Wakeman. Anderson describes an agreement, albeit with conditions. Wakeman hints at giving permission too, although at other times he’s had the same complaint as Anderson, that Yes haven’t been clear enough about their line-up. But, contrary to these complaints, all the touring in 2008 was explicitly billed as “Steve Howe, Chris Squire & Alan White of Yes”. The switch to just “Yes” came in 2009.
It appears that Anderson and Wakeman, while they may not like the course taken by Howe/Squire/White, were both asked and both gave their permission.