Sunday 28 August 2016

New Yes tribes

Nearly two decades ago, I put together a guide to the different factions in Yes fandom as part of the FAQ for Debates between fans of classic Yes, Troopers, and of YesWest, Generators, had raged online through the eighties and nineties. But after Rabin and Kaye left the band after Talk, and with the classic line-up (more or less) reunited, those debates slowly faded into the background.

But more recent developments have seen Yes fandom returning to that same level of fractiousness. However, this time the old rivalries have been disrupted. A new band following the ABWH playbook unites Anderson, Rabin and Wakeman, crossing the old Trooper/Generator division, while as I type the Yes line up on tour has only one classic member (Alan White is recovering from back surgery).

So, we need a new vocabulary to describe the new debates, to separate those who are excited by ARW from those who champion Heaven & Earth. Here's my suggestion...

New Panthers: this tribe obviously welcome the return of Geoff Downes, hearing Drama played live and welcome any involvement by Trevor Horn. They love Fly from Here, but may have any opinion on Heaven & Earth (but usually like "Subway Walls"). Howe/White/Downes represents the core of a classic Yes line-up to a Panther, so New Panthers don't see any issue with the validity of a current Yes based around this trio. Favourite albums: Fly from Here, Drama, Made in Basing Street

Believers: they defend Heaven & Earth and I've named them after the album's opening track, but also because they believe in the eternal Yes, a band continuing on for many years, long after any classic members depart. These are the people who want a future Yes with, for example, Sherwood, Davison, Schellen and Haun. They accept an argument built on continuity, a ship of Theseus approach. Favourite albums: Heaven & Earth, Fly from Here, Citizen, anything by CIRCA:

Generators: an old tribe reborn, joyful at the return of Trevor Rabin to non-soundtrack music in Anderson, Rabin and Wakeman, a rebirth for a side of Yes long neglected by the official band. Favourite albums: Jacaranda, 90125, Talk

Inventioneers: these love Jon Anderson and they point to Invention of Knowledge, "Open", the Anderson Ponty Band etc. as the future. They support Anderson, Rabin and Wakeman of course, but are more vehement in their condemnation of recent history, of a Yes that "betrayed" Anderson. Favourite albums: Invention of Knowledge, Better Late than Never

Troopers: now fall into two kinds. Pessimists bemoan all current options and focus their interest on archival releases. Favourite albums: Progeny, Panegyric deluxe editions. Optimists meanwhile hope for a new union or a reformation of as much of the classic line up as possible: Anderson, Wakeman, Howe and White together again. Favourite tour: Union.

YesWholes: continue to support all Yes variants, including spin offs. They also hope for a new union but want a more inclusive one with Rabin, Sherwood, Downes, Davison etc.

Is that enough? Do we need to add Journeymen for those focused on Wakeman's work, or Spiralisers for the faction yearning for Tom Brislin's return? Tell me in the comments below.


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  2. Is there anyone left on Re there any Tormntors? :D

    1. I just looked and there's a handful of people still on a.m.y., even a couple of familiar names!

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  4. New Panther here, Producers, Drama and Fly are three of my very favorites!

  5. Interesting postulation, Henry … allow me to offer an expansion to your list: consider me an “ascender”.

    This is someone who has somehow risen above the most recent and current state of affairs within the band (by means of a “ladder”, if you will) and retains a holistic but, ultimately, detached view over all things YES. He/She does so with sufficient interest due to longtime association but also with some distance due to years of user experience with an increasingly unwieldy brand.

    Ascenders are most likely to originate from “generators” (eg. partisan YesWest) by age. They thus, bear little allegiance to the classic mode of YES, having discovered it by detour via their latter-day work. They enjoy their prog by sovereign choice and not by affiliation with a certain generation, but, by way of much more available media channels and musical influences, were able to keep a discerning view on other genres and are prone to constantly compare and to embed.

    Ascenders do so with various levels of success and as YES’ trajectory becomes more and more fragmented (howeyes, arw, andersonpontystolt etc.) the way the band matches a current worldview may change at a quick rate.

    That, in a nutshell, is me. I saw a gig on this years fragile/drama tour but caught myself watching it like a celebrated museum piece rather than in the ususal reverie of a YES fan of yore. It has become a rather healthy state of mind, i may add.

    Best wishes,
    iguana from

  6. It would appear that I am either a New Panther or a Believer. Probably somewhere in between, but it may depend upon my mood on a given day.

  7. Just found your blog, Henry. I'm a Believer! (might be an idea for a hit song there...) Your description of the eternal Yes as the ship of Theseus is spot-on. It explains exactly how I felt when I heard Heaven & Earth... that the band whose last album was Tormato had reappeared. And I do think Yes could be Davison, Haun, Brislin or O. Wakeman, Sherwood and Schellen. That would make this very London band 80% or 100% American in its immortality.
    - beeflin

    1. I'd like to add that I'm also an old-style Trooper! My favourite Yes is up to Tormato, then a big gap (allowing Drama & 90125 a place) until Fly From Here. Can I have a tribe name?

  8. am an ABWH formation listener. And very welcome to Rabin too. Thanks for your great article, Henry Potts.