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45 Years Ago – Yes Play Their First Concert

billbruford.com

It was 45 years ago that Yes began their live career on a very inauspicious note, as they performed their first gig on Aug. 3, 1968 at the East Mersea Youth Camp in Essex.

The recently formed band had risen from the ashes of the Syn, one of many notable bands on the UK psychedelic scene. Their bassist and guitarist, Chris Squire and Peter Banks respectively, formed a new band called Mabel Greer’s Toyshop. In June of 1968, Squire was introduced to singer Jon Anderson at a local night club. The two hit it off and Anderson was invited to join the group.

Mabel Greer’s Toyshop did some gigs that combined soul, R&B and psychedelia with Anderson’s unique vocal style as the band find its own distinct sound. They restructured by bringing in keyboardist Tony Kaye, who had previously been in a band called Bittersweet, and drummer extraordinaire Bill Bruford, who they found via an ad in the Melody Maker. Banks thought the band’s name was too cliche and suggested a new name — the simple, yet effective, Yes.

It came to pass that the newly christened group had only a week to prepare for their debut, so naturally they leaned heavily on cover songs, including tracks from the Beatles,Traffic, Buffalo Springfield and the 5th Dimension. “It is seldom mentioned that Yes basically began as a covers band, doing interpretations of other people’s material,” notes Banks in the Yes bio ‘Close To The Edge,’ “But what covers they were, given the full Yes treatment! “We didn’t just rearrange a song — we celebrated it with much enthusiasm!”

“We were doing this at a time when most British rock groups were blues based and very much in a ‘post psychedelic just wanting to rock out, man’ mode,” added Banks. Though their debut gig was somewhat underwhelming for the band and audience, this did not dampen the band’s spirits. A few days later, Yes were on more appropriate ground, performing a set at the Marquee club in London. The rest, is, ahem… Yestory!

Next: Top 10 Yes Songs of the ’70s

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