Rock and Roll began with the simplicity of the same three-chord structure of early blues, but even Robert Johnson played pop standards on stage. Musical virtuosos continued to add depth to pop arrangements until The British Invasion sparked revolutionary innovation that went back to classical roots. Art rock bands played with orchestras. Prog rock bands composed symphonies, sometimes album-long songs with intricate time changes and atypical modalities. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is inducting Yes and The Electric Light Orchestra, two bands that brought the classical to classic rock.
Yes began their career as Mabel Greer’s Toyshop in 1968. Bassist Chris Squire formed the band with singer Jon Anderson, drummer Bill Bruford, pianist and Hammond organ player Tony Kaye and the “architect of prog rock” Peter Banks on guitar. Steve Howe, replaced Banks and Rick Wakeman replaced Kaye by the second album. Alan White, who put the signature drum fills in John Lennon’s single “Instant Karma,” also glorified the band’s intricate beats.
The Electric Light Orchestra began in 1970, in Birmingham, England, out of the band The Move. Jeff Lynne, Roy Wood and Bev Bevan declared they would “pick up where the Beatles left off,” and rolled Beethoven over the Chuck for their ambitious debut single “10538 Overture.” The band was mocked for their lofty ambitions but songs like “Can’t Get It Out Of My Head,” “Evil Woman,” “Livin’ Thing,” “Telephone Line,” and “Mr. Blue Sky” saturated 70s radio.
The Beatles took up what ELO left off. George Harrison and Ringo Starr made appearances on ELO records. Lynne and Harrison formed the rock supergroup The Traveling Wilburys with Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, and Roy Orbison. Lynne produced albums for Paul McCartney, Harrison, and Starr, and The Beatles’ last singles “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love.”
ELO songs opened the horror film Shaun of the Dead and closed the porn biopic Boogie Nights. They played the school dance in The Virgin Suicides and personified a decade for David O. Russell’s American Hustle. Their songs sealed gags in Billy Madison and Austin Powers. Lynne wrote five songs for the confused cinematic science fiction musical flop Xanadu before it was resurrected successfully on Broadway. ELO or Lynn tunes have made it into the films Electric Dreams (1984), Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) and Still Crazy (1998).
Yes songs appeared in such films as Almost Famous (2000), Mr. Deeds (2002), Buffalo ’66 (1998), on TV shows like CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Everybody Hates Chris, That 70s Show, Alphas, Fringe and Top Gear. Their music was also featured in the Grand Theft Auto video games.
With instantly recognizable album covers designed by Roger Dean, Yes sold 13.5 million RIAA-certified albums, including The Yes Album (1971), Fragile (1971) and Close to the Edge (1972). The albums featured impossible to play numbers like Howe’s solo acoustic “Clap,” to hits like “Roundabout,” “Seen All Good People,” and the 1983 number one single off their 90125 album, “Owner of a Lonely Heart.”
Yes released 21 studio albums. After five Grammy nominations between 1985 and 1992, Yes won the Best Rock Instrumental Performance award for “Cinema” in 1986. They were ranked No. 94 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock and headline annual prog-rock sea trips named Cruise to the Edge. Yes will celebrate their 50th anniversary in 2018. They are currently on their 2017 YESTIVAL Tour.
ELO recorded the albums No Answer (1971); Eldorado, A Symphony (1974); Face The Music (1975); A New World Record (1976); Out Of The Blue (1977) and Discovery (1979).