Musician Interview: Yes’s Jon Anderson on Teaming Up with The Band Geeks

By Blake Maddux

“I’m going to be 80 in October, and what a way to spend your 80th year on the planet, to be able to go out and do rock ‘n’ roll shows everywhere!”

As I was leaving a show at Royale a couple of months ago, a woman asked her friend who Jon Anderson was. She had obviously seen the marquee advertising his upcoming show at the Shubert Theatre. Her friend answered that he was a member of the progressive rock group Yes.

“Would I know any of their songs?” she inquired. I was mostly past them at this point, so I refrained from turning my head and saying, “Owner of a Lonely Heart.”

This 1983 chart topper is certainly the Yes song that is familiar to the greatest number of people. However, it is likely not among the favorites of many committed fans of the band.

To them, Yes is defined by the body of work that began with 1971’s The Yes Album and ended with 1978’s Tormato.

Each of the seven albums that appeared during this stretch — as well as the two that appeared before it — featured lead vocals by Jon Anderson. Although Anderson left in 1980, he came back aboard in time to sing the aforementioned #1 hit and remained until 2004.

Since then, his relationship to the Yes band and brand has been, shall we say, complicated.

However, those 15 years afforded him the opportunity to tour with former bandmates Trevor Rabin (guitar) and Rick Wakeman (keyboards), release his 14th and 15th solo albums, and record a new record with New Jersey’s The Band Geeks, True, which will see the light of day on August 23.

Anderson spoke to me by phone in advance of his and his new band’s visit to Boston on June 25. (Here is a piece based on an interview that I did with him in 2022.)


The Arts Fuse: How did it come to be that you are both touring and recording on the cusp of your 80th birthday?

Jon Anderson: I got in touch with The Band Geeks and we did 12 shows together to see what it was like to be onstage. They were great, and by December I was in touch with the bassist, Richie [Castellano], who’s a quite brilliant musician, and I said, “Let’s make an album.” We finished about three weeks ago and it will come out in August. It’s really a special album.

Jon Anderson — on the cusp of his 80th birthday. Photo: Deborah Anderson

AF: What first put The Band Geeks on your radar?

JA: A friend of mine at Sirius Radio, John Amick, sent me a video of them performing “Heart of the Sunrise” in their little studio in New Jersey. I just loved the way they played, and it sounded just like Yes. About a month later I called up Richie, talked to him for 10 minutes, and said, “Let’s go on tour.” (laughs) It freaked him out!

AF: How did you decide the set list for the tour?

JA: I’ve always wanted to do epics and classics, and that’s what we did. We did “Gates of Delirium,” “Awaken,” “Close to the Edge,”, all the ones people know. “Yours Is No Disgrace,” “I’ve Seen All Good People,” and so on and so on.

AF:  Are The Band Geeks Yes fans who could play the songs without much rehearsing?

JA: It was mesmerizing when I went in to see them at the first session we did before the first tour last fall. They started playing “Gates of Delirium” and I said, “Wow, this is amazing!” Then they did “Yours Is No Disgrace” and everything was perfect. And they’re really nice people. You work with people and you make it happen. And on tour they were just so good. Like you said, I’m going to be 80 in October, and what a way to spend your 80th year on the planet, to be able to go out and do rock ‘n’ roll shows everywhere.”

Jon Anderson and The Band Geeks. Photo: Steve Schenck

AF: My wife recently joined a singing group of around 80 adults called Rock Voices. They performed “Roundabout,” quite possibly the most enduring of all Yes songs, at their concert last year. Can you give me a concise summary of how that was written and became an unlikely top 20 hit?

JA: Wow! Give her my best regards, please. We actually wrote that song, me and Steve [Howe], in the back of a van on the way from Aberdeen to Glasgow. And on the road there were about 15 roundabouts. So every time we went through one, I started singing, “I’ll be the roundabout….” And Steve had his guitar, so we wrote most of it. 24 hours later, we’d be back home in London, so “24 before my love/I’ll be there with you….” and all these lyrics popped up.

Then we got to London and recorded it. It was eight minutes long and we thought, “we’ll never get this on the radio.” Then one day when we were in Pennsylvania driving back from rehearsal for the Fragile tour, “Roundabout” came on and all of the middle of the song had been torn out! We phoned up Atlantic Records and they said, “It’s going to be a hit record. Shut up!”

AF: What can you tell me about the forthcoming album?

JA: You’re going to enjoy it. It’s called True. We had a great tour together; then a couple of months later I suggested that we make the record that everyone is waiting for that Yes hasn’t made yet. And that’s what we’ve done. We’ve created the album that Yes would have made if they were together.

And everything works. I can’t believe how good it is. God bless The Band Geeks!

AF: It is interesting that Richie Castellano’s other job is with Blue Öyster Cult, a very different-sounding contemporary of Yes.

JA: Yeah, that’s what he does most of the time. He’s brilliant, one of the best bass players I’ve ever heard. He’s a magical musician and an incredible producer.

AF: So whether it’s Yes-style prog rock or BOC-style hard rock, he’s the guy for the job?

JA: Absolutely. He’s the man!

AF: How were the songwriting responsibilities delegated for True?

JA: I had about half a dozen songs in my computer. I sent them to Richie, and he developed them on a major level to make them sound like Yes. I don’t know how he did it, but he did. Then he wrote a couple of songs himself, and I sang with him, and that’s how the album evolved. Then I found a couple of songs that I did 10 years ago in Nashville with a very good friend of mine. They’re beautiful, very quiet songs. We put them into the mix and everything sounds great.


Blake Maddux is a freelance journalist who regularly contributes to the Arts Fuse, Somerville Times, and Beverly Citizen. He has also written for DigBoston, the ARTery, Lynn Happens, the Providence Journal, The Onion’s A.V. Club, and the Columbus Dispatch. A native Ohioan, he moved to Boston in 2002 and currently lives with his wife and six-year-old twins — Elliot Samuel and Xander Jackson — in Salem, MA.

1 Comments

  1. Don Kane Jr on June 22, 2024 at 10:51 pm

    If we all channeled our energy into the positive regardless of our talents, the world would be a better place. God bless Jon, and I thank Him for getting these musicians together. I saw them in Hershey a few nights ago, and it was as any Yes show I have seen since 1975. I wish all of you the best and continued success. Keep the music going for as long as you can. It is truly the universal language.

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