When the Buggles met Yes and created a Drama


I’m not sure I’ll get over the traumatic night when I was taken to see Yes incorporating The Buggles. Twas in 1980 and a bunch of us school kids got down to the Hammersmith Odeon, as it then was, to see this bizarre combo. Basically, vocalist Jon Anderson and keyboardist Rick Wakeman had left Yes over the usual ‘musical differences’ and Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes were asked if they’d like to bring their electro-pop sensibilities into this flagging prog rock dinosaur – as it then looked.

Punk and New Wave had made mega-groups like Yes seem totally bombastic and hopelessly out of date. I seem to remember Jon Anderson on the front front page of Melody Maker in flares and kaftan asking why punks hated him so much. Well…where would we start? So the high pitched singer went off to do solo stuff and Wakeman followed soon after.

The resulting merger of two very different bands produced the album Drama – which I remember being completely unconvinced by in 1980 but you know, time has softened my opinion. It’s not that bad. And it’s got all that Trevor Horn slickness that he would bring to bands like Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Pet Shop Boys and ABC.

Live audiences though were far less forgiving and I can remember somebody shouting ‘Bring Back Rick Wakeman’ – and it’s not often anybody expresses that sentiment! Needless to say that by 1981, Yes had split again and the band announced it no longer existed.

Yes and the Buggles in disastrous merger


Yuggles
A merger made in hell

Who could forget the spring of 1980 – May to be exact – when prog rockers Yes announced that they were to merge with electro-poppers, Buggles.   Geoff Downes would take over Rick Wakeman’s role on keyboards while Trevor Horn would be lead vocalist instead of Jon Anderson.

I saw this musical calamity at Hammersmith Odeon, as the venue was called in 1980, and from the start – the mood in the audience was ugly as hell.  The lights went up and the boys waved – goodbye might have been an idea.

I’ve never been to a gig where people shouted “Bring back Rick Wakeman!” but this was the one.  Then my poor ears had to endure Trevor Horn struggling manfully – or not so manfully – to reach the falsetto highs of Jon Anderson.

The ‘Drama’ album wasn’t that bad.  Tempus Fugit had a good bass line.  But little wonder that when Anderson re-joined the band he didn’t perform the numbers from that LP.

The only good thing about this whole episode was that it finally killed off any warm residual feelings I had towards prog rock.  Suddenly, they really were the sad and tragic dinosaurs that the NME had warned us they were since the dawn of punk.