Listen to this track by top-of-the-heap prog rock players Yes. It’s “And You And I”, a track that served as a single in a radio-edited form, and heard in its full form on their 1972 record Close To The Edge. That record is the last in a trio of key albums that would define their peak period, kicked off by The Yes Album, with Fragile in the middle.
These records feature what is widely acknowledged as the classic line-up of Yes; Jon Anderson singing, Rick Wakeman on keyboards, Steve Howe on guitars, Chris Squire on bass, and Bill Bruford on drums. It was this configuration that enabled them to connect smaller musical ideas into larger and more involved extended pieces for which they became known. This song is certainly one of those, which to this day is among the core tunes on set lists.
As popular as this piece is, a lot of the discussion around it is on what it’s actually about. Is it a love song? Is it a spiritual homily? Is it what the band (inexplicably) called it, a protest song? Read more
Listen to this track by game-changing rock quintet from Oxford, Radiohead. It’s “Paranoid Android”, their epic-scale and time and tempo shifting song as taken from 1997’s OK Computer.
The band had its work cut out for it after having put out their preceding record, The Bends. That album had them finally finding their voice after a debut that showed promise, if not polish. The trick with following up an identity-solidifying record is that there’s not a lot of room left to go, other than reproducing it for that difficult third album. But instead of playing it safe and making The Bends 2, Radiohead did one better with OK Computer. In addition to sounding as cohesive as its predecessor, it served asa post-Brit pop statement that stood as something of a challenge to their peers.
And “Paranoid Android” helped to lead the way into a sound that fit with that sound they’d established, and yet showed something of an evolution, too. This is something of an irony when you consider the sources of musical inspiration that helped to shape it. Read more
Here’s a clip of ex-Soft Machine honcho Kevin Ayers, along with under-exposed guitar genius Ollie Halsall, and then-current Police guitarist Andy Summers (who’s birthday it is today, BTW). It’s a 1981 performance of Ayers’ tune ‘Didn’t Feel Lonely’, a jazzy, funky R&B workout that proves to be the perfect staging ground for a guitar-duel between Halsall and Summers. You decide who wins.
Kevin Ayers and Andy Summers had been long-time friends and touring partners by 1981. Indeed, Summers had toured with the Soft Machine at the end of the 1960s as a temporary member, until it was decided that his presence off the road was no longer required. The split didn’t affect Summers’ relationship with Ayers, however. Ayers’ solo career often included Summers as a supporting player, along with many other luminaries like Mike Oldfield, Brian Eno, and John Cale, among many others.
Among these others was the almost impossibly gifted Ollie Halsall, who became a stalwart bandmate to Ayers, and something of an unofficial musical partner during Ayers solo work through the 70s and into the 80s. Like Ayers himself, Halsall flourished in the late-60s as progressive rock gained traction with rock audiences. His chops as a guitarist suited the times perfectly, working with a myriad of bands and songwriters in that vein. But, along with his work with Ayers, Halsall’s work was popularized by his contributions to Eric Idle and Neil Innes’ The Rutles, a razor-sharp Beatles parody which along with the comedy, featured excellent songs and superlative playing.
Like many extremely talented musicians, Halsall struggled with a drug problem that claimed his life in 1992. But, this clip shows him at the height of his powers, locking horns with Andy Summers and arguably besting him as the two dextrous players trade licks as Ayers oversees. Halsall would play with Ayers for sixteen years, while Summers would continue to build his reputation with the Police, and beyond with a solo career of his own.
Kevin Ayers is an active musician today, with his latest album Unfairground gaining significant critical praise.