Most of you are aware I’m into music. Off and on, sometimes seriously so. Music has been the ballast I carry along on the journey, the load kept near the middle of things, that helps keep me centered – during good times, and, well, the not so good times. The past few months have been firmly in the not so good column, so I’ve been plugged in, listening…a lot…as I drive along.
I had to visit the eye doctor again this week for more fun and games, and made the four hour drive down to Denver in blissful sunshine. It’s been in the 70s here on my mountain for weeks now, and with zero snow that gets a little troublesome for folks living in the Rockies. A lot of people’s livelihoods depend on snow, and places like Phoenix and Southern California depend on our snowpack for next Spring’s water. Our snow deficit is already something like 40 inches, so while it’s pleasant to drive on smooth, dry roads, that comes with a cost.
But life is kind of like that, at times. You know, kind of “be careful what you ask for…”
Making the drive home the day after, things had changed. The photo above was taken on that drive, through the windshield on Interstate 70 just west of the Eisenhower tunnel exit, maybe 60 miles west of Denver. I exited the tunnel in time to brake for these three ’18-wheelers’ and watched them spin off the road. Once stopped I took this picture, looking out the front – ignoring the 18-wheeler sliding towards the rear of my F150. Still had my seatbelt on, luckily, but the resulting impact felt like Tommy was off playing Pinball Wizard once again, as I got knocked around pretty good.
Turned out the whole scene was kind of like Fantasia, with those gayly twirling pink hippopotami swinging by in merry dance, except these behemoths were fully loaded, multi-ton trailer loads waltzing by, and soon a caravan of paramedics roared by, to an ancient Oldsmobile laying on its top, crushed, in the ditch just ahead. Three people inside, or so I heard later, were dead. All in the blink of an eye. My four hour drive stretched out to almost eight, and I got home well and truly tired, but well and truly alive. Grateful, yes, but saddened, because such sudden death is always an unwelcome reminder of how fragile life is.
Still, all this isn’t what I wanted to share right now…it’s just context. Actually, it was the night before that proved more meaningful to me, for a little while, anyway.
Those who’ve been reading along with me over the years know about my boats, all named Awaken. All named after the 1977 song by that name, by the kids who play music together in a group known off and on as Yes. Well, they’re playing again, playing under their own names as Anderson Rabin and Wakeman. That’s Jon Anderson, Yes’ long time songwriter/vocalist, Trevor Rabin (wrote Owner of a Lonely Heart and who has been scoring movies of late), as well as Rick Wakeman, the immortal keyboard magician. That’s them above, Trevor on the left, Rick on the right, Jon as always front and center, leading the way. They started to tour together a few weeks back, yet I’m not going to write a review (others have done far better than I) or go on about this song or that.
The evening was magic, however, and in so many unexpected ways. Some I think are worth passing along, too.
Before the ‘curtain went up’ – while sitting in Denver’s old Paramount Theatre – Erica and I were chatting about all things 1970 and I mentioned my first Yes concert, back in ’71, and where I’d seen them. And then the guy in front of me turned and looked at me: “I was there too…” and we were off to the races, talking about a night now almost 50 years gone, and it came to pass that he, like I, had been to a Yes performance in every decade since. That’s five decades, in case you were wondering. I’ve seen them in Texas, California, Boston, Massachusetts – and London, Amsterdam, and Zurich, Switzerland, yet to me it’s always been about Jon Anderson. His voice, his voice singing Awaken. And it is for a lot of us, too, and by the time I realized that a lot of us were talking about just that, a community of Yes gathering in the night. Sharing memories created by this music.
The concert was raucous, as you might imagine, until we came to Awaken, until Jon took us to the heart of our sunrise, yet it was the subdued energy of the moment that felt more than a little surreal. The lights went down to cobalt and shadows grew deep as Wakeman danced over the keys again, and then there was that voice…High vibration go on…oh to the sun…
The audience grew totally silent, and the impression I had just then was that Anderson was leading us in prayer. His prayer. The prayer he wrote about the timelessness of life among the stars, and how Love shines as the brightest star of all. How it always comes down to Love. Fans old and new sat in total silence, absorbing his words, absorbing Yes, and there was wild magic in that coming together. A kind of transcendent magic. Pure music, Yes music, but something quite beyond all that, too.
Jon’s never been overtly political, not like so many musicians today, and I think that’s because his message is far simpler than what most politicians would care to articulate. Someone up front asked him about Trump, I think asking what it all meant, but Jon was characteristically Jon just then.
He leaned back, I guess talking with the stars, then he looked at the fella and said: “Surround yourself with love.” You have to step back and think about that for a while, let it sink in.
‘Yes. I get that.’
There’s poetry in his music, or music in his poetry, but again, there’s so much more – but perhaps all that’s best left unsaid. His words are better than mine, and they’re worth listening to, worth reading in their own time and space.
Looking back on things as I left Denver, I was thinking about Yes and the aftermath of the 60s. How they led us from Newspaper Taxis and Cellophane Flowers to their own Heart of the Sunrise, and from there to Awaken, and I think, at least for me, anyway, they helped make sense of the wreckage left by the 60s. Left us with the idea that All You Need Is Love wasn’t just a hopeless mess of tangled, war-torn emotion. Love is an Anthem Generator, and they’re still singing that prayer for anyone who cares to drop by and have a listen.
The guys are getting old now, but oh, that magic. They were like old friends up there on stage, friends from so long ago, yet for a few hours we were all together again, back then, alive in the turbulent fallout of the 60s, thinking about our world – about life – with all the limitless possibility of youth surrounding us.
It wasn’t so long ago, was it? Or so far away?
Is Love strong enough, we wondered? For what lies ahead? Waiting for us out there, in the shadow of the valley?
It’s snowing now, the winter of our discontent and all that is upon us once again. But life goes on, doesn’t it?
Yes. That’s the point. Yes. Awaken in your heart. Yes.
Thanks, Jon, Trevor, Rick. For being there again. For telling it like it is, for reminding us how good and true it all was. A lot of people needed to hear that. One more time.
So, their tour is headed out west now, and to Europe in March. Beyond that?
I’ll be writing, and making some music of my own as the day comes.
Dream on, to the heart of the sunrise.
Because that’s where Yes is, you know…out there in our dreams.
Thanks for coming along.