Why did Yes want Billy Sherwood? Part 1 – 567

Produced by Joseph Cottrell, Ken Fuller, Wayne Hall and Jeffrey Crecelius

This week Mark and I began to think about the next musician Yes wanted to sign up, this time as a live associate member of the band for the 1994 Talk Tour. We talk about Billy’s connections to Yes members, his involvement with Union and lots of other topics. You’ll also find out what record we have chosen to listen to next week for some clues as to Billy’s suitability to join Yes at this point.

In addition, we have time for a two pence segment about the recent sale of Yes’ Atlantic back catalogue to Warner Bros. and what this means for the band and the fans.

  • What did Yes know about Billy at this point?
  • What about him attracted their attention?
  • Why did they want a sixth member of the band for this tour?
Photo copyright Gottlieb Bros.

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  • Joseph Cottrell
  • Ken Fuller
  • Jeffrey Crecelius and
  • Wayne Hall


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Not final artwork – just me messing about with one of my old photos

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Theme music

The music I use is the last movement of Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite. This has been used as introduction music at many Yes concerts. My theme music is not take from a live concert – I put it together from:

5 replies on “Why did Yes want Billy Sherwood? Part 1 – 567”

Great listen as always. I have often read on various Yes related sites that Billy was asked to join for the Talk tour as Chris wasn’t in the ‘best of health’ at this time so needed a deputy to step up at short notice. It’s a delicate subject but it would be interesting to get to the bottom of this.

Billy is a massive talent. He started out on drums, is a fine bass player, a prodigious multi-instrumentalist, an accomplished songwriter, an adept tutor, and has first-rate studio and producing skills. Chris’s legacy is in the right hands, without doubt – though I wish his bass could be made to ‘cut through; just a wee bit more for Yes live. I appreciate the grungy and twangy Rickenbacker is not for him, but some of what he plays (which is a lot) gets lost or muddied in the mix. Of course Yes’s original sound was crafted from a far inferior sonic and technical environment, in which both Squire and Bruford needed ways of getting their sound to stand out – high and ‘dirty’ for the former, and rimshots for the latter. But because *everybody* can sound much fuller and louder now, the challenge still exists, though in a different way – especially with complex arrangements like those of Yes. Mark will no doubt have useful things to say about this.

Regarding ‘Talk’, I suspect there were a range of reasons why Billy was brought on board, including translating the studio sound of the album to a live setting, and helping out Chris. Yup, CS did have health issues around that time, though ironically he looked healthier than in 1991 on the Union tour… at least when I saw them in ’94 around the NY area, at YesFest, and on the Chile live concert film.

Don’t forget that the ‘Union’ album not only features what, IIRC, was the first Sherwood-Squire joint composition (correct me, someone, if my memory is wrong on that), but *also* Billy’s rather than Chris’s bass on “The More We Live – Let Go”, at Chris’s insistence.

I have no doubt that Billy, Jon D and Jay will be all over ‘Relayer’ live this year. The biggest challenges (given Steve’s change of tempo and approach in his later years, and Geoff’s very different style to Patrick Moraz) may be keys and guitars, plus keeping the pace up on “Sound Chaser” and the instrumental sections of “Gates”. I’m both nervous and excited to see how it will come across.

In the spirit of actual progress in progressive rock, I’d very much like to see Billy, Jon and Jay being allowed to take Yes – its sound, style and approach – forward when Steve (in particular) decides to hang up his plectrum; but I somehow doubt that will happen. Hope I’m wrong. We need either that, or a fitting ending to the band. There are, of course, other formations which could take the music forward if and when Yes is no more, but that’s a larger topic…

In the meantime, massive props and gratitude to Billy. Lovely guy, by all accounts, too. Here’s a photo I took of the man in action in 2018. It turned out better than I had reason to expect on a low-grade phone, but sadly it’s pixellation meant that it wasn’t usable in my book.

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