Imagine being the founding member of a struggling band, enduring all the requisite hardships – the lousy gigs, the lousy lodging, the lousy modes of transport and the miles-beyond lousy pay – that go with establishing your music.
Imagine having your fill but still sticking with it, only to have your band give you the boot. To make matters worse, within a year after your dismissal, your band hits big.
That was the early career trajectory of Peter Banks, the original guitarist for the veteran prog rock band Yes. He died earlier this month of heart failure at age 65.
Peter Banks’ post-Yes career was full of quiet triumphs, like his band Flash, which cut several strong prog-ish songs in the early ’70s but never sustained the innovation for an entire album. The 1973 solo recording Two Side of Peter Banks, an appealing guitar summit, stands as the best of his solo material, although 1994’s all-instrumental Instinct was an underdog work that, despite its reliance on synthesizers and drum machines, was full of spirited Jeff Beck-style playing.
But his albums with Yes – 1969’s Yes and 1970’s Time and a Word, as well as a 1997 collection of BBC recordings from the early years that Banks compiled titled Something’s Coming – remain compelling. Yes was essentially a pop group at the time full of psychedelic hopefulness, tackling everything from the Beatles to Bernstein while creating such early delights as Dear Father, Survival and a very involving cover of The Byrds’ I See You.
Banks’ replacement in Yes, Steve Howe, came up with the more textured guitar sound that became identifiable with the band’s later, star-making music. The rumor mill remained ripe over the years with tales of how little regard the two guitarists had for each other. Banks essentially made it official in the liner notes to Something’s Coming.
“My successor, Steve Howe, may delude himself with the myth that Yes started and ended with his involvement,” Banks wrote, stating further that the music he cut with the band in its early years was filled with “the enthusiasm, indulgence, stubbornness and, above all, general youthful playfuless that made Yes fit into the Y section of the music reference books.”