Wednesday, May 25, 2011

6 Songs with Alan White #6 YES "Owner of a Lonely Heart" 1983

Released in 1983, the single "Owner of a Lonely Heart" is the only #1 hit for Yes in the U.S. It came from the album 90125 which marked the return of Jon Anderson to the band (guitarist Steve Howe was still off on other projects), and featured the production of The Buggles's ("Video Killed The Radio Star") Trevor Horn, who would later form Art of Noise. South African guitarist Trevor Rabin was the newest addition to the band.

Alan: We had Trevor Rabin come into the band and he had a slightly more commercial songwriting style. But we added all those background rhythms and bass parts and keyboard parts and that made it into something else.So (90125) was a combination of being more commercial but still coming up with something different.

Yes recorded the Grammy winning instrumental "Cinema" in one take. But the album barely topped 40 minutes and as sessions drew to an end, the band needed one more song.

Alan: And Trevor Rabin came up to me and said "I've got this song
and it might work. I don't know."
So I went around to his apartment that night and i listened to it and I was like "No, we can do that. Why don't we try it tomorrow?"
And we tried it, and it started to gel, and it sounded really, really good
and Trevor Horn said we needed to do it properly.

To get what would become known as the Art of Noise sound, Horn wanted to isolate Alan's drums not just from the rest of the band, but each drum from the rest of the drum kit. That came as a surprise to Alan.

One of the recording engineers came in and took away the cymbals and I said "What are you doing?"
He said "No. He wants you just to do it with the drums and then we'll put the cymbals in later."
So I said "O.K." and we tried it like that.
Next thing he comes in and he takes all the tom toms away so I had a bass drum, a snare drum and high hat.
and I was playing that and then he came in and took the high hat away.
I just had the bass drum and snare drum and that's how we started the song.
We filled the rest in later.

As we wrapped up our time with Alan, 1001Songs had to admit how impressed we were with his ability to play so many time signatures at the same time. After all 1001Songs can't even tap the steering wheel in time to any song. At all.

Alan:You've got to have independence between your limbs . Number One:
you've got to get this hand to do one thing while the other one does something else and the same with your legs. Then it becomes a mind thing.
You must be able to play one rhythm but listen to another one at the same time.It might be the Gemini in me. it might be the two people inside me, but it's like you just have to split your head and be able to coordinate your limbs and just feel it as well.

Sounds like it might take a lot of practice

Alan: The answer is just to play odd rhythms like 5/4, 7/4, 9/4 but it make it feel like people can dance to it.

I'll get right on it.
Thanks to Alan White. Yes's newest album Fly From Here will be released July 12 in the US.

1 comment:

  1. Alan is my favorite drummer - and what an awesome person as well. Not a day goes by that I don't listen to his Yes drumming for hours. I'm a huge fan of Chris Squire/Steve Howe/Jon Anderson but Alan White makes it all come to life in an extraordinarily positive and organic way. He hears everything that goes on in the music and adjusts to it perfectly, and at the same time he controls the pace of the songs and gives them an unbelievable kick forward. Every drum sound he plays is ideal and beautiful and powerful. In other words, he rocks like no other drummer that I am aware of. So modest about his years with John Lennon and then taking over for the Close to the Edge tour until today and *still* going strong.

    I would recommend that everyone put some Alan White into their musical life.