The Story of Yes’ First Concert
Yes began their live career on a very inauspicious note, performing their first gig on Aug. 3, 1968, at the East Mersea Youth Camp in Essex.
The recently formed band had risen from the ashes of the Syn, one of many notable groups on the U.K. psychedelic scene. Bassist Chris Squire and guitarist Peter Banks split off to form a new band called Mabel Greer’s Toyshop. In June 1968, Squire was introduced to singer Jon Anderson at a local night club. The two hit it off, and Anderson was invited to join.
Mabel Greer's Toyshop did some gigs that combined soul, R&B and psychedelia with Anderson's distinct vocal style as the band found its sound. They restructured by bringing in keyboardist Tony Kaye, who had previously been in a group called Bittersweet, and drummer extraordinaire Bill Bruford, whom they found via an ad in Melody Maker.
Banks thought the band's name was too cliche and suggested a new one: the simple, yet effective Yes. Unfortunately, they only had a week to prepare for their stage debut. So, the newly christened naturally group leaned heavily on cover songs, including tracks from the Beatles, Traffic, Buffalo Springfield and the 5th Dimension.
"It is seldom mentioned that Yes basically began as a covers band, doing interpretations of other people's material," Banks noted in the Yes bio Close to the Edge. "But what covers they were, given the full Yes treatment! We didn't just rearrange a song – we celebrated it with much enthusiasm!"
The late Banks noted that Yes was "doing this at a time when most British rock groups were blues-based and very much in a post-psychedelic, just-wanting-to-rock-out-man mode." Next, they'd set about working on original material while preparing for appearances on more appropriate ground at the London's Marquee Club, the first of which was just a few days later.
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