Black Sheep Hit: Almost all of their Top 40 hits in the United States qualify as this:
"Roundabout" (peaked at #13) still had progressive elements in the song, but it was more controlled compared to most of their '70s output. Even sounds more like a straight-forward rock song if you listen to the radio edit. The original length? 8 minutes and 29 seconds. The radio edit length? 3 minutes and 27 seconds.
"Owner of a Lonely Heart" (peaked at #1) off 90125 was a catchy New Wave pop rock tune that sounded nothing like the band ever did before then. One of the first mainstream songs to ever use sampling, it was one of the most revolutionary and influential songs of the '80s and the popular MTV video helped introduced the band to a new generation of listeners, many who never knew they were a progressive rock band until then. Play this song to anyone, then play one of their '70s songs, and the listener will think they are two completely different bands.
"Love Will Find A Way" (peaked at #30) off the Big Generator album. The song is really a good power ballad (even if it does contain one of the worst lyrics in rock history, "I eat at Chez Nous"), but it sounds like a song any '80s arena rock band could write.
Breakthrough Hit: The Yes Album was the first album of theirs to chart in America, and "Your Move" was their first single to make the Top 40.
Rick Wakeman dislikes much of Tales From Topographic Oceans, in particular the "filler material" they used to spread the album's pieces across four sides of vinyl.
Wakeman also disliked Tormato, which influenced the cover choice, and the band themselves have expressed disappointment in its production.
Also most of the participants of the Union album, due to the overproduction, Executive Meddling and replacement of band contributions with that of session musicians and computer editing in post-production. Rick Wakeman famously calls it "Onion" as it brings tears to his eyes. The Union Live albumnote The 2011 release of their 1991 tour supporting the album goes so far as to contain only one song from Union, showing just how little regard the band has for it even now.
Doing It for the Art: Say what you will about Jon Anderson's lyrical style, hippie persona, and the concept of Tales in general, but it's clear that the group and Anderson in particular were willing to potentially alienate a large chunk of the fanbase (not to mention Rick Wakeman) to put out an album they felt strongly about.
Anderson temporarily left the band after Big Generator because he felt that the writing for the album had been too focused on trying to write hit singles.
Rick Wakeman wasn't allowed to compose anything on Fragile for legal reasons, which explains why his solo piece on that album is arranged classical work by Brahms. His contributions on followup Close to the Edge were credited as "themes" to get around the contractual lockout.
This is the reason 90125 is a Yes album instead of a Cinema album. Cinema was originally Trevor Rabin, Chris Squire, and Alan White, with Tony Kaye added mainly for live shows (Rabin and Trevor Horn played most of the actual keyboard parts on the album). However, after Jon Anderson joined the fold, the record company insisted that the band be called Yes. Rabin, incidentally, wasn't happy about this, not wanting to be perceived as a replacement for Steve Howe.
Word of God says that this is how the Union album of 1991 was sabotaged. Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe were recording their second album in Montserrat, while the official Yes were recording the followup to Big Generator in Los Angeles, while looking for a replacement for Jon Anderson (Billy Sherwood and Roger Hodgson were considered candidates). ABWH's label, Arista, wanted more commercial material, and felt it would sell more copies if ABWH were called Yes. Arista approached Yes to contribute material for ABWH. Trevor Rabin reluctantly sent Arista demos of "Lift Me Up" and "Saving My Heart" for Jon to sing on. Squire and Billy Sherwood sent "The More We Live—Let Go". Meanwhile, Anderson sang backing vocals on Yes' project. Arista assembled all of the Yes and ABWH recordings, plus a Bill Bruford/Tony Levin instrumental, a Steve Howe acoustic solo piece, and "The More We Live" into Union. Adding to the meddling was producer Jonathan Elias, who, as Arista wanted the project completed on schedule, changed guitar and keyboard parts Howe and Wakeman recorded for the band, and added myriad session musicians from L.A. to finish off Howe and Wakeman's playing without even any input from Wakeman or Howe.
After Union, the record label Victory offered a contract to record Talk only to the members who had been on the hit eighties albums, 90125 and Big Generator. They then made sure an epic length song ("Endless Dream") and an old song by Rabin, "Walls", appeared on the record; the latter, much to Rabin's chagrin. In a bit of poetic justice, the label folded shortly after its release.
Franchise Killer: Union killed the band commercially, and all their albums since been released on indie labels, though the band is still an in-demand live act. Conversely, Drama looked like it would be this...before the band came back for 90125.
Keep Circulating the Tapes: Talk has only ever had two printings (the initial release in 1994 and a limited re-release in 2002), which means getting a CD of Talk involves finding a used copy or paying inflated prices for the scarce amount of new ones. And if you want to Take a Third Option and buy the mp3 version? It turns out Talk has never had a legitimate digital release, and is not available in full even on streaming sites like Spotify (some of the album used to be available, but as of September 2014 it's vanished entirely).
Money, Dear Boy: Fragile had the band members doing "solo" pieces to record the album quickly in order to pay for Rick Wakeman's keyboards. Subverted in that it's still considered one of the band's best albums.
Bill Bruford has said in interviews that the major reason he formed Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe with his former Yes bandmates was the potential to make far more money than he could performing solo. Subverted when he left Yes after Union a few years later due to feeling artistically constrained, despite the money.
Not Using The "Y" Word: Some press releases for Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe are bent comically out of shape implying that this band was Yes without ever actually using the name. Yet others explicitly refer to ABWH as a band that in the 70's was called Yes, so Arista Records' lawyers seemed uncertain if they could actually use the word "Yes" or not. note A later agreement between Arista and Atco Records specified that ABWH could refer to their origins in Yes, but ABWH could not call themselves that.
Signature Song: "Roundabout" from their prog-rock period and "Owner of a Lonely Heart" from their pop-rock period. Yes have had plenty of hits, but these are the two songs everyone knows.
Surprisingly averted within the material released by what many consider the band's signature lineup, the one with Wakeman and White. "Roundabout" had Bruford on drums, "Owner" had Rabin on guitar and Kaye on keyboards. Most of Yes' other radio staples also do not contain the Wakeman/White lineup. While Yessongs was a hit and showed they were plenty capable of performing Kaye and Bruford's earlier material, it wasn't until Tales from Topographic Oceans that they recorded in studio together on a Yes album note White performed on part of Wakeman's The Six Wives of Henry VIII, a medley of which is on Yessongs.
Literally led to the final cover of Tormato. Hipgnosis had been showing Yes the photographs taken for the cover at the Yes Tor, when the album was still planned to be named Yes Tor, when a frustrated Wakeman threw a tomato at one of the images, annoyed by how poor he felt the proposal was. Hipgnosis ended up incorporating the effect into the final cover, and the album was renamed Tormato.
The percussion rig of scrap parts being knocked over in "The Gates of Delirium" was an accident.
Also, Drama, thanks to Alan White's foot injury stopping recording, the disastrous Roy Thomas Baker sessions, and Wakeman and Anderson leaving the band. Fly From Here had similar birthing problems with another Wakeman/Anderson exodus and the legal and personal issues that kept Yes from recording for ten or so years.
After the first break-up of Yes in 1981, Chris Squire and Alan White tried to form a Super Group called XYZ with former Led Zeppelin members Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. Plant quickly lost interest in the project and the band folded. But then Squire and White started working with a new guitarist from South Africa...
Jimmy Page entered the picture yet again when he wanted to collaborate with Bill Bruford in a project he had with Paul Rodgers called "The Firm". Bruford had to decline due to contractual and artistic conflicts, but this ultimately left him free to do ABWH a few years later.
Vangelis was also seriously considered for a spot in the group but chose to go solo.
Phil Collins was scheduled to audition to be their drummer, but earlier that same day he auditioned for another band and went with them instead. Collins would later tour A Trick Of The Tail with Bill Bruford as the second drummer.
Roger Hodgson was also considered as Yes frontman when Anderson went off to form Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe in the wake of Big Generator. The band ultimately decided to merge back with ABWH, but not before he wrote some songs with the band, which is why Hodgson has a writing credit on "Walls".
"Love Will Find A Way" was originally intended for Stevie Nicks to sing.
When Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe, the band formed by those ex-Yes members which was Yes-in-all-but-name, they were nearly going to (somewhat humorously) call themselves "No". "The Affirmative" was also mooted.
As a joke/Take That to the official band, they released the ABWH album under the catalogue number of "90126"!
Legal issues (and Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman's health problems) kept the reunited "Classic Yes" Anderson-Howe-Squire-Wakeman-White lineup that toured in the mid-2000s from recording a new album. By the time they got to record a new album (Fly From Here), the line-up changed considerably.
Eddie Jobson (ex-Roxy Music, Jethro Tull, UK and Frank Zappa keyboardist/violinist) was recruited to join Yes in 1983 after Tony Kaye (who had recorded some of the keyboard parts as a special guest) had finished his studio work on 90125. Jobson and Kaye rehearsed with Yes for the 90125 tour, and Jobson participated in the filming of the "top of the skyscraper" part of the video of "Owner Of A Lonely Heart" (though he was largely edited out later), but some personal and musical differences led Jobson to leave the band.
Rabin, Kaye, Squire, and White originally asked Trevor Horn (who had already committed to be the producer) to sing on the album that would become 90125. Horn refused (remembering the poor reception from fans he had received on the Drama tour). It was only after this that Squire met Anderson at a party and brought him back into the fold.
Fragile was originally envisioned as a double album with live tracks. This idea was dropped because of cost concerns and the need to get the album out quickly to pay for Wakeman's instruments.
The album that became Union started off as a second Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe album, tentatively titled Dialogue. However, "Take the Water To the Mountain" is the only piece from Dialogue that ended up making it intact onto Union, with the rest of the tracks remaining unreleased until Jon Anderson finally included some of them in a rarities collection in 2006.
Oliver Wakeman intended to contribute heavily to the writing of Fly From Here before he was booted out for Geoff Downes. By the time the album was finished, "Into the Storm" was the only piece he worked on that remained.
On a much darker note, after the low sales of Yes and Time and a Word, Atlantic Records was seriously considering dropping the band if their third album was also a commercial disappointment. Yes didn't know it at the time, but The Yes Album was their make-or-break moment...and they passed with flying colors.