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Lonely Hearts

Yes – Owner of a Lonely Heart

Be yourself
Give your free will a chance
You've got to want to succeed
Owner of a lonely heart
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Sometimes fate is strange, and it sends us signals. It also happened in the 80s, when every song often hid beautiful stories. In October 1983 a very particular song was released. A beautiful song, certainly, very pop … but here was its peculiarity. In fact, the group that recorded the song had an important history behind it, but it had never been a pop group: Yes had even formed in 1968, fifteen years earlier.

Legend has it that the name of the group was born a bit like a pun on words: it seems that the members were arguing with phrases such as “Have you thought about what name to give to the group?” “Yes” “And what name do you want to give?” “Yes” – “That is, should we call ourselves the Yes?” “Yes” and they tsarted to like the idea and at the end the name simply remained Yes.

Throughout the 1970s, in fact, the group with Chris Squire, Peter Banks, the singer Jon Anderson and other members, had been one of the reference points of the so-called progressive rock. And they had had a huge success, but always in the “progressive” scene: a Yes song would never make it to the top of the pop charts. Besides, they didn’t want to get there either: in fact, as they commented, “Yes made suites, we didn’t compose music for the radios”. They were very proud of their originality and uniqueness.

In 1980 there had been some rotation among the group members, with the arrival of Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes, the two members of the Buggles who had musically opened the 80s with Video Killed the Radio Star. After an album and tour that brought success in America, but big disappointment among British fans, Yes disbanded. Geoff Downes and the great guitarist Steve Howe founded Asia, who would later find success with Heat of the Moment, and the history of Yes is interrupted.

Not for long, however: in 1983 the group reforms with the South African guitarist Trevor Rabin, under the name of Cinema. Within a few months they contacted former singer Jon Anderson, who returned to the group, and they started to work on the next album, which should therefore be the first album, in fact, of Cinema. Probably Cinema, however, already understood how the story would go, because four out of five members were formerly members of Yes, with the addition of Rabin. For this reason they decided not to find a title for the album, and named it with the progressive catalog number in the record company, which is 90125. Shortly before the release of the album, however, the production decided to change direction and return to use the name Yes. And no wonder, if we think that the producer of 90125 was none other than the ubiquitous Trevor Horn, who also was previously part of Yes!

90125 was a resounding success and took Yes to the top of the pop charts for the first time. Obviously 70s fans felt betrayed by the group’s pop turn, but Yes found themselves having a new lineup of young fans, who loved listening to pop music and watching new channel MTV.

The first song from the album was Owner of a Lonely Heart, which reached the top of the charts thanks to its sounds between rock and pop, but certainly no longer progressive, thanks also to very pop lyrics, where the group wondered if it’s better to be alone rather than risk of being heartbroken, and of course also thanks to a great video.

A long video, which MTV often broadcast in a shortened version. After about a minute of traditional video where we see Yes playing in a studio, we hear a voice saying “Hang on, hang on, maybe there’s another way to do it” and in fact a new video starts, shot partly in color and partly in black and white, very impressive. The video has a rather Orwellian setting: a person (played by actor Danny Webb, a well-known face in England who had also starred in Alien 3) is stopped on the street by two thugs and is taken to a sort of secret prison where he is beaten and detained, but manages to escape. The story of him in black and white, however, alternates, in the video, with colorful scenes where the members of Yes transform into animals. These scenes recall hallucinations and fears, exactly as it was described in Orwell’s 1984. Scenes very distant from other videos where the protagonists also turned into animals, for example Learning to Fly by Pink Floyd or Hunting High and Low by a-ha.

Eventually the protagonist manages to escape from the dungeon, but ends up on the roof of a skyscraper from which he can do nothing but jump. A distressing but absolutely original video, which certainly contributed to the incredible success of Owner of a Lonely Heart.

The history of Yes never had great visibility, and perhaps that depended on a kind of legacy due to their alternative and progressive past, but it was certainly an eventful story, with a second split in the late 80s, a second reunion at the beginning of the 90s, a third phase of their history starting in 2008 when the singer Jon Anderson left the group. The story of Yes continues today, and their most recent album was released on October 1, 2021 !! In 2003 an asteroid in space was even named after them, and since then it is called “7707 Yes”: we can really say that Yes career and fame literally skyrocketed!

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