Hear the drummer get wicked.

You have to hear this; it’s remarkable. Yes; this is the song that ?uestlove has identified as the first song to use a breakbeat sample.

Yes, it’s the song that signaled the return of Yes from its own ashes (aided by an upstart crow, beautified with the feathers of Buggles), as it launched itself into the 1983 pop charts with this off-kilter, melodramatic pop nugget—a world away from its closest Top 40 predecessor (“Roundabout,” from 1971; it reached #13—you may have heard it once or twice if you’ve been in a bar or a car in America).

But I can offer a gleaming, chrome-plated guarantee that you haven’t noticed the sole, singular, standout deviation from the song’s otherwise immaculately snap-to-grid whiteness: the fleeting little fill, in which drummer Alan White (whose name I am not making up; only UK prog-rock could provide this kind of class-A material) goes brazenly off-brand to get bafflingly, adorably, joyfully and unabashedly jiggy. It’s a moment endearing and intimate in its brevity; a daring spark of humanity amidst the robotic hum of the Yes machine as it churns through its motions.

It’s the pre-teen riding with no hands up to his crush’s house, and then gripping the handlebars when he reaches her driveway. It’s the high-school skate rat executing a perfect ollie and then trading his deck for a tie. It’s a flash of genuine emotion, immediately smothered and subsumed into the charging golem that is The Yes Comeback Hit Single. But it’s there, man—and for about 1.5 seconds, it gave ‘em hell. The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long. And you have burned so very, very brightly, Roy Alan.

You’ll have to listen closely—it flies past before you even notice it’s going down. You can almost feel the iron fist of Jon Anderson reaching into the mix and clamping down on White’s wrist, as his velvety soprano vibrato intones: “Not here, Alan. By Jove, man—we’re English. This is not what we do.”

Get down—sound of the funky drummer! (It’s at like 4:52-53, but the Youtube fidelity makes it extra subtle; close your eyes at 4:48 and relax—you’ll know it when you feel it.)

Note: Holy Christ! I had never seen this video before. When I wrote the above, I was going strictly by the album version. This video is some serious bullshit.

Advertisements