In The Beginning (Highland HL055#Y12)
(62:06): Grugahalle, Essen, Germany – October 9th, 1969: Introduction, No Opportunity Necessary No Experience Needed, Dear Father, Every Little Thing, Something’s Coming. Star Club, Hamburg, Germany – August 20th, 1969: Eleanor Rigby. Kingston Hotel, Sheffield, England – December 21st, 1969: Dear Father, Eleanor Rigby, I See You
Aside form radio broadcasts, there are only a handful of audience tapes for Yes’ first couple years of existence. In The Beginning on Highland collects together three tapes from 1969 which, when it was released in 1997, were the only three in circulation. A decade after the October 27th, 1969 Amougies, Belgium tape surfaced and was pressed on Almost Famous (Tarantura TCDY-9). The sound quality of these recordings are fair at best but they hold tremendous historic value.
The first tape contains their set at the “First German Blues Festival” at the Grugahalle in Essen, Germany. Also on the bill are Fleetwood Mac, Pretty Things, Spooky Tooth, Keef Hartley, Warm Dust, Free, Hard Meat and Pink Floyd. Of the four songs they play, three are covers and only one original, “Dear Father.” Although their debut album was released the previous summer, only “Every Little Thing” from the album is played. The tape is fair but distant, distorted at points and hissy. It is good enough for an early document but gets tough to listen to after a while.
A German mc is audible on the tape introducing “The Yes” before Jon Anderson greets the audience, “Well, hope you all are feeling all right and everything. We should have brought some beds in and then you could lie down for the show. We’d like to do a song from Richie Havens. Here’s a song called ‘No Experience Necessary.'” Chris Squire and Tony Kaye can be heard tuning up. Anderson jokes, “They don’t make footage like that anymore. No. And this is called ‘Tuning Up’. Things are not quite right. Again it’s a procedure. Alright. Okay.”
The band rip into a heavy version of the Havens cover which would be recorded and released on their second album Time And A Word released almost a year later. The tape captures only the first three and a half minutes of the piece cutting out soon after the “Big Country” interlude in the middle. The tape cuts right back in at the beginning of “Dear Father” which sounds much heavier than anything else the play in their set. This would also be recorded for their second album with the orchestral arrangement, but obviously they play the early version that appears on the 2003 remaster of Yes. After the song Anderson babbled on about waking up while Squire tells the audience the name of the song they just played.
Anderson introduces the following song as “a song from the Beatles, we hope it will be the single…. It’s called ‘Every Little Thing'” and they have much more success. Again, like with “Dear Father,” they deliver a fiery version. Squire seems to duel with Banks in the mix, each alternating in loudness. The set ends with an eight minute cover of “Something’s Coming,” the b-side to their latest single “Sweetness.” Bill Bruford duplicates and augments his beginning drum solo before the rest of the band kick into the track.
“Eleanor Rigby” is listed on the artwork as dating from October 1969 but was recorded several months before that, on August 20th. Except for brief visits for television appearances in Switzerland and the Netherlands earlier in the year, this is the first night of their first proper tour of Europe. Beginning on August 20th at the Star Club in Hamburg, they played for about two weeks throughout Germany and the Netherlands.
Yes’ cover of The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” was a major part of their set at the time. They never did record it properly in the studio or in a radio session so the two amateur recordings are the only reference of it. The Star Club tape is good quality, but it is bizarre that this is the only song taped from the show. It seems that either the taper didn’t like Yes’ cover, the rest of the tape didn’t survive the ravages of time or it is in the hands of a hoarder. Nevertheless this five minute fragment is valuable for being one of the few recordings of this cover.
The final part of this collection is the Kingston Hotel tape from December 21st. This short recording just four days before Christmas appeared before on Moments (The Third Eye Liquid Sky Records KT 003) and by Highland before on their first release Lost YesYears (HL001/2#Y1). Two tracks, “Eleanor Rigby” and “I See You” appear on the cheap piece of garbage release Sons Of Olias (TDR-063).
Of the three tapes, this is the best sounding. It is fair to good and clearly captures the dynamics of the arrangements. “Dear Father” opens the tape, played the same as in Essen two months before. This is also the last known time it was played live. Given the spotty coverage at this point, it is probably it was played live again. “Eleanor Rigby” is played and is again the second and final live recording. The arrangement is similar to the Hamburg recording but is played much faster.
The final song of this tape is a twenty-one minute version of “I See You.” This was Peter Banks’ big show piece, the one number where he could stretch and improvise. This was for a long time the only live version on tape until the Belgium tape surfaced several years ago. The long guitar solo includes bits of J.S. Bach’s Jesus, Joy Of Man’s Desiring, “Pop Goes the Weasel” and various country and jazz riffs. It is at times exhilarating to hear and also a good reason why he was fired from the band several months later. It tends to drag on with very few original ideas and really slows down the show (such as it is on this recording). Nevertheless, it is fascinating to hear a complete version in a listenable tape. In The Beginning is one of the early Yes releases on Highland. None of these tapes have been surpassed in subsequent releases and this remains an essential pressing to have.