The soft, honey-dipped vocals. The fine-precision instrumentalism. The songs that take you on a 10-minute aural rollercoaster…
The band is Yes, and I was once a fan.
I was not a proud fan. I didn’t wear Yes t-shirts, nor did I write their name on my notebooks over and over again like I did with all my favorite bands. Being into Yes was a private matter.
There is a certain understanding among every high school heavy metal clique. You listen to the fucking awesome shit, and make fun of those who do not. There is a hierarchy and a respect that comes with it. If you like Guns N Roses, you’re better than the jackass who likes Poison, but not as cool as the kid who likes Metallica, who isn’t as cool as the Iron Maiden fan, who isn’t as cool as the Slayer fan, all the way up the ladder until you reach Cannibal Corpse, whom nobody actually liked, but we couldn’t admit it lest we admit our own metal shortcomings.
The lines were drawn, the barriers in place, and I publicly marched to the double-bass drum beat of the music of my peers. But when I got home, it was Relayer. It was Close to the Edge. It was Fragile. Once in a blue moon, it was even Tales from the Topographic Oceans. I shut my door, closed the windows, and sang along to the bright hippy sounds of psychedelic prog rock.
* * *
One day, in Spanish class, I was paired up with a quiet girl, Dana, who no one really knew. She seemed nice, but was a bit on the ugly side, but that somehow made it easier for me to talk to her and be myself. We spent the whole period talking about our favorite rock bands, instead of doing the dopey assignment on Guadalupe a la playa or something.
Dana ended up being really cool. Amazingly, she was into the same metal that we worshiped, particularly Pantera and Sepultura, and was just as passionate about it. We kept the conversation going after class, and, rushed by the bell, we agreed to meet after school to hang out at the mall or something.
We did go to the mall, and on the way there, she stopped and turned to me:
“Wait, Adam. I should tell you something.”
“Oh my god. You have a tail.”
“What? Nothing, what’s up?”
“Well, you know I love Sacred Reich and Overkill and everything, but I do like… well… look, promise not to be weirded out…” she said. I promised. “Okay,” she paused. “I really like Queen.”
“QUEEN?! You mean Bad Rush?”
“I don’t think so. RUSH is Bad Queen.”
“You’re crazy. You have completely fallen off the rails of a crazy train.”
“Look, forget it.” Dana looked at me wild-eyed. “Just don’t fucking tell anyone.”
But I didn’t care! I was stunned! Because with a girl being open and honest with me, I could finally reveal the Jethro Tullish, murky depths of my own album collection.
We hit the mall, did the usual mall stuff, and because my house was in the vicinity of the mall, I was able to talk her into going home with me.
For the sake of brevity, let me edit out the sloppy adolescent flirting rituals, and suffice it to say, after some fumbling, we were full-fledged, shirts-off making out.
Unfortunately, my mom had just gotten home from work and was milling around in the kitchen, which was on the other side of my door. Dana whispered that we should put on some music. I told her to pick something out.
She got up, a silhouette in bra and jeans, and rummaged through my cassettes. “YES!” she whispered emphatically. “OH MY GOD! YES!!”
If I once thought she was ugly, she was now the hottest thing since Megadeth’s Rust In Peace. She wanted me to put on Yes!!
I happened to already have Going For the One in my stereo, so I hit play. Now, the title track was a little too fast for the mood, so I forwarded to my favorite Yes song of all time, “Wondrous Stories.”
The first bright chords rang out, and Dana looked a little confused. Then the slow, sweet vocals kicked in and I started singing along in my best Jon Anderson falsetto.
I awoke this morning
Love laid me down by a river.
Drifting I turned on upstream
Bound for my forgiver.
It is quite a beautiful, romantic song. It’s music that the children of water nymphs and tree sprites would sing on glittery lakes and in their leafy canopies. I slowly walked toward her as I sang.
In the giving of my eyes to see your face.
Sound did silence meee
leaving no trace.
She was smiling weakly, and I was right up to her. I touched her arms then hugged her, singing gently into her ears:
I beg to leave, to hear your wondrous stories
Beg to hear your wondrous stories
Beg to hear your wondrous stooories…
Na na na na na naaaa na…
She struggled out of my arms and turned on the light. She seemed frightened, panicked even.
“What. Is. THAT?”
“That? It’s Yes.”
“You… you like Yes? Oh my god, who are you? Are you my dad?” She started putting her shirt back on.
It was my turn to be confused. “I thought you said you liked Yes…”
“I would never say such a thing, you goddamn freak.”
“But you just kept saying ‘Yes!'”
“Yeah, because I was excited that you had some Cannibal Corpse. You don’t fucking deserve to listen to the Corpse.”
* * *
I still spoke to her in Spanish class, but she largely ignored me, and started hanging out with my friends instead. By the year’s end, they were all into Queen.