Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Peter Banks creator of the Yes guitar picture

Peter Banks

When one of our teenage hero’s dies early it is devastating. I was slightly too young to really feel Jimi’s and Janice’s death. But I am constantly reminded of the sense of loss I felt when “Koss” Paul Kossoff died. Every year I attend a Fairport Gig Sandy Denny springs to mind. Who does know where the time goes?

It is all too often true that when an artist dies, only then do they really gain the recognition they deserve. Peter mercifully will have known, that whilst he missed out on Yes at its most successful, he was highly regarded for his contribution to the bands musical personality.

You can of course listen to “Yes” and “Time & Word” to understand how he helped define the role of the guitar player in Yes. Devoid of any R & B his lines were clean, articulate, jazz informed. He could play long sinuous sustained notes, pick his way through a playful dribble of Wes Montgomery inspired notes and then articulate what I describe as a reverse effect violin sound a skill he shared with Jan Akkerman. What was also lovely about Peter was his wicked sense of musical humour we know about the Day Tripper riff on the first Yes CD but I suddenly realised the other day he is playing the Eleanor Rigby tune as he enters a solo run on Flash's. “Children of the Universe”

If you really want to understand how crucial a building block Peter was to establishing the Yes school of music listen to Steve Howe on “Yours Is No Disgrace” It is a straight forward homage to the guitar picture that Peter had painted for the band. All the aforementioned qualities are there as well Peter’s dense unorthodox riffing style which opens up Perpetual Change.  Steve has talked in numerous interviews down the year acknowledging this.   

So Peter has always known how valuable his contribution was to the band and on the eponymously named first Flash Album you see it come into bloom. Listening to the beautiful re master which captures that warm musical ambient mix of the original LP he is on spectacular form. "Dreams of Heaven" is a tour de force and a perfect example of English Progressive Rock, edgy, demanding full of restless invention and injected by the original Yes punk energy where all the unorthodoxy and spikiness is reserved for the music.      

Peters main motivation may have been to show the world that he could do it just as well as Steve, with the mimicked image of Steve’s guitars on display on the inside leaf of the gate fold, but who cares what the motivation was, the result was magnificent.

I attended two live Flash gigs where the band played well and remained tight. However I remember a review of Derek Jewell’s, like Chris Welch a fan, where he criticised Peter for a long and indulgent guitar solo which climaxed with him pulling out the guitar lead. It may have been that kind of remark that led to the tighter sharper construction of a good deal of the material on "Out of Our Hands" and "Two Sides". Certainly in the constraints of those compositions back in 1973 he played better than ever. Interestingly he beat Yes by 5 years to the notion you could make a great musical statement in less than 15 minutes.

The carefully orchestrated suite and his playing therein from that third Flash CD and the first “side” of the solo CD are a glowing testament to a thinking musician’s response to charges of indulgence.

I have had a lifelong interest in the music of Yes and whilst I recognise these guys have a personality outside of the music it is of no interest to me at all.

For me Peter Banks is defined by what appears on these records I have discussed and in the later contributions of those who followed in his footsteps. He appears on the first YES project but he is there on “Yours Is No Disgrace”, he is there on “Cinema” the atypical segment of a longer piece on 90125 and he informs Clem Clemson on Jon’s opener to Animation – “Olympia”. They knew where the guitar picture came from, so do we, and in amongst all the other stuff I am sure Peter did.             

Thank you Mr Banks