As Seen On Classic Rock Radio (UK)
Originally Published: 09 May 2013
Remembering Peter Banks
Story and Photography by
Classic Rock Radio (UK) American Correspondent Gary “Uncle G” Brown
In reflection, maybe I should have written this sooner. It’s now been some time…over a couple months…since Peter passed away. I, like everyone else, have my share of problems dealing with death. First off, it’s so damn final. Add to that the grief associated with it. When my parents both passed by the time I was eleven, I figured I used up all my tears, and sorrow. Every Blue Moon I find that to be not true. Something bad happens, or someone I know passes.
Peter Banks was a good acquaintance. This was due to us having a mutual friend; William “Billy” James. Billy helped Peter with his autobiography. Part of the book launching included Peter having an Internet platform. That’s where I came in. A big enough deal to where Mr. Banks called my home a few times. Our chats were enjoyable, and on his dime, rather long ones. We both were comfortable talking to each other, so much so we even discussed our wives and his liking for going to the pub at night. I found his conversations very entertaining. Was a pleasure to chat with. Peter even mentioned us getting together one day for a brew. An invite I was never able to accept. Between us, we had more than 4000 miles and some rather vast bodies of water. Cool to say we at least entertained the thought.
I lost touch with Peter after the book came out. A failed attempt to get Banks together with a musician friend of mine who was visiting the UK crashed and burned. Add to that the world’s technology was changing so rapidly. Yahoo Groups, who reigned supreme for discussion groups and what we used for an official Peter Banks newsletter, in time advanced itself to MySpace. That was for a time, all the rage. Someone else who knew far more about internet technology was helping him with that. My job was done.
Regarding Peter’s music, I didn’t know who he was until Atlantic Records released a record of past Yes material, put out before their success here in the States. Graced with beautiful artwork from Roger Dean, they called the album: Yes – Yesterdays (1975). It motivated me down the road to get the first two Yes albums Peter was on: Yes (1969) and Time And A Word (1970). As time went by I played those two first releases till I knew them note for note. If I had to pick a favorite song; Astral Traveller.
In the mid to late 1990’s, I was music CD shopping in Webster, Texas one day when I found an interesting one filed within the Yes bin (so to catch a fan’s attention): Affirmative – The Yes Solo Family Album (1993 OoP). One of the tracks was a new Peter Banks piece called “Dominating Factor.” I bring it home. HOLY SHIT !!! The groove…the cool sound bites…and that kick ass guitar playing…I LOVED THIS SONG !!! Motivated me to buy the CD it originated on called: Peter Banks – Instinct. Peter’s then second solo record. After the first few initial plays, I was hooked and collecting music with Peter’s involvement in it became a part-time hobby. I was aware of Peter’s band after Yes called Flash so I got all their CD’s. Then came the band Empire. Likewise, I got all those CD’s. Later, I was introduced via the world wide web and electronic mail to Mark Murdock. He was the drummer on Empire’s Mark III (archived and then released by One Way Records Inc. 1996). A contributor to Peter’s newsletter.
So, by the time Billy James included me in his promo machine, I had become a serious fan of Peter’s work. His solo albums, in my opinion, are guitar instrumental masterpieces. And get this…the dude can shred !! So much so that Banks felt he must give warning. One can find this written on the backing of Peter’s solo 1995 CD, Self Contained:
“Contains guitar riffs which some people may find offensive.”
When I mentioned how much I enjoyed his solo music to him, Peter came across as being proud, but at the same time brushing it off like they weren’t the achievements they really were. Still, sensing I was interested, Peter took the time educating me on some of his recordings and playing techniques. Extremely fascinating and I clung on to his every word.
I remember my first phone conversation with Peter. My mission was to sell Peter on the idea of an internet newsletter. This is when he informed me he knew nothing about computers or the Internet. Mr. Banks had a reputation for seriously NOT wanting to talk about his past association with Yes. Now he was at a place where he was cool with a whole book coming out about him that not only dealt with Yes, but with everything else as well. Or was he?
So here I was, pitching the newsletter. Taking a deep breath, I spit it out and hoped for a good reaction. My pitch went something like this; (The newsletter)… “would celebrate your past, yet center on today and what is currently going on with your career.” I heard silence for a few moments and then we went over the concept. All was fine. He then told me about his good friend in the States: George Mizer. With Peter in the UK and Billy and I here in America, it was cheaper to use George as a go-between when considering the costs of phone calls. Mr. Mizer and I ended up working well together. Wasn’t a paying gig for either of us. Our reward was knowing the launching of the book was a success. And that it was.
PETER’S MUSIC LIVES ON
In my opinion, Peter made some of the best rock guitar instrumental albums on the planet. His estate should put out re-issues and also issue a greatest hits. With the right marketing, his CD’s should be consistent sellers for decades, and centuries to come. I have yet to play any aloud and NOT have whoever was around me, at least not like what they were hearing. Well, birds of a feather do flock together. Yet, Peter had his critics. My own personal interactions and observations conclude the Yes community, on the whole, didn’t embrace Peter’s music. Or maybe it was just, Peter? At least that was my experience when I was helping coordinate his newsletter. One borderline YesFanatic told me how anyone can pick a guitar fast like that when referring to Banks ’90’s solo CD’s. Majority interest of the YES FAN BASE was the so-called “classic line-up” (Anderson, Howe, Squire, White, and Wakeman) in which Banks was not a part.
Truth be told, if it was Steve Howe, the same guy who brushed off Peter’s ability to play fast (yet precise) would be saying how skilled Howe was for his ability to shred. In essence, do the same damn thing! YesTool. I had the strange feeling as if Banks threatened a certain percentage of Yes’ fan base. I never could put my finger on it. Personally speaking, I got into Banks music as much as I did any of the other past or present Yes members. I have a shitload of CD’s in a cabinet (under lock and key) that I call my “Yes-related” collection. Am proud to have most of Peter’s catalog of officially released CD’s. Some are out of print now and worth a few bucks, especially after Peter’s passing. It’s all “YesTreasure” as far as I’m concerned. It’s been more than a good hobby. My whole Yes and YesRelated CD Collection…an archival of outstanding music in which Peter, is and will forever be a part.
HUMOR / SOUND BITES
If one reads Peter’s book, or the liner notes in the Yes archive CD he helped with called Yes – Somethings Coming, then you would know Peter had a pretty good sense of humor. Highly sarcastic at times. I could understand how people might have taken his comments, either in print or audio, negatively. He used newspaper/magazine/liner notes or audio (music or speech) to make a point. Anything at his disposal. Example, on his first solo record, Two Side Of Peter Banks, one can hear something very similar to a tune Yes came out with after Peter’s departure from the band called “Roundabout.” Banks had said how when the band did warm-ups that he would play what he believes eventually became Yes’ biggest hit at the time. Overall one got the impression Banks felt cheated, especially when it came to royalties/money. Peter made some comments about that subject that I’ll just never forget. At the intro to a song called “Fathat” found on Peter’s solo Reduction, one hears the following with music in the background, but turned down so one can hear what is being said:
A Ladies Voice: “Where does a man get inspiration to write a song like that?”
A Guys Voice Replies: “He gets it from the landlady once a month.”
In the Peter Banks song “Sticky Wicket” from his Instinct CD, here’s the dialogue blended in with some of the coolest guitar playing you’d ever want to hear:
A Guys Voice: “Oh I wouldn’t like that and neither would my daughter.”
Found on the next track of the CD Shortcomings:
A Ladies Voice: “And I just wanna know, like with the reunion coming up where are, like the other ones and like, whatever happened to the other guys and why not bring out Peter Banks? I’d like to know where he is.” (note: transcribed to the best of my ability – GB)
Taken from a nationally broadcast radio program when members from Yes, who were a part of the Union Tour, were taking questions from folks who called in. The sound bite, perhaps a reference to a Yes reunion that went horribly wrong. Yes was on their successful Union Tour. Peter was scheduled to do an encore with them at one show. The exciting day arrived, Peter the professional musician that he was, showed up on time as was planned, and it didn’t happen. A sad story to hear, let alone watch the words come out of his mouth in the 2006 documentary: Yes – Classic Artists (2006).
On Peter’s album Self-Contained (1995), at the end of the fourth track called “Massive Trouser Clearance,”…well…this does sound somewhat bitter. If I may say so…
Announcer: “Although it made classic rock in a commercial sense, some critics argue that Yes’ music is pretentious and empty.”
Peter Banks: “Yeah that’s valid. I’d go along with that as well.”
Now that’s a real Peter Banks deep cut…ouch.
Update 2013 and I understand that communication was re-opened having some positive results with certain past individuals associated with Yes. Also worth noting, that whatever his professional gripes were, Banks pushed all that aside and showed great respect to his parents on solo recordings. Inspired by his Mom, he made beautiful music. For us others, Peter could rock your socks off.
Years ago, one Summer day when at an ice cream joint with Michael Bruce (original Alice Cooper member), playing over the loud system was Lionel Richie’s hit song “Hello.” Michael knew Peter played on the tune. It was my turn to order and I looked behind me to see what MB was getting and the dude wasn’t there. I excused myself and got out of line. Started looking around for Brother Bruceski. Found him in the back of the joint, by the speakers. Michael told me he wanted to hear Peter’s guitar work better and then added when the song finished, how impressed he was with his smooth playing. I noticed when I was helping Peter with his newsletter that other musicians really dug Peter’s ability and knowledge of the six-string instrument he mastered. Other ex-Yes members noticed (Billy Sherwood_Oliver Wakeman), and were so kind to have Peter on their projects. A win-win situation for everyone after hearing the results of the collaboration. Seeing Banks name on a new project, was always good news for me and as a fan as I was never disappointed in whatever Peter’s contribution was.
The catalog of music Peter left behind is enough for him to indeed leave his stamp that he was here. I have faith that folks until the end of time will find Peter’s music and appreciate it the same way I and so many others have and will do throughout our lifetime.