YES: From Drama to Farce

Steve Howe - Jon Anderson

After many years, Yes, well deservedly, were institutionalised by Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It felt great to see the band members reunited for “one last performance,” where the group played classics “Roundabout” and “Owner of a Lonely Heart.”

Chris Squire, who died in 2015, co-founded Yes in 1968 with singer Jon Anderson. Up until his death, Squire was the solely member of the band that has been featured in numerous formations over 35 years. Although it seemed that the Yes name was owned by Squire, the truth is that Squire, Anderson, Steve Howe and Alan White all had rights to use the name. To make it all more complicated, former and current Yes members have registered multiple corporations over the years who also claimed rights to use the name.

Yes at the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony (Photo: Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images)

Yes at the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony (Photo: Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images)

Yes ’97 LLC was registered in 1997 and is owned by Howe, Squire and White (if you visit, you’ll notice this information at the bottom of the page). The same trio also owned Yes Touring LLC, which was registered in 2014, and in 2002 Anderson, Squire and White registered Yes 2002 LLC.

When Anderson co-founded Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe in 1980′s, it was the mutual agreement between singer and Squire which gave the Squire line-up of Yes rights to use the name. After Squire’s death, everything went downhill. Anderson, Wakeman and guitarist Trevor Rabin, who was with yes during the 1980’s, started a band called ARW. The idea was to record an album, but they decided to tour under that name and perform the Yes material which is credited to their names.

After the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, things have become additionally messy when ARW announced the name change and inclusion of the Yes moniker, so they’ve become Yes Featuring ARW. In the same time, the other band known as Yes currently includes Howe, White, bassist Billy Sherwood, keyboardist Geoff Downes, and singer Jon Davison.

The Howe-led version of Yes recently issued a statement on the Yes Featuring ARW name change, which reads:

While Jon Anderson has rights to use the name as one of the co-owners of the trademark, Yes‘s position is that every effort should be made by promoters, ticket agencies and all involved to respect Yes‘s magnificent and loyal fanbase and minimize confusion regarding the use of YES Featuring Anderson, Rabin, Wakeman.

The ARW management has presented their vision of the whole situation, stating:

Yes Featuring Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin, Rick Wakeman have as much right – if not more so – to call themselves Yes, since Jon Anderson, the co-founder of the group, has always had the rights to use the name and the trademark.

Yes Featuring ARW

Yes Featuring ARW

If we were to use simple “mathematics” here, it does, arguably, feels more right that ARW have “as much right — if not more so” to call themselves Yes. Wakeman joined Yes originally in 1971, and has been a part of multiple formations over the years. Steve Howe, on the other side, joined the band in 1970; his first tenure with the band lasted until 1981, when he was replaced by Trevor Rabin, who stayed in the band until 1994. Drummer Alan White originally joined Yes in 1972, and he’s performed on all Yes albums since then. Anderson is credited on 16 studio albums, Howe and White on 14, and Wakeman on 6, while guitarist Trevor Rabin is credited on 4.

Speaking from a fan corner, the best possible scenario for Yes to continue would be if the former and current members would unite under one name, but it is very unlikely to happen, and would probably amplify tensions drama-tically. Rick Wakeman tweeted after the RRHOF induction:

To answer as to whether or not the Hall of Fame Induction will mean a YES reunion in the future, I can say 100% it’s never going to happen.

As it seems now, we have two official “tribute to Yes” bands. How long this drama is going to last, only time will tell. My two cents: Maybe it’s time for one of the greatest and finest Progressive Rock bands to call it a day. Certainly, it’s been a wonderful ride, full of great moments.

We stand to lose all time a thousand answers
By in our hand
Next to your deeper fears we stand
Surrounded by a million years

Steve Howe photo above by Daniel Knighton


  1. wiltonsaid

    April 15, 2017 at 4:30 pm

    I don’t see the problem. Fans know the difference and can enjoy both versions if they like. Casual rock fans won’t care as long as it sounds like Yes and they’re hearing Roundabout and Owner of a Lonely Heart which both bands are doing. So it’s a win win situation by all involved. No need for any drama.

  2. Paul Watson

    April 18, 2017 at 5:27 pm

    Jon Anderson has left Yes twice, sold his LLC rights, got sick and the band moved on in 2008 by replacing him with several singers. Rick Wakeman has left Yes five times, the final time being in 2004, and Trevor Rabin once in 1994. Yes has kept on going, and now the ex lead singer and an ex keyboardist and an ex guitarist want the name while the official band has been recording and touring? That Steve Howe and Alan White should stop because ex members want the name now to make hay while the sun is still shining? Does that seem fair to you? As far as I’m concerned there is Yes and then there is ARW. That;s it.


      April 18, 2017 at 10:17 pm

      If I started a band and was kicked out of it because I got sick, I would still consider the band I started mine. Even if others carried on without me. For instances, If I built a house and forced out of it, it would always be considered my house. If I wrote a song and other people played it, it would not for that reason stop from being my song.

    • Greg Perry

      April 19, 2017 at 6:37 pm

      Jon Anderson is the heart and soul of YES. Without Jon it is just a tribute band.

    • Rick Edwards

      May 12, 2017 at 5:03 am

      As usual Paul, you hit the nail on the head. Thank you.

    • Robert Bingaman

      June 21, 2017 at 11:09 pm

      Well said Paul Watson, I agree with what you said. My only words which that I would care to say is for me it is OBVIOUS THAT CHRIS SQUIRE befriended and GROOMED BILLY SHERWOOD as his replacement. I have listened carefully to Billy and it is in my little mind that through Mr. SHERWOOD, the Fish lives on.

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