Guitarist/singer/songwriter Bill Nelson combined Prog Rock, Glam and Art Rock into the unique sound that was Be-Bop Deluxe. They were musically adventurous, but always maintained a strong sense of melody and a memorable hook or two, as evidenced by this track from their 3rd album Sunburst Finish, released in 1976. Let’s explore the “Sleep That Burns“.

“Sleep That Burns” (Bill Nelson) Copyright 1975 B. Feldman and Company Ltd. All rights assigned USA and Canada to Beechwood Music Corporation

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TRANSCRIPT:

Greetings, music fans. This is the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast coming to you on the Pantheon Podcast network. My name is Brad Page, and each episode of this show, I pick a favorite song of mine and we explore it together on our never-ending quest to discover what makes a great song. No musical knowledge or skill is required here, just musical curiosity.

On this edition, we’re delving into a song by a band that had some success in the UK, but it never translated to the US. Nevertheless, I think they were a pretty interesting and pretty unique band. So let’s explore Be-Bop Deluxe and a song called “Sleep That Burns”

The band Be-Bop Deluxe was really the vehicle for Bill Nelson. A guitarist, singer and songwriter from Yorkshire, England, he attended Wakefield College of Art in the 1960s and did some recording as a guitarist for other artists and got a little bit of attention for his guitar work on an album by Light Years Away in 1971. Here’s some of Nelson’s playing on the Light Years Away song called “Yesterday”:

Nelson released his first solo album, “Northern Dream”, on his own label—that’s pretty adventurous for 1973.  He pressed up 300 copies, one of which found its way into the hands of the legendary BBC DJ John Peele, who played it on his show, which in turn got Nelson a record deal with EMI Harvest Records. By then, Nelson had formed a band of his own which he called Be-Bop Deluxe. EMI signed Be-Bop Deluxe and released their first album, “Axe Victim”, in 1974.

After the release of “Axe Victim”, Nelson fired everyone from the band and reformed the group with a new lineup, including drummer Simon Cox and bassist/vocalist Charlie Tumahai. a native of New Zealand.  This new version of Be-Bop Deluxe released their next album, called “Futurama”, in 1975.

The “Futurama” album really established their sound: a little bit progressive rock, a little bit glam, and a little bit of that Roxy Music art-rock sound, all anchored around Bill Nelson’s brilliant guitar playing.

Nelson had also been playing some keyboards on the albums, but for the next record, he wanted to expand that, so he brought in a full time keyboard player to the band. His name was Simon Clark, but since the band already had a drummer named Simon, they convinced him to use his middle name, Andy.

But changing up band members wasn’t the only changes on Bill Nelson’s mind. He wanted to mix things up on the production side, too. Their first album had been produced by Ian McClintock; Roy Thomas Baker was the producer on their second album. Nelson wasn’t really happy with either of them, so he wanted to produce the next album by himself.

The record company, though, thought he was too inexperienced to produce the album by himself, so they wanted him to co-produce with somebody else. EMI suggested John Leckie, who was a staff engineer at Abbey Road, and they felt he was ready for his first job as a producer. Nelson met with Leckie and they got along great. So they agreed to produce the next Be-Bop Deluxe album together.

Sessions began in October 1975 at Abbey Road. After a month or so of recording, the album was complete and it was released in January 1976. They named the album “Sunburst Finish”. The album features one of the all-time great album covers, and the record includes the track “Ships In The Night”, which would become their biggest hit, reaching number 23 on the UK charts. But I don’t believe it charted in the US.

Bill Nelson, though, has said many times that “Ships In The Night” is his least-favorite track from Be-Bop Deluxe, so we’re not going to explore that one here, even though I like it. We’re going to focus on another favorite track from this album, the song that closes out side one of the record, “Sleep That Burns”.

I should mention here that in 2018 the album was reissued as a deluxe 2 CD set that included the original version of the album, along with a new remixed version. I debated over which version to use here; I generally prefer to use the original versions, but some of the instruments and parts stand out a little better on that 2018 mix. But in the end, I decided to stick with the original mix. So just to be clear, we’ll be hearing the 1976 version here.

“Sleep That Burns” was written by Bill Nelson. Like everything else on the album, Nelson played all the guitars and sang the lead vocal. Charlie Tumahai played bass and did the backing vocals. Andy Clark provided the keyboards and Simon Fox plays drums.

The song is about dreams. Bill Nelson said, “I had a fascination with how we spend so much of our time asleep. Dreaming and dreams don’t make sense. I thought of the song as being kind of a movie.” And so, to set the stage for our theater of the mind, the song opens with the sound of an alarm clock going off and someone awakening from a dream.

If that big introduction sounds a little familiar to you, that’s because Bill Nelson came up with that part as sort of a homage to “Baba O’Reilly” by The Who.

There are many layers of guitars all throughout this song. Nelson’s main guitar at this time was a Gibson ES345. The color of that guitar is what gave this album its name, and he uses that guitar on many of these tracks. Let’s listen to the guitars on this intro.

There are two heavily distorted guitars playing those Pete Townsend chords, panned left and right. Sounds like there’s also an acoustic guitar or two playing those parts. Then there’s a cleaner electric guitar playing an arpeggiated part in the middle.

By the way, if some of these musical terms and guitar lingo is confusing to you, go back and listen to Episode 75 of this podcast called “The Language of Rock”, where we explain some of these terms.

There’s also a higher pitched part that sounds like a lead guitar line, but it’s actually Andy Clark on the mini Moog synthesizer. After two repetitions of the intro part, we head right into the first verse.

There’s a fantastic galloping rhythm to the verse, and a great guitar part that Bill Nelson is playing, these upper-register triplets played on his guitar. Let’s listen to just the instrumental parts on this verse without the vocal.

Just a couple of lines for the verse and then we hit right into the first chorus. No time wasted here.

A slightly different feel for the chorus, and Andy Clark’s piano comes forward in the mix. Clark is playing the Abbey Road Studio One piano, a 9-foot Steinway grand piano that no doubt appeared on dozens of classic recordings. Let’s hear a little bit of that piano.

I like that extra “All right” in the background there.

They repeat the intro riff before the next verse, and Andy’s synthesizer part is even more prominent this time.

“I’m locked in your dark world, where hearts hold the keys; half-opened, enchanted, half-truths and half-dreams”

Andy Clark’s keyboard parts add another layer on this chorus. I believe in addition to playing piano, he’s also playing a Melotron. It’s the very same Melotron the Beatles used on “Strawberry Fields Forever”

Let’s just hear that part again, this time with Charlie Tumahai’s bass up in the mix.

As we mentioned before, Bill Nelson envisioned this song as kind of a movie. He described this next section as a new scene in the dream, where you’re sitting in a cafe in some exotic place. Listen and you can picture that in your mind. Andy Clark’s using his Mini Moog again to create some sound effects. The band raided the Abbey Road Sound Effects library and made some of the background noises themselves by clinking plates and silverware together to create the sound of the cafe. The band also gathered around the mic to make the background chatter as well.

Andy Clark’s playing some nice tack piano here.

And then the dream gets darker, as dreams often do.

The vocals are suddenly doubled and panned left and right.

Bill Nelson does some nice guitar work here, recorded backwards. Back in the 70’s, there was no easy way to do this. You had to literally turn the tape over backwards and hope that what you were playing would work. Let’s hear just the guitar.

Spiraling piano leads us back into the intro riff and the next verse.

Here’s another chorus. This time, let’s see if we can bring up the drums in the mix.

Simon Cox on the drums. The drums are mixed pretty low on this track, it’s kind of a bummer.

Let’s pick it back up at the final verse. There are additional background vocals echoing the lead vocal on this verse. Bill Nelson’s added single guitar notes, sustained with feedback, on this chorus.

Nelson lets loose with a great guitar solo for this finale.

“Sleep That Burns” – Be-Bop Deluxe

Be-Bop Deluxe would record two more studio albums and a great live album before they disbanded in 1978.

Bill Nelson’s next project was a band called Red Noise, but they only released one album in 1979. Always a restless creative mind, bill Nelson’s sound and style has evolved a lot over the years and he’s released literally dozens of solo albums. He’s incredibly prolific.

Drummer Simon Cox went on to play with Trevor Rabin and a bunch of other projects over the years. He’s still out there kicking it somewhere.

Andy Clark joined Bill Nelson in Red Noise, he band that immediately followed Be-Bop Deluxe, but again, they only released that one album in ‘79. But Andy would go on to do significant work as a session keyboardist on some great records. He played on David Bowie’s “Scary Monsters” album, including the song “Ashes to Ashes”. He plays on Peter Gabriel’s “So” album and “The Seeds of Love” album by Tears for Fears.

Bassist and vocalist Charlie Tumahai unfortunately died in 1995. After Be-Bop Deluxe, he played with The Dukes, a band that featured former Paul McCartney and Wings guitarist Jimmy McCulloch, but that didn’t last long.

Charlie was born in Auckland, New Zealand, and in 1985, he returned back home and joined the legendary New Zealand reggae band The Herbs. He was also very active in the Maiori community and volunteered a lot of his time. Charlie was a hero to many New Zealanders, and it was a real tragedy when he died of a heart attack in December 1995. He was only 46 years old.

Thank you for listening to this episode of the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast. There are plenty more like it if you want to check them out– all of our episodes are available on our website lovethatsongpodcast.com, or look for them in your favorite podcast app.

You can share your thoughts with us on Facebook or send us an email lovethatsongpodcast@gmail.com. And if you’d like to support the show, no need to send money or anything like that, the best thing you can do is to tell your friends about the show and get them to listen.

I’ll be back in two weeks with another new episode. On behalf of everybody on the Pantheon Podcast Network, I thank you for listening and I hope you enjoyed this episode on Be-Bop Deluxe and “Sleep That Burns”

In 1981, Rush had planned to release a live album, but riding a wave of good vibes & inspiration, they changed their minds and decided to record an album of new material instead.  It turned out to be their best-selling album, and years later the band would still look back on it fondly.  Most of their biggest hits are on this album titled Moving Pictures, but this episode we’re turning our ears on a lesser-known (but fan favorite) track, “The Camera Eye“.

“The Camera Eye” (Words by Peart, Music by Lee and Lifeson) Copyright 1981 Core Music Publishing

 — Don’t forget to follow this show, so you never miss an episode.

TRANSCRIPT:

Invisible airways crackle with life, bright antenna bristle with the energy, bringing you the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast on the Pantheon Podcast Network. I’m your host, Brad Page. Some songs inspire me, some songs are fascinating to me, some really get to me emotionally, and some songs are really intriguing. Some just capture my imagination. Whatever the case, I always wonder why that is. What is it that makes a song so great? Well, that’s the idea behind this podcast– discovering what goes into making a great song.

This time on the podcast, we’re sticking our toe back into progressive rock. These songs are always tricky because the music can get complicated, and we try not to get bogged down with a lot of technical stuff on this show. And the songs are long and don’t always fit the format here. But I’ve been wanting to explore this track for a while now, so let’s do it. This is Rush with “The Camera Eye”.

[Music]

In the 1970’s, Rush evolved into one of the leading purveyors of progressive rock, or Prog Rock, as both fans and detractors like to call it. Releasing their “2112” album in 1976 established them as fan favorites in the genre. And in 1978, they recorded their most proggy album ever, “Hemispheres”. So after something like that, where do you go from there?

Well, that instigated one of the major shifts in the band over their 45-year career.  They started working on shorter songs. Not any less creative musically, but tighter, more focused. Guitarist Alex Lifeson would graciously step back a bit and leave more room for bassist Geddy Lee to also add more keyboards to their sound. And besides playing bass and keyboards at the same time, Geddy was also their singer, and he changed his vocal approach around this time, singing in a little lower register.

And then drummer Neil Peart, who wrote all of their lyrics, changed the things he was writing about. Gone were the Sci-Fi epics and the tales of fantasy. Now Neil wrote more about the things that affected him in his daily life and about the world around him. Across the board, this was a big change for the band. It was a risk, but it paid off as the 1970’s came to a close. Rush began the new decade by releasing the “Permanent Waves” album in January 1980, and it was a big hit. It would become one of their bestselling albums and remains a favorite amongst their fans.

The band embarked on a successful tour. In fact, I think this was the first tour that they actually made any money on. And during the sound checks and rehearsals, they started coming up with new material. The original plan was for them to release a live album after “Permanent Waves”. But the band was feeling pretty enthusiastic, and the vibes were good. So, when one of their friends at their record label, Mercury Records, suggested that they try recording a new studio album, they said, “let’s do it” and changed their plans.

The result was “Moving Pictures”, which would become their best selling and most popular album.

Recorded at Les Studio in Quebec, and produced by their longtime producer, Terry Brown, the album would spawn their biggest hits and concert favorites like “Tom Sawyer”, “Limelight”, “Red Barchetta”, “YYZ”– all from this album. In fact, they’re all packed on Side One of this album.

But Side Two of “Moving Pictures: opens with a song called “The Camera Eye”. The song clocks in at 10 minutes and 58 seconds, almost eleven minutes long. It’s the longest song on the album, and this would be the last time Rush would record a song this long. They would never record another song over ten minutes.

The song was produced by Terry Brown, the music was written by Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson, and the lyrics written by Neil Peart. “The Camera Eye” was the first song written for the album, at least as far as the lyrics. While on tour, Neil Peart would sometimes walk the different cities, and he came up with the lyrics to “The Camera Eye” based on his impressions of the different feel and different rhythms of two cities in particular, New York and London.

Neil Peart was often seen with a book in his hand. He was one of the most well-read men in rock, certainly the most well-read drummer in rock history. Neil had read the work of John Dos Pasos, in particular his “USA Trilogy”. And in those books, Dos Pasos uses a literary device he calls “the camera eye”. That’s where Neil got the title from. One of the books in the USA trilogy is called “The Big Money”. Neil would later write a song based on that, too.

“The Camera Eye” opens with the sound of a city. It’s a city street scene. According to Geddy Lee, when they were putting together that pastiche of sound effects, one of the clips they used was a bit of audio from “Superman”, the 1978 movie with Christopher Reeve. Here’s the street scene from the movie:

Now, let’s go back and listen to the song. And if you listen closely, you can hear that guy saying “fresh fruit”. At that point, Geddy Lee’s keyboards come in. He was using a mix of Oberheim synthesizers, Taurus bass pedals, probably some Korg keyboards as well. Let’s pick it up from there.

[Music]

The synthesizer is making a burbling sound underneath. That’s created using a process called “sample and hold”.

[Music]

Now we’ll hear the first musical motif that will occur throughout the song.

[Music]

 Neil is doing some subtle snare drum work here. Also, Alex Lifeson is adding some guitar bits, playing harmonics or just making some interesting guitar sounds. Alex is chucking his guitar strings in sync with Neil’s snare drum. Let’s play that back.

Neil comes in there with a pretty straightforward drum beat for Neil. And that takes us into the next section of the song. And Neil was doing some nice cymbal work underneath that keyboard part. Let’s hear that.

More of that sample and hold synthesizer brings us into the next section of the song.

I think this is one of the all-time great Rush riffs. Let’s hear Alex’s guitar playing that riff.

[Music]

Now, up until this point, Geddy has only been playing his keyboards, but this is where his bass guitar comes in.

We’ve reached the verse and it wouldn’t be Rush without some interesting time signature stuff going on. Leading into the verse here, they’re alternating between measures with four beats and measures of six. Let’s try to count that out. 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4-5-6, 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4-5-6 .

Now, once the vocals start, they change it up again. Most of the verse is in 6/4 time: six beats per measure, except the second measure of each line has only five beats. So let’s try counting that. 1-2-3-4-5-6, 1-2-3-4-5, 1-2-3-4-5-6, 1-2-3-4-5-6, 1-2-3-4-5-6, 1-2-3-4-5, 1-2-3-4-5-6, 1-2-3-4-5-6.

So let’s go back and listen to all of this again. But I don’t want you to try to count it, just listen to how it flows. To me, part of the magic of Rush is not how they’re able to play the technical stuff, it’s how they’re able to make it sound so natural.

[Music]

We talked about how this song is the tale of two cities. This first verse is about New York, and as you would expect from the pen of Neil Peart, the lyrics are vivid and insightful.

“Grim faced and forbidding, their faces close tight.
An angular mass of New Yorkers
pacing and rhythm race the oncoming night
they chase through the streets of Manhattan.”

And let’s listen to Geddy’s bass part here. Then they go back into the main riff, and this introduces us to a new part of the song– maybe my favorite part of the song. Beautifully orchestrated, the way they put this together.

[Music]

We’re still in New York in this vignette, but he references a rain “like an English rain”; he’s connecting these two cities together, and we’ll wind up in London soon.

[Music]

Geddy plays a nice little bass lick before the next line. Let’s hear all of that together again.

[Music]

And more great drumming by Neil during this part. Let’s go back and hear some of those drums. As this section continues, Geddy brings some of those keyboards back in.

[Music]

As the lyrics speak of the buildings and their limitless rise, the keyboards subtly climb up in the background. They’re going to stay on the same basic chord changes here, but Neil is going to change up his drum pattern which starts to build up the drama. And listen to Geddy’s bass here. Neil ramps up the drums even more.

[Music]

That kind of dramatic buildup and release. I don’t think any band did that kind of thing better than Rush. Let’s go back and just listen to Neil’s drums during this whole section. That basically brings us back to the beginning of the song as we start again in a new city.

[Music]

I just love Neil’s drum part there. Let’s pick it back up there. Great guitar work by Alex here, too.

We’re cycling our way back through the different parts of the song again. Let’s hear Alex playing that riff again. Sounds to me like one guitar panned left and one panned right. And we’ve got to listen to Geddy’s bass part there, it’s really something.

And that gets us to the second verse. And let’s listen to what Alex is doing on guitar. I think there are three guitar parts here. An electric in the middle with two acoustic guitars panned left and right. Those guitars are really jangly. My guess is he’s either playing with a capo or in a special tuning.

[Music]

Let’s hear more of Geddy’s bass. Let’s check out that drum fill.

The last time around, we didn’t pay much attention to Alex’s guitar part in this section. So let’s go back and listen to that.

[Music]

OK, it’s time for a little mythbusting. You can hear a voice in the background there; I’ve seen speculation online of all kinds of things, even that that was Geddy burping and then saying, “Oh God”. But if we listen to the vocal track, it’s simply an old English greeting. Remember, the setting is London.

[Music]

Let’s pick it back up at that spot.  There’s another great line.

“Pavements may teem with intense energy,
but the city is calm in this violent sea.”

Then we get a great guitar solo from Alex Lifeson. The sound is stripped down to just bass, drums and the guitar solo. And his guitar tone is super distorted. He must have been using a fuzz pedal for this solo.

[Music]

After the guitar solo, we head into the big finale. They repeat this section from earlier, and I love these lines.

“I feel the sense of possibilities,
 I feel the wrench of hard realities.”

 You know, people go to the big city to make their mark, make their dreams come true, right where it all seems possible… but you’re often confronted with the harsh realities. The competition is intense, you get taken advantage of, dreams get crushed. That’s the risk. I think Neil really captures all of that in these two lines.

I just want to rewind and listen to Neil’s drum climax at the end there. It’s really good, but you’d expect nothing less. There’s a long fade-out on that final chord. There’s some cymbal and snare work from Neil, and a few extra notes in the keyboards, but mostly they’re letting that last chord ring out as long as possible.

And the last thing we’ll hear is the sound of church bells in the city.

“The Camera Eye” By Rush

“Moving Pictures” was their 8th album, their best-selling album in the US. And probably their most popular worldwide. They would go on to release eleven more albums, 19 studio albums in total, and there is not a bad one in the bunch. Of course, you’ll like some more than others, but they all have merit.

Neil retired from touring in 2015, and in 2018 the band officially called it quits. And on January 7, 2020, Neil Peart died as a result of brain cancer.

Geddy and Alex are still with us. They’ve stayed out of the limelight for the most part these last few years. There’s talk of them doing some new music together. It won’t be Rush– that’s over, but it would be nice to hear them make music together again. Still, 19 great albums. If that’s all we get, I can live with that.

Thanks for listening to this edition of the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast. We’ll be back in two weeks with another new episode. Until then, get caught up on all of our previous shows on our website, lovethatsongpodcast.com, and of course, you can find us on all of the podcast apps and services too.

Don’t forget to follow the show so that you never miss an episode. And if you’d like this show to continue, the best thing you can do is to tell a friend about it, because your recommendation really means a lot.

So, from my remote little corner here on the Pantheon Podcast network, I thank you again for listening and remind you to support the artists you love by buying their music. Now, go dig out your copy of “Moving Pictures” and crank up “The Camera Eye” by Rush.

Yes were at their peak when they released their Close To The Edge album in 1972. This episode, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of what many consider to be the greatest Progressive Rock album of all time with a deep dive into the song “Siberian Khatru”.

“Siberian Khatru” (Jon Anderson; Themes by Jon Anderson/Steve Howe/Rick Wakeman) Copyright 1972 Topographic Music Ltd

And if you enjoyed this episode, check out our previous episode on Yes:
lovethatsongpodcast.com/yes-owner-of-a-lonely-heart/

TRANSCRIPT:

You your passage on the river of time has brought you here to the next edition of the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast, one of the many stops along the Pantheon Podcast Network. My name is Brad Page, the host of the show, where we take a song and poke it and probe it together, in the hope that we get a better understanding of what makes a great song.

Now, if you go all the way back to the very beginning of this podcast, even before our first episode, in the introduction to the show, I laid out a few parameters. One of which was that I wasn’t going to cover much progressive rock, because the complexity and length of the songs were just outside the scope of this show. I didn’t want to be doing an hour and a half long marathon episodes, but I am going to make an exception this time… because this is a special occasion.

In September 1972, 50 years ago this month, yes released “Close To The Edge”, a  monumental album in the history of progressive rock, and considered by many to be Yes’s greatest achievement. You could make an argument that “Close To The Edge” is the defining album of the Prog Rock era. So, in tribute to this milestone, put on your lab coats and those safety goggles, because on this episode, we’re going to delve into one of the three masterworks from this album. This is Yes, with “Siberian Khatru”.

[Music]

More band members have come and gone than I can keep track of, so we’re not going into an extensive band history here, but this is the brief backstory that gets us to this album. Yes formed in 1968 with John Anderson on vocals, Chris Squire on bass, Bill Bruford on drums, Tony Kaye on keyboards, and Peter Banks on guitar. This original lineup released two albums, neither album having much impact on the charts.

The first big change happened in 1970, when Peter Banks left the band and was replaced by Steve Howe. Howe was a stellar guitarist, really versatile, and he brought a whole new dimension to the Yes sound. Howe had been paying his dues in and around London, and he was a member of the band Tomorrow, which released one of the seminal psychedelic tracks, a song called “My White Bicycle”, in 1967. Someday we’re going to talk about that song on this show.

This new lineup of Yes released “The Yes Album” in 1971. And this is where the band really found its footing and started sounding like the Yes that we know today.

[Music]

But there were more changes to come. Tony Kaye preferred to play piano & organ, but the band was eager to explore synthesizers and the Mellotron. So Kaye was out, and Rick Wakeman was in. Wakeman had made a name for himself playing keyboards with The Straubs, and he was doing a lot of session work, too. He played the piano on “Morning Has Broken” by Kat Stevens and “Get It On” by T Rex; he played the Mellotron on David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”.  And that brilliant piano part on Bowie’s “Life on Mars”– That’s Rick Wakeman, too.

So it’s worth noting that at this point, Yes featured some of the most gifted musicians in the business. Steve Howe was quickly establishing himself as a guitarist to be reckoned with; Chris Squire was inspiring bass players around the world with his style and his sound; Bill Brewford was becoming a legend among drummers, and Rick Wakeman is one of the greatest keyboard players in rock history. And they were about to prove all of this on their next album.

[Music]

The album called “Fragile” was released in November 1971, and it was their breakthrough album. “Roundabout” and “Long Distance Runaround” would become hit singles and drive sales of this album, reaching number four on the Billboard album chart. It was also the first of many albums to feature Roger Dean’s iconic artwork.

So, what do you do to top an album like “Fragile”? You make “Close To The Edge”.

[Music]

By all accounts, making the “Close To The Edge” album was a difficult, painful process. Yes had developed an approach where they would work out songs, one small section at a time, and then record just that section. They would record these short bits one at a time and then edit them together. It was only after the recording and editing were finished that the band would go back and actually learn the complete song. So, we gotta stop and acknowledge producer Eddie Offord. Eddie was really like the 6th member of the band. He would produce over a half dozen of Yes’ albums. He also produced records for Emerson, Lake and Palmer too. He was behind the glass for some of Prog Rock’s most essential albums, and he certainly earned his pay on this record.

“Siberian Khatru”. Is it KAT-ru or Kat-TRUE? I’ve heard it pronounced both ways. At any rate, this song is credited to John Anderson, with themes by Anderson, Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman.

The song kicks off with a guitar riff by Steve Howe. That’s a perfect example of how he could blend rock, country and jazz all into his own signature style.

[Music]

There are multiple riffs and sections to this song. I’m going to refer to that one as the “country-fried” riff. That only lasts for about 10 seconds. And then we get to the main riff.

[Music]

This section is divided into three measures of four beats, and one measure of three beats. It’s a little easier to follow or count if you just listen to the acoustic guitar track.

[Music]

Let’s listen to this section again.

[Music]

Steve Howe is going to re-enter with a new guitar riff. This is really his main riff for the song.

[Music]

And here comes the riff for the verse.

[Music]

I love this part! The guitar and the organ are doubling each other on the riff.

[Music]

And Chris Squire is playing a really driving bass part.

[Music]

And Bill Bruford is just laying down a great groove on the drums.

[Music]

I just love the way it all comes together.

[Music]

Here’s where Jon Anderson’s vocals come in for the first verse:

[Music]

Anderson is overdubbed harmonizing with himself, as well as some backing vocals from Chris Squire and Steve Howe. Here’s Anderson’s part:

[Music]

All right, let’s talk about these lyrics. I think John Anderson is a great singer, he has such a pure voice. But as a lyricist, he’s not really my cup of tea. I like to be told a story. I like to hear the singer pour their heart out or make a statement. In general, I’m not a big fan of very abstract lyrics. And John Anderson’s lyrics can range from vague to downright impenetrable. Anderson himself has said that this song is, “just a lot of interesting words”. And he said before that he likes the sounds of words as much as their meaning. He also said that this song is about Siberia being so far away, such a remote place, and yet the people that live there still have the same experiences, they have the same wants and needs that we do. There is a bond that we all share, even in the most isolated places. So, it’s impressionistic, it’s open to interpretation, I get it. It’s just not my preference.

The lyrics don’t make any sense when you just read them on paper. But they do sound beautiful when John Anderson sings them with that voice.

[Music]

Here’s what I think of as the chorus.

[Music]

Okay, let’s take a closer look here, because there’s some great stuff going on. First, here’s what the guitar is doing.

[Music]

I love that. Now, here’s what the bass is doing

[Music]

And of course, the drums:

[Music]

There aren’t really any keyboard parts here, so let’s listen to the guitar, bass and drums together, without the vocals.

[Music]

And you can hear that there’s an acoustic guitar that comes in at the end there. Now let’s hear just the vocals.

[Music]

Now let’s hear all of that together again.

[Music]

Once you add the vocals, the whole feel of that section changes, right? Now, the next section features sort of a vocal round that happens, almost a chant. This idea will return later in the song.

[Music]

The main guitar riff returns and listen to what the bass is doing underneath it.

[Music]

Back to the verse. Let’s hear that bass lick again.

[Music]

Back to the verse

[Music]

And let’s hear a little bit more of that bass, the way it walks down the scale there.

[Music]

And this time around, let’s bring up the vocals.

[Music]

Let’s have a closer listen to what we were hearing there. This song is just throwing something new at you around every corner. First, let’s go back and listen to some of those guitar licks.

[Music]

Then there’s the vocal break. And that leads us into the next section, which features Steve Howe on an electric sitar. This isn’t an actual sitar, it’s a standard guitar that’s fitted with extra resonant strings and a special bridge to emulate that sitar sound. Let’s just hear that part.

[Music]

Let’s hear this section altogether:

[Music]

So far, Rick Wakeman has been laying low on the keyboards for a while, but now he gets to step forward on the harpsichord.

[Music]

Let’s hear just that harpsichord.

[Music]

And here’s what the bass and drums are doing to complement that.

[Music]

Let’s put that all back together the way we found it, and see how it sounds.

[Music]

And that transitions immediately into a new section featuring Steve Howe on steel guitar.

[Music]

Between the crying sound of the Steel Guitar and that deep echo, it really gives this part a ghostly air. Underneath that haunting sound, the bass and the drums are playing a pretty heavy part and totally locked in with each other. Let’s listen to that.

[Music]

Man, Bill Bruford and Chris Squire, just two masters of their instruments. Okay, once again, let’s put it all back together and hear this as one piece.

[Music]

And now Steve Howe is just going to let it rip with a good old fashioned guitar solo.

[Music]

And here’s what the bass, drums and keyboards are doing behind that:

[Music]

All right, let’s hear it all together.

[Music]

And then there’s a variation on the “country-fried” riff from the beginning.

[Music]

OK, Chris Squire is doing something interesting on bass here, he’s playing harmonics. Let’s listen to that.

[Music]

Here’s Rick Wakeman on the Mellotron

[Music]

…And back to the verse riff:

[Music]

Let’s listen again to how tightly locked in the guitars and keyboards are on that riff.

[Music]

Here, the chant we heard earlier returns, but this time it continues to escalate, becoming more intense, building for almost a minute and a half.

[Music]

The Mellotron adds to the drama.

[Music]

Bruford’s giving his snare drum a workout.

[Music]

The main guitar riff returns, this time doubled with a swirling effect on it in stereo. Legend had it that this sound was achieved by swinging a microphone around in a circle. But producer Eddie Offord said that they might have swung a microphone around at some point, but not for this track. The effect here was created using some pitch-shifting and an auto panning device.

[Music]

Now, as the song reaches its climax, we get to probably the most intense part of the song, as the main riff swirls underneath, the drums and the vocals come at you in sharp, staccato stabs

[Music]

That sounds almost random, but obviously not, as the voices and the drums are all perfectly in sync.

[Music]

OK, so we know the Yes methodology was to record a section at a time and edit them together. That transition there is the first time in this whole song that I can hear what sounds like an edit. The rest of the song flows pretty seamlessly, but that does feel like an edit point to me.

[Music]

Still, over the course of a nine-minute composition with God knows how many edits, pretty remarkable that only one stands out. Let’s pick it up from that point.

[Music]

Let’s hear more of Chris Squire’s bass.

[Music]

Wakeman is playing a couple of synthesizer parts in the background. Here’s one of them.

[Music]

And on top of all that, Steve Howe is playing a very jazz influenced solo. Check out Bruford’s drum fill there.

[Music]

“Siberian Khatru” by Yes.

Though their “Fragile” album would eventually sell more copies, “Close To The Edge” would be Yes’s highest charting album. Can you imagine there was a time when music this complex and adventurous could reach the top five?  “Close to the Edge” has sold over a million copies.

Drummer Bill Bruford found the whole experience recording this album excruciatingly painful, and quit the band before the record was even released.  Rick Wakeman would last one more album and then he left, too. Yes became a revolving door of members, coming and going. I can count at least 15 people who were in the band at some point, and I know that’s not a complete list. Chris Squire was the only person who was in every version of Yes and played on every album from the beginning, right up until his death in 2015. One of the greatest bass players in rock history.

Thankfully, at the time of this recording, the other players on this album, Steve Howe, Bill Bruford, Rick Wakeman and John Anderson. are still with us today. And producer Eddie offered he’s still alive and kicking, too.

Well, this has been the most challenging episode I’ve ever put together, and one of the longest, too. So, thanks for sticking with me. If you’re a Yes fan, I hope I did it justice. And if you’re not really a fan of Yes or Prague Rock in general, I hope this episode gave you some appreciation for the creativity, the vision and the amazing musicianship that goes into making a song like this.

Thank you for listening to this edition of the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast. New episodes are coming at you on the 1st and the 15th of every month, so I’ll be back soon with another show. You can find all of our previous shows on our website, lovethatsongpodcast.com as well as on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google, Amazon, wherever you can find podcasts, you’ll find us.

And if you’re looking for more music podcasts, be sure to check out the other great shows on the Pantheon Podcast Network.

Drop us a line on Facebook, Podchaser, or send an email to lovethatsongpodcast@gmail.com. And don’t forget to support the artists you love by buying their music.

Thanks again for joining me for this episode on “Siberian Khatru” by Yes.

It Came From Boston (Vol. 3): MIT graduate/Polaroid employee Tom Scholz recorded an album’s worth of songs in his basement in Watertown, MA after work, and somehow the record eventually sold 25 million copies worldwide. Along with Brad Delp, Sib Hashian and some other guys (maybe?), were they the inventors of Corporate Rock or the most successful DIY debut of all time? You decide.

“Hitch A Ride” (Tom Scholz) Copyright 1976 Pure Songs – All Rights Administered  by WB Music Corp.

— We’re part of the Pantheon Podcast network of music-related podcasts. Check out the other fine shows in the Pantheon family!

To say Rush has a devoted fan base would be an understatement. I know, because I was a card-carrying member of the “Rush Backstage Fan Club” back in the ’80’s. Perhaps no Rush song connected so directly with their fans as “Subdivisions”. On this episode, we celebrate Neil Peart with a deeper look at this fan favorite.

“Subdivisions” (Music by Geddy Lee & Alex Lifeson, Words by Neil Peart) Copyright 1982 Core Music Publishing

Few bands have changed their sound as drastically as Yes did on their 90125 album, a radical departure from their previous progressive rock style.  But it ended up giving them their one & only #1 hit, “Owner Of A Lonely Heart”.  In this episode, we follow the song’s evolution from Trevor Rabin’s solo demo to the final production, including its innovative production techniques (such as being one of the first rock songs to use samples).  This was the most challenging episode I’ve done yet, but I think it was worth it.  If you enjoyed it, share it with your friends!

“Owner Of A Lonely Heart” (Trevor Rabin, Jon Anderson, Trevor Horn & Chris Squire) Copyright 1983 Carlin Music Corp, Unforgettable Songs And Affirmative Music

Among the many high points in David Bowie’s catalog, “Station To Station” stands as one of his most epic compositions.  Written when Bowie’s life was at its most fractured point– having split with his longtime manager, suffering from cocaine psychosis and obsessed with the occult, “Station To Station” transcends the insanity to become one of his most monumental works.

This episode, we’re taking a deep dive into the live version of “Station To Station” from the 1978 Isolar II Tour, as captured on the Stage live album featuring brilliant guitar work from Adrian Belew.

David Bowie, circa 1976, drawing the Tree Of Life, a mystical
diagram referred to in “Station To Station”

Aqualung was the album that made Jethro Tull famous, and features 3 songs that became classic hits.  But the song at the heart of the album is “My God”, Ian Anderson’s very personal statement on religious institutions.  It’s the most instrumentally adventurous track on the album and features great guitar by Martin Barre and a flute workout from Anderson.

“My God” (Ian Anderson) Copyright 1971 Chrysalis Music, Ltd.

Utopia is back together for a reunion tour this Spring (2018), so there’s no better time to revisit one of their great songs. I think this era of Utopia pretty much invented “Progressive Pop” and this song is a great example of their songcraft and musical skills. See you on the road to Utopia! (And don’t forget to share this podcast with friends, leave comments on iTunes, etc. It really helps!) 

“The Road To Utopia” (Utopia) Copyright 1980 Fiction Music/Utopia (BMI)