Jon Anderson and The Warriors – The Road To Yes
by David Watkinson
David Watkinson has paid his dues as a Yes fan and chronicler with his Perpetual Change publication of almost twenty years ago.
It was an effort endorsed in a foreword by Rick Wakeman (Steve Howe’s best mate – not – if you care to delve into the Yes guitarist’s autobiography but that’s another story – or review), who was rather scathing about Dan Hedges’ previous attempt to biographise Yes.
While some form of Yes still goes on beyond their fiftieth anniversary, Watkinson looks back and digs deeper into the roots of the band and its iconic ‘leader’; the man known and recognised by many as ‘the voice of Yes’ even though he’s not been part of the band for over a decade.
A native of Bolton, Watkinson has a local-ish connection with Anderson’s hometown of Accrington. He’s used a local gallery for exhibitions and Jon himself even makes the occasional visit and walks his old haunts as well as keeping abreast of the progress of the local footy team, Accrington Stanley. It’s a place that’s had a significant bearing on the singer and his role in The Warriors where he joined his brother Tony- 29th January 1963. Mark the date.
Picking up on the Lancashire beat scene of the Sixties, just across from where there was much ado stirring in Liverpool with the Merseybeat and a certain beat combo, we get the Accrington perspective. A pocket snapshot of what was happening all over the nation. We see the sensational Warriors appearing at the Nelson Imperial with Tom Jones and Bill Haley as they skirt the local venues, the Rawtenstall Astoria (supporting The Kinks) and Bury Palais. They also prove to be ‘Big in Bolton’ – there’s even a famous bootleg.
Ther’es a certain element of the potential of The Warriors as the new Beatles – they were that famous. Following in the footsteps of those who’d gone before, we get the details of The Warriors in the German clubs and signing to Decca who obviously didn’t want to miss out on the Beat scene. It’s also where Warrior Dave Foster liaises with Nora, future wife of John Lydon.
It’s all joined together through the David Watkinson collection that’s dotted liberally around the text and is simply incredible – photos, clippings, personal effects and even down to the minutiae of seeking out newspaper clippings that hold mention of the band on a theatre bill. Yes, even in the small print in the bottom corner. No stone is seemingly left unturned. Appendices where the gig guide and calendars are populated in detail. It’s an admirable and meticulously planned piece of work, obviously gathered over a lifetime of dedicated fandom.
Interviews with key members of The Warriors are inserted into the narrative and the tome is well set out so there are no lengthy confrontations with text and the series of events are shown through words and images.
The story carries through to the early days of Yes where the drive and passion of Jon Anderson was a key factor in the band’s growth into an international outfit. There are plenty of references too that add to the evidence for the ‘Napoleon’ nickname.
With the recent release of some of The Warriors material, a chapter of the Yes and Jon Anderson story that usually only gains a few pages at most in the band biographies gets a serious magnification.
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