XYZ: eX Yes/Zeppelin
The Band That Almost Was
1980 was not a great year for rock. John Bonham died in September and Led Zeppelin disbanded in December. Yes had finally sunk despite trying to plug the leaks with Trevor Horn, and Geoff Downe (from the Buggles!), after the departure of Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman. Here’s a peek at what Yes looked like in 1980.
This Is YES In 1980
The air was heavy, dependency issues were rampant, and music was changing.
Jimmy Page was emotionally devastated, at both the death of his friend and bandmate, but also at the death of his band. Led Zeppelin officially dissolved on December 4, 1980.
The sources for this info are, for the most part, people directly involved. Chris Squire has spoken of these sessions, as have Alan White, Jimmy Page, and the engineer Stuart Epps. He also engineered the posthumous Led Zeppelin album, Coda.
Here’s the thing with these sources. Some were from youtube and they’ve been taken down and are gone. Chris Squire’s is gone, as is (goddamn it I should have downloaded it when I had the chance) the Stuart Epps video. I read a lot of interviews, forum posts from knowledgable people (cough Steve A Jones… cough), and watched/listened to a lot of videos. Due diligence was performed.
The only tracks that I’ve seen around, in the trading circles, are from a cassette source. My recording lists 2nd or 3rd generation.
Track 1 is Mind Drive, which was used later by Yes on Keys To Ascension 2
Track 2 is Fortune Hunter, which was used later by the Firm. This one feels a lot like a Jimmy riff to me. Alan White is more straight on rocking, and Chris Squire is just laying a groove. Nothing proggy. Jimmy uses the Roland guitar synth in the background, and the b bender is all over this. He plays some pretty tight solos, which sound a lot like solos from Coda, Walter’s Walk in particular.
Track 3 is Can You See. This is all Chris Squire. I can hear Jon Anderson singing this on 90125. If it was a little brighter, and if Chris Squire wasn’t singing this (sorry, he’s not great on this). It kind of drags tempo wise. It feels like it should be just a hair faster.
This later came out in 2001 as Can You Imagine on the album Magnification.
This is a complete song, with overdubs, solos, etc. The first two tracks were more rudimentary and jamming, than finished product.
Track 4 is Telephone Secrets. This one suffers (imo) from Squire’s vocals. I can see Jon Anderson singing this, and with a little more upbeat vibe, it being at home on 90125. It actually appears on the Deluxe Edition of Drama as Song No. 4 (satellite)
Stuart Epps was Jimmy Page’s engineer, working in Jimmy’s SOL studio (formerly Elton John’s) and he ran the board for the XYZ sessions. According to him, “It was a week of sessions. It was mad.” He was there. These guys were all focused on creating good music, and I think it shows.
THE COMPLETE TRACKS FROM THE XYZ SESSIONS
I only played excerpts from each track, during the podcast. Here, as promised, are the complete XYZ tracks. Enjoy.
WTF IS THIS?!
No sooner had I posted this episode than a listener commented about a promo XYZ pen he won back in 1981, from none other than Tight But Loose magazine. I.. had no idea things progressed to the point of pen manufacturing. I am extremely skeptical that it’s an official Swan Song/Atlantic promo. I am putting my money on it being something that Dave Lewis (the TBL guy and avatar of Zep) had made up himself. They look like the cheap promo pens that small businesses have made up, plus John Paul Jones and Robert Plant’s names are on the pen. I reached out to Mr. Lewis and will update when I get word. In any case… it’s pretty damn cool!
UPDATE: They are neither official nor do they originate from Mr. Lewis. He thinks they might have been made up by