Top Of The Progs: Yes - Owner Of A Lonely Heart
The inside story of classic prog hit singles
Yes guitarist Trevor Rabin remembers having a US No. 1 was a "fantastic problem"!
Owner Of A Lonely Heart b/w Our Song
(Atco - 1983)
Highest UK Chart Position: No. 28 (No. 1 in the USA)
This was the first Yes single released in three years. In America, it was to be the band's only number one hit and was subsequently sampled by both Michael Jackson and Frank Zappa. The accompanying video didn't feature keyboard player Tony Kaye, who had at this time left the band. Instead, Eddie Jobson can briefly be glimpsed in selected shots, standing in on keys. A remix of Owner... was produced by Canadian dance producer Max Graham in 2005, and this got to number nine in the singles chart.
Where did the inspiration for the song come from?
“I wrote the riff first and then the chorus. I wrote a number of verse melodies until I came up with the final one, which is actually on my demo record 90124. It just has an acoustic guitar and me singing rather badly. In the end, Jon Anderson changed a lot of the verse lyrics (for the better), and Chris Squire contributed as well.
“Jon deserved a share of the writing credit, due to his verse lyrical contribution. To a lesser extent, Chris received a small percentage for his contribution. Trevor Horn got a small writing acknowledgement, which I shouldn't have agreed to. The production idea for the song I had come up with, before we ever recorded it. But producers are notorious for pushing for participation on the song writing. Although I own most of the song. I was happy to include Jon and Chris as there were actually contributions from them. In retrospect, Trevor should not have received any part of the song writing, as he had zero contribution. I've shied away from talking about this as we are friends, but this is the truth.
“The guitar solo was an idea I came up with while we were recording, and the first take was the one we used.”
What was the reaction to it?
“I had had a strong feeling about the song from the day I wrote it. But I became convinced about it after Jon had sung it. Even though I sing lead in the choruses, Jon's vocal in the verses was, and remains stunning. And people really seemed to love it. We also picked up a lot of new fans.”
Did you feel like pop stars?
“I had been in a band called Rabbitt in South Africa some years before. We had become successful with multiple platinum albums, so I was used to that sort of attention. I didn't suddenly feel like a pop star, no. But I did thoroughly enjoy the friendships in Yes, and to this day, I remain very close to Jon, Chris and Alan White”
Was having a hit a blessing or curse?
“I remember us talking about the fact that Yes were more of an album band, which honestly was one of the things that I loved about them. The idea of taking the audience on a journey, rather than a three minute good time through downloaded a crappy mp3. But jokes aside, our manager said having a number one single was a fantastic problem.”