Prog God 2016 Jon Anderson: in his own words
We're thrilled to announce that Jon Anderson is the recipient of this year’s Prog God Award, the top honour at the Progressive Music Awards. He discusses his award below
Jon Anderson is delighted to hear that he will be honoured with the Prog God Award at this year’s Progressive Music Awards, not least because it puts him back on level terms with his long‑time friend Rick Wakeman when it comes to bragging rights.
“About time! I first heard about this award when Rick won it. I said: ‘Hey, what about me, Rick?’ He said, ‘Don’t worry, your time will come.’ And now it has! Seriously, anything that represents my work and what you might consider my achievements is just fantastic.”
It’s richly deserved. At the heart of Yes, Anderson was a pioneer for prog. “Well yes, but I was part of the Yes pushing into the 70s, musically,” he says. “A wonderful time. I was following in the footsteps of Paul McCartney, The Beatles and Revolver, Frank Zappa, John McLaughlin… and when I hear it now, I’m amazed at how well recorded our music was for the time. Yes’ music became an energy all to itself.”
With Yes, he also took risks that still sound radical today. “I was in a dream world for 10 years – it was truly magical. I was learning about structure. I’d work out a thematic piece, then a new section, then how to come back to the first themes. Like classical music, but based on a new energy. Not just verse-chorus-verse-chorus, which was what I grew up with – and don’t get me wrong, I loved that – but something new and powerful in a different way. Of course, it helped that I was working with Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman and Chris Squire – people who understood all this and made it possible. I was there in the middle of it all, throwing out ideas all the time – and I mean all the time. And I still tend to do that every single day! For me, the idea of progressive music is always there. It’s never stopped. It’s my life.”
For me, the idea of progressive music is always there. It’s never stopped. It’s my life.
And as his ongoing work with Jean-Luc Ponty, Anderson/Stolt and Anderson Rabin Wakeman displays, making new music is still Anderson’s calling. “It’s your challenge to make music that’s an adventure, a musical journey. It’s not so much about the business any more. The last thing I think now is whether that’ll sound good on the radio. I mean, Roundabout was eight minutes long as we envisaged it, with its midsection. And that was like a template to all the Yes music that was coming. Atlantic took out the scissors and cut it into a hit record… thankfully! We were shocked at first but now I think it was a gift. I remember we were driving through Pennsylvania and it came on the radio and none of us knew it had been edited. We all sat up and said: ‘Wait a minute! What’s going on?’ But of course it became a big breakthrough record for us, so thank you!”
The Progressive Music Awards take place on September 1 in London. Visit the Prog Awards microsite to cast your vote for the rest of the awards. Voting closes on July 27.