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Yes Line-ups: A Complete Guide To Every Band Member And Every Era
Trinity Mirror / Mirrorpix / Alamy Stock Photo
List & Guides

Yes Line-ups: A Complete Guide To Every Band Member And Every Era

Breaking down every Yes line-up in depth, this guide chronicles each era, each band member, and all the albums they appeared on.

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Emerging from London’s vibrant late-60s psychedelic scene, Yes embarked upon a jaw-dropping voyage of dazzling experimentation that would quickly establish the group as one of progressive rock’s most enduring and influential acts. As this guide to Yes’ line-ups shows, despite undergoing numerous personnel changes and stylistic shifts, the group have always retained their commitment to musical exploration, achieving wonders in carving out a unique legacy that spans over five decades. As Yes’ sound has evolved from the intricate, symphonic stylings of their early albums to more commercial forays into new-wave-era pop-rock, they have always maintained a distinct musical identity.

However, keeping track of the talented musicians who have been part of Yes’ line-ups over the years can be challenging. Here, then, is our comprehensive breakdown of each Yes line-up: a complete list of every band member, their respective eras, and the albums they appeared on.

Listen to the best of Yes here.

1968-1970: The early years

The band members
Jon Anderson: lead vocals (joined 1968)
Peter Banks: guitars, backing vocals (left 1970)
Chris Squire: bass, backing vocals (joined 1968)
Tony Kaye: organ, piano (joined 1968)
Bill Bruford: drums, percussion (joined 1968)

The studio albums
Yes (1969)
Time And A Word (1970)

The story
The origins of the iconic prog-rock band Yes can be traced back to April 1968, in London, England. It all began when singer Jon Anderson first encountered bassist Chris Squire at La Chasse Club, on Wardour Street, in Soho. After Anderson joined Squire’s psychedelic rock group Mabel Greer’s Toyshop, the pair began collaborating on early Yes songs such as Sweetness. Together, they played gigs around London, performing at venues including The Marquee and The UFO Club with Mable Greer’s Toyshop founder, guitarist and singer, Clive Bayley.

While bandmates Peter Banks and Robert Hagger decided to pursue new ventures, drummer Bill Bruford responded to an advertisement in Melody Maker magazine, and met with Anderson, Squire and Bayley to rehearse at the Lucky Horseshoe Café, on Shaftesbury Avenue. However, it was only after Tony Kaye’s arrival and Clive Bayley’s departure that the group decided to change their name, officially becoming Yes.

As the early sound of Yes started to take shape, Peter Banks rejoined the group, and he became the original guitarist on their self-titled debut album, released in 1969. Leaning into the prevailing psychedelia of the day, Squire’s bass work and Bruford’s jazz-inspired drumming was instantly iconic, while Anderson’s strident vocals spotlighted the group’s potential. Without a doubt, Yes were part of a wave of bands who were inspired by The Beatles – particularly their genre-defying spirit of adventure and their approach to overdubbing in the studio – yet who were creating something uniquely their own.

This early Yes line-up continued into 1970, as they released their second album, Time And A Word, on which a small orchestra of brass and string players helped the band develop a more symphonic-rock-oriented sound. Finding himself at odds with the rest of the band’s fondness for orchestral arrangements, Peter Banks was dismissed from Yes during their 1970 tour, leaving the group with a vacancy for a new guitarist…

Must hear: Looking Around

1970-1974: The “classic” era

The band members
Jon Anderson: lead vocals
Chris Squire: bass, backing vocals
Steve Howe: electric and acoustic guitars, vocals (joined 1970)
Tony Kaye: piano, organ, synthesiser (left 1971)
Rick Wakeman: organ, piano, keyboards, synthesiser (1971-1974)
Bill Bruford: drums, percussion (left 1972)
Alan White: drums, percussion (joined 1972)

The studio albums
The Yes Album (1971)
Fragile (1971)
Close To The Edge (1972)
Tales From Topographic Oceans (1973)

The story
In 1970, Steve Howe replaced Peter Banks on guitar, and the short-lived line-up of Anderson, Squire, Howe, Kaye and Bruford recorded 1971’s The Yes Album, a work which not only saw the band move further towards honing their pioneering style of progressive rock, but also sold over a million copies in the US. That same year, keyboardist Rick Wakeman joined the group – following the departure of Tony Kaye – in a move that would quickly prove to be a boon to Yes’ fortunes.

The “classic” Yes line-up of Anderson, Squire, Howe, Wakeman and Bruford recorded the best-selling albums Fragile (1971) and Close To The Edge (1972) – records which established the band at the height of their virtuosic talents. With each new Yes album being received as a seminal work of progressive rock, the early 70s was a golden period for the group, who embarked upon a groundbreaking US tour that catapulted them into the annals of classic-rock history – as documented on the 21LP box set Progeny: Seven Shows From Seventy-Two.

However, in 1972, Bill Bruford left Yes to join King Crimson, resulting in drummer Alan White being drafted in as his replacement. Following this new addition, Anderson, Squire, Howe, Wakeman and White recorded the ambitious double album Tales From Topographic Oceans in 1973. A concept album full of weighty spiritual themes, it provoked some creative differences between Wakeman and his bandmates, and the keyboardist opted to leave the group in 1974, in order to pursue a solo career.

Must hear: Roundabout

1974-1980: ‘Relayer’ to ‘Tormato’

The band members
Jon Anderson: lead vocals, acoustic guitars (left 1980)
Steve Howe: acoustic and electric guitars, backing vocals
Chris Squire: bass, backing vocals
Patrick Moraz: piano, organ, keyboards (1974-1976)
Rick Wakeman: piano, keyboards (1976-1980)
Alan White: drums, percussion

The studio albums
Relayer (1974)
Going For The One (1976)
Tormato (1978)

The story
Even Rick Wakeman’s decision to quit failed to slow Yes’ momentum. Replacing him with Patrick Moraz on keyboards, the group released their 1974 album, Relayer, and, on a subsequent US tour, they went on to sell out New York City’s Madison Square Garden with zero advertising. Still remaining hugely popular with rock fans, it seemed the group could hardly put a foot wrong, and they continued to assert themselves as one of the UK’s leading purveyors of prog-rock.

In 1976, Wakeman rejoined the band, replacing his own replacement, and the group recorded their eighth album, Going For The One. The tantalising prospect of seeing the “classic” Yes line-up in action again led to yet another sell-out US tour. This was the year the group played to an audience of over 100,000 people at Philadelphia’s John F Kennedy Stadium, leaving little doubt that Yes were one of the best rock bands of their generation.

Fully comfortable with being back in the fold, Wakeman continued his tenure with the group, recording 1978’s Tormato. Shortly after, however, following recording sessions in Paris, both Wakeman and Anderson left the band, seemingly marking the end of Yes’ spellbinding decade-long dominance.

Must hear: Wondrous Stories

1980-1981: The Trevor Horn era

The band members
Trevor Horn: lead vocals (1980-1981)
Steve Howe: guitar, backing vocals (left 1981)
Chris Squire: bass, backing vocals (left 1981)
Geoff Downes: keyboards (1980-1981)
Alan White: drums, percussion (left 1981)

The studio albums
Drama (1980)

The story
In the absence of Jon Anderson, it seemed to many fans that Yes would have no option other than to disband. Surprisingly, The Buggles’ frontman, Trevor Horn, professed his love for the group and asked Steve Howe, Chris Squire and Alan White whether he could join. Bringing his keyboardist and former Buggles bandmate Geoff Downes with him, Horn would go on to make significant strides in updating Yes’ prog-rock style for the new-wave era.

Horn and Downes’ arrival signalled arguably the most significant Yes line-up change to date. 1980’s Drama was a breath of fresh air at the start of the decade, helped in no small part by the fact that Horn’s high-pitched vocal delivery was uncannily similar to Anderson’s.

Additionally, songs such as Into The Lens and Tempus Fugit revelled in the band’s love of lengthy arrangements and time-signature shifts, fusing those established Yes trademarks with an art-pop playfulness. After a difficult tour, however, the band decided to call it a day in 1981.

Must hear: Tempus Fugit

1983-1988: ‘90125’ to ‘Big Generator’

The band members
Jon Anderson: lead vocals (1983-1988)
Trevor Rabin: guitars, keyboards, vocals (joined 1983)
Chris Squire: bass guitars, vocals (joined 1983)
Eddie Jobson: keyboards (1983)
Tony Kaye: organ, keyboard (joined 1983)
Alan White: drums, percussion (joined 1983)

The studio albums
90125 (1983)
Big Generator (1987)

The story
At the dawn of the MTV era, Yes were on ice, and it seemed there was little likelihood of them making a comeback. Scoring a US Top 5 hit with In The Heat Of The Moment, guitarist Steve Howe was enjoying success with his prog-rock supergroup Asia, while Jon Anderson was busy pursuing a solo career and working with Greek electronic-music pioneer Vangelis. Then, in early 1983, Anderson received word about Cinema, a new group formed by ex-Yes members Chris Squire, Alan White and Tony Kaye, along with guitarist Trevor Rabin.

After hearing their demos and liking what he heard, Anderson was invited to be the band’s frontman, and he enthusiastically agreed. Coincidentally, Trevor Horn, who by now was establishing himself as an era-defining super-producer, was also on board with the project. Before long, the band decided they would resurrect the Yes name – a surprising move given the decidedly radio-friendly feel of their new material.

Yes’ most commercial-sounding venture to date, 90125 emerged in 1983 and sparked a huge turnaround for the band. Despite lacking the involvement of guitarist Steve Howe, this Yes line-up scored a US No.1 hit with Owner Of A Lonely Heart, putting the group into heavy rotation on MTV and spurring them on to stage the hugely successful worldwide 9012Live Tour.

Musically, there was certainly a prog-rock flavour to 90125. Whereas Howe’s guitar style was arguably more cerebral and mercurial, Rabin’s riffs were punchy and immediate, and this successfully opened Yes up to new audiences. The group went on to capitalise on their new-found popularity with Big Generator (1987), before Jon Anderson once again left the band, resuming his career as a solo artist.

Must hear: Owner Of A Lonely Heart

1988-1995: ‘Union’ to ‘Talk’

The band members
Jon Anderson: lead vocals (joined 1990)
Steve Howe: acoustic and electric guitars, vocals (1990-1992)
Trevor Rabin: electric guitars, vocals (left 1995)
Chris Squire: bass, vocals
Tony Kaye: keyboards, organ (left 1995)
Rick Wakeman: keyboards (1990-1992)
Bill Bruford: drums, percussion (1990-1992)
Alan White: drums, percussion

The studio albums
Union (1991)
Talk (1994)

The story
After releasing a new solo record, Jon Anderson reconnected with his pre-90125 Yes bandmates Bill Bruford, Rick Wakeman and Steve Howe; along with bassist Tony Levin, the foursome recorded an album credited to Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe. With the collaborative spirit newly ignited, Anderson hit upon the idea to get the old band back together… but with a twist.

The proposal was simple, if ambitious: assemble a prog-rock “supergroup” of Yes bandmates past and present for 13th Yes studio album, Union. This unique undertaking culminated in a 1991-1992 tour during which many Yes musicians played together for the very first time: Jon Anderson continued to sing lead vocals; Steve Howe stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Trevor Rabin on guitar; both Tony Kaye and Rick Wakeman teamed up on organ and keys; Chris Squire remained steadfast on bass; and Alan White and Bill Bruford doubled up on drums.

Such an ambitious undertaking was always destined to be short-lived. With Howe, Wakeman and Bruford departing in 1992, it was the 90125 line-up of Yes (Anderson, Rabin, Squire, Kaye and White) who recorded the group’s next album, Talk, in 1994. By this time, the mainstream rock scene was markedly different, and, within a year of the album’s release, both Trevor Rabin and Tony Kaye had moved on.

Must hear: Lift Me Up

1995-1997: The ‘Keys To Ascension’ era

The band members
Jon Anderson: lead vocals, guitars
Steve Howe: guitars, backing vocals (joined 1995)
Chris Squire: bass, backing vocals
Rick Wakeman: keyboards (1995-1997)
Alan White: drums, percussion, backing vocals

The studio albums
Keys To Ascension (1996)
Keys To Ascension 2 (1997)

The story
With Yes having long established their revolving-door approach to membership, in 1995 Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman once again reunited with Jon Anderson, Chris Squire and Alan White. This long-awaited reunion saw Yes temporarily return to the same line-up that had produced Tormato two decades beforehand.

Venturing once again into long-form prog-rock territory, the two new albums the group recorded, Keys To Ascension (1996) and Keys To Ascension 2 (1997), saw them abandon the more commercial pop-oriented sound of Yes’ 80s period. Though it was by no means obvious at the time, this would prove to be the last Yes studio album to feature Rick Wakeman. The keyboardist officially quit the group in 1997, although he would later play with them on their 2002 tour.

Must hear: Mind Drive

1997-2008: The Anderson/Howe/Squire/White era

The band members
Jon Anderson: lead vocals (left 2004; rejoined 2008)
Steve Howe: acoustic and electric guitars, backing vocals (left 2004; rejoined 2008)
Billy Sherwood: electric guitars, keyboards (1997-2000)
Chris Squire: bass, backing vocals, harmonica (left 2004; rejoined 2008)
Igor Khoroshev: piano, organ (1997-2000)
Oliver Wakeman: keyboards (joined 2008)
Alan White: drums, percussion, backing vocals (left 2004; rejoined 2008)

The studio albums
Open Your Eyes (1997)
The Ladder (1999)
Magnification (2001)

The story
As the 90s neared its end, a core Yes line-up of Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Chris Squire and Alan White solidified, and the group’s next two albums, Open Your Eyes (1997) and The Ladder (1999), were recorded with the help of guitarist Billy Sherwood and keyboardist Igor Khoroshev. The Ladder would mark one of the final times the “classic”-era Yes musicians actively toured a new release, closing out the millennium in typical Yes style.

In 2001, the band’s 19th album, Magnification, saw Anderson, Howe, Squire and White strip things back to a four-piece Yes line-up. Lacking a keyboardist, the group enlisted the services of the San Diego Symphony Orchestra, led by conductor Larry Groupé. After embarking on the Symphonic Tour of North America and Europe, Yes staged the worldwide Full Circle Tour of 2002-2003, before the 35th Anniversary Tour of 2004 left an exhausted group deciding to go on extended hiatus.

Four years later, Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Chris Squire and Alan White made plans to reconvene for Yes’ 40th anniversary. Keyboardist Rick Wakeman was originally in the frame to return, but, fearing for his health, he nominated his eldest son, Oliver, to join the group in his stead. As it transpired, the planned North American leg of what was then called the Close To The Edge And Back Tour had to be cancelled after Anderson suffered acute respiratory failure, which prompted him to leave the band for good.

Must hear: In The Presence Of

2008-2015: The Howe/Squire/White era

The band members
Steve Howe: guitars, backing vocals
Benoît David: lead vocals (2008-2012)
Jon Davison: lead and backing vocals (joined 2012)
Chris Squire: bass, backing vocals (2008-2015)
Alan White: drums, percussion
Oliver Wakeman: keyboards (2008-2011)
Geoff Downes: keyboards (joined 2011)

The studio albums
Fly From Here (2011)
Heaven & Earth (2014)

The story
With Jon Anderson out of the picture, Yes needed to find a new frontman who could do justice to their classic material. It was bassist Chris Squire who suggested Canadian singer Benoît David after discovering him on YouTube. It seemed a safe bet: David was the lead vocalist in a Yes tribute band called Close To The Edge.

As Yes pressed on with their new frontman, history began to repeat itself. The second leg of the band’s 2009 North American tour – dubbed the In The Present Tour – was cut short when a medical emergency befell Chris Squire, but the bassist recovered and was eventually well enough to contribute to the band’s 20th album, Fly From Here (2011). Produced by Trevor Horn, it would see returning keyboardist Geoff Downes replace Oliver Wakeman, and would be the sole Yes studio album to feature Benoît David.

The following year, in a strange echo of what had happened to Jon Anderson back in 2008, singer David began to suffer from respiratory problems that forced his decision to leave Yes. In short order, the band found a replacement in the shape of former Glass Hammer frontman Jon Davison, who has been Yes’ main vocalist from their 2014 album, Heaven & Earth, onwards. Heaven & Earth would, however, end up being the last full-length Yes album to feature founding member Chris Squire.

Must hear: Fly From Here, Part I: We Can Fly

2015-present: The Howe era

The band members
Steve Howe: guitars, backing vocals
Jon Davison: lead vocals
Billy Sherwood: bass guitars, backing vocals (joined 2021)
Geoff Downes: keyboards
Alan White: drums, percussion (2008-2022)
Jay Schellen: drums, percussion (joined 2022)

The studio albums
The Quest (2021)
Mirror To The Sky (2023)

The story
Tragically, Chris Squire’s death in 2015, at age 67, of acute erythroid leukaemia, prompted further Yes line-up changes, with former guitarist Billy Sherwood stepping in to perform bass on The Quest (2021). Then, in 2022, the band’s drummer and longest-serving member, Alan White, passed away, after nearly 50 years as part of the core Yes line-up. This left guitarist Steve Howe as the sole remaining member from the “classic” Yes line-up.

Since the release of Yes’ 23rd studio album, Mirror To The Sky, the Yes line-up has been comprised of Jon Davison on vocals, Steve Howe on guitar, Geoff Downes on organ, Billy Sherwood on bass and, as of 2022, newcomer Jay Schellen on drums. With plans afoot to continue touring and performing live around the world, it’s clear that this legendary prog-rock band hasn’t yet reached its final chapter.

“The quite surprising thing is that we’re still going, even if certain periods were quite different from others,” Steve Howe stated proudly in a 2022 interview with Prog magazine. “When it comes to the story of Yes, you certainly get a mixed bag.”

Must hear: Cut From The Stars

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