Yes – 90125

Progressive rock was in its prime in the 1970s. And there was possibly no band more at the forefront of prog than Yes. But then punk rock and disco worked their influences into popular music. Going into the ’80s, Prog bands were suddenly labeled as self-indulgent and pretentious dinosaurs.

I agree with the pretentiousness and self-indulgence, but in a good way. I mean, hell, if you’ve got that level of talent and creativity, by all means, flaunt it. Show off. Impress me. Blow me away with your virtuosity and showmanship. But dinosaurs? Oh, hell no! 

Dinosaurs went extinct because they couldn’t adapt. With 90125, Yes proved they were more than capable of adapting to the changing music scenes. Their songs became more short and concise. There was a greater emphasis on the underlying rhythms than on extended solos and a heavier reliance on electronic instruments. 

But that’s not to say there wasn’t any of the virtuosity Yes was known for – there was plenty. It was just more focused. The interplay between the instruments had the complexity that Yes was known for, yet the production of the album gave the songs the underlying character of pop simplicity. The vocal arrangements throughout the album were equally impressive, at times becoming the focal point in the songs, or as in “Leave It,” the entire song.

Then there’s the case of “Owner Of A Lonely Heart,” the first, and only number one single for Yes. It became so popular they even released a 12 inch dance remix of it. Now, if you had told me in the ’70s that a song by Yes would be played in dance clubs in the ’80s, well, I’d be handing my life savings over to you right now. I would have lost that bet big time. But there it was. 

But the big thing was, they still sounded like Yes. They still sounded like the prog band their fan base dug. They were still pretentious and self-indulgent – they just did it in a way that nobody  noticed. On 90125, Yes had learned to adapt and survive…and thrive. Something the dinosaurs couldn’t do.

The Knack – Get The Knack

It may not surprise you that the members of the Knack we’re big Beatles fans. What may surprise you though, is just how big of fans they were. There are several nods to the fab four on The Knack’s debut album, “Get The Knack.”

The Knack released “Get The Knack” in the summer of 1979 after being offered deals by numerous record labels. They chose to sign with Capitol Records in part, because Capitol was the Beatles’ label in the United States. As part of the record deal, The Knack made it a requirement for Capitol to use an old rainbow ringed label on the album that the record company hadn’t used since 1968. The band wanted this on their recods because it was the label that adorned the original Capitol releases of The Beatles’ early records. The album cover was designed to be a gentle nod to The Beatles’ first album cover and the picure on the back is a replica of a scene taken directly from The Beatles’ film “A Hard Day’s Night,” with the The Knack taking the place of the fab four.

Getting The Knack for A Hard Day’s Night

The album was recorded in just two weeks on a miniscule budget. It was an immediate success, going gold (500,000 copies sold) and topping the Billboard record charts in less than two weeks. It achieved platinum status (1,000,000 copies sold) in less than two months.

“My Sharona,” the first single off the album, also hit number one and is The Knack’s biggest hit. It remains to this day, Capitol Records’ fastest selling debut single for any band since The Beatles released “I Want To Hold Your Hand.” How appropriate.

Journey – Infinity

Infinity was a turning point for Journey. Formed by three former members of Santana, they had started out as a progressive rock band, with songs that focused on rhythmic changes and virtuosity. Keyboardist Greg Rollie assumed all lead vocals. Unfortunately, more structured and formatted radio in the mid-to-late seventies was starting to make progressive rock more of a niche genre than something that was commercially viable. 

In 1978, for their fourth album, Journey decided to add a new lead singer to change their sound, making it more commercially marketable. Although they retained the foundations of progressive rock in their music, with the addition of Steve Perry as frontman, Journey’s songs became shorter and more concise, focusing more on vocal harmonies and melody, while still displaying the virtuosity possessed by the individual members.

Adding Perry as lead singer proved to be a masterstroke for the band. Infinity brought in more fans who were in-tune to popular music, without totally alienating the progressive rock fans that Journey had already established. Infinity became their breakout album. Journey would follow it up with a string of numerous multi-platinum albums and would go on to become one of the most successful bands of the ’80s.

Many people are unaware that Journey ever existed without Steve Perry as the lead vocalist and think Infinity was there first, not their fourth album.

Infinity will forever hold a special place in my memories because it was the first album I ever owned. Before that, it was strictly 8-track tapes for me.

Journey was also the first big concert I ever went to. There would be many, many more to follow.

What was your first album? 
What was your first concert?