Monday, November 25, 2013

Adrian's Summer/Fall Concert Blitz, Part 10: Nine Inch Nails, Key Arena, Seattle, 11/22/13

Of all the artists I've gone to see this summer and fall, the one whose work I was least familiar with beforehand was Trent Reznor. When Nine Inch Nails ruled the world with Pretty Hate Machine and "Head Like a Hole," I was too engrossed in progressive rock to pay it any mind. I missed out on a good 15 years' worth of mainstream music before I wised up and realized I'd neglected a lot of good stuff while immersing myself in the Renaissance Faire-like world of glittery capes, Mellotrons, and dry ice. Not that I don't still love that stuff, but nowadays there's room in my music-loving heart for just about any type of good tune that comes along.

Still, NIN slipped through the cracks for me until this past summer, when I heard a song on Seattle's alternative-rock station. It kicked off with a tight, minimalist digital beat that initially put me in the mind of something from Kraftwerk in their heyday. A warbling bass line on the synth created a feeling something like an aural vertigo. The singer entered, delivering his lines in a breathy urgency, as if looking over his shoulder while he sang, eager to get his message out before it was too late. Some dramatic sustained notes appeared under the relentless drumbeat as the mood grew more urgent. Then the refrain: "I came-back-haun-ted." A solo from a distorted guitar mixed in with the electronics, the singer fell to a loud whisper, and then it all came to an abrupt end.

Wow! That was cool. Once I found out it was a song by NIN from their then-forthcoming album Hesitation Marks, and that they were going to be playing in Seattle in the fall, I decided to track down their back catalog and catch up on what I'd missed. I found Pretty Hate Machine to be one of their best, mixing its grinding electronic heaviness with some great riffs and melodies. My only points of reference for industrial music up to that point were Einstürzende Neubauten, who to my ears emphasized the avant-garde mechanics of the subgenre (music from non-musical sources, with all the requisite buzzes and squawks over insistent drumbeats), and Ministry, which favored metallic guitar riffs over a driving but repetitive backdrop of pounding drums and processed noise. NIN seemed to lean more toward the heavier Ministry side of things, but with more conventional-sounding song structures that surely made them more palatable to a wider audience. I can only take loud, aggressive music in small doses, but I could see what made NIN as popular as they were. Even for a style of music I wouldn't listen to on a regular basis, this was pretty good stuff. I don't care for the abundance of profanity in the lyrics, but alas, it's hard to get away from that in popular music these days.

The Downward Spiral and The Fragile seemed the most aggressive of all the albums, both musically and lyrically -- capped off by "Hurt," Trent's gut-wrenching depths-of-despair piece that Johnny Cash covered so brilliantly shortly before he died. Reading about Trent as I was discovering all this new music, I learned that he was staring down a lot of personal demons during this point in his career, and it certainly showed. Hesitation Marks signaled a comeback for a sober Trent Reznor, now a husband and father. I know some longtime fans have said the new album lacks the bite of some of Trent's best work, and I can see where they're coming from, although I don't mind having the emphasis back on the riffs and melodies, the way things were on Pretty Hate Machine. There's still plenty of heaviness and urgency in the music, though perhaps with less focus on the guitars and more on the pulsating electronics. It's still unmistakably NIN, only seen through the lens of someone who's gone through hell and come out the other side, with plenty of stories to tell from his harrowing experiences. In fact, if there's any lyrical theme on Hesitation Marks, it seems to be a sense of uneasiness that the new, improved Trent Reznor won't last and that his old demons will come charging back to pull him down to the depths again. So the new NIN isn't exactly a mellowed-out version of its old self -- it's just an anxious view from a different vantage point.

Now, I admit I might not have ended up buying a concert ticket had I known Adrian Belew wasn't going to be a part of the touring band. Ade has been one of my favorite musicians since I first heard him fronting King Crimson in its '80s incarnation. He's played on several NIN albums, including the new one, and even toured with them a few times. He was supposed to be on the current tour. But then news came that he was out. No one really gave any specifics why. The most Ade said on his Facebook page was that he had great respect for Trent, but things just didn't work out. Given that Trent has called Adrian "the most awesome musician in the world," I'm still at a loss as to what might have transpired.  

Anyway, I'm still glad I went to the show. About a third of the setlist came from Hesitation Marks, which made me happy. The rest was a mixture of music from across Trent's NIN career, touching on every album except for Ghosts I-IV, whose omission wasn't a surprise, as it's such a left-field album in NIN's career -- ambient, slow, moody, and almost completely instrumental. It happens to be my favorite NIN album, but I had no expectation of hearing anything from it at the show.

Trent was, naturally, front and center for the proceedings. He contributed a few guitar and keyboard parts during the show -- including an arresting piano solo on "The Frail," but most of the time he was clutching the mic with both hands and singing as if his life depended on it. It was also hard not to notice the guy's physique, with his muscular arms protruding from the short sleeves of his black T-shirt. He was fit and lean and full of emotion and energy -- not bad for a guy in his late 40s, especially one who's gone through all he has.

The band was a well-oiled machine, which I guess you'd expect with the tour winding down. There were only a few shows left after Seattle, and they've been at this for months now. That didn't make the performance any less impressive, though. The nine-piece lineup included six musicians besides Trent, and two female backing vocalists. On bass was the incomparable Pino Palladino, who's played with just about everybody who's anybody in the music industry. He's been working a lot with The Who ever since John Entwistle died. Naturally, he was perfect, as he and the rest of the band tore through two hours of highly intense music, including some with a few tricky twists -- like "March of the Pigs." It took me a while to decipher the time signature when I first heard it on The Downward Spiral, and a quick look online confirmed what I was hearing: 29/8. Nice. Or you could be less of a geek and break it down into three bars of 7/8 and one of 8/8, but where's the fun in that?

One of the musical highlights came just before the last song of the night, with the finale from Hesitation Marks, the combo of "While I'm Still Here" and "Black Noise." "While I'm Still Here," with its minimal musical atmosphere of electronic percussion and synthesizer drones, built to a close featuring a staccato baritone sax -- not something I expected to see onstage amidst all the electronics and inorganic sounds. As on the album, the first song leads directly into "Black Noise," an instrumental piece that takes the synth drones and slowly layers waves of distorted guitars on top of them, until the music has transformed into a roar of tuneless cacophony -- and then, suddenly, it all ended, as if someone had pulled the plug. The stage went black, and the air hung silent for a split second before the crowd realized it was all over and cheered its approval. After that, the show ended with "Hurt," featuring some disturbingly graphic scenes of violence projected onto the screen at the back of the stage. There's no arguing that the images fit the mood of the song, but it was quite a crushing way to end a concert. Trent didn't exactly send us dancing off into the night with that one.

As good as the music was, though, the visuals were even better -- the graphic scenes accompanying "Hurt" notwithstanding. A couple of times during the show, a mesh screen descended to the front of the stage, with a flurry of lights and lasers bouncing off its surface. There were even some pretty neat 3-D effects, with shapes and jagged patterns appearing to spin around the band, from the front to the back of the stage. The light rigs moved up and down and panned over the audience. The strobes were nearly blinding. Smoke billowed off the stage for most of the night. Early on in the show, a cluster of lights hung low over each musician like a ceiling lamp, and with the light concentrated on such a small area, the musicians could take a step back and disappear from sight, into the smoke and the blackness behind the illumination. At another point later in the show, Trent stood alone at the front of the stage while a sheer curtain dropped over the backing band, who were then illuminated from the back so that their silhouettes were visible as they performed. All very impressive stuff that perfectly accentuated the mood of the music.

My only complaint was that the show felt a little rushed. Trent's interaction with the crowd was minimal, as one song would start only seconds after the last one finished, almost as if the band was hurrying to get through the show. I felt as if the music stepped on our applause several times during the show. But near the end, Trent did take the time to introduce the band and thank the crowd for sticking with him through the years. So that was a nice touch.

I don't know that I'd go to see NIN again, but it was an enjoyable evening -- and not a bad way to wrap up my concertgoing fun for the year. I was fortunate to have some extra cash to spend on a lot of concert tickets this year, and I'm lucky to have an indulgent wife who doesn't mind sitting home with the little one for the evening while I go off and rock out for a couple of hours. I don't know if I'll ever be able to do anything like this again, but even if not, it's been a great year for live music in the Puget Sound area, and I'm grateful I was able to take so much of it in.

We'll see what next year brings.


Copy of A
Terrible Lie
March of the Pigs
All Time Low
Came Back Haunted
Find My Way
In Two
The Frail/The Wretched
A Warm Place
Somewhat Damaged
The Hand That Feeds
Head Like a Hole


All the Love in the World
Even Deeper
While I'm Still Here/Black Noise

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Power to Change the World Lies With All of Us

This post has had as many false starts as the visiting team in a Seattle Seahawks playoff game. Every time I try to attack it from a different angle, I still end up writing a 3,000-word political manifesto. And no one is going to read that. I wouldn't even read it.

I first felt compelled to write something when I-522, the ballot initiative here in Washington state to label GMOs, failed to pass in our most recent election. The defeat really surprised me, because we have pretty progressive voters in this state. We voted last year to legalize marijuana and gay marriage, for heaven's sake. And we can't even agree to put a label on a box of Cheerios?

Another reason the defeat took me aback was that 522 held a commanding lead in early polling.

So what happened? Well, I don't watch TV, but I heard from a lot of people how the "No" campaign -- funded to the tune of $22 million by GMO giants such as Monsanto and food companies that use those GMOs in their products -- pummeled viewers with ads critical of the initiative. Apparently one of the big talking points was that 522 would raise people's grocery bills.

The only problem is, there was zero evidence for such a claim. But playing on people's fears and their pocketbooks can do wonders for a political campaign, it seems.

A lot of people these days complain about the corrupting influence of money on political campaigns, especially after the Citizens United case. I agree that corporations and special interests are buying our politicians and their votes, and that it's a problem we need to address. Our elected leaders today represent the people who fund their campaigns more than they represent us.

But all of us could go a long way toward undermining the status quo by attending to two simple things: doing our own research, and thinking independently.

It's my fervent belief that far too many people these days let others do their thinking for them. Mainstream commercial media sets the agenda for what topics they think the public should be interested in, and our politicians attract people to their sides using lots of emotionally charged soundbites. Party platforms and bumper-sticker slogans end up substituting for critical, independent thought, as evidenced by the fact that we seem to have lost the ability to debate. One would expect that if people could articulate their views, they would -- but instead we get Team Red and Team Blue shouting hollow talking points at each other and calling each other names. I swear that if I never again hear anyone on the right using terms like communist, Marxist, or libtard, or anyone on the left using names like teabagger, fascist, or anarchist to denigrate their opponents, it will be too soon.

As John F. Kennedy put it so well, "We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought."

By doing our own research, we can get a good handle on whether we're being told the truth. Did the Washington voters who said "No" on 522 stop to consider whether they were being manipulated by a handful of agribusiness behemoths trying to protect their profit margins? Did they look at both sides of the issue, or did they let someone else spoon-feed them their views? You may never get to the complete truth of what you're investigating, but the more sites and sources you research, the more you can begin to build a consensus and come to a decision based on knowledge instead of on fear or personal political prejudice.

To that end, I find that it helps a lot to investigate foreign media outlets, which often seem to provide a fuller, clearer, more objective picture of American current events. I learn more about U.S. policy from reading the U.K. paper The Guardian than I do from any domestic media source. (Don't even get me started on the U.S. media's embrace of infotainment and the drift away from investigative journalism.) The BBC, the CBC, and Al Jazeera are three other sources I rely on. Independent media holds an important place in the discussion, too, but you have to be on higher guard against sketchy research, even sketchier claims, and partisan axes to grind.

And before anyone says "I don't have time to do all this," let me just say that I'm a stay-at-home dad for a 2-year-old who needs a lot of attention, and I work from home 40 hours a week. Even if you can only carve out half an hour before bedtime, you're still making time for something that's crucially important. Jefferson and Madison both stressed the importance of an informed electorate, and it's up to all of us to take the initiative and arm ourselves with knowledge. How else can we ever hope to hold our elected leaders' feet to the fire and build a better world?

As for thinking independently, I'm the first to admit it can be really difficult. We all have our own biases, and it's both easy and tempting to build an echo chamber around ourselves in an attempt to uphold our most cherished beliefs. But blindly accepting the views of one side like religious dogma while ignoring or demonizing any opposing views has helped lead us to our current state of violently polarized politics. I would much rather try to understand why the opposition believes what it does. Not only can you build empathy and tolerance for different views by taking the time to listen and reflect, but you might also see some of the tricks that partisans use to slant the news to their point of view. When you start to recognize where the other side omits certain facts or uses loaded language to stir up its base, it becomes easier to see how your side does the same thing. You get better at cutting through the partisan bias to arrive at the nugget of truth that often gets lost in all the shouting.

I speak from experience. My Facebook feed includes pages from just about every corner of the political spectrum, from (speaking of independent media) Common Dreams to Reason, National Review to Democracy Now, Noam Chomsky to Rand Paul, and The American Spectator to I encourage people to take that kind of approach -- to deliberately frustrate your own confirmation bias and tear down that echo chamber. It's fascinating to sit back and see how such divergent groups can take the same collection of facts and spin them so differently. Bias is a powerful tool. But challenging your own biases can be even more powerful, even transformative.

I think one of the most effective things people can do for themselves to engender independent thought is to let go of their party affiliations. Instead of asking yourself whether a certain view on a topic fits a specific political agenda, try asking yourself whether it works. Does it make practical sense? Would it help more than harm? Is it the best available solution to a pressing problem?

Again quoting JFK, "Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer."

This is easy for me to say, since I've always been an iconoclast of sorts. I was annoying my parents before age 10 because I kept questioning the things we were supposed to take on faith in regard to our family's religious beliefs. In my formative years to come, I found myself becoming more liberal when I was around conservative people, and more conservative when I was around more liberal people. I haven't changed much in the years since. Today, I'm the only person I know who thinks the Occupy movement and the Tea Party movement both have legitimate complaints. I don't approach life this way to be a deliberate contrarian. I just like to ask why, while the people around me usually seem to want to find an ideology to hold on to. Most people are joiners. I never have been.

Believe me, I sometimes wish I could be content with my world, just going about my daily business and not questioning everything. But I took the red pill many years ago, and once you do that, there's no turning back.

All I can encourage people to do is to look beyond their party preferences and political biases, and see what happens. I'm not talking about just peering across the aisle from Donkey to Elephant, or vice versa. There are options out there beyond just Democrat and Republican, and it's not as if flipping D.C. back and forth between those two parties every few years has gotten us anywhere. They've held a monopoly on the U.S. political scene since the Civil War -- I would think that if either party was going to lead us to the promised land, it would have figured out how to do so by now.  

But when you start talking about third parties, you get people saying the third parties might have some decent ideas, but they'll never win. Well, of course they won't, if you refuse to consider voting for them. It is perhaps the ultimate self-fulfilling prophecy in American politics. Yet the refrain I heard in the 2012 presidential election, over and over, from both Democrats and Republicans, was that they were voting for either Obama or Romney not so much because they thought their guy was all that great, but because the other guy would have been so much worse for the country. We end up voting against candidates instead of for them. That's no way to choose our leaders. We should demand better. We certainly deserve better.

So why do we continue to voluntarily narrow our choices to two right-of-center, corporate-controlled parties that differ on a few social wedge issues but are practically identical on things like foreign policy and Constitutional liberties? What on Earth do we have to lose by considering an alternative?

The most interesting ideas I heard being discussed during the 2012 campaign came from the likes of Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, and Rocky Anderson. They sure didn't come from the two mainstream candidates. Take a listen for yourself, from the third-party presidential debate last year, and see whether you don't find yourself frequently nodding in agreement and wondering why no one else is talking about solutions like these. You'll probably also get a sense of how intellectually stagnant the two major parties have become.

None of this would be a big deal to me, if I didn't think we faced a lot of serious issues that require serious solutions, rather than more empty talking points and more corporate kickbacks. But if we want to change our world, we have to show people the tools they need to make informed decisions, and we have to be unafraid to move out of our own comfort zones. Complacency will change nothing.

We have the power to change the way things are. But do we have the power to change ourselves when the situation calls for it?

I think we can, and must, do a lot better.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Song That Turned a Weird Kid Into a Prog Fanatic

Thirty years ago today, a song was released that would introduce me to a band that's remained my favorite to this day.

Some people remember things like their first kiss, or where they were during momentous events in history. Me? I remember where I was when I first heard "Owner of a Lonely Heart" on the radio.

It was in late 1983, probably November, and I was riding home one evening with my dad from a visit to my grandparents' house in northern Indiana. I was 12 years old, and as he usually did when I was in the car, Dad let me listen to U93, the local Top 40 station. Shortly after we crossed the state line into southwest Michigan, where I grew up, I remember hearing a strange-sounding drum break, given some kind of electronic treatment that made it sound like a psychedelic thunderclap. That led directly into a short, rocking guitar intro. Then the band kicked in, playing the same riff over a crisp drumbeat. And then out of nowhere, a jarring horn blast jumped out of the speakers.

Wow! The song already had my young ears intrigued.

The singer came in next. "Move yourself ... you always live your life ... never thinking of the future."

What a voice! It was a male voice, but not like one I'd ever heard. A very high-pitched tenor.

A few more of those funny horn blasts, then the chorus, then the bridge -- and then the backbeat stopped and everything went nuts. Another blast, followed by another one of those flanged thunder-rumble drum breaks like the one that opened the song. The singer yowled along with the next blast. Drum break, momentary silence, more horns, more drums, then the horns ascended before the full band came back in, featuring a frenetic, whirling guitar solo, harmonized and panning from speaker to speaker. It was unlike any other solo I'd ever heard. It was genius.

And it ended as abruptly as it had started. A clipped rhythm guitar led the band back into the main riff, they sang the chorus a few more times, and it all faded out on the second bridge.

Well, consider my 12-year-old mind blown. I had to run out and find that single as soon as I could.

As far back as I can remember, I've always been attracted to music that stood out in some quirky way. To give you an idea, the first album I ever bought was Pink Floyd's Ummagumma, purely because I liked the cover, the song titles, and the lengths of the tracks. I was maybe 8 years old. I found it at a neighbor's garage sale for 25 cents. I didn't know the first thing about Pink Floyd. But I still remember being mesmerized by the live performance of "Astronomy Domine," and seriously creeped out when Roger Waters let out his blood-curdling scream on "Careful With That Axe, Eugene." My mom heard that and yelled upstairs to ask me what the heck I was listening to. I wasn't sure myself. But I loved it. Fast-forward a few years, and I was a percussionist in sixth-grade concert band, imitating things like Nick Mason's kettle-drum drone, the way he repeatedly tightened and loosened the drum heads as he played them, from "The Grand Vizier's Garden Party."

So yeah, I was a weird kid. While everyone else my age was probably just looking for a song to dance to, I got a thrill from listening to the pulsating synthesizer effects and the drum solos toward the end of Edgar Winter's "Frankenstein." Styx was one of my favorite bands back then -- not for their rocking hits like "Renegade" or their pretty ballads like "Babe," but for things like "I'm OK" and its big, booming pipe-organ section, and the 13-minute "Movement for the Common Man" with its man-on-the-street interviews sandwiched between a rocking first part and a a softer ballad to close things out.  

Yep. Weird.

So here's this new band, called Yes, and they've just done a song called "Owner of a Lonely Heart." After I got the single, the next thing was to save up for the album. Within a few weeks I owned 90125 on cassette, and I had a new favorite band.

OK, so I heard a song I really liked. Big deal, right? Well, to me, it was a big deal, and still is, because that one song became my gateway to the progressive rock that makes up a huge portion of my musical diet to this day. I'll listen to just about anything these days that has a good melody and tasty hooks, but prog is my home base, and I owe it all to that one song.

After 90125, I was hungry for more Yes, and it was only then that I realized this wasn't a new band at all, but a reunited one that had put out more than a dozen albums. One of the first things I picked up from their back catalog was a 1981 compilation called Classic Yes. The first track, "Heart of the Sunrise," absolutely floored me, and from there I couldn't get enough of this adventurous style of '70s music known as progressive rock. I collected the entire Yes catalog over the course of the next year, and I branched off into other proggy bands from there, including King Crimson; Rush; Genesis; Jethro Tull; Emerson, Lake, and Palmer; and good old Pink Floyd. Why Ummagumma hadn't launched me into the wonderful world of prog-rock a few years earlier, I can't say. Maybe I just wasn't prepared at that time to dive in any deeper, though perhaps it did prime me for more adventurous music in the years to come. In any event, once "Owner" hit my eardrums, I was finally ready. It was the song that sent me on my way.

Who would have guessed? It all started with a catchy little pop song that began its life, of all places, in Trevor Rabin's bathroom -- during what he calls a "particularly long visit."

Trevor Rabin is a classically trained guitarist-singer-songwriter-keyboardist who was a sensation in his native South Africa. He moved to London with dreams of taking his stardom to the next level, and he eventually found his way to Los Angeles, where he wrote much of the material that ended up on 90125.

Meanwhile, Yes had split up following the tour for 1980's Drama album, and bassist Chris Squire and drummer Alan White were looking for a new songwriting partner, after a project with Jimmy Page didn't pan out. Atlantic Records put Squire in touch with Rabin, and the three of them got together for what they all seem to remember as a terrible jam -- but they felt there was potential and enjoyed playing together. Original Yes keyboardist Tony Kaye soon joined the ranks, and Trevor Horn -- who had sung on Drama, replacing original singer Jon Anderson -- was recruited as the producer. The band, at that time known as Cinema, began recording in 1982.

And for even getting the band to consider recording "Owner of a Lonely Heart," we have Trevor Horn to thank. Horn said Rabin wasn't even thinking about using the song for the Cinema project, but the producer persisted until the band broke down and gave it a try. Horn said he heard a strong chorus, but he hated the verses, which to him were too much ooh-baby-baby lunkhead American rock 'n roll. (Even Squire, on first hearing his music, thought Rabin was "a bit of a clever dick" who sounded something like a one-man Foreigner, which one presumes he didn't mean as a compliment.) So Horn set about rewriting and refining the song with Rabin.

The demo, admittedly, was no great shakes ...

But then Horn had to battle the whole band to play the song the way he heard it in his head. They kept adding frills to the main riff, and he had to tell them to just play it straight. Not easy, I suppose, for a young guitarist influenced by John McLaughlin and a couple of veteran prog-rockers who were used to showing off their instrumental prowess. Horn said Rabin also kept trying to remix the song with a big, bashing drum sound, but Horn had just the opposite in mind. Influenced by the tight playing on The Police's Synchronicity album, he wanted White's drumming to sound clipped and sparse. To keep the drummer focused on a simple playing style, Horn had his engineering crew walk into the studio and remove pieces of the kit, one by one, until White was eventually left with just his snare, tuned up to an A to match the key of the song, and his kick drum. "We filled the rest in later," White said. 

So why the horn stabs? Horn said that the verses of the song, in his mind, were so awful that "I was convinced that if we didn't put all kinds of whiz-bangs and gags all over the verse, no one would ever listen to it." Similar-sounding little doodles were present in Rabin's original demo, but they were played on conventional synthesizers. It was Horn's idea to take those little doodles and turn them into big, sampled blasts that demanded the listener's attention.

The musical snippet in those blasts originated from a track called "Kool Is Back" by Funk Inc. Listen at the 1:47 mark:

Horn took that sound and sampled it into a Fairlight CMI, one of the pioneering digital sampling keyboards. He was one of the first people to buy a Fairlight, and he wasn't shy about incorporating its sampling abilities into the projects he produced. In fact, Horn's production team got so enthralled with the Fairlight's abilities during the 90125 sessions that they ended up forming their own band, The Art of Noise, with what was then a cutting-edge sound built around samples, loops, and sequenced drums. A drum beat from Alan White himself became the basis for "Beat Box," the first composition The Art of Noise stitched together. That track used the same horn blast sampled on "Owner."

But "Owner" would not be complete without that amazing, face-melting guitar solo from Trevor Rabin. Here is the man himself talking about how he played what I consider one of the most incredible guitar solos in the history of rock music.

So now we've got ourselves a song, right? Well, when the recording for 90125 was almost done, Squire looked up Jon Anderson, Yes' erstwhile lead singer, and played him some of Cinema's new music. Anderson liked what he heard, and the next thing everyone knew, the debut album from Cinema was set to become a reunion album from Yes.

Rabin kept some of his lead vocal parts on the finished album, but Anderson stepped in to handle most of the singing duties ... and in the process he decided to rewrite a lot of the lyrics in his esoteric fashion. The thing about classic Yes, from a lyrical standpoint, was that Anderson wrote the words in the '70s for the way they sounded as much as for what they meant, but underpinning them was almost always a sense of vague spiritualism and a vibe of idealistic optimism. There's a bit of that flavor on 90125, though not as pronounced as on the '70s Yes material.

But it was enough to drive Trevor Horn batty. He'd already rewritten the lyrics to "Owner," but Anderson refused to sing some of them. The cosmic lyricist added a line about an "eagle in the sky" in the second verse, and Horn decided to exact a bit of revenge by adding the sound of a gunshot blast after that line -- shooting Anderson's eagle out of the sky!

Trevor Rabin, of course, hadn't planned on becoming Steve Howe's replacement on guitar in Yes. He once said he would have approached the music for 90125 from a more orchestral perspective had he known Cinema would become Yes -- probably similar to the approach he ended up taking on Yes' 1994 album Talk, which married the sound of hard-rocking '80s Yes to the stretched-out frills and embellishments of the band's '70s material. I'm glad things worked out the way they did, though, because I don't know if my 12-year-old ears would have taken to "Owner of a Lonely Heart" in any other form. My musical journey could have taken a markedly different path.

A lot of Horn's recollections that I've shared come from the following video. Very entertaining stuff. Despite all the challenges that went into making the song, not to mention the album, he seems satisfied with how it all came out in the end.

And why wouldn't he?  For all the hard work he put into it, he got quite a payoff in return, as "Owner of a Lonely Heart" became Yes' first and only No. 1 song on the Billboard chart, for the week of Jan. 21-28, 1984.

The song has since sold 7 million copies. It gave Yes a new lease on life upon its release, and it brought in droves of new fans, including me. Hard to believe it's been three decades now.

That version of Yes is long gone now. Trevor Rabin has since moved on to writing film scores. The current band is, for all practical purposes, a nostalgia act, focusing on the progressive pieces from the '70s. They haven't even played "Owner" on their recent tours.

Maybe not enough of the remaining fans want to hear it anymore. It happens. Time marches on. I admit that "Owner of a Lonely Heart" is no longer my favorite Yes song, but I still stop and turn up the radio whenever I hear it come on. And when I do, I always think back to that night in my dad's car in 1983 -- when one little song changed everything.