Instagram Soundcloud Spotify

Passionate And Scholarly–Martin Popoff’s Time And A Word: The Yes Story

Written by:

You’d be hard pressed to find any writer who adores rock and roll more than Martin Popoff. Whether he’s writing about Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, the NWOBHM, or getting to the heart of who invented heavy metal, Popoff continually convinces you that he’s the most exuberant authority on whatever rock-related subject to which he turns his attention.

Popoff positively loves music, and his new book on Yes – Time and a Word: The Yes Story (Soundcheck Books) – is a passionate and scholarly addition to his steadily and amazingly growing body of work (for a Popoff bibliography, see pp. 203-205 of this book on Yes, his latest tome).

Perhaps the best endorsement that I could give to Popoff is that if I had any question about hard rock and, especially, heavy metal, he’s the first guy I’d ask. And now, with editions to his bibliography on Rush and Yes, he’s showing similar expertise on progressive rock.

Which brings us to Time and a Word, a book that will want make you want to say “yes” to Yes all over again – or, perhaps, for the first time.

A lot of listeners and readers, like your reporter, weren’t around for the band’s 1970s’ heyday and have only encountered Yes as one of the leaders of the so-called “dinosaur rock” of the “overblown and pompous” prog era. Hipster magazines like Pitchfork and the NME have succeeded in prejudicing readers against a host of bands who made some of the most experimental popular music of all time: ELP, Genesis, Gentle Giant, Caravan, Jethro Tull, Camel, Rush, King Crimson, and, indeed, Yes.

Steven Wilson’s recent deluxe remix editions of key albums by some of these bands have led to a prog resurgence of sorts. (I, for one, can’t wait for my deluxe version of Yes’s Tales from Topographic Oceans to arrive in late September).

But books like Popoff’s Time and a Word are necessary to this resurgence as well.


(More exclusive Yes photos here:)

Popoff tells the story of Yes using his patented “timeline approach,” in which he provides the history of the band from its pre-1970s’ beginnings all the way to the present day. Along the way, he discusses all of Yes’s many albums, details their personnel and personnel changes, and quotes extensively from all the band members. He also gives professional reviews and his own opinions on albums. (I’d like to say here that I’d love to discuss Tales with Popoff and debate our different perspectives).

The advantage to the “timeline approach” is one of immediacy. As you read, you feel like you’re witnessing the development of a great band – complete with all their ups and downs and the ways in which the band members and press reacted to them.

A few crucial components of the book: Rick Wakeman’s take on why he left and rejoined Yes so many times, Bill Bruford’s decision to choose King Crimson over Yes, the flawlessness (with some exceptions) of Yes’s 1970s’ output, an analysis of just how experimental and innovative these guys actually were, and a useful clarification of just who was in Yes and when (now I understand what went down between Yes West and Yes East, and just who the heck was in Asia and Yes).

I have to admit that before reading Time and a Word, I really only understood Wakeman’s and Bruford’s brilliance. But, now, I realize just how powerful and downright original Steve Howe is as a guitarist. And don’t get me started on Jon Anderson and the way in which the singer was the visionary force behind the band, as well as its main composer, even though he wasn’t proficient on any instrument except his own lungs.

Now, when I play Fragile, Close to the Edge, Tales, and Going for the One, I’ll have something to read, just as much as I’ll have Roger Dean’s album art to contemplate.

Say “yes” to Time and a Word. Say “yes” to Martin Popoff. Say “yes” to Yes.