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LOCAL FARM…TO GLOBAL FAME

Interview by Sarah Rigg

In the first of our two-part interview with Accrington-born rock star Jon Anderson, the founding member of Yes talks about his childhood growing up in the town and how he returned for a UK tour with fellow bandmates Trevor Rabin and Rick Wakeman.

It could be the trailer for a blockbuster movie. Two little lads playing football in the empty car park of a northern town – one that would grow up to become a cricket legend – and the other, a world-famous rock star.

Who could have guessed the amazing fate of 10-year-old David Lloyd from Water Street and his 12-year-old-pal, John Roy Anderson who lived on nearby Norfolk Street?

Yes, Featuring Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin, Rick Wakeman

“David was my arch enemy,” jokes Accrington-born singer-songwriter Jon, who dropped the ‘h’ in his name when he found global fame with the progressive rock group Yes.

The band’s biggest chart hit was ‘Owner of a Lonely Heart’, sung and co-written by Jon, and covered by many admiring artists over the years.

“David lived a couple of streets away from me,” recalls Jon, who now lives with his second wife Jane in California. “Whenever I was on my way to play football in the car park of Accrington Stanley up at Peel Park, I would knock on David’s door and say, ‘You get your team together and I’ll get mine. ‘ We’d kick the ball around like crazy. I just wanted to beat him and his mates, it was always important that my team would win. We had this lovely rivalry with each other.

“In the 1950s I became a ball boy for the original club and I was also their mascot for a year.”

As Jon’s position on the world stage steadily grew he was pleased to see his old pal Bumble doing so well. He adds: “It was great watching David progress to playing for Accrington Cricket Club and then for Lancashire before captaining England. I was always amazed by how wonderful life is. And then about three years ago David made contact so we sent some emails and spoke on the phone.”

After mentioning that Bumble had taken up bodybuilding in 2016, Jon quips: “It’s about time he got into shape. Although it is kinda weird too because I also started weight-lifting last year in preparation for touring.

“You get to a certain age – David’s around the same age as me – and if you’re going to keep travelling the world, you need to be pretty fit.” The tour Jon is referring to is with bandmates Trevor Rabin and Rick Wakeman and their reformed group called Yes Featuring Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin, Rick Wakeman.

It is the first time the trio have toured together since 1990 and they kicked off their series of shows in North America, headed to the UK and finish in Europe.

Jon says: “I thought I better get exercising. I’ve been working out every day – and watch Manchester United, Liverpool and Newcastle from the treadmill. These are my favourite teams. After Accrington Stanley of course.”

In 2004 Jon describes one of “the most wonderful moments” of his life when watching the sports channel ESPN.

Says Jon: “The commentator said, ‘Next Tuesday we are going live to Accrington to see Stanley play Colchester in the FA Cup.

“That freaked me out that I would see a live game at Accrington Stanley on my telly in California. I rang my brother Stuart who lives in Accrington and he said, ‘Oh I’m going to go down and sit behind the goal.’

So I actually watched the game and called Stuart on my cell phone while he was behind the goal and we had the best laugh ever. Colchester won in the replay, but that’s life!”

Growing up in the town with his brothers Tony and Stuart and sister Joy was a happy experience. Jon’s father Albert was Scottish, from Glasgow, and his mum Kathleen second generation Irish with French ancestry.

The couple were East Lancashire ballroom dancing champions, and Jon remembers their trophies proudly displayed on the mantelpiece.

“My sister Joy passed away a couple of years ago,” says Jon. “Tony is a Pentecostal church minister living on the Isle of Wight, and Stuart lives in Accrington with his wife Marilyn, so me and Jane visit him every time we come up to Manchester.”

From the age of 10, Jon’s father, a salesman, became ill, so to help out with the bills Jon would deliver milk and work on a farm in Huncoat.

Jon in his first band
with brother Tony.

“I did that until I was 16,” says Jon. “I worked on Walter Procter’s farm to help my family because my dad was pretty sick. I shovelled a lot of cow poop, milked the cows, generally had a good time, I loved those days. I often look back fondly at Easter times when the sun was shining and the weather was getting better. It made me a very deliberate worker. I’m a workaholic.”

When Jon was 18 he joined The Warriors, where he and his brother Tony shared the role of vocalists. He then quit the band in 1967, released two solo singles in 1968 under the pseudonym Hans Christian Anderson.

It was around this time that Jon met the late Chris Squire and went on to superstardom after forming Yes, along with Pete Banks, drummer Bill Bruford and keyboardist Tony Kaye.

Wherever Jon has travelled in the world, Accrington has always held a special space in his memories. “We drive up to Accrington whenever we are in the UK,” he says.

“To me, Accrington never changes. It’s just a lovely little town.”

Jon likes to drive his wife Jane around Accrington to see his old haunts. “I always go to my old schools, St John’s and St Christopher’s.

“I do remember wonderful Christmas times singing at school and the local church. Life is very magical at that time
of year when you are nine or 10 years old because you don’t really have a care in the world.

“Actually, I always remember more about football than lessons. I’d be staring out of the window dreaming of playing
outside and I’d hear, ‘Anderson – stop daydreaming.’ Or during choir practice, the teacher would tell me off for singing
too loudly!”

Another favourite spot is at the top of the coppice which Jon used to run up with his dog when he was just six years old

Jon and his wife Jane.

“My wonderful wife Jane loves that place,” adds Jon, affectionately.

Sadly there will be no time for a trip to Jon’s hometown during the UK leg of ARW’s tour. “Touring is not the easiest thing in the world.

It is exhausting,” says Jon. “You have to do two shows then a day off, three shows and a day off, etc. So I’ll be driving from Glasgow to Manchester on the day of the show and then straight down to Birmingham from there.”

The formation of ARW – the initials of each member’s surnames – has been a long time coming. “It took us about three years to find time to do this. Trevor was doing film scores like crazy, Rick is always busy doing what he does and I was doing some great solo and collaborative work.”

Jon’s love affair with music is a lifelong one. He was brought up on The Who, Rolling Stones, and The Birds. But the first song to have a huge impact on Jon’s life was a track on the Beatle’s Revolver album called Tomorrow Never Knows. He says: “It wasn’t a hit but it was great. It was the same with Frank Zappa. He didn’t have many hit records but his music was great. And it was the same with Yes. We didn’t have many hit records, but our music was great.

“Music touches our hearts on so many levels. I like Coldplay and feel very emotional when listening to their songs and the music produced by Bruno Mars is just glorious.”

In 2008 – after illness kept Jon off the road for a year – Yes replaced him with Benoit David, a sound-alike who previously
fronted the Yes tribute band Close to the Edge.

Reportedly nobody in the band called Jon to tell him the news – he had to hear it from a friend. “They didn’t tell me anything,” he says. “They were just off and running. But what can you do? I was pissed off in the beginning, but then you say, ‘Oh well, the boys want to go on tour and be rock and rollers. Let them do it.’ Now people come see me and I’m suddenly 30 years younger!”

On reflection, Jon was released to bigger and better things and some amazing collaborations with people like Jean-Luc Ponty the jazz fusion violinist. The reviews of ARW’s concerts have been phenomenally good – with particular reference to Jon’s rejuvenated voice and presence.

“It has been a whirlwind,” says Jon. “From Trevor ringing me up and suggesting we get together with Rick, we flew to LA, called ourselves ARW, and together started performing a whole show of Yes songs – because that’s who we are, actually.”

Touring with Rick and Trevor is always a lot of fun for Jon. “Rick is a bit of a comedian anyway and Trevor is very strange at times – like John Cleese!

“Trevor turned up to rehearsals in bare feet one time. He got on stage and said, ‘Oh my I’ve forgotten my shoes.’

“We were like, ‘How can you drive all the way here Trevor without your shoes? Then we realised . . . he’s a bit of a nutcase!”

Another time Trevor met his bandmates at the airport, fully clothed but wearing a dressing gown. Jon laughs: “When we asked him why he was wearing a bathrobe it was because he forgot to bring a coat. It was below freezing and he’s standing there shivering in the airport with his dressing gown on.  I said, ‘you could have gone and bought a coat!’ He said, ‘Oh yeah, you’re right’.”

Jon adds: “First of all I love working with such great talent, we put on a great show of songs that everyone knows, we enjoy it and they are too damn funny those guys. Rick always tells jokes – his latest one which he must tell me twice a week is ‘People in Dubai, they never watch the Flintstones.’ ‘But the people in Abu Dhabi do’.

“To be able to sing and perform with Rick and Trevor at this time in my life is a treasure beyond words.

“I’m so excited to make new music and revisit some of the classic work we created many years ago; it’s a musical adventure on so
many new levels.”

“My wonderful wife Jane loves that place,” adds Jon, affectionately.

Sadly there will be no time for a trip to Jon’s hometown during the UK leg of ARW’s tour. “Touring is not the easiest thing in the world.

It is exhausting,” says Jon. “You have to do two shows then a day off, three shows and a day off, etc. So I’ll be driving from Glasgow to Manchester on the day of the show and then straight down to Birmingham from there.”

The formation of ARW – the initials of each member’s surnames – has been a long time coming. “It took us about three years to find time to do this. Trevor was doing film scores like crazy, Rick is always busy doing what he does and I was doing some great solo and collaborative work.”

Jon’s love affair with music is a lifelong one. He was brought up on The Who, Rolling Stones, and The Birds. But the first song to have a huge impact on Jon’s life was a track on the Beatle’s Revolver album called Tomorrow Never Knows. He says: “It wasn’t a hit but it was great. It was the same with Frank Zappa. He didn’t have many hit records but his music was great. And it was the same with Yes. We didn’t have many hit records, but our music was great.

“Music touches our hearts on so many levels. I like Coldplay and feel very emotional when listening to their songs and the music produced by Bruno Mars is just glorious.”

In 2008 – after illness kept Jon off the road for a year – Yes replaced him with Benoit David, a sound-alike who previously
fronted the Yes tribute band Close to the Edge.

Reportedly nobody in the band called Jon to tell him the news – he had to hear it from a friend. “They didn’t tell me anything,” he says. “They were just off and running. But what can you do? I was pissed off in the beginning, but then you say, ‘Oh well, the boys want to go on tour and be rock and rollers. Let them do it.’ Now people come see me and I’m suddenly 30 years younger!”

On reflection, Jon was released to bigger and better things and some amazing collaborations with people like Jean-Luc Ponty the jazz fusion violinist. The reviews of ARW’s concerts have been phenomenally good – with particular reference to Jon’s rejuvenated voice and presence.

“It has been a whirlwind,” says Jon. “From Trevor ringing me up and suggesting we get together with Rick, we flew to LA, called ourselves ARW, and together started performing a whole show of Yes songs – because that’s who we are, actually.”

Touring with Rick and Trevor is always a lot of fun for Jon. “Rick is a bit of a comedian anyway and Trevor is very strange at times – like John Cleese!

“Trevor turned up to rehearsals in bare feet one time. He got on stage and said, ‘Oh my I’ve forgotten my shoes.’

“We were like, ‘How can you drive all the way here Trevor without your shoes? Then we realised . . . he’s a bit of a nutcase!”

Another time Trevor met his bandmates at the airport, fully clothed but wearing a dressing gown. Jon laughs: “When we asked him why he was wearing a bathrobe it was because he forgot to bring a coat. It was below freezing and he’s standing there shivering in the airport with his dressing gown on.  I said, ‘you could have gone and bought a coat!’ He said, ‘Oh yeah, you’re right’.”

Jon adds: “First of all I love working with such great talent, we put on a great show of songs that everyone knows, we enjoy it and they are too damn funny those guys. Rick always tells jokes – his latest one which he must tell me twice a week is ‘People in Dubai, they never watch the Flintstones.’ ‘But the people in Abu Dhabi do’.

“To be able to sing and perform with Rick and Trevor at this time in my life is a treasure beyond words.

“I’m so excited to make new music and revisit some of the classic work we created many years ago; it’s a musical adventure on so
many new levels.”

Read Part 2 of our exclusive interview – NEAR DEATH…TO DEVELOPING A THIRD EYE!

2018-04-24T13:35:51+00:00