“Owner of a Lonely Heart,” issued as a single in October 1983, holds a contentious place in the history of Yes. It is, of course, the band’s biggest-charting hit, but also a symbol of its dramatic shift toward pop styles in the 1980s. A platinum-plated pariah, it is a song that continues to find a home in Yes’ setlists, but emerged from a period that is more typically ignored otherwise.
And it was Trevor Rabin’s song.
Rabin, in fact, had been working on an early version of “Owner of a Lonely Heart” as far back as 1980. He’d already conceptualized most of the track’s key elements, long before joining Yes. “The interesting thing is,” Rabin tells us in an exclusive Something Else! Sitdown, “I was just sitting at home and I started messing with a riff. I thought: ‘This is so simple.’ I didn’t think twice about it. But then the more I thought about what I could do with the riff, it became: ‘Hang on, this is worth exploring. As simple as it is, it could be something pretty special.’ I’d mess around with it, and I came up with a chorus. I thought: ‘I’m just going to record it, and see what happens.'”
What happened remains largely unbelievable. He’d eventually bring “Owner of a Lonely Heart” to a new band, at one time to be called Cinema, that featured former Yes members Chris Squire, Tony Kaye and Alan White. Then, with the surprise addition of Jon Anderson late in the process, they’d end up being called Yes anyway.
Count Kaye among those who was similarly surprised. Then long out of Yes, he’d run into Squire while Kaye’s former band was touring behind 1980’s Anderson-less project Drama.
“It was just one of those moments where everything comes together. I went to the show, and Chris came back and we talked,” Kaye tells us, in a separate Something Else! Sitdown. “He wasn’t that happy with what was going on at the moment with [then Yes frontman] Trevor Horn and [keyboardist] Geoff [Downes]. It was just an idea of getting the band back together, really. Of course, it didn’t turn out like that, because Jon was away doing one of his projects. But Chris had bumped into Trevor Rabin, and that meant we had a guitar player, so we all went to London — and that was the beginning of the new Yes band.”
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