Can you make sense of any Yes song lyrics?

I like the sound of a lot of songs by Yes, but I can’t make any sense out of their lyrics.

Take for example “Hold On” from the 91025 album. Have the band offered any explanation as to the meaning of the lyrics? If not, is there any widely agreed-upon interpretation?

How about for any other Yes songs?

I have read in several places that the lyrics are suggestive of Jon Anderson’s spiritual journey. There is both Christian imagery and Asian spirituality mentioned in some of the works. I’m not aware of any explicit interpretations from the group, thoughl.

Oh, hell no. That’s the appeal!

Sound out the Galleon from “Olias of Sunhillow”
(and I know it’s Jon Anderson solo album)

Yes is one of my favorite bands. I’ve been a fan since I was a teenager - for almost 30 years. I still have no idea what most of their songs are about. The love songs are easy to recognize, but that’s about it.

I think I once read somewhere that “Yours is No Disgrace” is an anti-Vietnam War song. The “shining flying purple wolfhounds” refer to fighter jets. Or something like that.

ETA: Oh yeah - and “South Side of the Sky” is about mountain climbing.


“Owner of a Lonely Heart” is sort of an argument between the verses and the chorus. The chorus says that it’s better to be lonely than to risk being hurt, while the verses urge you to open up, be yourself, stop drifting along, and take action.

It’s about as comprehensible as their songs get, I think.

Pretty sure “I’ve Seen All Good People” is about Chess, specifically Lewis Carroll’s Through The Looking Glass’s references to it.

I can make almost no sense of any other lyrics in any of their songs.

Years ago I read an interview with Jon Anderson where he defended the intelligibility of his lyrics, citing ‘Roundabout’ as the obvious example. He said it was about the early days of the band, when all of them and their gear travelled in a van from Scotland to London overnight. The chorus describes the scenery/mountains in the Lake District. I now live in the Lake District and drive the M6 to and from work each day. Look it up and the lyrics will make some connection.
As for the other 99% - ‘Awaken gentle mass touching’ etc - no. Nothing.

Sharp. Distance.
How can the wind with it’s arms all around me?

Isn’t it obvious???

Jesus Christ! I bought this album when it came out, listened to it incessantly for a couple of years, and then loaned it to someone and never saw it again. I had literally (and not figurative literally, but literally literally) forgotten it even existed and how much I liked it until I read the phrase “Olias of Sunhillow” and it burst fully formed into my head. Consider yourself hugged or high-fived or whatever kids do on the internet these days.

Um, and no to the OP…Yes and its lyrics are not intended to be fully comprehended, you just kind of ride along the top and dip in every now and then.

“Hold On” is about holding on to your own positivity in a negative world.

All I have to say on the subject is Cha cha cha CHA cha…

…or something like that. :smiley:

The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus) is about a fish. Well, a whole genus of fishes, really.

The album Tormato seems to have lyrics that make better sense than the albums preceeding it and honestly they make me yearn for the days when they wrote nonsense. (Actually the same may be true of Going For The One except that that album is so badly mixed you can’t really hear the words anyway.)

Lyrics don’t have to make sense. Only the music matters. Truth is I think a lot of lyrics are only meant to fit with the music and fuck with the audience.

I still lurves me some Yes!

Yeah, they largely used the lyrics as more of just another instrument, I think. They can help deliver the overall theme and concept, but generally shouldn’t be looked at too closely. Certainly I can get the general themes and such from listening to “Gates of Delirium” but it’s really kind of pointless to try and find any line by line meanings.

I have always thought about Jon Anderson’s singing as another musical instrument.
Much the same (but in a wildly different genre) as I think about the lyrics of Ric Ocasek from The Cars. The lyrics are somewhat nonsensical, but available for interpretation in a variety of meanings based upon your ‘set and setting’. In other words, both bands (as well as others) are better perceived under the influence.

Absolutely. I’ve been listening to Yes for years, but I doubt I could quote any lyrics without looking them up. They seem to contain appropriate imagery when listening to the songs, though.

This isn’t a negative, in my opinion - far from it. Coming up with lyrics that produce abstract imagery without being memorably nonsensical is far from easy, and done badly can absolutely spoil a song.

As a cheat, the Yes song “Life on a Film Set” from Fly from Here, with lyrics by Trevor Horn, is clearly based on the J.G. Ballard short story “Studio 5, The Stars”. But… that’s more of a Buggles song, really (cf. the Ballard story “The Sound-Sweep” vs. “Video Killed the Radio Star”).

In general, however, I agree with the others who say it’s more about sounds and images than concrete, literal meaning per se. What’s a “total mass retain”? I don’t know and I don’t care–they work as effective lyrics in the context of the song.

“Don’t Kill the Whale” is a/ a brilliant brilliant positive song and b/ lyrically as straight-up as a rock song can be. So there.

Supposedly “Starship Trooper” was in fact inspired by the novel of that same name … except Anderson didn’t actually like the novel … no, I give up on that one.