In the spring of 1972 Yes returned home after giving a series of concerts in America to promote the album "Fragile". Immediately afterwards, Jon Anderson and Steve Howe worked out the material they had gathered at soundchecks, in hotel rooms and backstage when the band toured the Northeast and Midwest. They had eagerly exchanged ideas and recorded their writing sessions. The community spirit that had shaped "Fragile" reached its peak on "Close To The Edge". […]
In contrast to the later Yes records, "Close To The Edge" involved all band members in the arranging and writing process. Anderson was the conductor or creative impulse generator, but there were different musical concepts that were fused together. The best ideas of all participants were refined until the polished reef or the smoothed passage withstood the critical examination. It was often the case that Howe added something to an existing riff or had several ideas of his own; Squire, on the other hand, modelled a bass line that matched Howe's idea; Bill Bruford, on the other hand, changed the piece because he wanted to add an odd time signature. A large part of "Close To The Edge" was created this way.
"I've always wanted to record plays"
Paradoxically, Howe had ruled out recording another album like "Fragile" from the outset: The songs were not to be solo pieces, but tightly constructed and coherent compositions that might have a "religious atmosphere". Anderson even claimed that the new music was the "most complex and at the same time clearest" the band had ever written. "I've always wanted to record pieces for a long time," he told the New Musical Express interview, adding that each member had different ideas, "which we then put together like a puzzle.
Anderson also remarked that the band was writing music that would last over time, and that the three songs that were to be on "Close To The Edge" were related. ",Fragile' was a mirror of the band situation at that time. But now we stand with the band at the edge of spiritual consciousness when we make music. This can mean that everything may fall to dust or that we continue and get better and better."
Although it is commonly believed that Anderson is solely responsible for the hippy lyrics of "Close To The Edge", the term close to the edge actually comes from Howe, from an unused section of a song about the longest day of the year.
In 2007 I talked to Howe about the spiritual aspects of the Yes texts, and he said, "Jon didn't write all the texts. Some came from me, too, and some of my ideas indicated the spirituality you mentioned, but were more related to everyday issues. But when these ideas are related to Jon's texts, they also contained a spiritual intention. Jon developed the idea of 'close to the edge, down by the river', but I was the one who lived near the Thames - I was almost close to the edge of the river. As far as I'm concerned, this song was very literal. It wasn't long before Jon took up [this idea] and made something more abstract out of it. I thought that was great, and I had no problem at all. I like to say that Jon is as critical of my ideas as I am of his."
Over the years, Anderson did not contradict this representation directly, but claimed a certain share of the overall concept and the expression close to the edge. "The river leads you to the ocean, all paths lead you to the divine", he told Sid Smith, who wrote the accompanying text for the 2013 edition of "Close To The Edge". "The idea was that we humans live near the edge - the edge of knowledge, no matter what anyone else thinks about it."
WILL ROMANO "Close To The Edge - How Yes's Masterpiece Defined Prog Rock"
Backbeat Books English, 302 pages