This one’s pretty funny. I bought this because I quite liked that 80s hit, Owner Of A Lonely Heart. Then, much later, I found out that was the band Yes. I’m not sure if I ever really liked the band Yes, but I did know their early prog records – the, erm, classics. And in a weak moment I still like the first couple – and a track or two off the album or two that followed. But not really a fan.
I was telling someone the other day that it’s actually pretty lol – since I’ve interviewed three key members of the band – a really nice chat with drummer Alan White, a hilarious chase of conversation with Rick Wakeman and a so-so and so-what telephone crawler with Chris Squire.
And then the first Yes album I owned – was by mistake. I bought Big Generator for a buck about 25 years ago or more, when a record store was closing down. And I bought an instant record collection – 100 records for $100 – and I thought I was getting the record with Owner of A Lonely Heart on it…
And thing is, I didn’t even listen to it – or check the back or anything – for ages. So when I finally got to hearing it I realised pretty swiftly I’d basically bought the wrong thing; the follow up to 90215.
Anyway, I start listening to it and I kinda dig it. I mean, I know, instantly, that it’s awful. Big show-off Trevor Horn production, synth stabs all percussive and pointless, and these sell-out pop songs, which was the band’s thing in the 80s. And they weren’t the only band to drag themselves in through the 60s and 70s to arrive lost, confused, daunted and mid-life crisis-ing through the 80s eh…
But I don’t know. I don’t listen to it much – I never really did – but fuck it’s probably still my second favourite Yes album. The opening song reminds me of stuff that I was into by default in the late 80s; horror movies like A Nightmare On Elm Street would have songs like Rhythm of Love on their soundtrack. Songs like Rhythm of Love weren’t too different, really, from where Pink Floyd had washed up at the same time. Or if The Police had continued for much longer. Or again, not actually that far from Van Hagar. So, you know, wheelhouse.
Then there’s the title track which is basically an experiment to re-purpose a variation on the Owner of A Lonely Heart riff by bolting it onto a transmogrification of Bruce Springsteen/Natalie Cole’s Pink Cadillac.
Shoot High Aim Low arrives just like a side one, track three ballad should. And you know I’ve heard Robert Plant serve up worse slop on his solo albums from the time. I reckon this is actually a bit of a slowcore banger. Trevor Rabin is all sorts of popping off here. And Squire’s bass work is sublime.
Careful. I might actually be able to sneak into a convention with the Yes fans!
But nah, this is the thing, it takes a really special kind of Yes fan to admit to really loving Big Generator. And I know exactly the type of Yes fan: Me. IE: not really much of a fan at all.
This is the fandom borne of buying the wrong album and having to stick with it.
Matthew Restall writes so convincingly on this subject in his 33 1/3 book about Elton John’s Blue Moves. He didn’t want that album. So when he got it by mistake/was talked into it he had to make the effort to like it. There was no way of returning it – a car trip to town might have been a monthly occurrence. There was no internet to be schooled up first. You sometimes got it massively wrong. And learned to make it right by putting the time in to like it.
It’s a grudge of a like.
So I’m never going to make a case for this whole album – and find something special about each track. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t. And I know I definitely shouldn’t.
But again, Love Will Find A Way is basically late 80s Van Halen and late-80s Robert Plant song-sharing.
And maybe the whole thing isn’t even that far off Rush’s Roll The Bones eh – which is pretty fucking funny. I’m court-ordered not to mock Rush fans anymore. So that’s all I’ll say on that matter. (And just a bracketed mention that Yes got there first with Big Generator and had the charming good sense to include a wee harmonica break).
So, yeah. Big Generator. Fight me. Actually, don’t. I don’t give a fuck. But I do kinda like this. And I also know it’s really quite shit. That, in the end, is probably the appeal.