Yes, “Going For the One” from Going For the One (1977): YESterdays
During my interview with former Yes singer and founder Jon Anderson earlier this year, he talked about the need for his music to always progress. Anderson mentioned that he viewed the best Yes songs as the ones that vaulted the band forward. The 1977 self-produced album Going For the One certainly propelled the world’s greatest progressive rock band forward. However, it did so by reaching to the past with more structured songs and a former Yes man.
After an almost three-year break since the much-heralded Relayer album, and various solo projects by some of the bands’ principals, Yes entered Mountain Studios in Montreux, Switzerland, with a new energy and purpose — and without keyboardist Patrick Moraz, whom the band felt wasn’t committed to the music they’d started to create. Rick Wakeman, fresh off solo successes and healthy, enthusiastically rejoined Yes.
While Wakeman was the only member not to receive a writing credit on the Going For the One, his presence is constantly felt. Additionally, Yes shed most of its jazz fusion leanings from Relayer, opting for a joyously rocking sound.
The title track, written solely by Jon Anderson, sets the tone. Steve Howe’s pedal steel guitar starts things off and, from his opening volley, Yes never waivers. Alan White plays one his most straight-forward, rock back beats, offering a perfect mimic of Jon Anderson’s vocals. Wakeman’s piano has elements of boogie and honky tonk, and his synthesizer accents provide a modern contrast.
Despite the riveting steel guitar, the vocals on the song may well be the high light. Anderson has proven time and again that he can cover a range of emotions and tones but, with “Going For the One,” he spits out verse after verse with passion and enthusiasm. Chris Squire, not to be out done, provides a counter melody which verges on the impossible — sliding between the main theme then a harmony with Jon Anderson. This is truly the Yes choir at its finest. Even more dazzling is Squire’s eight-string bass parts, where he exploits the sonic range of the instrument.
The consensus seems to be that this song’s lyrics are about racing and the need to reach a finish. Quite frankly, the true meaning of “Going For the One” doesn’t matter, as Yes does more with this abstract gem than any of their contemporaries were striving for at the time. Quite simply it is a Yes song for the ages.