Drama (Yes album)

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Yes Drama.jpg
Studio album by Yes
Released 18 August 1980
Recorded April–June 1980
Studio Townhouse and SARM East Studios (album)
Roundhouse and RAK Studios (guitars)
London, England
Length 36:55
Label Atlantic Records
Yes chronology
Singles from Drama
  1. "Into the Lens"
    Released: 1980

Drama is the tenth studio album by the English rock band Yes, released on 18 August 1980 by Atlantic Records. It is their only album to feature Trevor Horn as lead vocalist, following the departure of Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman in March 1980 after unsuccessful recording sessions for a new album in Paris and London. Horn was joined by keyboardist Geoff Downes, his partner in the new wave band The Buggles. Drama was recorded in a short amount of time as a tour was already booked prior to the change in personnel. It marked a departure in the band's musical direction with songs more accessible and aggressive that featured the use of modern keyboards and a vocoder.

Drama was released to a mostly positive critical reception, with most welcoming the band's new sound. The album peaked at No. 2 in the UK and No. 18 in the US, though it became their first album since 1971 not to reach Gold certification by the RIAA. "Into the Lens" was released as the album's sole single. Yes toured the album with a 1980 tour of North America and the UK, and were met with some negative reactions during the latter leg over the new line-up change. Yes disbanded at its conclusion; Horn ventured into producing, Howe and Downes co-formed Asia, and Squire and White formed Cinema with Trevor Rabin which led to a reformed Yes in 1982. The album was remastered in 2004 with previously unreleased bonus tracks. Yes performed Drama in its entirety for the first time on their 2016 European tour.


At the end of their 1978–79 tour to support their ninth studio album Tormato (1978), the group, Jon Anderson, Chris Squire, Steve Howe, Rick Wakeman, and Alan White, took a break from touring and recording. They reconvened in November 1979 to start work for a new album. After the various problems they faced while recording Tormato, Yes decided to work in Paris with Roy Thomas Baker to oversee its production and musical direction. Anderson and Wakeman were enthusiastic in putting together new material, writing more songs together than they had before. However, Squire, Howe and White felt their songs were too light and folk-oriented and proceeded to develop more aggressive and direct compositions. The growing internal differences, described by Anderson as a "loss of respect for each other", led to Squire, Howe, White and Baker to not come to sessions on time, which discouraged Anderson and Wakeman, the latter at times refusing to leave his hotel room to rehearse. Both members took to leave the studio and drink Calvados in a bar; in Wakeman's words: "It can make you quite depressed. Jon and I got really quite depressed and started crying on each other's shoulders and Jon said 'This is not the band that love, this is not the band that I wanted to keep on going', [and I replied] 'I'm with you Jon'".[1] The sessions were ultimately called off after White cracked a bone in his right ankle while roller skating early in the morning with Richard Branson in a nightclub, rendering him unable to perform for about six weeks.[2][3] Following a break over Christmas, the band reconvened in London for rehearsals in an attempt to salvage the situation. They failed, causing Anderson and Wakeman to depart in March 1980.[4]

Squire, Howe, and White continued to write and rehearse as a three-piece in Townhouse Studios. At the same time, bassist and singer Trevor Horn and keyboardist Geoff Downes of the new wave band The Buggles were enjoying worldwide success with their 1979 hit single "Video Killed the Radio Star" and acquired Brian Lane as their new manager, since he was also responsible for Yes. With the two groups working from the same office, Lane asked Horn and Downes, both fans of Yes, to contribute a song for the trio. Downes and Horn were invited to Squire's Virginia Water mansion New Pipers where Horn presented the song by singing while playing guitar to him. Squire remarked that his voice was similar to Anderson's[5] and invited both musicians to Yes rehearsals, which Downes characterised as "a bit directionless, because they were rehearsing as a three piece [...] you can only go so far as a rhythm section".[1] Together, the five of them developed the Buggles song, which became "We Can Fly from Here".[6] Meanwhile, the Buggles weren't informed of Anderson's departure, and were confused by his absence; Squire didn't answer them and they only found out about the situation by the point that they were being pushed to record the song.[1] Feeling Horn and Downes were suitable replacements, Squire convinced Howe and White to let them join. Lane announced the idea to Ahmet Ertegun, then president of Atlantic Records, the band's label, who flew to London to assess the situation and see if the new formation was commercially viable. Ertegun approved, thus giving the green-light for a new album.[6]



Drama was recorded in approximately three months at Townhouse Studios with each band member credited for its production and Hugh Padgham, Gary Langan, and Julian Mendelsohn as recording engineers. The sessions began with Eddy Offord, Yes' former engineer and producer from 1970 to 1974, but several issues resulted in his departure as the album was being made;[7] Downes said Offord "left in strange circumstances. It was a fraught and manic time",[8] but remained credited as producer of the backing tracks.[9] The music was put together in several locations; Howe recorded some of his guitars at RAK Studios[10] and Chalk Farm and other parts of the album were recorded at Sarm East Studios.[8] Howe recorded all his parts in 2 weeks, saying "I had total freedom. I went away and recorded 90 percent of the guitars on my own in a London studio and went back and presented it to the band. At first, people said 'Your guitars sound too bright and treble-y.' I said 'No, shut up and use them' [laughs]".[11] Horn spoke about his efforts to get the album finished: "I got married and two hours later, I was back in the studio. [We decided that] for our honeymoon, we were going to spend two weeks in Miami Beach ... it ended up as three days in Bournemouth and Steve came along, we had a good time actually". Horn and Howe went on to do the album's mixdown by themselves.[12]


The Drama lineup, left-to-right: Steve Howe, Geoff Downes, Alan White, Chris Squire and Trevor Horn.

The album opens with the ten-minute "Machine Messiah" which, according to Horn, was written in one day.[13] It features some guitar riffs from Howe that reporter and critic Chris Welch described as "unexpectedly heavy metal".[8] White called the song his "baby", putting together much of its structure and rhythm. Squire found some of its passages difficult to play on his bass and thought it was more suited for keyboards, but was encouraged by White to master his parts. Downes rates the track highly, citing its various sections and mood changes.[14] When he was composing his keyboard parts for the song, Downes included an arpeggiated segment from the Toccata fifth movement of Symphony for Organ No. 5 by Charles-Marie Widor, a piece that he was familiar with from his youth.[15]

"White Car", recorded in one afternoon, originated from Downes who wrote the music inspired by watching Horn drive his car at the time, a white Stingray, which was given to him by his record company. Horn proceeded to write the lyrics based on pop figure Gary Numan who used to perform with his face painted white, something which is referenced in the lyric "Move like a ghost on the skyline".[13] Downes only played a Fairlight CMI synthesiser on the recording, to test its sampling capabilities: "I tried to simulate an orchestra using these samples, but it was very early days of digital sampling. The bandwidth was very narrow, but that's what gave it all that characteristic 'crunch factor'. We then added the vocoder and Trevor's vocal to the mix".[16]

"Does It Really Happen?" originated from the 1979 Paris sessions, with White coming up with its drum pattern. A version featuring Anderson singing a different set of lyrics was recorded, but it was shelved until it was developed further when Horn and Downes joined and made additions to the song. Horn and Squire wrote new lyrics.[13]

"Into the Lens" was originally completed by Horn and Downes before they joined the group, but Squire took a liking to it and wished to re-arrange it as a Yes track.[17] The track features Downes using a vocoder, further highlighting the band's new sound.[18] A version recorded by Horn and Downes only was later released on the second Buggles album, Adventures in Modern Recording (1981), with the title "I Am a Camera".

"Run Through the Light" features Howe playing a Les Paul guitar, "in the background being very melancholy" with Squire playing a piano and Horn playing bass, something which Horn did not particularly wish to do but Squire convinced him to perform. "I didn't quite know what to play on it ... one day we spent twelve hours playing and working the final bass part".[17] A different version of the song was recorded with Anderson.

"Tempus Fugit" was another song sketched out by the Squire, Howe and White trio in late 1979. Its title is an English translation of "time flies" in Latin. According to Howe, its name was derived from Squire's habit of arriving late to places.[17]

The group produced additional tracks that remained incomplete, but were performed during their 1980 tour: "We Can Fly from Here" and "Go Through This". Recordings of each were released as part of the live compilation album The Word is Live, in 2005. The former was used and expanded into a 20-minute suite on Yes's 2011 studio album, Fly from Here. A third track, "Crossfire", was later included on In a Word: Yes (1969–).

Sleeve design[edit]

The album's sleeve was designed by Roger Dean, his first design for a Yes album since Relayer in 1974. When Dean was commissioned to work on the project, he knew of the album's title before working on it and adopted "an intuitive approach" to complete it. His previous work was known for its fantasy and mysticism, but this time he made a conscious effort not to do so with things "that you couldn't see in the world today. Maybe they're being shuffled around a bit, but it's not in any degree fantastic".[19] He expressed a particular interest in illustrating a storm adorned sky, with "the light playing across the landscape, so there were some bits that jumped out and very stark and bright, and other bits that are very dark – black on dark grey". Dean summarised that "there was a lot going on" on the final cover, incorporating various elements and "stirred it up ... they came out in a way I guess that training and good luck worked together".[20] In 2013, Dean spoke fondly of his design, ranking it as one of his favourite paintings.[19]


Drama was released on 18 August 1980.[10] It reached No. 2 in the UK and No. 18 in the US,[8] the band's lowest charting studio release since The Yes Album (1971), which peaked at No. 40. "Into the Lens" was released as the album's sole single in 1980. The band shot music videos for "Into the Lens" and "Tempus Fugit", both of them mimed live performances with minimal visual effects.

The album has been reissued several times; the first was in 1994 by Atlantic Records. In 2004, Rhino Records issued a remastered edition with several previously unreleased tracks, including some from the band's sessions from Paris in late 1979.


Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3/5 stars[21]
Pitchfork 7.0/10[22]
Rolling Stone (1980) (Favourable)[23]

In a 1980 review, Rolling Stone picked out "Machine Messiah", "Tempus Fugit", and "Into the Lens" as stand out tracks. It noted the addition of Horn and Downes in the band "has not substantially altered the Yes sound, image or presentation. The high vocals, symphonic arrangements, and quasi-mystical lyrics are still there". It pointed out the "fresh new spirit" of the group's playing, though commented that the Buggle's hit single "Video Killed the Radio Star" is more memorable than the album itself.[23] Music critic Rick Johnson thought the group have come up with a consistent album, summarising it as "fairly solid stuff".[24] In a retrospective review for AllMusic, Paul Collins rates the album three stars out of five, writing: "It rocks harder than other Yes albums" and a "harbringer of Yes and Asia albums to come" throughout the 1980s. He points out Squire's "emboldened" and "aggressive" bass playing with White's drums, and Howe's "more metallic" approach. Collins picks out "Machine Messiah" and "Tempus Fugit" as the album's best tracks within an album of promising material.[21] Anderson felt the album was "not my idea of Yes" and did not represent what the band "truly is", but was open to rehearsing songs from the record during his later tenures in the group, though his suggestions were declined.[18]

Tour and live performance[edit]

"We could have told audiences they might want to take their tickets back because the band had changed, or just go ahead and do it, and see what happened. So we opted to do that."

Chris Squire on the band's 1980 tour.[25]

Yes toured Drama with a two-leg concert tour of North America and the UK[26] from August to December 1980. Trevor Horn faced issues with nervousness, as he had never done large-scale touring before, and with his voice, which gradually strained as the tour progressed, due to Squire's refusal to change the keys of Yes' repertoire, heavily defined by high vocals.[1] Much of the North American leg was a success despite little announcement of the band's line-up change. The tour included three sold out shows at Madison Square Garden in New York City, where the band were awarded a commemorative award for selling out the venue sixteen consecutive times since 1974.[27] However, the UK leg saw some audience members express their anger with the new band by shouting at Horn and Downes.[8] At its conclusion, Horn stepped down from vocal duties and began a career in producing (including producing the band's next album), Howe and Downes formed Asia, and Squire and White continued to write together, eventually forming Cinema with Trevor Rabin which led to the development of the next Yes album, 90125 (1983).

Yes did not revisit songs from Drama until their 2008–09 and 2015 tours. For their 2016 European tour, the album was performed in its entirety for the first time, in track order. Horn sang "Tempus Fugit" with the band on stage on their Oxford and London dates.[28]

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1980) Peak
German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[29] 50
Dutch Albums (MegaCharts)[30] 18
French Albums (SNEP)[31] 21
Swedish Albums (Sverigetopplistan)[32] 19
Norwegian Albums (VG-lista)[33] 11
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[34] 44
UK Albums (OCC)[35] 2
US Billboard 200[36] 18

Track listing[edit]

All songs by Geoff Downes, Trevor Horn, Steve Howe, Chris Squire and Alan White, except where noted.

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "Machine Messiah"   10:27
2. "White Car"   1:21
3. "Does It Really Happen?[a]"   6:34
Side two
No. Title Length
1. "Into the Lens"   8:33
2. "Run Through the Light[b]"   4:43
3. "Tempus Fugit"   5:15

2004 CD reissue[edit]


Credits are adapted from the 1980 and 1994 issues of the album.[9][10]

Yes - production, arrangements


  1. ^ A reworking of the Tormato era "Everybody's Song", to which Jon Anderson contributed a base vocal melody and some verses that were kept for this version, uncredited.
  2. ^ Besides uncredited Anderson vocal melodies and early draft lyrics for the chorus, this song also features reworked vocal melodies and lyrics from "Radar Angels", a song from Star to Star, by Buggles precursor Chromium, credited to Downes, Horn and Alex Everitt.
  3. ^ Reworked as "Go Through This" and performed on the Drama tour. A live recording is included on The Word is Live.
  4. ^ Reworked by Squire and White with XYZ as "Telephone Secrets" (also known as "Telephone Lies").
  5. ^ Early version of "Run Through the Light", with an earlier draft of lyrics and unused keyboard parts.
  6. ^ Wakeman reworked some of his parts for the solo song "Maybe '80" on Rock 'n' Roll Prophet. Anderson did the same for the solo song "Some are Born" on Song of Seven.
  1. ^ a b c d "The Prog Rock Years". Rock Family Trees. 2 October 1998. BBC Television. BBC Two. 
  2. ^ Price, Tim (7 August 2014). "Interview: Alan White. Yes Drummer.". RockShot. Retrieved 1 May 2016. 
  3. ^ "Ask YES – Friday 19th April 2013 – Alan White". Yesworld. Yes '97. Retrieved 1 May 2016. 
  4. ^ Welch 2008, p. 186.
  5. ^ Horn, Trevor (2011). "The Making of Fly from Here" bonus documentary on extra disc for the album Fly from Here. 2:23–3:12. (DVD). Frontiers. FR CDVD 520. 
  6. ^ a b Welch 2008, p. 190.
  7. ^ Morse 1996, p. 69.
  8. ^ a b c d e Welch 2008, p. 191.
  9. ^ a b Drama (Media notes). Atlantic Records. 1980. K 50736. 
  10. ^ a b c Drama (1994 Reissue) (Media notes). Atlantic Records. 1994. 7567-82685-2. 
  11. ^ Prasad, Anil (2012). "Steve Howe - Into the Storm". Innerviews. Retrieved 30 April 2016. 
  12. ^ "Ask YES – Friday 17th May 2013 – Steve Howe". Yesworld. Yes '97. Retrieved 30 April 2016. 
  13. ^ a b c Morse 1996, p. 71.
  14. ^ Morse 1996, p. 70.
  15. ^ Scheijen, Michel (18 December 2011). "INTERVIEW WITH GEOFF DOWNES (YES, ASIA, THE BUGGLES), 21-NOV-11". Lazy Rocker. Retrieved 30 April 2016. 
  16. ^ "Ask YES – Friday 5th April 2013 – Geoff Downes". Yesworld. Yes '97. Retrieved 30 April 2016. 
  17. ^ a b c Morse 1996, p. 72.
  18. ^ a b Reed, Ryan (18 August 2015). "35 Years Ago: Yes Regroup With New Members for 'Drama'". UltimateClassicRock. Retrieved 4 March 2016. 
  19. ^ a b "Roger Dean Discusses the Drama Sleeve". SoundCloud. 2013. 
  20. ^ Tiano, Mike (3 September 2008). "Conversation with Roger Dean". Notes from the Edge #308. Retrieved 4 March 2016. 
  21. ^ a b Yes - Drama. 'AllMusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 6 October 2013.
  22. ^ Pitchfork
  23. ^ a b "Pop: Yes: Drama, Atlantic SD16019.". Billboard. 28 August 1980. 
  24. ^ Popoff 2016, p. 87.
  25. ^ Welch 2008, p. 194.
  26. ^ Welch 2008, pp. 197–198.
  27. ^ Welch 2008, p. 197.
  28. ^ "Trevor Horn to join Yes on stage at Royal Albert Hall". Interactive Guitar Magazine. 2016. 
  29. ^ "Longplay-Chartverfolgung at Musicline" (in German). Musicline.de. Phononet GmbH. Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  30. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – Yes – Drama" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  31. ^ "Lescharts.com – Yes – Drama". Hung Medien. Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  32. ^ "Swedishcharts.com – Yes – Drama". Hung Medien. Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  33. ^ "Norwegiancharts.com – Yes – Drama". Hung Medien. Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  34. ^ "Charts.org.nz – Yes – Drama". Hung Medien. Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  35. ^ "Yes | Artist | Official Charts". UK Albums Chart Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  36. ^ "Yes – Chart history" Billboard 200 for Yes. Retrieved 23 February 2016.