Geoff Downes

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Geoff Downes
Geoff Downes 7060.jpg
Background information
Birth name Geoffrey Downes
Born (1952-08-25) 25 August 1952 (age 63)
Stockport, Cheshire, England
Genres Progressive rock, hard rock, space rock, new wave, electronic rock
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter, producer
Instruments Keyboards, vocoder
Years active 1974-present
Labels EMI America Records
Frontiers Records
Geffen Records
Universal
Associated acts The Buggles, Yes, Asia, Glenn Hughes, New Dance Orchestra, John Wetton, Icon, DBA (Downes Braide Association), GTR
Website Official website

Geoffrey "Geoff" Downes (born 25 August 1952)[1] is an English musician, songwriter, and record producer, best known for his tenures as keyboardist in the new wave group The Buggles with Trevor Horn, the progressive rock band Yes, and the supergroup Asia.

Born in Stockport, Downes moved to London to pursue a music career. In 1977, he formed The Buggles with Horn and enjoyed success with their first album The Age of Plastic (1980) which contained the worldwide hit single "Video Killed the Radio Star".[2] In May 1980, Downes joined Yes with Horn and recorded Drama (1980). After Yes disbanded in 1981, Downes helped Trevor Horn to produce a second Buggles album, Adventures in Modern Recording (1981) even if he doesn't really play on it, he only was involved in some sound effects on a few tracks. And he co-founded Asia with ex-Yes fellow musician Steve Howe, ex-King Crimson bassist and singer John Wetton and ex-ELP drummer Carl Palmer. He left Asia in 1986, rejoined in 1990, and released several solo albums and produced for several artists, including Mike Oldfield and the Thompson Twins.

In 2006, Downes reunited the original Asia line-up and rejoined Yes in 2011; he is currently a member of both groups. Since 1998, he has reunited with Horn on special occasions to perform songs from The Buggles. Downes entered the Guinness Book of Records for performing with a record 28 keyboards on stage in a single performance.[3]

Early life[edit]

Downes was born at Stepping Hill Hospital in, Stockport, Cheshire, the son of musical parents. His father was a church organist and his mother a pianist. He also took up the keyboards and played in a succession of local bands. He attended Stockport Grammar School before studying at Leeds College of Music. After graduating he moved to London, where he played sessions and composed advertising jingles.

Career[edit]

Early career, The Buggles, and Yes (1976–81)[edit]

Downes performing with Asia, 2006.

In the mid-1970s, Downes was a member of She's French, playing a Fender Rhodes electric piano and a Hammond organ. The band also included Jamie West-Oram on guitar and Hoagy Davies, the son of Rupert Davies, on Minimoog synthesizer.

In 1976, Downes met Trevor Horn while auditioning for pop singer Tina Charles' backing band, for which Horn produced a single called Don't come back in 1977, which was published under the name "Fallen Angel and The Tina Charles Band". Then they formed the short lived Chromium, with Anne Dudley and Hans Zimmer and recorded an album Star to Star in 1978. Then they continued to work together, eventually forming The Buggles, recording a worldwide hit single "Video Killed the Radio Star" in 1979. It was Island Records' first number 1 in the UK, and the video of the song subsequently became the first ever to be played at the launch of MTV on August 1, 1981.

The success of The Buggles led to Downes and Horn joining Yes for the Drama album and the associated tour in 1980. Downes was the first member of the band to have completed a music degree.

Asia and other projects (1981–2006)[edit]

Yes split at the beginning of 1981, and Downes subsequently joined forces with guitarist Steve Howe (from Yes), bassist/vocalist John Wetton (from King Crimson) and drummer Carl Palmer (from Emerson, Lake & Palmer) to form Asia. Asia was an immediate worldwide success upon the recording of "Heat of the Moment" and the release of their first album Asia in 1982; the album remained at number 1 on the Billboard album charts for a record 9 successive weeks.

In 1989, Downes was involved in the remake of Deep Purple's 1972 song "Smoke on the Water" to raise funds for the Spitak Earthquake victims. In 2009, Downes along with Tony Iommi, Ian Gillan and the former Wimbledon tennis champion Pat Cash, went to Armenia, and were presented with state medals from the President of Armenia for their efforts in the Rock Aid Armenia project.

In addition to recording and touring with Asia through more than three decades, Downes has also recorded a number of solo albums and collaborated with many other artists such as his then former bandmate John Wetton, former Deep Purple Glenn Hughes and Trapeze for a tour that produced the live album Welcome to the Real World, Ride The Tiger with Greg Lake, and a brief appearance on Kate Bush's ”Sat in Your Lap”. In 2005, he joined Yes drummer Alan White's eponymous band, White, on their debut album.

Downes has continued to release sporadic solo albums over the years, mainly under the name The New Dance Orchestra. They include the critically acclaimed 1986 double album The Light Programme, in addition to Vox Humana (1992), Shadows & Reflections (2003), along with a few others. He performed a sold out one-man show in 2003 at St Cyprian's Church in London, which was recorded using ambisonics technology[citation needed].

He has also worked extensively as a producer with such acts as Mike Oldfield, Thompson Twins and GTR. As a songwriter, he has written for Agnetha Fältskog of ABBA. He is also credited as a co-writer on the album entitled Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe (made up of former members of Yes in 1989); he is credited due to Howe re-using some musical ideas from Asia.

In recent years, Downes has teamed up with Wetton in a separate project under the name Icon. They have released three studio albums: Icon (2005), Icon II: Rubicon (2006), and Icon 3 (2009) and live album from their 2005 tour.

Reformed Asia, projects, and return to Yes (2006–present)[edit]

In 2006, Downes reunited with the original members of Asia for a series of tours that continued into 2008, releasing a new album of studio material, Phoenix (2008), with more shows performed through Spring 2009. Later in 2009, the original Asia toured the US supporting Yes, with him and guitarist Steve Howe doing double duty performing with both bands nightly.

In the autumn of 2009 the band went into the studio again to record another album. The Asia album Omega was released in April 2010, the band has embarked on a six-week US tour through August and September. A song, "Extraordinary Life" from their previous album, Phoenix (2008), was chosen as the trailer for US's biggest reality TV show America's Got Talent. Since 2011, Downes shares his time between YES and Asia, touring and recording with both bands.

In 2012, Downes teamed up with Chris Braide under the name "DBA" ("Downes Braide Association"). The result was an album, Pictures of You, released in Summer 2012 on Plane Groovy Records.[4]

While currently active with the original Asia, he has also finished three albums with Wetton on their side project Icon, and recorded a live DVD in 2009 to promote the release of their third studio album. The project included guitarist Dave Kilminster, Pete Riley, and Hugh McDowell. In addition, Downes is also working on television, film and production music for a London West End film production company, Original Production Music Ltd.

He released a further 'The New Dance Orchestra' (NDO) album in 2010 entitled Electronica and with vocals from Anne-Marie Helder. It features Downes's orchestral style of keyboard playing.[5]

On 28 September 2010, he reunited with Bruce Woolley and Trevor Horn as the band The Buggles, performing "The Lost Gig" to raise funds for the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability.

On 22 March 2011, he performed at the Roundhouse, London with Trevor Horn and Producers, along with Spandau Ballet & Alison Moyet to raise funds for a music charity for underprivileged children. The event raised over half a million pounds on the night.

On 31 March 2011, he was confirmed as participating in the recording of the new Yes album Fly from Here (2011), reuniting with them formally for the first time since 1980 and rejoining the band for an upcoming tour.[6] In May 2011, he rejoined Yes as the full-time keyboard player. In 2012, the band appointed a replacement vocalist, Jon Davison. The new Yes album, Heaven & Earth was released in July 2014.

In 2012, Downes completed work on an album with Chris Braide under the name of DBA (Downes Braide Association) called Pictures of You. The album will be released later in the year.

Downes has also worked with Asia on a 30th Anniversary album, XXX, released in 2012. Downes co-composed 9 of the 10 original compositions on the album with Wetton.

Influences and style[edit]

In an interview conducted December 2006,[7] Downes said the three players who had inspired him were Rick Wakeman (Yes), Keith Emerson (Emerson, Lake & Palmer) and especially Dave Sinclair (Caravan). In the same interview, he identified his favourite Asia tracks as "Only Time Will Tell", "Wildest Dreams", "Open Your Eyes" and "Voice of America". In an August 2015 interview, Downes said his favourite British band is King Crimson, with Journey, Kansas and Foreigner as his favourite American bands.[8]

Personal life[edit]

Downes has been married and divorced twice. He had two daughters, Christina and Alexandra, from his first wife, Norwegian former model Wenche Steen (Miss Norway in 1973). Alexandra died in February 2013.[9]

Downes has an older sister, Helen, and two older brothers, John Gordon and Andrew. He currently lives in Monmouthshire with his wife Martine Dorey.

Discography[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Gregory, Andy. International Who's Who in Popular Music 2002. P. 143. Routledge, 2002. ISBN 1-85743-161-8, ISBN 978-1-85743-161-2
  2. ^ Peel, Ian (1 January 2010). "From the Art of Plastic to the Age of Noise". trevorhorn.com. Retrieved 19 May 2013. 
  3. ^ Johnson, Brent (2011-09-08). "Interview: Geoff Downes of Yes". Pop-Break. Retrieved 2014-06-29. 
  4. ^ "DBA - Sunday News radio edit Geoff Downes and Chris Braide". YouTube. Retrieved 2014-06-29. 
  5. ^ "The official web site for Geoff Downes". geoffdownes.com. Retrieved 2014-06-29. 
  6. ^ "Heavy Rock - the playlist!: Yes: New Album "Fly From Here" Out In July". Heavyrocktheplaylist.blogspot.com. 31 March 2011. Retrieved 2012-01-03. 
  7. ^ "Geoff Downes - Asia Interview". Web.archive.org. 2008-04-19. Archived from the original on 19 April 2008. Retrieved 2014-06-29. 
  8. ^ http://www.bizjournals.com/atlanta/news/2015/08/06/a-q-a-with-geoff-downes-of-yes-asia-and-the.html
  9. ^ "Yes/Asia Keyboardist Geoff Downes’ Daughter Passes Away". Classichitsandoldies.com. Retrieved 2014-06-29. 

External links[edit]