Peter Banks

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For the keyboard player Peter Banks, see the entry for the band After the Fire.
Peter Banks
Peter Banks.jpg
Background information
Birth name Peter William Brockbanks
Born (1947-07-15)15 July 1947
Barnet, North London, United Kingdom [1]
Died 7 March 2013(2013-03-07) (aged 65)
Genres Progressive rock, rock
Occupation(s) Guitarist, songwriter
Instruments Guitar
Years active 1966–2013
Associated acts The Nighthawks, The Syn, Mabel Greer's Toyshop, Yes, Flash, Empirə

Peter William Brockbanks (15 July 1947 – 7 March 2013, known as Peter Banks) was a British guitarist. He was the original guitarist of the progressive rock bands Yes and Flash. The BBC's Danny Baker and Big George often called Banks "The architect of progressive music".[citation needed]


Early life[edit]

Banks' father was an optical mechanic and his mother a cleaner and he grew up on Barnet, North London where he attended Barnet Secondary School[1] and Barnet College of Further Education.[2] When he was a young boy, his father bought him an acoustic guitar. As a teenager, he also learned how to play the banjo.

Early career[edit]

Banks and Chris Squire first met when Banks joined a group called The Syn,[3] also including Andrew Jackman (keyboards), who in later years became an orchestral arranger for some Yes, Chris Squire, and Yes successor guitarist, Steve Howe, recordings. The Syn only lasted until 1967,[3] but the group released two singles.

In 1968 Banks played briefly with the band Neat Change, recording one single.[3]

Squire meanwhile joined friends Clive Bailey (rhythm guitar) and Bob Hagger (drums) in Mabel Greer's Toy Shop, and Banks came to join that band. Banks left the band, which was subsequently joined by singer Jon Anderson and then drummer Bill Bruford replacing Hagger. With the loss of Bailey, addition of keyboardist Tony Kaye and Banks' return, the band took on a new name.[3]

Career with Yes[edit]

The members searched for an appropriate name, and Banks suggested they called the group Yes. All parts agreed that the name was not meant to be permanent, but just a temporary solution.

Atlantic Records took notice of the band and, in 1969, got them into a studio to record their first album, Yes. The next year another album was in progress (Time and a Word) but Anderson and Squire decided they wanted an orchestra backing the five musicians. The idea was not well received by Banks, and things got worse when the orchestral arrangements left the guitarist, as well as Tony Kaye, with little to do (strings replaced their parts almost note-for-note). Once the album was released, a tour ensued; Banks was asked to leave the group,[3] playing his last concert with Yes on 18 April 1970 at The Luton College of Technology. He was replaced by Steve Howe.

During Yes' 1991 Union tour, Tony Kaye invited Peter Banks to play during the encore at 15 May show at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, California, United States. Banks accepted the invitation and went to the show. According to Classic Artists: Yes, Banks was told by Kaye prior to the show that Steve Howe didn't want Banks to play at the show. Howe has since denied this in interviews on Notes From The Edge.

In August 1994, Banks was a featured guest at a Yes fan festival called "Yestival". In 1995, he performed "Astral Traveler" on the Yes tribute album Tales From Yesterday. In 1997, he coordinated the release of a Yes compilation titled Something's Coming: The BBC Recordings 1969-1970. His liner notes described his early days with the band. Banks was also present at "Yestival" in July 1998. In 2006, he was interviewed for the Yes documentary Classic Artists: Yes. A few music videos featuring him with Yes during their early days can be seen in The Lost Broadcasts DVD released in 2009.

Work with other bands[edit]

After leaving Yes, and while looking for some other musical project, Banks supported Blodwyn Pig for a brief period in late 1970, and guested as session musician on an album by Chris Harwood. In 1971 Banks formed Flash and sessions began for a first album, with Tony Kaye guesting on keyboards.[3] The record appeared in 1972 (called simply Flash) and had a warm reception. Subsequent to Kaye's involvement, Banks took the dual role of guitarist and keyboardist. Flash recorded and released its second album (In the Can) in November that same year; and the third (Out of Our Hands) in 1973.[3]

Parallel to that, Banks and guitarist Jan Akkerman became friends and started to play and record together. Banks also played on an album by Roger Ruskin Spear at that time. In 1973, not long after the third and final Flash release, Banks released Two Sides of Peter Banks.[3] Guest musicians included Akkerman, bassist John Wetton, drummer Phil Collins, guitarist Steve Hackett and fellow Flash members Ray Bennett and Mike Hough.[3]

Around the summer of 1973, Banks played with the jazz-rock band called Zox & the Radar Boys, including Phil Collins (drums), Mike Piggott (violin), Ronnie Caryl (guitar) and John Howitt (bass).

In 1973, while trying to form a second incarnation of Flash, Banks recruited musicians and fell in love with the singer Sydney Foxx (real name Sidonie Jordan). She soon became his wife. Named as Empirə, Banks, Foxx, and various other band members recorded three albums up to 1979.[3] Banks and Foxx divorced, although Empire remained together as a band for some time after.

Later work[edit]

The only released works of Banks in the second half of the 1970s were a number of session appearances, on separate albums by Lonnie Donegan and Jakob Magnússon. In 1981, another recording by Empire appeared. Banks made an appearance on Romeo Unchained, a 1986 album by Tonio K. Banks also worked with Ian Wallace in The Teabags, including Jackie Lomax on vocals and Kim Gardner on bass, the two played before with Tony Kaye's Badger, David Mansfield on guitar and Mel Collins on sax and flute. No recordings came out of that.

In 1993, Banks released Instinct, a solo album of instrumental tracks with him playing all the parts.[3] Only a keyboard player, Gerald Goff, joined him for his next album, Self Contained (1995).[3] In 1997, Banks was mainly responsible for the release of a double live Yes album, Something's Coming: The BBC Recordings 1969–1970 (renamed Beyond and Before in the US), a collection of appearances at the BBC during 1969 and 1970, featuring the original line-up in all tracks and with a booklet containing the guitarist's account of those early days.

Another archival release was Psychosync, a live Flash recording made in 1973 for the King Biscuit Flower Hour and finally released in 1998.[3] Also, between 1995 and 1997 all three Empire albums were released (one per year). Banks also collaborated in 1995's Tales From Yesterday (a Yes tribute album) performing a version of the song "Astral Traveller" with Robert Berry; appeared on the album Big Beats in 1997; and played on 1999's Encores, Legends and Paradox, an Emerson, Lake & Palmer tribute album. He contributed to 1999's Come Together People of Funk by Funky Monkey (including keyboardist Gerard Johnson who helped on a number of Banks' projects in the 1990s and who also worked with Banks' old bandmate Chris Squire).

Those collaborations filled the gap in his own recording career, until 1999, when the album Reduction was issued.[3] In 2000, Banks put out a collection of his oldest recordings (many previously unreleased) called Can I Play You Something?.[3] The front sleeve of this last record showed an eight-year-old Banks posing with his first guitar. The track listing includes some early recordings by The Syn, Mabel Greer's Toyshop, and Yes, including an early rendition of the song "Beyond and Before".

A short track in the latter collection was called "Lima Loop". This is because Lima, Peru, became a special place for Banks in recent years. Cecilia Quino, a Peruvian girl who was a Yes fan, met and later wed Banks. They married in Lima, where the bride's parents lived. They later divorced.[4]

Following an appearance by Banks and Geoff Downes together at the 1998 edition of Yestival (a Yes fan festival), the pair played some sessions and the possibility of Banks joining Asia was mooted. However, these sessions did not lead anywhere.

Banks has appeared in small concerts by new young local bands, including the Yes tribute band Fragile. Recent recorded appearances by Banks include Jabberwocky (2000) and Hound of the Baskervilles (2002), a pair of albums recorded by Oliver Wakeman (Rick Wakeman's son) and Clive Nolan. Rick Wakeman also narrates on the Jabberwocky album. Peter Banks has also guested further on the Funky Monkey project.

Banks was initially involved in a reunion of The Syn in 2004, but left the band.[5] After early talks in 2004, he was also not included in the current Flash reunion, which made their debut return at the Prog Day Festival 2010 with Flash bassist Ray Bennett taking over on lead guitar.

In late 2004, Banks formed a new improvising band, Harmony in Diversity, with Andrew Booker and Nick Cottam (who had been working together as duo Pulse Engine).[6] They played a short UK tour in March 2006, and released an album called Trying. Booker left the band soon after. He was replaced by David Speight [2] and the band continued to play further dates in the UK and Hungary in 2007. Banks was also planning a related project with keyboardist Gonzalo Carrera.

In Gibson Guitar's 'Lifestyle' e-magazine of 3 February 2009, Banks is listed as one of the "10 Great Prog Rock Guitarists." According to the article, "Before there was Steve Howe, there was Peter Banks. Artistic differences between Banks and singer Jon Anderson prompted Banks’s departure from Yes in 1970, but in his little-known '70s band, Flash, Banks used an ES-335 to create several should-have-been prog rock classics. "Lifetime", from Flash’s In the Can album, is his tour-de-force."[7]


Banks died of heart failure on 7 March 2013 at his home in Barnet, London. He was reportedly found after failing to show up for a scheduled recording session.[8] He was 65.


With The Syn[edit]

  • Original Syn (2005)

With Yes[edit]

With Flash[edit]

  • 1972 : Flash (EMI-Sovereign UK / Cleopatra Records US; reed. 1993 CEMA Special Markets, & 2009 Esoteric Recordings label + bonus track)
  • 1972 : In the Can (reed. 1993 CEMA & 2010 ER + bonus tracks)
  • 1973 : Out of Our Hands (reed. 1993 CEMA & 2010 ER)
  • 1997 : Psychosync (1973 - live WLIR radio broadcast, ed. Blueprint)
  • 2013 : In Public featuring Peter Banks ( Limited Edition Complete Live Concert 1973- CD Baby )

With Empire[edit]

  • 1973 : Mark I
  • 1974 : Mark II
  • 1979 : Mark III


  • 1973 : Two Sides of Peter Banks
  • 1994 : Instinct
  • 1995 : Self-Contained
  • 1997 : Reduction
  • 1999 : Can I Play You Something? (The Pre-Yes Years Recordings From 1964 to 1968)

Harmony in Diversity[edit]

  • 2006 : Trying

Guest appearances[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Peter Banks Obituary". London: The Independent. 14 March 2013. Retrieved 16 March 2013. 
  2. ^ "Martyn Adelman interview at bondegezou". 2013. Retrieved 16 March 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Biography by Gary Hill". Retrieved 10 October 2009. 
  4. ^ [1][dead link]
  5. ^ "Peter Banks - Guitarist". Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  6. ^ "A Patented New Engine Platform | Grand Rapids Michigan". The Pulse Engine. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  7. ^ "10 Great Prog Rock Guitarists". 24 June 2008. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  8. ^ Original Yes Guitarist Peter Banks Dead at 65, Rolling Stone, 12 March 2013

External links[edit]