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
Chipping Barnet, London[1]
Died 7 March 2013(2013-03-07) (aged 65)
Chipping Barnet, London
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 professionally as Peter Banks, was an English guitarist, vocalist, songwriter and producer. He was best known as the original guitarist in the rock bands The Syn, Yes, Flash, and Empire. Former Sniffin' Glue and NME journalist Danny Baker and Big George are widely reported as having called Banks "The architect of progressive music".[2]


Early life[edit]

Banks' father was an optical mechanic and his mother a cleaner and he grew up in Barnet, North London where he attended Barnet Secondary School[1] and Barnet College of Further Education.[3] 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 started with The Nighthawks in 1963, and played his first concert at the New Barnet Pop Festival before leaving that band to join The Devil's Disciples in 1964.[4] The band consisted of Banks on guitar, John Tite on vocals, Ray Alford on bass and Malcolm "Pinnie" Raye on drums. They recorded two songs on an acetate, Arthur Alexander's "You Better Move On" and Graham Gouldman's "For Your Love" which would be a hit record for The Yardbirds one year later. These two songs can be found on Banks' archival album Can I Play You Something. According to Chris Welch, The Devil's Disciples used to play The Rolling Stones' first album in its entirety, just for the sake of it. About a year later, Banks joined The Syndicats, replacing their guitarist Ray Fenwick, who himself had replaced Steve Howe, who would later replace Banks in Yes.

Banks then formed a new band with ex-The Selfs bassist Chris Squire, this band being The Syn. They were joined by keyboardist Andrew Pryce Jackman, Steve Nardelli on vocals as well as Gunnar Jökull Hákonarson on drums. They recorded two singles, "Created By Clive"/"Grounded" and "Flowerman"/"14 Hour Technicolour Dream" both in 1967 before calling it a day a year later. Squire meanwhile joined friends Clive Bayley (rhythm guitar) and Bob Hagger (drums) in Mabel Greer's Toyshop, and Banks came to join that band. He briefly left the band, which was subsequently joined by singer Jon Anderson and then drummer Bill Bruford replacing Hagger. During that short period of time, Banks played with the band Neat Change, recording one single, "I Lied to Aunty May" with Squire on tambourine and chorus.[5] Banks then returned to Mabel Greer's Toyshop, and with the loss of Bailey and the addition of organist/pianist Tony Kaye, they started to write new music together, adding to a repertoire already including two songs already written, "Beyond and Before" by Anderson and Bailey and "Sweetness" by Anderson, Bailey and Squire.

Career with Yes[edit]

The members searched for an appropriate name, Jon would suggest Life and Chris would propose World but all would agree on Banks' proposition of Yes. 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,[5] 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, Kaye invited 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 Howe did not 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 Traveller" 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 projects, Banks supported Blodwyn Pig for a brief period in late 1970, replacing their original guitarist Mick Abrahams. He guested as session musician on an album by Chris Harwood, with other musicians like Dave Lambert of The Strawbs on guitar, Tommy Eyre on keyboards later with Rainbow, ex-King Crimson Ian McDonald on sax and flute as well as ex-Spencer Davis Group Peter York on percussion.

In 1971 Banks formed Flash and sessions began for a first album, with Tony Kaye guesting on keyboards.[5] 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.[5]

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.[5] Guest musicians included Akkerman, bassist John Wetton, drummer Phil Collins, guitarist Steve Hackett and fellow Flash members Ray Bennett and Mike Hough.[5]

Around the summer of 1973, Banks played with the jazz-rock band called Zox & the Radar Boys, including Phil Collins (drums) and his mate from the Flaming Youth days Ronnie Caryl on guitar, Mike Piggott (violin) 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 Empire, Banks, Foxx, and various other band members recorded three albums up to 1979.[5] Phil Collins played drums and John Giblin from Brand X played bass on their first album, Mark I. 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. In 1983, he played the guitar solo on Lionel Ritchie's well known ballad Hello, but his work was not credited. Banks made an appearance on Romeo Unchained, a 1986 album by Tonio K. He 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.[5] Only a keyboard player, Gerald Goff, joined him for his next album, Self Contained (1995).[5] 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.[5] 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.[5] In 2000, Banks put out a collection of his oldest recordings (many previously unreleased) called Can I Play You Something?.[5] 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.[6]

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.[7] 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).[8] 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."[9]


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.[10] He was 65.


With the Devil's Disciples
  • 1964 : You better move on/For your love - Single
With the Syn
  • 1967 : "Created By Clive" / "Grounded" - Deram - Single
  • 1967 : "Flowerman" / "14 Hour Technicolour Dream" - Deram - Single
  • 2005 : "Original Syn : complete history of The Syn 1967 - 1969" - Album
With Neat Change
  • 1968 : I lied to Aunty May - Peter briefly played with that band, and they recorded a single with Chris Squire guesting on back vocals and tambourine
With Mabel Greer's Toyshop
  • 1968 : "Images Of You and Me" / "Beyond And Before" / "Electric Funeral" / "Get Yourself Together" and "Jeanetta" also published on Peter Banks' albums "The Roots Of Yes" and "Can I Play You Something".
With Yes
Main article: Yes discography
With Flash
  • 1972 : Flash (EMI-Sovereign UK / Cleopatra Records US; reed. 1993 CEMA Special Markets, & 2009 Esoteric Recordings label + bonus track) Tony Kaye guests on keyboards : Hammond organ, piano and Moog Synths
  • 1972 : In the Can (reed. 1993 CEMA & 2010 ER + bonus tracks)
  • 1973 : Out of Our Hands (reed. 1993 CEMA & 2010 ER)
  • 1995 : First three albums were edited on CD on One Way Records
  • 1997 : Psychosync (1973 - live WLIR radio broadcast, ed. Blueprint)
  • 2013 : In Public featuring Peter Banks (Limited Edition Complete Live Concert 1973- AdequatEsounds)
With Empire
  • 1973 : Mark I Featuring Phil Collins on drums and John Giblin on bass
  • 1974 : Mark II
  • 1979 : Mark III
  • 1973 : Two Sides of Peter Banks - With Phil Collins, Steve Hackett, John Wetton, Jan Akkerman, Ray Bennett and Mike Hough.
  • 1994 : Instinct
  • 1995 : Self-Contained
  • 1997 : Reduction
  • 1999 : Can I Play You Something? (The Pre-Yes Years Recordings From 1964 to 1968)
With Harmony in Diversity
  • 2006 : Trying
Guest appearances
  • 1970 : Nice to Meet Miss Christine, by Chris Harwood Dave Lambert guitar, Tommy Eyre keyboards, Ian McDonalds sax & flute, Peter York percussions
  • 1971 : Electric Shocks by Roger Ruskin Spear, with Peter Banks on 2 tracks ("Blue Baboon", "Doctor Rock")
  • 1976 : With Love by Pete Townshend
  • 1978 : Puttin' on the Style, star tribute to Lonnie Donegan with Rory Gallagher, Elton John, Brian May & Ringo Starr
  • 1983 : "Hello" by Lionel Richie; uncredited session work
  • 1995 : Tales from Yesterday, Yes tribute album
  • 1997 : Come Together People of Funk, by Funky Monkey
  • 1999 : Jabberwocky, by Clive Nolan & Oliver Wakeman Rick Wakeman narration
  • 1999 : Encore, Legends, & Paradox, by Robert Berry and the drummer Trent Gardner, 10 songs from Emerson, Lake & Palmer, by 23 musicians ( Yes members (Banks, Khoroshev, Downes), Asia members (Wetton)
  • 2001 : "Guitar Workshop" (two solo tracks)
  • 2001 : Marked for Madness, by Michelle Young
  • 2002 : The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Clive Nolan & Oliver Wakeman
  • 2002 : Join Us in Tomorrow, by Funky Monkey
  • 2006 : "Return to the Dark Side of the Moon"
  • 2011 : Electronic Church Muzik, by Ant-Bee
  • 2011 : Muso & Proud, by dB-Infusion
  • 2012 : The Prog Collective
  • 2012 : Songs of the Century: An All-Star Tribute to Supertramp
  • 2012 : "Who Are You" – An All-Star Tribute to The Who
  • 2013 : In Extremis, by Days Between Stations
  • 2013 : Epilogue, by The Prog Collective


  1. ^ a b "Peter Banks Obituary". London: The Independent. 14 March 2013. Retrieved 16 March 2013. 
  2. ^ "Peter Banks: Original Yes guitarist dies aged 65". 13 March 2013. 
  3. ^ "Martyn Adelman interview at bondegezou". 2013. Retrieved 16 March 2013. 
  4. ^ "Close to the edge - The story of Yes" by Chris Welch
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Biography by Gary Hill". Retrieved 10 October 2009. 
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ "Peter Banks - Guitarist". Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  8. ^ "A Patented New Engine Platform | Grand Rapids Michigan". The Pulse Engine. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  9. ^ "10 Great Prog Rock Guitarists". 24 June 2008. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  10. ^ Original Yes Guitarist Peter Banks Dead at 65, Rolling Stone, 12 March 2013

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