Beyond and Before—The Formative Years of Yes

Peter Banks, with Billy James

Golden Treasures Publishing, 2002
Beyond and Before is both a very personal book and an insight into how a group works. In a crowded market, it's a worthwhile choice for the Yes fan, and an indispensable one for the Flash fan.

If you've read every other Yes book going and past interviews with Peter Banks, then many of the stories will be familiar, although Banks often offers a new twist to events. For the avid Yes historian, we get a bit more detail on some key events, like the formation of the band. Then there are some complete surprises too. But more than particular events, what I enjoyed about the book is a palpable sense of what the early Yes line-up were like, what lives they were living.

About half the book covers Yes, then Flash is covered in detail. The repeated failures of Empire end the 1970s, but the 1980s are rather sketchy. There is more on Banks' recent solo albums and session work and some of the biggest surprises come from Banks' view of the business behind today's prog rock scene. We also hear about the recent legal battles Banks and Kaye have had with Yes, although I had been hoping for even more details there.

Beyond and Before comes across as a tremendously honest book. Banks is up front about his deficiencies, about his fraught relationships in Yes and other bands, about the bitterness he felt towards Yes for many years. Banks lays bare his feelings down the years towards Yes in a frank, confessional manner at times. Billy James edited the book together from lengthy telephone calls with Banks and I think that comes across well as a very  conversational style to the book. However, this is a specifically musical autobiography: there are tantalising hints about Peter Banks the man rather than Peter Banks the guitarist. I wanted to know more about what is was like working with his ex-wife in Empire, more about his bouts of depression.

Also, as a personal view, the book can only give one side of the stories. It is Peter Banks' story, not the story of Yes, or even the story of early Yes. That can have odd results: I think the book actually tells us more about why Kaye left Yes than about why Banks himself did.

Henry Potts, 31 Jul 02; revised 1 Aug 02

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