As one of the leading thought provokers in the world of progressive rock, I’ve been researching the constructs of Siberian Khatru by “Yes” with my colleagues at the Institute here (yes, it’s the Institute of Progressive Rock).
We’ve wasted tonnes of taxpayers money in the process! We’re up to seven figures now and surely that’s money well spent? I suspect the NHS is fine, but haven’t looked to check. Head down on these matters etc.
We like that Siberian Khatru is written in the key of G major. We also like the four-measure phase. It really great that it consists of 3 bars in common time (4/4) and the final bar in 3/4. Nice touch!
However, when our massive brains are momentarily switched off here at the Institute, we actually prefer “Owner of a Lonely Heart” and “Leave It”.
We’re actually all quite crazy here in our white lab coats and pony tails! (sorry that was a momentary outbreak of emotion/expression – won’t be repeated)..
We assume Rick Wakeman works for you as a key adviser so we look forward to a well advised reply.
So please let us know what we should be analysing.. ..
Intertwit are currently attending a Progressive Rock Symposium on the Algarve. We will endeavour to answer your question as quickly and efficiently as a Bill Bruford paradiddle diddle as soon as we get back.
In the meantime enjoy this cover of the Dutch prog rock masters Focus classic Hocus Pocus by Marillion!
Dear Minor Twerp and lab rats, we’re back from the Poruguese symposium and boy are we refreshed about all things that rock progressively!
Siberian Khatru (Anderson, Squire, Howe)
Sing, bird of prey
Beauty begins at the foot of you
Do you believe the manner?
Gold stainless nail
Torn through the distance of man
As they regard the summit
Even Siberia goes through the motion
Hold out and hold up
Hold down the window
Hold out the morning that comes into view
River running right on over my head
“Siberian Khatru”, it’s a progressive rock cracker isn’t it? No obvious tune, a lot of fast fiddly bits and even the singer gets in on the act with a series of vocally acrobatic” do do duden’doodits”. As for the lyrics, well that’s classically impenetratable as you can see from the excerpt above. It may be about a Russian bird or a mountain. Or a type of sandwich. Lyricist and vocalist Jon Anderson reckons he made the word up himself so only the diminutive Lancastrian warbler knows the real answer…we suspect he was completely clankered on herbal medication or cough medicine at the time but that’s only an assumption on our part.
Virtuosity is the name of the game with “Siberian Khatru”. A deceptively bluesy riff lulls you in at the start before everyone piles in led by keyboard genius Wakeman. Chris Squire plays any melody line on his bass he wants until he’s brought back in line when Anderson starts his crooning.
We then get sitar, harpsichord and Steve Howe’s slide before a couple of guitar and keyboard solos and then all the “duden’doodits” appear just to prove that Andersdon can be as non 4/4 reliant as the rest of the band.
The song fades out at around 9 minutes because you suspect, like an oil tanker, they just couldn’t stop. The outro jam may have actually lasted for about 2 days or when the meter ran out…whichever was earlier. Remarkably though, it’s still the shortest song on the 1972 long player “Close to the Edge”.
“Siberian Khatru” is quintessential Yes in full flow at the height of their powers. It’s brilliant or it’s dreadful. It’s difficult to sit on the fence with prog really.
Fast forward to 1983 and Yes are enjoying an unlikely resurgence with the Trevor Horne produced hit (yes, hit!) album “90125“. Propelled by great songs and the superb musicianship of South African wunderkind Trevor Rabin, Yes we’re made relevant, vital and almost fashionable.
The Buggles frontman, Horne, gives the album a massive sound and it is only the Fairlight synth stabs and crashes which date the album to the 1980’s. Rabin is brilliant. His guitar is melodic, heavy and thrilling all at the same time. His vocals crisp and clear.
And yet, this is still Yes. Jon Anderson is still the lead singer so who else could it be? Squire’s bass lines still boom and dive and take their own direction at will. Tony Kaye and Alan White might not be Wakeman and Bruford but Yes are no weaker for that, they’re just more focused. They rock! And that’s why America took this version of Yes to their heart.
But as we say, this is still Yes. Virtuosity abounds just like the revered albums “Close To the Edge” and “Tales from the Topographic Oceans”. The band are on fire. You want tricky time changes? Then listen to “Changes”. It’s all over the place! It’s in 7/8 and 10/8! 7/8 and 10/8! Analyse that!
You want vocal harmonies and acrobatics? That’s why you love “Leave It” down at the Institute for Progressive Rock.
In common with “90125“, Yes always had great melodies in the early 70’s. You just had to search a bit to find it sometimes. Look back to 1971’s self-titled “Yes” album for instance. “I’ve Seen All Good People” could have been the bloody New Seekers at some points. “Starship Trooper” had equal parts widdle and equal melody in its gloriously epic 9 minutes.
And we still don’t know what Anderson is on about in his lyrics so nothing changes there. “Owner of a Lonely Heart” is probably about taking your chances when you can but the conclusion appears to be its better not to risk in the long run as you don’t want a broken heart. Whatever. It’s a great song.
All that Yes were doing with 90125 was progressing. Being truly progressive and not standing still. Mind you, 1987’s follow up, “Big Generator” was pretty pants.
What does this means to you lab-coated pony-tailed characters at the Institute then? Well you should of course should be embracing Yes through all their life cycles –even “Tormato”. Don’t feel guilty at liking songs with a melody and a chorus and a verse that are less than 8 minutes long. If it’s good, it’s good and although 3 time changes per verse are desirable it’s not always essential.
Intertwit hopes this helps you guys to keep up the good work lads and let’s hope you receive a lottery grant soon as we’ve got a feeling the tax dollars may not last forever.
Some times it is important to look into the present to understand the past. Rick Wakeman drives a high end, high powered German SUV which he says gives him plenty of room for his keyboards, with the back seats down if he is going for the full right angle playing style, while providing a comfortable ride.
It is clear that there is a hidden undercurrent of song titles and lyrics about the desire to have a freedom granting rugged 4×4 vehicle. In much the same way Volkswagen have found inspiration from the desert in their Toureg, and the less obvious tiger and iguana compression that is the Tiguan, and we won’t mention the Touran. All the above could quite happily be stories weaved into such classics as Machine Messiah or the bang on trend White Car. So when they switch to 4/4 there is every chance that Jon Anderson is subtly promoting the benefits of all wheel drive, though your guess is good as mine. The key changes do suggest the ability to remain in 4×4 mode for rough terrain or disengage the differential and improve your fuel economy on the open road. In fact many of their songs reflect the need to have as much control and power at your disposal to negotiate the varied surfaces, or the impenetrable lyrics of many, ok all, of their huge tome. While the accessible 90125 stands apart, it is a well guarded secret that the original title for the stand out hit, was none other than Owner of a Lonely Goat. Rabin’s lyrics were nobbled by the Horned one, but if you sing it with Goat rather than Heart it suddenly makes sense. Of course the goat is the ultimate off roader, so again, the theme runs strongly through their work. Expect Nissan to reveal the Khatru Hybrid very soon. Or the Nissan Goat.
I think that should provide enough material to develop a PhD or two for the Institute. Good luck, peace and love
Thanks for the additional answer Mr O’Brien. With regard to your “Owner of a Lonely Goat” theory can I ask whether the next line went
Much better than an owner of a broken goat?
Or did Rabin want something like:
Much better than an owner of a broken boat \ moat \ stoat?