Yes – Owner of a Lonely Heart

First Hit #1: January 21, 1984

We end one year, and begin another, with Owner of a Lonely Heart. I’m not sure if Yes was ever big in my house, and I’m actually pretty sure it wasn’t, but this still sounds a lot like my childhood. This is because I’m pretty sure that there was a game or cartoon that sampled this song – which also sampled Funk Inc’s Kool is Back, which is a cover of a Kool and the Gang song, so there’s a complicated lineage – specifically the bursts of synth that pop up on occasion. I can’t place where it came from, which makes it difficult to ferret out evidence, but I know I heard those sounds a lot.

But enough about me, what about the song? Well, as examples of prog going pop go, it may not be my favorite example but it is actually fairly solid. Jon Anderson always has had an unsettling voice to these ears, a kind of uncomfortable androgyny, but the song also has some lovely over-driven guitars and as mentioned before, it just brings back fond memories all around.

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2 Responses to Yes – Owner of a Lonely Heart

  1. RBerman says:

    That’s the danger of pop musis critique, as well as the allure of pop music in general: As the soundtrack of our lives, we associate songs of our youth with how we felt (for other reasons) at the time we heard them, and this biases our assessment of the music cum music. I find that each song of my youth is associated with one particular moment, out of the many different times I heard that song. For me, this song is associated with its appearance in a club scene on the Tron rip-off TV show “Automan” that ran for about five episodes. I’ll try to get past that for purposes of your blog.

    You’d have thought that a Number One single by a prog rock band would be a great time to talk about the genre as a whole, what with this being the only appearance at the #1 spot by any of them, as best I can remember. Even Rush never did any better on the U.S. charts as a band than Geddy Lee did as a solo artist, providing guest vocals for the novelty single “Take Off” on the album “The Great White North” by Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas, in their dim-witted Canuck alter egos of Bob & Doug MacKenzie. (How’s it going, eh?) Bands like Kansas, Yes, Rush, and ELP provided many a classic rock radio staple and stretched the boundaries of long form rock composition, selling out stadiums with a minimum of Top Forty play. They made it not-ridiculous for Jim Steinman’s five and six minute rock operas to get airplay, as we saw a few days ago with Bonnie Tyler.

    But no, instead of Yes’ sole journey to #1 being the best prog-rock song you ever heard, it’s something newer: The sample-based hit, mining an old recording not for a melodic hook, as memorably found in Enigma’s “Return to Innocence,” Primitive Radio Gods’ “Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth With Money In My Hand,” and The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony.” Rather, Yes producer/ sometimes member/former Buggle (“Video Killed the Radio Star”) uses a snippet of sample just as a texture– in this case, a jarring, cartoon-like sound effect. Beat sampling from old funk records would be a staple of hip-hop recordings for decades to come.

    The “90215” album, a reference to its Arista Records album catalogue number, was pretty much the end of Yes. Band members Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, and Howe would release an album under their combined names. That album was eponymous, but its number in the Arista Records album catalogue was 90216, as a way of saying, “We can’t legally call ourselves ‘Yes’ without Chris Squire and Trevor Rabin. But really we are.” The next Yes album was called “Union” but was really their version of the White Album, with different members contributing different tracks but not functioning together as a true band.

  2. Robert Berman says:

    So… what music news of the year didn’t dent the #1 spot in 1983? The main style bypassed was hard rock (e.g. Quiet Riot’s cover of Slade’s “Cum On Feel the Noize”, and especially Def Leppard’s “Foolin'” and “Rock of Ages”), but that’s nothing new. A dancer-turned-disco singer named Madonna made her presence known with three successful singles, as did Canadian roots-rocker Bryan Adams, but the future held their better days. U2 (“Sunday Bloody Sunday”) was still on the way up. Duran Duran and Journey had massive success (e.g. “The Reflex” and “Worlds Apart” respectively, among several others). New Wave was still big: The Fixx, Modern English, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Berlin, New Order, Talking Heads, Thomas Dolby, and Thomposon Twins all had a hit or two. But the biggest notable-by-its-absence-at-Number-One story of the year must surely be Cyndi Lauper, the quirky big-voiced belter from NYC who had five big hits including the now-classic “Time After Time” and “Girls Just Want To Have Fun.”

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