Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Peter Banks R.I.P.

Peter Banks, the original lead guitarist of Yes and founder of prog rock band Flash, died on 7 March 2013. The cause was heart failure.

Peter Banks was born Peter Brockbanks on 15 July 1947 in Barnet, Hertfordshire. He learned to play guitar and later banjo when he was still a boy. He eventually joined the band The Syn, which is where he met bassist Chris Squire. When The Syn broke up, Messrs. Banks and Squire joined Mabel Greer's Toyshop. Peter Banks left briefly to join Neat Change, then rejoined the band. It was at Mr. Banks' suggestion that Mabel Greer's Toyshop renamed themselves "Yes!" The band would later lose the exclamation point to simply become "Yes."

Yes signed with Atlantic Records in early 1969 and their first, eponymous album came out that August. While the album was not a huge hit on the charts, it received largely favourable reviews. Yes followed their first album with the album Time and a Word in 1970. It proved to be their first big success in the United Kingdom, hitting #45 on the albums chart. Unfortunately, songwriter and lead vocalist Jon Anderson's decision to use a full orchestra on the album would result in tensions within the band. Peter Banks opposed this decision and as a result he was asked to leave after the album's completion.

Following his career with Yes, Peter Banks worked briefly with Blodwyn Pig in 1970 and appeared on the band's album Getting to This. In 1971 he formed the band Flash with vocalist Colin Carter. Flash's self titled first album was released in 1972. It produced a minor hit for the band, "Small Beginnings," which went to #29 on the Billboard Hot 100. Flash released two more albums: In the Can in November 1972 and Out of Our Hands in the summer of 1973.

In 1973 Peter Banks released his first solo album, Two Sides of Peter Banks. That same year he formed Empire with singer Sydney Foxx, who would eventually become his wife. Empire released three albums: Mark I (1973), Mark II (1974), and Mark III (1979).  In the late Seventies and in the Eighties Peter Banks appeared only as a session musician or special guest on others' records.

In 1991 Peter Banks appeared once more with Yes during the encore at the 15 May concert at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, California. In 1994 he would appear the Yes fan festival called "Yestival." That same year he released his first solo album in over two decades, Instinct. In 1995 he performed the Yes song "Astral Traveller" for the Yes tribute album Tales From Yesterday. He released three more solo albums in the Nineties: Self-Contained (1995), Reduction (1997), and Can I Play You Something? (The Pre-Yes Years Recordings From 1964-1968) (1999). From the Naughts into the Teens he appeared as a guest on various albums. In 2004 he formed the band Harmony In Diversity, which released a single EP, Trying, in 2006.

Peter Banks has been described as the Architect of Progressive Rock, and it would be very difficult to argue that he did not have an influence on the subgenre. Mr. Banks' style could rightfully be described as classical guitar, with a subtle balance between delicate guitar work and outright grandiosity. What is more, Mr. Banks could switch between styles with ease, going from hard rock to jazz with no difficulty at all. While his successor in Yes, Steve Howe, may have become more famous than Peter Banks, it was arguably Mr. Banks who paved the way for most of the progressive rock guitarists who followed him.

1 comment:

jim marquis said...

Interesting biography. I just went to see Yes play a couple weeks ago here in Seattle. Awesome show.