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Jon Anderson, Rick Wakeman share memories of Yes’ ‘Fragile’ album, released in the US 50 years ago today


Today marks the 50th anniversary of the U.S. release of Yes‘ classic fourth studio album, Fragile.

Fragile was the U.K. prog-rock band’s highest-charting album on the Billboard 200, peaking at #4, and featured several of the group’s most enduring tunes, including “Roundabout,” “Long Distance Runaround” and “Heart of the Sunrise.”

“Roundabout,” of course, is widely considered the group’s signature song, and an edited version of the tune reached #13 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it Yes’ second most successful single after 1983’s chart-topping “Owner of a Lonely Heart.”

Founding Yes frontman Jon Anderson, who co-wrote “Roundabout” with guitarist Steve Howe, recalls that the idea for the song came about as the band was driving in its tour van through Scotland. Anderson tells ABC Audio that the lyric “mountains come out of the sky” was inspired by the fact that “you couldn’t see the top of the mountains because the clouds were so low.”

He adds, “And then the lakes. You know, you come to Loch Lomond, and all that…energy of Scotland. That’s why if you listen to the solo, it’s a…like a Scottish reel.”

Fragile was the first Yes album to feature keyboard whiz Rick Wakeman, who replaced founding member Tony Kaye. Wakeman tells ABC Audio that he has fond memories of working on Fragile because he loved the collaborative way some of the album’s long pieces — such as “Heart of the Sunrise” and “South Side of the Sky” — were created.

“We used to spend one month, two months all together in a rehearsal room, throwing ideas at each other, and that’s how the music got put together,” Rick notes. “And it’s how…the best Yes music, in my mind, was always put together.”

Here’s the full Fragile track list:

Side One
“Cans and Brahms” (instrumental)
“We Have Heaven”
“South Side of the Sky”

Side Two
“Five Per Cent for Nothing” (instrumental)
“Long Distance Runaround”
“The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus)”
“Mood for a Day” (instrumental)
“Heart of the Sunrise”

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