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TRIBUTE: Alan White (Yes)

The 4th of September 1972 is a date of great personal significance to me as that night I went to my first ever gig. My father had taken me and my best pal Dave from our homes in East Kilbride the ten miles or so to the Kelvin Hall in Glasgow in his green Hillman Avenger. Performing there that evening were the progressive rock band Yes, supporting the recent release of their fifth studio album, Close To The Edge. The band had already played 18 shows in North America throughout July and August and Glasgow was now the second date on the UK leg of that tour which would then zig-zag back and forth across continents before concluding at West Palm Beach in Florida more than six months later.

The drummer on that tour, and more than 3000 other shows with Yes in three separate stints with the band (1972–81, 1983–2004, 2008–22), was Alan White who has sadly passed away. His wife Gigi confirmed the news on his Facebook page: “Alan White, our beloved husband, dad, and grandpa, passed away at the age of 72 at his Seattle-area home on May 26, 2022, after a brief illness.”

She continued, “Throughout his life and six-decade career, Alan was many things to many people: a certified rock star to fans around the world; band mate to a select few, and gentleman and friend to all who met him.”

Following Bill Bruford’s departure in the summer of 1972 to join fellow prog-rock band King Crimson, Alan White was invited to join Yes before the commencement of the Close To The Edge tour. White, who had already served with distinction in Billy Fury’s backing band and the Plastic Ono Band – he had also played drums on John Lennon’s solo album Imagine (as well vibraphone on the song ‘Jealous Guy’) plus on another former member of The Beatles, George Harrison’s opus, the 1970 triple album, All Things Must Pass. Notwithstanding this extensive experience, White had only three days in which to learn Yes’s repertoire before embarking upon that tour almost 50 years ago.

I was to see Alan White and Yes once more, in 2003 at Glastonbury Festival on what was then called the Jazz Stage, but nothing would ever compare to that experience of seeing him, Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Chris Squire, and Rick Wakeman together on that stage at the Kelvin Hall nearly half a century ago. I can remember it as if it were yesterday. They came on to the sound of Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite’ and launched straight into ‘Siberian Khatru’, the last song from Close To The Edge (there were only three songs on the record!). They finished some two hours later with an encore of ‘Yours Is No Disgrace’.

It is an often-overwrought, and invariably inaccurate phrase in which to describe any event, but for me this concert was life-changing. Thank you, Alan White, for being part of that experience. Rest In Peace.

Photo of Alan White, flanked by Steve Howe and Jon Anderson at Glastonbury Festival in 2003: Simon Godley

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.