PASSPORT: JON ANDERSON
Sharing the stage with troops and inviting the local birds to sing is all in a day's work for the Yes lead singer
Sunday 22 August 1999
I started travelling with my original band in the 1970s, but that was mostly touring around the UK. The first time that I really felt like I was going anywhere was when I travelled to Morocco on holiday. I spent three weeks in Marrakesh. It was 1973 and everyone we passed asked us into their houses for tea, served in their best silver sets with the goats and other livestock hiding under the table.
One of the worst things about touring is that you never see the cities you play in, aside from the venue and the airport. But you get used to it and I generally enjoy life on the road. I am very nomadic. I was rehearsing recently and my producer said to me "Oh, it's 4pm. I've got to go pick up my kids", and I thought "Wow, you have a normal life". I have been nomadic since my early twenties and my children, sadly, went away to school and didn't tour with me.
The most rock and roll moment that I've experienced was at a gig called Rocking Rio, in Brazil. We played to 200,000 people. We were very commercially successful at that point with the song "Owner of a Lonely Heart", and the crowd just went nuts. I ran to the side of the stage and asked someone to find me a Brazilian flag and they brought me one that was about 10ft by 10ft. So I ran around the stage waving this giant flag thinking: "I'm a rock 'n' roll star, I'm a rock 'n' roll star." The partying afterwards was wild.
I love salsa clubs and I can't wait to get off the plane and into a club to dance. I had a good degree of anonymity in Brazil, so I could just get on with having fun.
Argentina was the scariest place to play in. We were the first band to play there after the war and we received various threats that we were going to be blown up. We had to be escorted into the country. We played in a stadium surrounded by some 5,000 troops with guns. As I walked on stage the bass player said: "Well, you know who they are going to shoot first." So, I spent the entire gig leaping around the stage. I didn't stand still. Ironically, watching it on video afterwards we agreed that it was one of the best shows we ever did.
We travel around mostly by bus. Private jet is somewhat out of our league financially. It's also much quicker to travel by bus, in the US at least. The thing that amazes me about touring is that, wherever we go, no matter how small the towns, there are always small pockets of Yes fans, some of whom have been waiting 20 years to see us.
My before-show ritual, no matter where I am, is to fast and not to speak for three hours before the show. When I was fasting in Hawaii, I met this fantastic 80-year-old woman who took me to a mountain to teach me how to sing to the fairies. She could communicate through song to beings in other dimensions.
In fact my favourite destination is Hawaii. It's a very magical place and is the heart chakra of the planet. I have been interested in this sort of thing for about 10 years, but with regard to my music I guess the album Earth Mother Earth is the most influenced by my interests. It features birds as backing singers. I was recording in a bird sanctuary in Maui and the birds started singing with me. It was the most bizarre thing, but the doves would not come in until the middle eight.
Jon Anderson is lead singer of Yes. The group's new album, 'The Ladder', will be released on Eagle Records on 20 September.
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