I have found that as I get older more and more musicians that I admire are passing away. Whilst this is to be expected and happens in everyday life I still feel incredibly sad when a musician that I admire passes away no matter in many cases that I have never met them.
In the case of Peter Banks I was lucky to meet him and remain in contact with him until his death last week at the age of 65. The details of his death are not known to me and if I am honest that is not the important thing; it is however dreadfully sad that he has died at a relatively young age.
I first became aware of Peter when the first Flash album came out in 1972. I was not aware when I got the first Flash album that peter had indeed been a member of Yes in fact a founder member and had played in a band with Chris Squire called The Syn and also the pre Yes band Mabel Greer’s Toyshop”. I read about that once I started to dig a little deeper.
I first met Peter personally when the MD of the record company that had released the Yes album “Something’s Coming invited me down to London to interview Peter about the album. We met up at the appointed time to find that the record company offices were closed so we went to the pub and had a chat. I was immediately impressed with Peter’s knowledge of music and also his sense of humour.
When we finally got back to the office we recorded the interview the transcript of which will be in my forthcoming book of interviews with the various and many members of Yes. Peter was very honest about the album and also brutally honest about the lo fi nature of the album but explained that in those days no one really considered recording sessions that important and time was of the essence and you rarely had chance to listen to what you had recorded and once recorded it would be broadcast and that was basically it. This dissatisfaction also extended to the first two Yes albums and like the BBC sessions Peter admitted that he always heard the mistakes. He did however concede that the albums were what they were and overall he thought they were good
Some of the broadcasts contained on the album sounded very raw and Peter explained that he had recorded them himself “off air” hence the raw quality to the recording. For many Yes fans however these recordings were of immense importance as the early days of the band had only previously been represented by the two studio albums Yes and Time And A Word.
The conversation continued and Peter was happy to talk about Flash and his solo career. Following that meeting we remained in touch and met up occasionally, notably in late 1999 when Geoff Downes got married. We spoke on the phone and we were trying to arrange a time to talk about the pre Yes days and the first two Yes albums for the Book but Peter was very focused on the recording he was doing which presumably would have formed the basis for his next album. He was keen to talk to me however and I was hopeful that we could arrange something. Sadly that was not to be.
Peter seemed to be at least by the press regarded as the “Lost” yes man however the fan base certainly did not regard Peter as lost or even remotely missing and whenever Peter met fans he was always happy to talk about anything musical including his time with yes and was grateful for the fans interest in his work.
As I sit here writing this piece I am listening to the Yes version of Every Little Thing which has an incredible opening guitar work out from Peter. Really there was nothing like Peter at the time and in many ways there still isn't He was unique and as Steve Howe said in his interview about his early period with Yes following Peter’s departure.
“I really liked what he played and really he did set the scene for me very well because he was an quite an original guitarist and he did colour it with different styles”
It is however Peter the man I remember. I was thrilled to be mentioned in Peter’s autobiography which was published in the late nineties and in it Peter said some nice things about me and regarded me as a friend which was a nice thing to say
I will always remember Peter as a lovely guy with a cynical nature but the cynicism could be tinged with humour and Peter always had a keen sense of humour.
Nobody should be under any illusions about Peter’s contribution to Yes. He was a founder member and his guitar style and playing was a huge part of the bands original sound. Without him the band would have sounded an incredibly different.
Peter Brockbanks aka Peter Banks 15th July 1947-8th March 2013
Jon Kirkman March 2013
You can buy the three Flash albums and Peter's solo album The Two Sides of Peter Banks directly from Esoteric here
And you can watch an excellent and in depth interview with Peter here: