#17 Yes – Roundabout
When Atlantic records needed a single from the “Fragile” LP, they didn’t even tell the band they were cutting the 8:29 album version to 3:27. The band first heard it on the radio when traveling between gigs and they weren’t happy about it… until it became a smash hit. Jon Anderson and guitarist Steve Howe wrote the tune, an ode to the many traffic circles they saw from the tour bus while playing gigs in Scotland. Anderson told SongFact that the single was, “totally wrong musically”. Probably true. But the complexities of tempo and the creative layering of acoustic and electric guitars resonated with listeners, who quickly found the LP version and only fell more deeply in love with the track.
At WVIC we loved it because of the reverse tape piano lick that opened the LP track. And, of course, any tune that ends cold offers a wealth of possibilities. Try dropping the opening of the Doobie Brothers’ “Eyes of Silver” over the last guitar chord. Same key.
“Fragile” was the first Yes album to feature Rick Wakeman on keyboards. His collaboration with Howe’s axe artistry kept our headphones on, long after we front sold the song to the audience. The production chops of Eddy Offord are front and center. You can hear echoes of Emerson, Lake & Palmer in the mix. Offord was making magic for that trio around the same time.
For the record, my edit clocked in at 5:23. It begins with Howe’s acoustics at tempo and cuts to Wakeman’s organ solo at about the point where the LP drifts back into the slow stuff. It’s not the 3:30 variety that Top-40 stations typically sought, but 48 years after I put razor blade to tape in 1972, it still sounds fresh to these aging ears.