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Trevor Rabin: All Colors Considered

By Published: November 26, 2012
Rabin moved from his London base to L.A., but things didn't go according to either man's plan. "It didn't work out," says Rabin, "ironically, because he wanted me to join a band and surround myself with big-name musicians to do this music. That was his vision, and I didn't want to do that. He said if we didn't see eye to eye, he would drop me, so he dropped me," Rabin says, laughing.

The big-name musicians Geffen had in mind were former King Crimson
King Crimson
King Crimson

/Family bassist John Wetton, former ELP drummer Carl Palmer, former Buggles/Yes keyboard player Geoff Downes and former Yes guitarist Steve Howe
Steve Howe
Steve Howe

guitar, electric
. The band would become Asia. It's difficult to escape the irony in Rabin joining Yes as its long-standing guitarist joined Asia. "It was a very funny scenario," observes Rabin.

Rabin provided the guts of the music for 90125, with Anderson adding lyrics. The album was an enormous commercial success, with the single "Owner of a Lonely Heart" going to number one in the American charts. In spite of the huge success and Rabin's assured place in Yes folklore, he was always ambivalent as to whether he would have preferred to present his music under the name of Cinema, without the established fan base that went with Yes. Time and distance have hardened his viewpoint. "I've come to the conclusion that I am disappointed," he states. "I would have preferred it if it had been called Cinema."

With Rabin's music, Yes was reborn in the MTV age, and the millions of units of 90125 shifted demanded a lengthy world tour. Rabin, however, almost missed the tour because of a freak accident. "My wife and I were on holiday in Florida. We were in a swimming pool when a rather large lady jumped in and impacted my stomach. I had to have my spleen removed and go through five-odd weeks of recovery. It was pretty strange, and the funny thing was it happened on my birthday."

Lots of funny things happen in Yes, but few as unlikely as the Union (Arista, 1991) recording and tour of 1991-1992, which brought together the old and new Yes, which at one point had seen two bands touring simultaneously while arguing over name rights. Two guitarists, two drummers, two keyboard players plus Anderson on vocals and the only ever-present member, White, on bass, toured North America, Europe and Japan on a revolving stage. With more managers and agents on board than musicians, it was almost Spinal Tap-like in conception. "I think that's where the Spinal Tap idea came from, but a lot of bands think that," says Rabin.

"There were good nights when we did pretty amazing shows," Rabin continues, "but creating a good relationship with Rick [Wakeman] was something pretty special. He's a very, very good friend."

A couple of years after the Union tour, Rabin left Yes to dedicate himself to composing film music. It's been a highly rewarding career move, but he still guards some nostalgia for the old days. "I miss the feeling of being on stage playing," he says, "but I certainly don't miss the travel or the hotels and the inevitable griping that goes on in bands. I can do without that."

This prompts the question as to whether Rabin has any desire to tour Jacaranda, music whose complexity would no doubt pose challenges to reproduce in concert. "We've been looking at possibly going on the road, and I've got some friends who I know could do justice to it, but I couldn't afford them," Rabin says without the slightest hint of gallows humor. "It would be difficult because it's not just three guitars hacking 12-bar; it's very specific parts, and some of them are quite challenging. They'd have to be integrated, and the sound would have to be right."

If Jacaranda doesn't tour, it will still remain a high point of Rabin's discography and his long, storied career. Of great personal satisfaction is the participation of his son, drummer Ryan Rabin, on a couple of the tracks. "Oh, it was amazing," enthuses Rabin, senior. "He's a really spectacular drummer. It took some time to get him on it, as he's so busy. He's got a band called Grouplove, which is doing phenomenally well; they've sold a couple of million singles, though it's not Top 40. It's kind of Beatles-type stuff, and there's some Creedence Clearwater Revival in there, too. It's pop music, but it's got band credibility to it."

Band credibility is something Rabin knows all about. Growing up in a South Africa riven by apartheid in the 1960s and 1970s, Rabin was not indifferent to the malaise that plagued his country, and one of his first serious bands, Freedom's Children, was, in 1972, openly anti-apartheid at a time when such a stance by white South Africans certainly wasn't the norm, and for good reason. "It was very unusual," admits Rabin, "particularly for a band that did quite well and was respected in the industry yet wrote these provocative songs. It looks pretty normal now, but at the time it was pretty dangerous."

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