Steve Howe has written his autobiography, and for a certain type of chap, it’s a jolly good read. He was involved in music from the mid-1960s, and has been known from 1967’s brief sparks, “Toomorrow” to the present, going through phases of stellar popularity (with all the private jets and decadence that implies) and stages of playing second and third division venues – sometimes in the same year; we find he played the Hollywood, then the Redcar, Bowl. He is a consummate professional, and seems to see it all as part of his creative gestalt, which is all for the good.
Though Steve Howe guards his privacy carefully, he is also endlessly making music both with the band(s), solo, and with many musical friends and family (including, tragically, his late son). It isn’t always easy; Steve damns with faint praise the rock and roll decadence and flippancy which compromised continuity in “Yes” line ups (with clear problems of consistent quality output from “Tormato” onwards). As a conscientious and serious musician, though he patiently approached his more mercurial colleagues, he clearly found Jon, Chris, Alan, and Rick’s various spiritual and chemical demons hard work. For similar reasons, John Whetton was also eventually unable to hit is marks when touring, and bad performances sabotaged “Asia”. He covers the brief “GTR” experiment, which again failed, perhaps because it was the wrong time for what it offered. He takes a hard look at some of the more recent Yes albums and the compromises they have involved, and reflects that it is unlikely there will be another “Yes” album, or a reunion of anything like the classic line-up. As many have noted before, a band is like a marriage, and if you can’t trust, rely on, or respect the other person(s) in the relationship, it eventually breaks down; if it’s been too tempestuous, this can be irreconcilable. From this I would say that if you like Steve Howe’s playing, buy his solo material, and if you like “Yes”, see the concerts for as long as they continue.
Steve Howe’s itinerary exhausted me, as he seems to have been travelling for work much of the half-century, and for him that includes lugging dozens of guitars. Back in the day, this included many jaunts across the pond on Concorde. Steve Howe, we learn, likes to travel to gigs by car, and this includes his many solo dates. He is also concerned that his guitars are kept safely (this is a man who famously bought first class seats on planes for his axe), and sometimes the person you most trust to deal with it is yourself, so may have them in the back of the motor. (I hope not when he tours with Yes, as I’ve seen him with what looks like a couple of dozen behind him on the stage.) Mercedes-Benz Estate’s, Bristols (steady on there) … at least those vehicles are reliable and solid, as he has been in a number of prangs and near-disasters. He is still endlessly travelling between the USA, Europe, South America and Asia, with only days home before back off. He must be perennially jet-lagged, and one does not resent him having his wife and family sometimes join him on the road, or doing it in style. I’m thinking about retirement at 59, but he’s still hard at work at 73. Clearly bifters, vegetarianism, and transcendental meditation keep him energetic.
Length of Read:Long
Might appeal to people who enjoyed…
Any rock autobiography, progressive rock, quality guitar, car, and aeroplane details.
One thing you’ve learned
Steve Howe is a bit of a petrolhead. He is also a reader of “Country Life”. He is also the one-man CEO of a very busy firm where he is everything. No wonder he keeps skinny.