by George Lenker, 3 April 2013, MassLive.com
Outside of certain musical circles, Alan White may not be the most famous drummer in the world, but he probably should be.
Along with serving as the main drummer for Yes after original drummer Bill Bruford’s departure in 1972, White also famously added the signature drumming to John Lennon’s “Instant Karma” as well as drumming on another Lennon classic you may know: “Imagine.”
Yes is back on the road, featuring shows where the band plays three entire albums: “The Yes Album,” “Close to the Edge,” and “Going for the One.” The band will play the MGM Grand at Foxwoods in Mashantucket, Conn. on Friday. (The band will return to the region on July 27 for a performance at Mountain Park in Holyoke). White took a few minutes from his schedule to talk about the current tour and his days playing with Lennon.
On this tour you’re doing three complete albums, which seems daunting. How is it working out so far?
We’ve been looking forward to the gigs each night. It’s been a task and there has been a lot of work involved in playing all three albums in their entirety, but everyone seems to be rising to the occasion and the band is playing exceptionally well right now.
Is doing three complete albums in one night more physically challenging or mentally challenging for you as a drummer?
Well, as a drummer I’m going to say it’s a pretty long show and none of us or spring chickens anymore. It’s a hell of a workout every night. The band has a very high standard of musicianship and you have to rise to the occasion every evening.
But was it hard remembering all the older songs?
Not really, because the bulk of the material we have played at different periods of the band, and some of them quite regularly. I won’t say it’s like riding a bicycle because no Yes music is that easy.
How did you guys come to choose those three particular albums?
It was quite an easy choice really because it seemed like it was kind of an obvious route to go for trying this experiment. A lot of bands have been doing similar things recently, but they say “oh we’re going to play an entire album,” but it’s only one album. But in keeping with true Yes nature, we’re playing three of them, of course. (Laughs.)
Yet probably her most well-known album, “Fragile,” is left out of the mix. Is there a reason for that?
The “Fragile” album is a little bit more fragmented than the other ones. It’s got little solo spots that are actually very close to the original performers. At the same time it has some very notable songs, which we do anyway.
I’m assuming you mean “Roundabout”?
Yes, we do “Roundabout” for the encore. We tried not to do it, but people complained. (Laughs.)
You played on John Lennon’s classic song “Instant Karma” which had some really innovative drumming, as far as pop music goes. Talk a little bit about that.
It was something I was working with as far as my thoughts about drumming at the time. You can play a groove but if you have a slight solo spot where the drums become dominant, there is no good reason why you should play it in the same meter as the rest of the song. So that’s why even though “Instant Karma” is a shuffle, when it comes to the drum breaks, I made them into rock ‘n roll drum breaks. And I guess that kind I left an impression in a lot of peoples minds. I also think (producer) Phil Spector liked what I was doing, so he mixed the drums pretty loud on that record.
That song was done in one day, correct?
Oh, it wasn’t even a day. It was done in about a matter of two hours. And I’m happy that that song, along with “Imagine” which I also played on, are two of the landmarks of John Lennon’s career.
What was it like working with John Lennon?
John was great. He would just turn around and say, “Alan I don’t know what you’re doing but keep doing it, it works exactly right.” (Laughs.)
IF YOU GO
Event: Yes in concert
When: Friday, 8 p.m.
Where: MGM Grand at Foxwoods, Mashantucket, Conn.
Cost: $45, $35 and $20
For more info: Call (800) 200-2882 or online at foxwoods.com