STEVE HOWE

22 March 2009

STEVE HOWE. It’s not just a name, it’s a question.  The question on all serious guitarists’ lips: Steve — How?

So I played guitar back in ’72 — I even played classical and some ragtime jazz stuff when I was a wee schoolboy.  Rock was pretty easy and blues wasn’t pushing me. Then I got into Yes.  Now there are guitarists that astound you, like Stanley Jordan or Mahavishnu John Mclaughlin, and there are guitarists that you appreciate — like Paco de lucia and Al di Meola or George Benson.  There are guitarists that you recognise as being influential — Page, Hendrix, etc.

But these are generalisms, canonical standards, well recognised axemen and guitar heroes. Blah, Blah, But — there are personal favourites for every guitar student.  Howe is up there for me.

I liked Genesis and someone at school said that I ought to give Yes a go as it was likely I would “get” them.  I did. Big Time.

I loved Yes immensely — although I have always refused to actually figure out the lyrics. For me the concept album is a no-go area; I simply do not need everything to link up as a complete work.  It doesn’t have to be rational or make sense; it’s music!

I noted that in Playboy charts and the like, Pastorius or Stanley Clarke would take first or second place for bass — but third tended to be Chris Squire of Yes — who used a PLECTRUM! *swoon*.  In drum charts, Bruford or White would be up there — and in keyboards, Wakeman or Moraz would be in the top few as well.

Yes was a supergroup — drums, bass, guitar and keyboards were considered by record buyers and muso journalists to be the best in their fields.

I adored Close to The Edge, and even liked Going For the One, but I drew the line with Tormato. I think, ultimately, apart from the live triple album that was Yessongs, the best for me has to be Relayer.

This was all pre-punk — and at a pretty dire time in general.  Yes offered escape — and Howe produced some of the most amazing guitar lines I have ever heard then or since.

Put it this way — I would imagine myself faced with a Yes track, and posed with the task of coming up with some guitar lines — and I would be done-for, flummoxed, bewildered.  But Howe did it — not only did he manage to come up with something, he came up with genius work.

It was so sublime, so wonderful, so complicated, so perfect, so … so… ah!

Words do Howe’s guitar work little justice.  He has been such a real influence on me as a guitarist — from not being afraid to wear the guitar high and angled (properly), to feeling that I could mix up apparently incompatible styles — country hill billy guitar in a pseudo classical piece etc.

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One of the very few guitarists I have actually learned note-by-note — Howe is a legend to me.  I learned Mood for a Day and Clap, but I would hear his sound sometimes when I plugged in — and I would play in his style and his shadow.

Maaan, I love that guy!

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One Response to “STEVE HOWE”


  1. […] album cover, and there was a great new interest in graphic design, logos, typefaces and fonts.  Yes had Roger Dean, Hypgnosis had Pink Floyd, the Grateful Dead had Mouse and Rick […]


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