by Ben Hogwood
Yesterday was a sad day for fans of pop music, with Alan White and Andy Fletcher, two members of Britain’s biggest and finest rock bands, sadly leaving these shores.
Alan White, drummer with Yes from 1972, died on 26 May at the age of 72. White was very different from Bill Bruford, who many fans would name in their fantasy Yes line-up, but he had an incredibly strong rock aesthetic in contrast to Bruford’s jazzier leanings. Both more then proved their worth as indispensable members of the group, with the often unsung White providing drums for landmark albums Going For The One, Fragile and Tales From Topographic Oceans. White also enjoyed session work with John Lennon and George Harrison in their solo careers.
A personal memory from seeing Yes live in Hammersmith in 1998 is that White was the lynchpin, forming an incredibly solid and dynamic rhythm section with Chris Squire, also sadly departed. The pair providing some unexpected funk to much-loved tracks like I’ve Seen All Good People. Here is the studio version:
The band’s new material in that decade was also notable for bringing out White’s rock attributes, as the opening track The Calling, from 1994’s Talk, illustrates:
The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus), from the Fragile album, shows White’s ability to underpin a track with the most unwavering pulse, no matter how tricky its rhythmic profile:
Meanwhile here is a track from 1974’s Relayer, a chance to appreciate White’s virtuosity and musicality:
Also announced yesterday was the sad death at 60 of ‘Fletch’, a founding member of Depeche Mode. The Essex group have been going for a remarkable 42 years, with Andy Fletcher an ever-present on keyboards. In a moving social media post yesterday, the band paid tribute to a much-loved friend:
Here are two stand-out performances from Depeche Mode’s early years, beginning with their first appearance on Top of the Pops in 1981 with New Life, from outstanding debut album Speak and Spell. This first incarnation of the band presented a new sound with synthesizers that was only just breaking into the mainstream, and the fresh faced pioneers were clearly enjoying their art:
By the time Just Can’t Get Enough came around, the band were regulars in the charts with a succession of brilliant pop songs. This one in particular has lasted the distance, introduced by a jabbing riff from the keyboard section that is a proper mind-worm! In both visuals ‘Fletch’ can be seen getting the most out of the music:
Finally a lesser-known example from the Mode’s singles back catalogue, the exquisitely shaded Everything Counts, seen here from the legendary Pasadena Rose Bowl concert in 1988, part of the 101 tour. Here, keyboards and an electronically treated oboe create some unusual and unexpectedly graceful treble lines: