15 July 1947
7 March 2013 (aged 65)
Peter Banks (born Peter William Brockbanks on 15 July 1947 in Barnet, North London; died 8 March 2013) was an English guitarist. He was the original guitarist of the progressive rock band Yes. The BBC's Danny Baker and Big George often called Banks "The Architect of Progressive Music". In Gibson Guitar's 'Lifestyle' e-magazine of 3 February 2009, Banks was listed as one of the "10 Great Prog Rock Guitarists".
When Banks was a young boy, his father bought him a acoustic guitar, and Banks showed unexpected devotion and ability with the instrument. As a teenager, he also learned how to play the banjo.
Banks and Chris Squire first met when Banks joined The Syn, which also included Andrew Jackman (keyboards), who in later years became an orchestral arranger for some Yes and Chris Squire records. The Syn only lasted until 1967, but the group released two singles.
In 1968 Banks played briefly with the band Neat Change, recording one single.
Squire joined friends Clive Bailey (rhythm guitar) and Bob Hagger (drums) in Mabel Greer's Toy Shop, and Banks came to join the band too for a time. Banks left the band, which was subsequently joined by singer Jon Anderson and then drummer Bill Bruford replaced Bob Hagger. With the loss of Bailey, addition of keyboardist Tony Kaye and Banks' return, the band took on a new name. The members searched for an appropriate name. It was then that Peter suggested they called the group Yes, a very short and positive word. All parts agreed that the name was not meant to be permanent, but just a temporary solution. Four decades later, the name remains Yes.
Atlantic Records took notice of the band and, in 1969, signed the band and rushed them into a studio to record their first album, named simply Yes. This included the song "Beyond and Before", a Mabel Greer song co-written by Bailey. The next year another album was in progress (Time and a Word) but Anderson and Squire decided they wanted an orchestra backing the five musicians. The idea was not well received by Banks, and things got only worse when the orchestral arrangements left the guitarist, as well as keyboardist Tony Kaye, with little to do (strings replaced almost note-for-note the guitar licks and parts Pete elaborated in the rehearsals). Once the album was released, a tour ensued; Banks was asked to leave the group, playing his last gig with Yes on April 18, 1970 at The Luton College of Technology. Some sources say that it was Anderson who, tired of Banks's reservations about the orchestra, accused the guitar player of being "indulgent" in the last recording sessions and shows. Another (coincidental) motive for Banks's departure was that Squire, Anderson and Bruford were not happy enough with their manager, Roy Flynn, a man who trusted the group and helped it to gain a record contract - something the band arguably seemed to take for granted. Kaye kept a shy defense of Flynn, but Banks, on the other hand had principles, and felt that releasing their manager was an act of betrayal and announced his disapproval. Flynn and Banks kept a long and collaborative friendship since then.
After leaving Yes, and while looking for some musical project to come his way, Banks supported the band Blodwyn Pig for a brief period in late 1970 and guested as session musician in an album by Chris Harwood. In 1971 he formed Flash and sessions began for a first album, with Tony Kaye guesting on keyboards. The record appeared in 1972 (called simply Flash) and had a warm reception. Subsequent to Kaye's involvement, Banks took the dual role of guitarist and keyboardist. Flash recorded and released its second album (In the Can) in November that same year; and the third (Out of Our Hands) in 1973.
Parallel to that, Banks and guitarist Jan Akkerman (of Focus fame) became friends and started to play and record together, privately, since 1972, for a joint album. Banks also played in an album by Roger Ruskin Spear in that time. In 1973, not long after the third and final Flash release, Banks edited Two Sides of Peter Banks (a clever reference to both personality and vinyl records), with an impressive array of guest musicians: Akkerman, bassist John Wetton, drummer Phil Collins, guitarist Steve Hackett and fellow Flash members Ray Bennett and Mike Hough.
Early 1973, Peter Banks played with the Jazz-Rock Band called "Zox & the Radar Boys" including Mike Piggott, Phil Collins, Ronnie Caryl and some others Musicians. Always in 1973, Trying to form a new version of his last group (a "Flash Mark II" as he said once), Banks recruited musicians and fell in love with singer Sydney Foxx, who soon became Banks' wife. As Empire, Banks, Foxx and various other band members recorded three albums until 1980, none of which saw the light of day until the mid-1990s. Banks and Foxx divorced, although Empire remained together as a band for some time after their marital separation. The only released work of Peter Banks in the second half of the 1970s were a number of sparse session appearances in albums by the likes of Lonnie Donegan (in his 1977 comeback record) and Jakob Magnússon (1979). In 1981, another recording by Empire appeared, but it is possibly what some call "a semi-official bootleg". Banks made a surprise brief appearance some time later on Romeo Unchained, a 1986 album by Tonio K. He also worked with Ian Wallace in The Teabags.
In 1993, Banks released Instinct, a solo album of instrumental tracks with him playing all the parts. Only a keyboard player joined him for his next album, Self Contained (1995), which confirmed Peter Banks as a true solo musician. In 1997, Peter was mainly responsible for the release of a double-live Yes set called Something's Coming (in the UK, being renamed Beyond and Before in the US), a collection of appearances at the BBC during 1969 and 1970, featuring the original lineup in all tracks and with a booklet containing the guitarist's account of those early days.
Another archival release was Psychosync, a live Flash recording made in 1973 for the King Biscuit Flower Hour and released 25 years later (in 1998). Also, between 1995 and 1997 all three Empire albums were released at last (one per year). Banks also collaborated in 1995's Tales From Yesterday Yes tribute album performing a version of the song "Astral Traveller" with Robert Berry, appeared on the album Big Beats in 1997 and played on 1999's Encores, Legends and Paradox, an Emerson, Lake & Palmer tribute album. He also lent a (guitar) hand to 1999's Come Together People of Funk by Funky Monkey (including keyboardist Gerard Johnson who helped on a number of Banks' projects in the 1990s).
Those collaborations filled the gap in his own recording career, until 1999, when the album Reduction appeared with similar style as his prior ones. In 2000, he put out a collection of his oldest recordings (many previously unreleased) called Can I Play You Something?. The front sleeve of this last record showed an eight year-old Peter posing with his very first guitar. The track listing includes some early recordings by The Syn, Mabel Greer's Toyshop, and Yes, including an early rendition of the song "Beyond and Before".
A short track in the latter collection is called "Lima Loop". This is because Lima, the capital of Peru, became a special place for Pete in recent years. Cecilia Quino,a Peruvian girl who was a Yes fan moved to the US many years before. Chatting on the Internet, she contacted Peter, and they began a cyber-friendship that ultimately led to their wedding. They married in Lima, where the bride's parents live, and Peter stayed in Peru for some months in 1999, being present when Yes played in Peru for the first (and only) time.
Following an appearance by Peter Banks and Geoff Downes together at the 1998 edition of Yestival (a Yes fan festival with many members or ex-members of the band attending), the pair played some sessions and the possibility of Banks joining Asia was mooted. However, these sessions did not lead anywhere.
Banks has appeared in small concerts by new young local bands of his liking, including the Yes tribute band Fragile. Recent recorded appearances by Banks include Jabberwocky (2000) and Hound of the Baskervilles (2002), a pair of albums recorded by Oliver Wakeman (Rick Wakeman's son) and Clive Nolan. He has also guested on Gerard Johnson's Funky Monkey project further.
Banks was initially involved in a reunion of The Syn in 2004, but left the band. He also turned down an offer to be involved in a Flash reunion.
In late 2004, Banks formed a new improvising band, Harmony In Diversity, with Andrew Booker and Nick Cottam (who had been working together as duo Pulse Engine). They played a short UK tour in March 2006, and released an EP called "Trying". Booker left the band soon after. He was replaced by David Speight and the band continue to play live, while Banks is also planning a related project with keyboardist Gonzalo Carrera.
In late 2004, Banks formed a new improvising band, Harmony In Diversity, with Andrew Booker and Nick Cottam (who had been working together as duo Pulse Engine. They played a short UK tour in March 2006, and released an EP called "Trying". Booker left the band soon after. He was replaced by David Speight and the band continue to play live, while Banks planned a related project with keyboardist Gonzalo Carrera. Banks' Harmony in Diversity were supported by the Hungarian band, Yesterdays, at the MiniProg Festival in Budapest in February 2007.
In Gibson Guitar's 'Lifestyle' e-magazine of 3 February 2009, Banks was listed as one of the "10 Great Prog Rock Guitarists".
Banks passed away on 8 March 2013.
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