Roundabout

Today it’s Groundhog Day.

And, as in the Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell movie, every day in pandemic time might seem to be a repeat of the one before. The same chores, the same game played with Perry Como the cat, the same coffee and breakfast, etc. I’m trying to change it up as much as I can, and riding different virtual worlds/routes in Zwift plus our meditations, gatherings and meetings on Zoom and Google Meet and some time out in nature break up the monotony and bring inspiration, engagement and joy.

Another thing that’s different about today is it’s the day we historically count on groundhogs to tell us if more winter or warmer winter is on the way. The consensus so far among the critters in Canada, or the puppets that now represent some of them, is that we can look forward to early spring. That’s great news! In less than two months, I could be hauling my road bike out of the city to Birds Hill Provincial Park to ride the park roadways as they are generally clear of snow, ice, and sand much earlier than Winnipeg’s bike paths.

So… excellent job, Manitoba Merv and Winnipeg Wynn! I hope you can get back to your hibernation without further disruptions until it’s time to come out for spring.

The notion of a constantly-repeating day also made me think of being stuck driving in a roundabout or traffic circle, which then made me think of today’s selection, “Roundabout,” by the English progressive rock group, Yes.

Formed in 1968, the band has been through numerous personnel changes in the three periods of activity (1968-1981, 1983-2004, 2008-present). One of my school friends was very fond of Yes and even followed lead singer Jon Anderson in his solo career.

Anderson left the band in 2008 but began solo work and collaboration with other artists as early as 1976 with Olias of Sunhillow, a fantasy concept album he wrote and performed solo. The record features an elaborate, mystical-looking four-page storybook within the album cover — another of those epic album covers by the English art design company, Hipgnosis. The only Yes album I have is 90125 from 1983, which contains the single “Owner of a Lonely Heart.” I did buy Olias, though I don’t think I have ever listened to it (I have done that from time to time, similarly buying books then not reading them until much, much later).

Inside cover of Olias of Sunhillow.

“Roundabout” comes from Yes’s fourth album, Fragile, the second record the band released in 1971. The song is one of the band’s most successful and well-known pieces across its 21 studio albums.

American musician, producer and educator Rick Beato breaks down the full 8:29 album version of the song on episode 36 of his What Makes This Song Great? series on YouTube. It’s terrific as are all the videos I’ve watched so far in the series; really worth a listen if you want to learn more about the music’s making and production. Anderson’s co-writer on “Roundabout” Steve Howe begins the song after a reversed piano chord leads dramatically into his acoustic guitar harmonics. After the famous guitar lick and more harmonics, the rest of the instruments jump in followed by Anderson’s famously alto-tenor vocal.

Yes released a three-minute, twenty-seven-second radio edit in January 1972, less than half the original version’s length. Hardly long enough to get into the spirit of the song, but, well… that was radio back then… afraid to test people’s attention spans, perhaps?

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the remastered audio of the album version from Yes’s official YouTube channel:

Full, unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

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