Drummer Alan White Reflects on His Years Playing With John Lennon and Yes.
White reveals that Yes are touring this summer, and that the unreleased XYZ sessions with Jimmy Page might come out Source: Rolling Stone.com
Alan White’s résumé was limited to playing drums on John Lennon’s Imagine and George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, it would be pretty impressive. But about two years after appearing on those pivotal Beatles solo records, he was recruited by Yes — then at the peak of their creative powers — to replace the outgoing Bill Bruford.
The band has seen a ludicrous amount of lineup changes since that time, but the one constant has been White’s presence behind the drum kit. These days, back issues limit his time onstage with Yes to a handful of songs a night, but he still tours with the band and hopes to play for longer periods of the show after he regains his full strength.
The first thing I heard from him was a phone call when he asked me to play Live Peace in Toronto. Basically, he called me right out of the blue. I had my own band and we all lived in the same house in London like a lot of bands did at that time. I was cooking something in the kitchen like a stew and the phone rang. It was John, but I didn’t realize it then. I thought it was a friend trying to joke with me, so I put the phone down
. Eventually I got a call back from Lennon and he told me he was doing a gig in Toronto and was I available to play drums and can he send a car to pick me up the next morning.
I first met John Lennon in the VIP lounge at Heathrow. There was John and Yoko and Klaus Voormann. I was quite young, about 20, and a little bit shocked about where I was. At the same time, I seemed to be handling it like it was another day for some reason.
Then he said, “Oh, I forgot to tell you that Eric Clapton is playing guitar.” And then Eric came out of the bathroom and basically we got on the plane and rehearsed there. I had a pair of drumsticks playing the back of the seat in front of me and they were playing acoustic guitars.
We got to the stadium and I went out to see the crowd and who was playing and Little Richard was onstage with a huge, big band. That was quite amazing. Backstage there was people running around like Gene Vincent. It was just really surreal for a while.
I remember John being very nervous since it was the first thing he’d done since he left the Beatles, or was about to leave the Beatles. He was in the process at that time. Next thing I know, we went onstage. They had a drum stool and there was no drums. I went,
“Oh, this isn’t going to be good.” Eric plugged his guitar in and they built a drum kit around me while I sat there. Suddenly, the sticks were thrown into my hand and John Lennon counted, “1, 2, 3 …” And we were in the first number. It was all kind of a flash in a pan.
I forget how long it was later after Toronto, but I got a call from Apple saying that John wanted me to be involved with the new album he’s making. I took myself down to John’s house and the next thing I know I’m in the studio and we’re rehearsing the songs.
John Lennon passed out the lyrics so we could all read along before we recorded. And then there I was. I got into it and did my job like I always did in the studio. My main thing then was to play what was necessary for the songs. Evidently, John really liked what I was doing.