Listen to this terrific analysis of the cowbell in the Yes classic, "Owner of a Lonely Heart"

Originally published at:


That song has a complicated history. The original version was written by Trevor Rabin, and he had it on a demo tape when he was shopping himself around to record companies, trying to get a development deal. It didn’t really go anywhere. Then when he joined Yes, former Yes and Buggles vocalist Trevor Horn was producing their new record, heard Rabin’s demo tape, and they reworked the song for 90125. Squire, Rabin, Anderson, and Horn all had quite different ideas on lyrics and music, and it’s a miracle it ever ended up finished and on the album, but it ended up their biggest hit ever. It’s their only Billboard #1. And it’s the song that introduced me to Yes. Then I discovered they had this whole other prog rock history from the 70s, and I was hooked. Yes remains my favorite band of all time.


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Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure introduced a whole new generation to Yes…

Not Yes, but they also had Last Train Home for part of one season…

Pat Methany Group…


Yeah I knew that about JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. Around that time, a bunch of reaction videos of kids and teenagers reacting to various Yes songs started showing up on YouTube and I thought “what the hell is going on?” Then I found out why. That’s one of the cool things tv shows can do: introduce new generations to some amazing older music. Like Stranger Things and Running Up That Hill. Popular commercial media isn’t all bad.


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Duly curated Spotify


Similar story with Yes here - I hadn’t acknowledged the band name until they blew up with 90125, but then a few years later I started visiting their 70’s work out of curiosity and realized I already knew many of the songs via classic-rock radio play without knowing the band name. They were my favorites for a long time.

I’ve played Owner probably hundreds of times over the years without realizing the cowbell until reading this article, and now I won’t be able to not hear it.


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I once chewed out an Honors English teacher in high school because the way he presented ‘how to write a poem’ was more closely aligned with how to write a news article as a journalist. And then he assigned us all to write a poem! So mine was titled “I’ve Seen All Good People” and was about politics as a black-&-white chess game. His only complaint was that he didn’t understand what the title had to do with it!


I remember this song being everywhere back when it came out. My sister (who was into Air Supply and REO Speedwagon) got into Yes because of this song, went out and got the Fragile LP too.

Then I kind of forgot about the song until a few years ago, and hearing it again I was impressed with all the “new” production techniques they were using, stuff I didn’t understand as a kid-- all those horn stabs and weird sped up drum rolls, very obvious early digital sampling technology-- which stand up today in my ears, sonically interesting but not just gimmicks.

Now I wanna go check out some of the remixes, extended versions.


Hah! Apparently this thread calls for Kenan gifs!


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I’ve heard good things about the Steven Wilson Yes remixes. I oughta check them out.


I’m 55, it’s just that my musical tastes were a little late in developing. I mostly just listened to what was on the radio and MTV until I got to college. In fact, I left this part out, but there was a few years gap between Owner of a Lonely Heart and my learning about their earlier stuff. A college friend introduced me to that.


{Slight tangent:

I wrote a poem for my HS creative writing class, and the teacher didn’t understand what I meant by “purring ball of fur.” I suppose I could’ve outlined The Trouble with Tribbles for him, but I was in shock. Instead I stared at him for a coupla seconds, and told him the truth.

“It’s a cat.”}


Let’s give Trevor the respect he deserves and us his correct title; The Man Who Invented the 80s.


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I really don’t think that’s down to one individual… No disrespect to Horn and the Buggles, of course… But the Buggles were not operating in a cultural vacuum.


My older brothers were into prog rock, so I imprinted on Kraftwerk, old Genesis and Yes. Started exploring the genre again a few years back. Currently enjoying Yes’ Tormato.


An excellent album. I think my favorite, though, is Drama, which answered a question no one asked: what if the Buggles joined Yes?


Not my attribution. The Man Who Invented the 80s search results on Google

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