How Yes’ ‘90125’ Became the Password in a New Time-Traveling Book
Many music fans will remember Wright from his 20-year history running Classic Rock Revisited. The site closed in early 2019, but his archives thankfully remain online. They showcase a lengthy run in which Wright talked to every rock star imaginable, from Ozzy Osbourne to members of Fleetwood Mac and Aerosmith.
Eventually, he felt that there was no classic rock stone left unturned, so Wright stepped away and focus on family and other interests. One of those interests was writing a novel. In the following conversation with UCR, Wright discusses Blast From the Past and how Yes became one of the "minor characters" in his story.
This is your first fiction novel. How did the idea of writing this book start to take root in your head?
It is a fictional book. That’s the first thing everyone asks me, “Is this real?”
But there’s a lot of reality in there, I can tell that.
There is no character that’s going to sue me, because I wrote it as fiction, but there are moments of truth. And there are experiences that are written in a fictional way that were very close to some things that I experienced personally. The protagonist in the book is based on me – I mean, it really is. I did have a best friend that passed away, [though] it was different circumstances. There are seeds of truth and I will say this, it is not even based on a true story. That’s not the right tagline – this is fiction. But I grew up in the ’80s and I did all of the things. There’s one point though – now, the people are different, the characters are characters, they’re not the actual people – but I went to see the Yes 90125 tour and all of that shit happened that’s in the book. So if you don’t know what it is, read the book, because it’s funny.
I’ve always thought, “You know, I’d love to write a book about that, but it’s just this little piece of time. It’s 24 hours, you know, how am I going to do this? One day I decided, I’m going to tell it in a story and I’m going to figure out what comes before and what comes after – because the middle of the books [that I read], a lot of times for me, they lose me. I thought, [the Yes story] is going to be the middle because especially if you’re a classic rock fan, this is going to keep you interested. That’s how it started. The factual parts of this fictional book are that I live in a rural town in Kansas and I grew up here. It was also the 1980s! [Laughs] So there were some sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll type of [things]. That’s why we still do what we do, from the seeds that were sown then.
Then, I did have a friend die and though he died later in life, it was a way that I could kind of have conversations with him. He was a very, very close friend. I don’t think this is a spoiler alert, so I’ll talk about it: One of the ways you know that it’s fiction is that there’s a ghost. [Laughs] I don’t know about you, but I’ve never really had a ghost talk to me. But don’t think it’s a ghost story! That’s what makes this tale a little bit tricky is that I don’t have a super-defined genre, except to say that it’s a life story – a buddy story, almost. I used that ghost metaphor to kind of have us go back and forth in time. So my friend that died, who is Ash in the book, I really did have an emotional experience. It was emotional because I got to have conversations with him, back and forth in time, that I couldn’t ever have again, because he wasn’t here. Even though the circumstances were different, the more emotional parts of the book for me are those conversations. [It was also] one of my favorite things to write. But it all started because I wanted to talk about the fun night I had going to see Yes!
Watch Yes' 'Owner of a Lonely Heart' Video
As I read the book, that was one of the first things I wanted to ask you about, whether or not you believe that 90125 is the album, which is how you position it in the book.
This is a hard question. I’m not just a prog guy. I like this much prog, but what I like, I like it a lot. Kansas, Yes, ELP, kind of the famous stuff. So I love Fragile and Close to the Edge. If I’m journalist Jeb, I’m going to say it’s the Steve Howe / [Rick] Wakeman [era], the classic lineup. That’s the band. What do I listen to most? I love the shit out of 90125.
I was very surprised to read that. I love 90125 too, but not a lot of people will take that position.
I love that album. I love every note of that album. I think what it is, we all have the nostalgic part to us, the fan part to us. It came out in 1983 and it’s right in the heart of my book – that’s the year. There’s a real nostalgic part that happened, with what was going on in my life and things like that, so that album is hooked into my memories. But you can’t go wrong with “Owner of a Lonely Heart” and “Hold On” and “It Can Happen” and “Leave It.” Those are the biggies. I love the whole thing, but I’m a big Trevor [Rabin] fan, too.
I chuckled at the idea that "90125" is the safe word when he wants to travel back and forth in time.
I’m gonna give some credit where it’s due to a friend of mine whose name is Chad Sanborn. We grew up together and he is a writer. He’s sold a lot of books and he’s also kind of a writer coach. He does it for a living. He’s from this little town too, but he lives up in Kansas City. He’s a crime novelist, which is obviously not what this is, but he knew me back then. He didn’t write it for me, but he kind of guided me [through] some [of the process]. Because I was like, “How am I going to go back and forth?” He didn’t tell me. You know, he’s like, “Come up with something catchy.” It just was like, okay, the Yes album, again. The character loves that album and the key word to go back and forth through time is 90125. I almost tried to make that album a minor character in a way.
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