Friday, June 26, 2009

Beatle People: Alan White

Alan White (born 14 June 1949) is an English rock and roll drummer best known for his 34 years of work with the progressive rock band Yes. In all, White has appeared on over fifty albums with artists including John Lennon, George Harrison, Joe Cocker, Ginger Baker, and The Ventures.


Born in Pelton, County Durham, White began learning to play the piano at age six and after switching to drums, played publicly with a local band at 13. Later he worked with a number of bands during the late 1960s, notably the Alan Price Set, before being invited to join Ginger Baker's Airforce with Steve Winwood in 1968. The following year, 1969, White received a call from John Lennon (he thought it was a prankster) asking him to join the Plastic Ono Band for a show that became the hit album, Live Peace in Toronto. He also performed with Lennon on the legendary Imagine album and the single, "Instant Karma". When Lennon introduced White to fellow Beatle alumnus, George Harrison, he was asked to perform on the All Things Must Pass album, including the single, "My Sweet Lord".

In 1972, White was touring with Joe Cocker when he received an invitation to join Yes, to replace Bill Bruford who had left to join King Crimson. Three days after meeting with Jon Anderson and Chris Squire, White played at the first show of the group's US Close to the Edge tour. Despite the fact that White had spent time in the studio with the band and even tried playing some of the Close to the Edge material, it is something of a legend that he learned the entire repertoire of extremely complex music in just three days. White and the band gave each other three months to see if he fit in, and over thirty years later, he has appeared on every Yes album since.

Alan White released his only solo album, Ramshackled, in 1976. However, it is usually considered a White solo album in name only, as everything except the drumming (and including all the songwriting) is done by the various musicians White gathered to help with the project.

In addition to his drum playing, White has played piano and written music for several Yes albums. When he is not performing with Yes or travelling around the world conducting drum clinics, White spends time with his wife of over twenty years, Gigi, and their two children, Jesse (also a musician) and Cassi.

New band projects in the 2000s

Alan White had guested with local Seattle band MerKaBa on a number of occasions and Alan White and MerKaBa also had links with another local band, Treason. In 2003, Alan White joined sessions for a new MerKaBa album, but these evolved into a new band, called White, and an album's worth of demo recordings under the name Loyal. As well as Alan, the band consisted of Kevin Currie (from MerKaBa; lead vocals), Karl Haug (from Treason]; electric & acoustic guitars, lap steel), Steve Boyce (from MerKaBa; bass, guitar, backing vocals) and Ted Stockwell (from Treason and MerKaBa; keys, guitar). Stockwell left the band and, in April 2005, was replaced by Alan's former colleague in Yes, keyboardist Geoff Downes. A new album, White, was recorded, partly based on the Loyal demos. The album was released in 2006, with a cover by Roger Dean.

The band has played live (with various keyboardists) in the Seattle area. They were due to join the abortive More Drama Tour. The More Drama Tour, scheduled to begin in North America in August 2005, was to have seen three acts, The Syn, White and Steve Howe touring together, with Chris Squire, Steve Howe, Alan White and Geoff Downes playing Yes material at the end of the evening (with Kevin Currie handling lead vocals). However, the tour was cancelled shortly before it was due to begin. Alan White later joined The Syn touring band for dates in the first half of 2006.

Recently, Alan White has been working on projects with Billy Sherwood, notably a new band, Circa:, with a third Yes alumnus, Tony Kaye.


* White is a lifelong supporter of Newcastle United F.C.

* For the song "Owner of a Lonely Heart", White played the first recording only with the bass drum and snare, because all the other drums were being packed up as the group played. White then recorded each individual instrument (cymbals, toms, hi-hat, etc.) afterwards and dubbed them over the original track.



* Ramshackled (1976)

With White:

* White (2006)

With The Alan Price Set:

* A Price on His Head (1967)
* The Amazing Alan Price (EP), (1967)
* This Price is Right, (1968)

With John Lennon and The Plastic Ono Band:

* John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, 1970
* Live Peace in Toronto, September 13 1969
* Imagine, (John Lennon, 1971)
* Fly, (Yoko Ono, 1971)

Guest appearances/sessions:

* The Downbeats: "My Bonnie" (single)
* The Blue Chips: "I'm on the Right Side" (single)
* The Blue Chips: "Some Kind of Loving" (single)
* The Blue Chips: "Good Loving Never Hurts" (single)
* The Gamblers: "Dr Goldfoot (and His Bikini Machine)" (single)
* Happy Magazine: "Satisfied Street" (single)
* Happy Magazine: "Who Belongs to You" (single)
* Johnny Almond Music Machine: Patent Pending (1969)
* Johnny Almond: "Solar Machine" (single) (1969)
* Doris Troy: You Tore Me Up Inside
* Billy Preston: Encouraging Words (1969)
* George Harrison: All Things Must Pass (2001)
* Gary Wright: Extraction (1970)
* Denny Laine and Balls: "Fight for My Country" (single) (1971)
* Jesse Davis: Jesse Davis
* Sky: Don't Hold Back (1971)
* Brian Short: Anything for a Laugh (1971)
* Donovan: "The Music Makers" (1973)
* Chris Squire: Chris Squire's Swiss Choir (2007; re-release of "Run with the Fox")

and work with Yes, Rick Wakeman, Steve Howe, Billy Sherwood, Trevor Rabin, Esquire and The Syn


1 comment:

iMADEtheBBC said...

I'm very fortunate to know Alan and his family through our mutual friend Steve Boyce (member of Merkaba and White).

Alan is a sweet guy and has nothing but good things to say about John, George and Paul (not that he has anything bad to say about Ringo but he never came up in conversation).

The night before George died I was hanging out with Alan after a Yes show in Dublin. We discussed George and how we were resigned to losing him. Little did we know he was on his way to a better place.

Apparently Alan found his Imagine-era drum hardware a couple of years ago - I've been on a promise to go visit and check it out but the timing hasn't worked out yet.

For a wannabe musician my claim to six-degress-of-separation is playing Imagine and a couple of other tracks live with Alan at a Merkaba gig in Seattle about 8 years ago.