I Remember Pete

Peter Banks, The Rubens Hotel, May 31, 2006  ©glen dicrocco

May 31, 2013 (updated Aug. 20, 2020)

There was a knock on the door of Room 517 at The Rubens Hotel around noon. I was packing, getting ready to check out predictably late-ish. It was Peter Banks, chitarrista extraordinaire (ex-Yes, ex-Flash), fresh off his Northern-line tube ride down from Barnet into Central London. We hadn’t seen each other in six years, since the first time I traveled to the UK. At that juncture in 2000, Pete was still married to Ceci, a young Peruvian woman. The three of us walked along the South Bank until settling on an old tavern with the finest pint of Guinness in town.

Five flights down in the hotel lounge, year 2006, Pete and I began a liquid lunch. Sauvignon Blanc for the American + Vodka Tonic for the Brit x 2 apiece. A not-so-great avocado club sandwich arrived later as an afterthought. It was the same Rubens Hotel overlooking Buckingham Palace where the Indian guru Meher Baba had visited in July of 1956. Pete had inherited an interest in the teacher from fellow guitarist Pete Townshend. In homage to Meher Baba (and minimalist composer Terry O’Riley), the now-classic Who song became “Baba O’Riley.”

Pete and I shifted to the front of The Rubens lounge where soft natural light washed over cocktail tables and sofas. While I made some portraits, Pete showed me a scar on his left hand, the result of an electric shock while on stage with Yes in 1969. One of the guitar strings, charged with current, singed a top portion of his finger.

Peter Banks, The Rubens Hotel, May 31, 2006  ©glen dicrocco

Hands of the guitarist, May 31, 2006  ©glen dicrocco

When it was time to wrap around 3 p.m. we walked to Victoria Station where I boarded the Gatwick Express headed to the airport.

I first met Peter Banks in September 1994. A mutual friend arranged for three of us to take him by car to a Yes concert at Jones Beach on Long Island. Pete came to New York to attend a music convention in Manhattan where he improvised a jam with keyboardist Patrick Moraz. Four years later, we reconnected at another convention in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. It was a three-day merry-go-round of fellow Yes fans reveling in music and laughs with a limo at our disposal.

Pete had a clever sense of humor. In the CD liner notes of his 1999 album, Can I Play You Something, he reminds me that tripping out of a door with a rock-n-roll entourage cannot be excused: “To Glen DiCrocco for exiting a limo with style.” His ribbing carried over to the telephone answering machine: Pete was perhaps the originator of the outgoing message intended to mess with your head.

In 2004, Pete would form a three-piece improv band called Harmony In Diversity. The music gave him opportunities to play free-form guitar. He also apeared on various tribute CDs. One contentious tale involved his playing on Return To The Dark Side where Pete had a disagreement with producer Billy Sherwood over the amount he would be paid to participate. After a call to the record label, Pete was able to get them to double up the ante. This resulted, however, with Sherwood leaving Pete's name off the CD packaging. The cover and back listed the other musicians..."and more!" So Pete called up Billy Sherwood and said that if they ever worked together again he should be credited as “Andy More.”

Peter Banks with Cecilia, London, June 19, 2000  ©glen dicrocco

A few times, Pete sent cassettes of works in progress, archival material, or a newly-released CD. In 2002, he issued his memoir, a book written with Billy James called Beyond & Before.

Cassettes dated 1997  ©glen dicrocco

For a guitarist who was a pivotal figure in the formation of the progressive rock scene, Pete's contributions have been kept under the radar. His status as a musician post-1970, often mired in difficulty, had many starts and stops.

It wasn't until he quietly passed away at home on March 7, 2013, age 65, that more write-ups and praise began to flow. He was a sweet guy, funny, well-read, a considerable jazz aficionado, and above all, an innovative and imaginative guitarist. From the 90s onward, there was a small circle of us who looked out for Pete’s interests but no one more than George Mizer, his former Flash roadie, who in spite of others capitalizing on Pete's legacy, continues as his trusted keeper of the gate.

Note dated May 16, 1997  ©glen dicrocco

Postcard from Peru dated 2006  ©glen dicrocco