Best known as the guitarist in the Progressive rock bands Yes and Asia, English musician, songwriter and producer Stephen James “Steve” Howe was born 8 April 1947 in Holloway, North London. Howe developed an early interest in the guitar And got his first guitar an F-Hole acoustic at age 12 for a Christmas present, and began to learn the instrument himself. Howe’s earliest memories is marching around the home to brass band music that he played on the home stereo. He cites several influences from his parents’ record collection including Les Paul and Tennessee Ernie Ford, and also listened to classical guitar and jazz, citing Barney Kessel, Wes Montgomery, Bob Dylan and Chet Atkins, as influences. Howe attended Holloway School. After he left primary school, he wished to become a guitarist and took up several part-time jobs until he wished to become a full time musician around 18.
Howe teamed with school friends and played his first gig at The Swan, a pub in Tottenham, playing a cover of “Frightened City” by The Shadows. At 14, Howe and his friend from Tottenham started a group that played in youth clubs, eventually landing gigs in pubs and ballrooms. At one point, the band secured a short residency at HM Prison Pentonville for two nights a week. Around 1961, Howe bought a solid body Guyatone, his first electric guitar, followed with a Gibson ES-175D in 1964, Before he became a full time musician Howe took up work at a piano factory, followed by a job in a music shop. He left the shop when he began to pick up regular gigs.
In 1964 Howe joined the north London-based rhythm and blues group The Syndicats. His first studio recordings were a rendition of “Maybellene” by Chuck Berry that was released as a single with “True to Me” on its B-side.In 1965, Howe left the band and accepted an invitation to join The In-Crowd, a soul and covers band who often played in Tottenham and released a rendition of “That’s How Strong My Love Is” by Otis Redding. The band renamed themselves Tomorrow and adopted a psychedelic rock sound, writing more original songs and changing their stage clothes. In 1967, they released two singles: “My White Bicycle” and “Revolution”,
Howe recorded some guitar as a session musician, this included his first song “Mothballs”, (“So Bad”) and playing guitar on Keith West’s single “Excerpt from A Teenage Opera”. Howe also took part in a pie fight scene in the satirical comedy film Smashing Time. After Tomorrow split in 1967, Howe Played the bass guitar on Keith West’s “The Kid Was a Killer”, and on tracks with guitarist Ronnie Wood and drummer Aynsley Dunbar. In 1968 Howe joined a trio who went by the name of Canto for a short period but they disbanded. Howe released the tracks for the proposed album after he obtained the recordings and remixed them himself as The Bodast Tapes (1981). He joined the progressive rock band The Nice.
In April 1970, Howe was invited to joine the Progressive rock band Yes following the departure of Peter Banks and appears on the cover of the second album Time and a Word. On the band’s third album, The Yes Album (1971). Howe’s electric and acoustic guitars, combined with Jon Anderson’s vocals, Chris Squire’s bass, Bill Bruford’s drums, and Tony Kaye’s keyboards, became an essential part of the band’s change in musical direction towards progressive rock. Kaye left in 1971 and was replaced by Rick Wakeman for the following album, Fragile. This classic Yes line-up of Anderson–Howe–Squire–Bruford–Wakeman is associated with the classic Yes sound. In 1971, Wakeman and Howe also contributed to the recording of Lou Reed’s first solo album as session musicians.
Howe had a large array of electric and acoustic guitar sounds, and used a novel approach to pedal steel guitar on the album, Close to the Edge, His classical training along with his penchant for ongoing experimentation, helped produce a playing style unique among rock musicians, and the group became a leading progressive rock band. Following Close to the Edge, Howe played on Tales from Topographic Oceans, Relayer, Going for the One and Tormato. In 1975, Yes took an extended break for each member to release a solo album. Howe recorded a mixture of solo and group performed tracks for Beginnings at Morgan with performances from Bruford, Alan White, Patrick Moraz, and singer Claire Hamill and his second solo album, The Steve Howe Album, was released in November 1979.In early 1980, Anderson and Wakeman left the group and were replaced a few weeks later by Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes. Yes began incorporating elements of new wave into their progressive rock blend. Howe continued with the band until Yes officially split up in early 1981. Although the group was back together less than a year later, Howe was not included in the new line-up.
In 1981, Howe teamed with Downes, singer and bassist John Wetton, and drummer Carl Palmer to form the supergroup Asia Their debut album, Asia was released in 1982. Following the release of their second album Alpha, Howe left Asia in 1983. Following his departure, Howe performed an acoustic guitar solo on “Welcome to the Pleasuredome” on the 1984 same titled album by the pop group Frankie Goes to Hollywood that Horn produced. He also played on Industry Standard (1982) by The Dregs. In 1985, Howe formed another supergroup, GTR, named after an abbreviation of the word “guitar”, with guitarist Steve Hackett, singer Max Bacon, drummer Jonathan Mover, and bassist Phil Spalding and released one studio album, GTR in 1986 containing the single, “When the Heart Rules the Mind”. Hackett’s left In 1987, so Howe commissioned Robert Berry as Hackett’s replacement, and sought ideas of a new band name including Steve Howe and Friends and Nero and the Trend however, the group disbanded. In 1988, a guitar compilation album Guitar Speak was released which features Howe’s track “Sharp on Attack”. A UK tour named Night of the Guitars was organised with Howe in the line-up, performing “Clap”, “Wurm”, and the all-cast encore. Howe also contributed to Transportation (1988), the first solo album by Billy Currie.
In 1988 Jon Anderson invited Howe to take part in a new album with Rick Wakeman and Bill Bruford as a new group, Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe. In 1990, the four joined forces with the 1983–88 line-up of Yes—Chris Squire, Alan White, Trevor Rabin, and Tony Kaye—to contribute songs for the Yes album Union.Howe also played the guitar and co-produced Symphonic Music of Yes (1993), an album of orchestral arrangements of Yes tracks. In 1991, he is featured on Polar Shift: A Benefit for Antarctica, a benefit jazz and ambient album to the Cousteau Society. In 1992, Howe left Yes after Bruford, Wakeman and himself were not invited to participate to record the next Yes album, Talk. In 1991 Howe released his third solo album, Turbulence, featuring rock instrumentals that feature Currie, Bruford, and drummer Nigel Glockler and recorded a cover of “Classical Gas” with Bruford. Howe also contributed a flamenco guitar solo to the 1991 UK number one single “Innuendo” by Queen. In 1992 Howe joined the reformed Asia on their album Aqua playing on six of the album’s 13 tracks. Howe released his fourth solo album The Grand Scheme of Things, in August 1993Which features his sons Dylan and Virgil on drums and keyboards and piano. Howe began his first solo tour in 1993 and released his first live album, Not Necessarily Acoustic in 1994 his second live release, Pulling Strings was released in 1998. Howe rejoined Yes for a third time in 1995 for the recording of Keys to Ascension and Keys to Ascension 2, the two double albums containing both live and studio tracks. Since Keys to Ascension, Yes have released released the albums Open Your Eyes, The Ladder, Magnification, Fly from Here and Heaven & Earth.
On 24 May 1996, Howe received an honorary doctorate in Musical Arts (DMA) from Five Towns College in Dix Hills, New York. and played with Asia on a song called Ginger meant for Arena. He also added his guitar to two of the songs from Aura, and released the album Natural Timbre, in 2001. His son Dylan also played the drums on his 1998 all-instrumental solo release, Quantum Guitar, while Elements, released in 2003, featured both Dylan and Virgil as part of Howe’s album Remedy. In 2007, Howe founded the Steve Howe Trio, a jazz band completed by his son Dylan on drums and Ross Stanley on Hammond organ. They released two albums: a studio album, The Haunted Melody in 2008 and a live album, Travelling in 2010. Howe rejoined the other three founding members of Asia in a 25th-anniversary reunion tour in late 2006. Since that time Asia have released a DVD, Fantasia, and a CD, Phoenix. In 2010 Asia released the CD, Omega. The band’s third reunion album entitled XXX was released in July 2012. In 2013, Howe left Asia to focus on Yes, his solo work and his trio. He was replaced by Sam Coulson. In March 2015, Howe released Anthology a two-disc, 33-track collection of Howe’s solo material. I also think all the Yes album covers by Roger Dean are amazing.