English guitarist, vocalist, songwriter and producer Peter Banks, Was born 15 July 1947. He grew up in Barnet, North London where he attended Barnet Secondary School and Barnet College of Further Education. When he was a young boy, his father bought him an acoustic guitar. As a teenager, he also learned how to play the banjo.
Banks started with The Nighthawks in 1963, and played his first concert at the New Barnet Pop Festival before leaving that band to join The Devil’s Disciples in 1964 with Banks on guitar, John Tite on vocals, Ray Alford on bass and Malcolm “Pinnie” Raye on drums. The released two songs. Arthur Alexander’s “You Better Move On” and Graham Gouldman’s “For Your Love” which was a hit for The Yardbirds one year later. These two songs can be found on Banks’ album Can I Play You Something. In 1965 Banks joined The Syndicats, replacing guitarist Ray Fenwick, who himself had replaced Steve Howe, who would later replace Banks in Yes. Banks then formed a new band with ex-The Selfs bassist Chris Squire, called The Syn. They were joined by keyboardist Andrew Pryce Jackman, Steve Nardelli on vocals as well as Gunnar Jökull Hákonarson on drums. They recorded two singles, “Created By Clive”/”Grounded” and “Flowerman”/”14 Hour Technicolour Dream”
When the Syn disbanded both Squire and Banks joined Clive Bayley (rhythm guitar) and Bob Hagger (drums) in Mabel Greer’s Toyshop. Banks briefly left the band, which was subsequently joined by singer Jon Anderson and then drummer Bill Bruford replacing Hagger. Banks also played with the band Neat Change, recording one single, “I Lied to Aunty May” with Squire on tambourine and chorus. Banks then returned to Mabel Greer’s Toyshop, Bayley left and organist/pianist Tony Kaye joined and they added to the songs “Beyond and Before” by Squire and Bayley and “Sweetness” by Anderson, Bayley and Squire.The new band was christened Yes. In 1969 Atlantic Records got them into a studio to record their first album, Yes. The next year another album was in progress (Time and a Word) but Anderson and Squire decided they wanted an orchestra backing the five musicians. However The idea was not well received by Banks, or Kaye as the orchestral arrangements replaced their parts almost note-for-note. Banks left Yes in 1970 and was replaced by Steve Howe.
After leaving Yes, Banks supported Blodwyn Pig replacing their original guitarist Mick Abrahams. He guested as session musician on an album by Chris Harwood, with other musicians like Dave Lambert of The Strawbs on guitar, Tommy Eyre on keyboards later with Rainbow, ex-King Crimson Ian McDonald on sax and flute and ex-Spencer Davis Group Peter York on percussionIn 1971 Banks formed Flash and sessions began for a first album, with Tony Kaye guesting on keyboards and the album “Flash” was released in 1972 on which Banks played guitar and keyboard. Flash released a second album (In the Can) in 1972 and a third album (Out of Our Hands) in 1973. Banks also became friends with guitarist Jan Akkerman and Banks also played on an album by Roger Ruskin Spear. In 1973 Banks released Two Sides of Peter Banks. Guest musicians included Akkerman, bassist John Wetton, drummer Phil Collins, guitarist Steve Hackett and fellow Flash members Ray Bennett and Mike Hough. Banks also played with the jazz-rock band called Zox & the Radar Boys, including Phil Collins (drums) and his mate from the Flaming Youth days Ronnie Caryl on guitar, Mike Piggott (violin) and John Howitt (bass). In 1973, Banks met the singer Sydney Foxx (real name Sidonie Jordan). She soon became his wife. Named as Empire, Banks, Foxx, and various other band members recorded three albums up to 1979. Phil Collins played drums and John Giblin from Brand X played bass on their first album, Mark I. Banks and Foxx divorced, although Empire remained together.
Banks played as a session musician, on separate albums by Lonnie Donegan and Jakob Magnússon. In 1981, Empire released another album and in 1983, he played the guitar solo on Lionel Ritchie’s well known ballad Hello, but his work was not credited. Banks made an appearance on Romeo Unchained, a 1986 album by Tonio K. He also worked with Ian Wallace in The Teabags, including Jackie Lomax on vocals and Kim Gardner on bass, the two played before with Tony Kaye’s Badger, David Mansfield on guitar and Mel Collins on sax and flute. In 1993, Banks released Instinct, a solo album of instrumental tracks with him playing all the parts. Only a keyboard player, Gerald Goff, joined him for his next album, Self Contained (1995) In 1997, Banks was mainly responsible for the release of a double live Yes album, Something’s Coming: The BBC Recordings 1969–1970 (renamed Beyond and Before in the US), a collection of appearances at the BBC during 1969 and 1970’s. Psychosync, a live Flash recording made in 1973 for the King Biscuit Flower Hour was also released in 1998.
Between 1995 and 1997 all three Empire albums were rereleased and Banks also collaborated in 1995’s Tales From Yesterday (a Yes tribute album) performing a version of the song “Astral Traveller” with Robert Berry; appeared on the album Big Beats in 1997; and played on 1999’s Encores, Legends and Paradox, an Emerson, Lake & Palmer tribute album. He contributed to 1999’s Come Together People of Funk by Funky Monkey (including keyboardist Gerard Johnson). In 1999, Banks released the solo album Reduction and In 2000, Banks released collection of his oldest recordings (many previously unreleased) called Can I Play You Something Featuring early recordings by The Syn, Mabel Greer’s Toyshop, and Yes, including an early rendition of the song “Beyond and Before” and the song “Lima Loop” in honour of Cecilia Quino, a Peruvian girl and Yes fan, who met and later wed Banks in Lima, Peru. Following an appearance by Banks and Geoff Downes together at the 1998 edition of Yestival (a Yes fan festival), the pair played some sessions and the possibility of Banks joining Asia was mooted.
Banks has appeared in small concerts by new young local bands, including the Yes tribute band Fragile. Recent recorded appearances by Banks include Jabberwocky (2000) and Hound of the Baskervilles (2002), a pair of albums recorded by Oliver Wakeman (Rick Wakeman’s son) and Clive Nolan. Rick Wakeman also narrates on the Jabberwocky album. Peter Banks also appears on the Funky Monkey project. Banks was also involved in a reunion of The Syn in 2004, but left the band. After early talks in 2004, he was also not included in the current Flash reunion, which made their debut return at the Prog Day Festival 2010 with Flash bassist Ray Bennett taking over on lead guitar In 2004, Banks formed a new improvising band, Harmony in Diversity, with Andrew Booker and Nick Cottam (Pulse Engine) who toured in2006, and released the album “Trying”. In 2009 Gibson Guitar’s Lifestyle e-magazinelisted Banks as one of the “10 Great Prog Rock Guitarists.”
During 1991 Yes embarked on their Union tour, and Banks was invited to play during the encore at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, California, United States. In August 1994, Banks was a featured guest at a Yes fan festival called Yestival. In 1995, he performed “Astral Traveller” on the Yes tribute album Tales from Yesterday. In 1997, he coordinated the release of a Yes compilation titled Something’s Coming: The BBC Recordings 1969-1970. His liner notes described his early days with the band. Banks was also present at Yestival in July 1998. In 2006, he was interviewed for the Yes documentary Classic Artists: Yes. A few music videos featuring him with Yes during their early days can be seen in The Lost Broadcasts DVD released in 2009.
Sadly on 7 March 2013 Banks died of heart failure at his home in Barnet, London. He was reportedly found after failing to show up for a scheduled recording session.