One Great Cover looks at the greatest cover songs ever, and how they got to be that way.
Progressive rock band Yes was at the top of its game in 1974 when their keyboardist Rick Wakeman abruptly departed. The band invited an obscure pioneer of electronic music, Vangelis, to replace him. Vangelis shunned the offer, preferring to stay home and compose film scores. Or maybe certain members of Yes shunned Vangelis–accounts differ. In either case, the synth maven hit it off with Yes co-founder, singer, and lyricist Jon Anderson. They collaborated intermittently in the following years, finally forming Jon and Vangelis in 1980.
By the time the second Jon and Vangelis album dropped in 1981–The Friends of Mr Cairo–their individual fortunes had reversed. Vangelis was having a breakout year. He had a smash hit in “Chariots of Fire,” a selection from his sweeping, grandiose full-length score for the film of the same name. The song swept through popular culture, and the film itself went on to win Academy awards for Best Picture and Best Music. By then Vangelis was already at work on the Blade Runner soundtrack. If he noticed that the new Jon and Vangelis album barely sold, and the release of its single “State of Independence” fell flat, it probably didn’t worry him.