Geoff Downes

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Geoff Downes
Geoff Downes 7060.jpg
Downes performing in 2006
Background information
Birth nameGeoffrey Downes
Born (1952-08-25) 25 August 1952 (age 69)
Stockport, Cheshire, England
Genres Progressive rock, hard rock, space rock, new wave, electronic rock
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter, producer
Instruments Keyboards
Years active1974–present
Labels EMI America Records
Frontiers Records
Geffen Records
Associated acts The Buggles, Yes, Asia, Glenn Hughes, New Dance Orchestra, John Wetton, Icon, DBA (Downes Braide Association), GTR
Website Official website

Geoffrey Downes (born 25 August 1952) [1] is an English keyboardist, songwriter, and record producer who gained fame as a member of the new wave group The Buggles with Trevor Horn, the progressive rock band Yes, and the supergroup Asia.


Born in Stockport, Downes moved to London to pursue a music career. In 1977, he formed The Buggles with Horn and enjoyed success with their first album The Age of Plastic (1980) which included the worldwide hit single "Video Killed the Radio Star". [2] In May 1980, Downes joined Yes with Horn and recorded Drama (1980). After Yes disbanded in 1981, Downes helped Trevor Horn to produce a second Buggles album, Adventures in Modern Recording (1981) although he was only primarily involved for half of it, and co-founded Asia with ex-Yes fellow musician Steve Howe. He left Asia in 1986, rejoined in 1990, and has been a part of the line-up since then; he released several solo albums and produced for several artists, including Mike Oldfield and the Thompson Twins.

In 2006, Downes reunited the original Asia line-up and rejoined Yes in 2011; he is currently a member of both groups. Since 1998, he has reunited with Horn on special occasions to perform songs from The Buggles. Downes entered the Guinness Book of Records for performing with a record 28 keyboards on stage in a single performance. [3]

Early life

Downes was born at Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport, Cheshire, the son of musical parents. His father was a church organist and his mother a pianist. He also took up the keyboards and played in a succession of local bands. He attended Stockport Grammar School before studying at Leeds College of Music. [4] After graduating he moved to London, where he played sessions and composed advertising jingles.


Early career, The Buggles, and Yes (1975–1981)

In the mid-1970s, Downes was a member of She's French, playing a Fender Rhodes electric piano and a Hammond organ. The band also included Jamie West-Oram on guitar and Hoagy Davies, the son of Rupert Davies, on Minimoog synthesizer. He played keys for a theatre production of The Wombles in 1975. [5] He played in Gary Boyle's band in 1977. [6]

In 1976, Downes met Trevor Horn while auditioning for pop singer Tina Charles' backing band, for which Horn produced a single called Don't come back in 1977, which was published under the name "Fallen Angel and The Tina Charles Band". Then they formed the short lived Chromium, with Anne Dudley and Hans Zimmer and recorded an album Star to Star in 1978. Then they continued to work together, eventually forming The Buggles, recording a worldwide hit single "Video Killed the Radio Star" in 1979. It was Island Records' first number 1 in the UK, and the video of the song subsequently became the first ever to be played at the launch of MTV on August 1, 1981.

The success of The Buggles led to Downes and Horn joining Yes for the Drama album and the associated tour in 1980. Downes was the first member of the band to have completed a music degree.

Asia and other projects (1981–2006)

Yes split at the beginning of 1981, and Downes subsequently joined forces with guitarist Steve Howe (from Yes), bassist/vocalist John Wetton (from King Crimson) and drummer Carl Palmer (from Emerson, Lake & Palmer) to form Asia. Despite being out of the band between 1989 and 1990, Downes is the longest-serving member of the band and the only one to appear on every album released by them. Asia was an immediate worldwide success upon the recording of "Heat of the Moment" and the release of their self-titled debut album in 1982; the album remained at number 1 on the Billboard album charts for a record 9 successive weeks.

In 1989, Downes was involved in the remake of Deep Purple's 1972 song "Smoke on the Water" to raise funds for the Spitak earthquake victims. In 2009, Downes along with Tony Iommi, Ian Gillan and the former Wimbledon tennis champion Pat Cash, went to Armenia, and were presented with state medals from the President of Armenia for their efforts in the Rock Aid Armenia project.

In addition to recording and touring with Asia through more than three decades, Downes has also recorded a number of solo albums and collaborated with many other artists such as former bandmate John Wetton, former Deep Purple Glenn Hughes and Trapeze for a tour that produced the live album Welcome to the Real World , Ride The Tiger with Greg Lake, and a brief appearance on Kate Bush's ”Sat in Your Lap”. In 2005, he joined Yes drummer Alan White's eponymous band, White, on their debut album.

Downes has continued to release sporadic solo albums over the years, mainly under the name The New Dance Orchestra. They include the critically acclaimed 1986 double album The Light Programme, in addition to Vox Humana (1992), Shadows & Reflections (2003), along with a few others. He performed a sold out one-man show in 2003 at St Cyprian's Church in London, which was recorded using ambisonics technology.[ citation needed ]

He has also worked extensively as a producer with such acts as Mike Oldfield, Thompson Twins and GTR. As a songwriter, he has written for Agnetha Fältskog of ABBA. He is also credited as a co-writer on Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe album (made up of former members of Yes in 1989); he is credited due to Howe re-using some musical ideas from Asia.

In recent years, Downes has teamed up with Wetton in a separate project under the name Icon. They have released three studio albums: Icon (2005), Icon II: Rubicon (2006), and Icon 3 (2009) and live album from their 2005 tour.

Reformed Asia, projects, and return to Yes (2006–present)

Downes performing with Asia, 2006 Geoff Downes.jpg
Downes performing with Asia, 2006

In 2006, Downes reunited with the original members of Asia for a series of tours that continued into 2008, releasing a new album of studio material, Phoenix (2008), with more shows performed through Spring 2009. Later in 2009, the original Asia toured the US supporting Yes, with him and guitarist Steve Howe doing double duty performing with both bands nightly.

In the autumn of 2009 the band went into the studio again to record another album. The Asia album Omega was released in April 2010, the band has embarked on a six-week US tour through August and September. A song, "Extraordinary Life" from their previous album, Phoenix (2008), was chosen as the trailer for US's biggest reality TV show America's Got Talent . Since 2011, Downes shares his time between YES and Asia, touring and recording with both bands.

In 2012, Downes teamed up with Chris Braide under the name DBA (Downes Braide Association). The result was an album, Pictures of You, released summer 2012 on Plane Groovy Records. [7] Since then, they have released three more studio recordings (Suburban Ghosts in 2015, Skyscraper Souls in 2017 and Halcyon Hymns in 2021), and a live album (Live in England in 2019).

While active with the original Asia, he has also finished three albums with Wetton on their side project Icon, and recorded a live DVD in 2009 to promote the release of their third studio album. The project included guitarist Dave Kilminster, Pete Riley, and Hugh McDowell. In addition, Downes is also working on television, film and production music for a London West End film production company, Original Production Music Ltd.

He released a further New Dance Orchestra (NDO) album in 2010 entitled Electronica with vocals from Anne-Marie Helder. It features Downes' orchestral style of keyboard playing. [8]

On 28 September 2010, he reunited with Bruce Woolley and Trevor Horn as the band The Buggles, performing "The Lost Gig" to raise funds for the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability.

On 22 March 2011, he performed at the Roundhouse, London with Trevor Horn and Producers, along with Spandau Ballet & Alison Moyet to raise funds for a music charity for underprivileged children. The event raised over half a million pounds on the night.

On 31 March 2011, he was confirmed as participating in the recording of the new Yes album Fly From Here (2011), reuniting with them formally for the first time since 1980 and rejoining the band for an upcoming tour. [9] In May 2011, he rejoined Yes as the full-time keyboard player. In 2012, the band appointed a replacement vocalist, Jon Davison. The new Yes album, Heaven & Earth was released in July 2014.

Downes has also worked with Asia on a 30th Anniversary album, XXX , released in 2012. Downes co-composed 7 of the 9 original compositions on the album with Wetton, and the remaining two with Wetton and Howe.

Influences and style

In an interview conducted December 2006, [10] Downes said the three players who had inspired him were Rick Wakeman (Yes), Keith Emerson (Emerson, Lake & Palmer) and especially Dave Sinclair (Caravan). In the same interview, he identified his favourite Asia tracks as "Only Time Will Tell", "Wildest Dreams", "Open Your Eyes" and "Voice of America". In an August 2015 interview, Downes said his favourite British band is King Crimson, with Journey, Kansas and Foreigner as his favourite American bands. [11]

Asked on Twitter in 2018 which album in his career he is most proud of, Downes replied, "Drama - no doubt." [12]

Personal life

Downes has been married and divorced twice. He has two daughters, Christina and Alexandra (died 2013), from his first wife, Norwegian former model Wenche Steen  [ no ], who was Miss Norway in 1973.

Downes lives in South Wales with his third and current wife Martine.


Related Research Articles

The Buggles English pop band

The Buggles were an English new wave band formed in London in 1977 by singer and bassist Trevor Horn and keyboardist Geoffrey Downes. They are best known for their 1979 debut single "Video Killed the Radio Star", which topped the UK Singles Chart and reached number one in 15 other countries.

Yes (band) English rock band

Yes are an English progressive rock band formed in London in 1968 by singer Jon Anderson, bassist Chris Squire, guitarist Peter Banks, keyboardist Tony Kaye and drummer Bill Bruford. The band has undergone numerous formations throughout its history; nineteen musicians have been full-time members. Since June 2015, it has consisted of guitarist Steve Howe, drummer Alan White, keyboardist Geoff Downes, singer Jon Davison and bassist Billy Sherwood. Yes have explored several musical styles over the years, and are most notably regarded as progressive rock pioneers.

Asia (band) English rock band

Asia are an English rock supergroup formed in London in 1981. The most commercially successful line-up was its original, which consisted of four members of different progressive rock bands that had enjoyed great success in the 1970s: lead vocalist and bassist John Wetton of King Crimson and U.K., guitarist Steve Howe of Yes, keyboardist Geoff Downes of Yes and The Buggles, and drummer Carl Palmer of Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Their debut album, Asia, released in 1982, remains their best selling album and went to number one in several countries. The lead single from the album, "Heat of the Moment", remains their top charting and best-known song, reaching the top 40 in over a dozen markets and peaking in the U.S. at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart.

<i>The Age of Plastic</i> 1980 studio album by The Buggles

The Age of Plastic is the debut album by the English new wave duo the Buggles, released on 10 January 1980 on Island Records. It is a concept album about the possible repercussions of modern technology. The title was conceived from the group's intention of being a "plastic group" and the album was produced in the wake of the success of their debut record, "Video Killed the Radio Star" (1979), which topped the UK Singles Chart. Most of the album's other tracks were written during promotion of the single.

Trevor Horn British record producer and musician

Trevor Charles Horn is a British music producer, label and recording studio owner, songwriter, singer and bassist. He is best known for his production work in the 1980s, and for being one half of the new wave band the Buggles. Horn took up the bass guitar at an early age and taught himself the instrument and to sight-read music. In the 1970s, he worked as a session musician, built his own studio, and wrote and produced singles for various artists.

Steve Howe English guitarist

Stephen James Howe is an English musician, songwriter and producer, best known as the guitarist in the progressive rock band Yes across three stints since 1970. Born in Holloway, North London, Howe developed an interest in the guitar and began to learn the instrument himself at age 12. He embarked on a music career in 1964, first playing in several London-based blues, covers, and psychedelic rock bands for six years, including the Syndicats, Tomorrow, and Bodast.

U.K. (band) British progressive rock supergroup

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John Wetton English musician

John Kenneth Wetton was an English singer, bassist, guitarist, and songwriter. He was born in Willington, Derbyshire, and grew up in Bournemouth, Dorset. Between 1972- 1982, he rose to fame fronting the bands King Crimson, U.K. and Asia. Notable work as a bass guitarist and backing vocalist included brief stints with Family, Roxy Music, Uriah Heep and Wishbone Ash.

<i>Adventures in Modern Recording</i> 1981 studio album by the Buggles

Adventures in Modern Recording is the second and final studio album by English new wave group the Buggles, released on 11 November 1981 by Carrere Records. Although the Buggles began as a duo of Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes, the album ended up as mostly Horn's solo effort, as Downes left to join the English rock band Asia on the day recording was originally scheduled to begin. It contains nine tracks, including a version of a track from the Buggles' collaborative album with Yes, Drama (1980); it was originally named "Into the Lens", but the Buggles rendition is titled "I Am a Camera". A stylistically and sonically varied progressive electronic album, Adventures in Modern Recording depicts Horn perfecting his skill as producer and was described by journalists as a document for how he would produce his later works. It was one of the earliest albums to use the Fairlight CMI, one of the first digital sampling synthesizers.

<i>Drama</i> (Yes album) 1980 studio album by Yes

Drama is the tenth studio album by the English progressive rock band Yes, released on 18 August 1980 by Atlantic Records. It is their first album to feature Trevor Horn on lead vocals and Geoff Downes on keyboards. This followed the departures of Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman after numerous attempts to record a new album in Paris and London had failed. Drama was recorded hurriedly with Horn and Downes, as a tour had already been booked before the change in personnel. The album marked a development in the band's musical direction with more accessible and aggressive songs, and featuring the use of modern keyboards, overdriven guitar, and a vocoder.

<i>Yesshows</i> 1980 live album by Yes

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Into the Lens

"Into the Lens" is a song written by Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes. It was originally released in 1980 by progressive rock band Yes, of which Horn and Downes were a part, as a part of the album Drama, before being reworked as "I Am a Camera" for the 1981 album Adventures in Modern Recording by the Buggles, a duo consisting of Horn and Downes; both versions were released as singles, with the Yes single being re-titled "Into the Lens ".

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  1. Gregory, Andy. International Who's Who in Popular Music 2002. p. 143. Routledge, 2002. ISBN   978-1-85743-161-2
  2. Peel, Ian (1 January 2010). "From the Art of Plastic to the Age of Noise". Archived from the original on 11 November 2013. Retrieved 19 May 2013.
  3. Johnson, Brent (8 September 2011). "Interview: Geoff Downes of Yes". Archived from the original on 10 July 2015. Retrieved 29 June 2014.
  4. Chris Welch (2009). Close to the Edge: The Story of Yes. Omnibus Press. p. 261. ISBN   9780857120427 . Retrieved 21 January 2018.
  5. Downes, Geoffrey (13 January 2018). "The Wombles theatre production in 1975! I generally keep that one under wraps as you can imagine. PS Happy birthday for the other day". Twitter . Retrieved 21 December 2018.
  6. "BBC - Radio 1 - Keeping It Peel - 22/08/1977 Gary Boyle".
  7. "DBA - Sunday News radio edit Geoff Downes and Chris Braide". YouTube . Retrieved 29 June 2014.
  8. "The official web site for Geoff Downes". Retrieved 29 June 2014.
  9. "Heavy Rock - the playlist!: Yes: New Album "Fly From Here" Out In July". 31 March 2011. Retrieved 3 January 2012.
  10. "Geoff Downes - Asia Interview". 19 April 2008. Archived from the original on 19 April 2008. Retrieved 29 June 2014.
  11. "A Q&A with Geoff Downes of Yes, Asia and The Buggles". Retrieved 9 October 2017.
  12. Downes, Geoffrey (23 November 2018). "Drama - no doubt". Twitter . Retrieved 21 December 2018.

Further reading