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Yes and the 80s Nonstaglic Hit: Owner of a Lonely Heart

This week’s #SongLyricsSunday theme is “Drifter/Loner/Transient/Vagabond”. The blog prompt was given by the host Jim at A Unique Title For Me. For this week, I was on the fence for which song to pick: Should I pick a song that is well-known or a song that isn’t? I thought for a while and came up with the solution: I wanted to write about a song that I really love. “Owner of a Lonely Heart”.

Yes and “Owner of a Lonely Heart”

Everyone has heard of Yes or their songs once in their lifetime. More well-known in the 70s, this British progressive band had successful albums like The Yes Album, Fragile, and Close to the Edge. Their signature hit came from these albums: “Roundabout”.

But the 80s came, changing the way how we listen to rock music. Rock became more diverse as sub-genres like punk rock, pop-rock, and new wave were introduced. Because of this, even bands like Yes changed their sound. Yes focused on making their music more commercialized and pop-oriented. The result was 90125 released in 1983. “Owner of a Lonely Heart” was the most successful song from the album, charting on the Billboard charts. But also, “Cinema” garnered the band a Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance.

Behind the Scenes of Yes’ “Owner of a Lonely Heart”

Trevor Rabin

“Owner of a Lonely Heart” was written by then-members Trevor Rabin, Jon Anderson, and Chris Squire. Their producer and former member at the time, Trevor Horn, had a hand in writing the song. Rabin wrote the basis of the song in 1979 when he wrote it while he was using the toilet. He recorded a demo using an acoustic guitar and a 4-track machine. He then pitched the song to record companies but got rejected. Arista Record owner Clive Davis even said that the song would be “too strange, and would not be a hit”.[1]

By 1982, Trevor Rabin joined up with Alan White and Chris Squire to form the band Cinema. While finishing up their first album, Trevor Horn heard Rabin’s demo of the song while Rabin was using the toilet. Trevor Horn begged Rabin to use the “Owner of a Lonely Heart” on the album as it was the hit the group needed, Rabin refused. Trevor Horn then begged again, this time in front of the members of Cinema. This time was different. The whole band agreed to record.


Trevor Horn

Trevor Horn wanted to change the song up. “Horn pushed for a programmed sound and a drum tone inspired by Stewart Copeland’s tight snare drum on The Police’s Synchronicity”.[2] He also wanted to change the lyrics up. He also changed the song’s genre from acoustic rock to hard rock. By the time original Yes vocalist Jon Anderson joined the band (thus changing the band’s name from Cinema to Yes), Anderson also re-wrote the lyrics as he disliked Horn’s rewrite. This also led the song to change the musical genre once again.

Although the song had a lot of rewrites before the final product was released on 90125, Rabin said he had fun making the song. He clarified who did what in an article for Something Else!: “Jon did add to my lyrics in the verses and deserved what he got, as did Chris. One can hear my development of the song on 90124; sound doesn’t lie. Trevor Horn being allotted a percentage was a thank you for introducing me to the Synclavier, which is one of the keyboards I used on the song and I had not used it before.”[3]

Why I like Yes’ “Owner of a Lonely Heart”

There is so much to love about the song: that slick guitar introduction, Jon Anderson’s vocals, the chorus, and the lyrics. But what I like best is the lyrics, they are so inspiring. With lines like “You are the move you make” and ” Give your free will a chance”, the message of “Owner of a Lonely Heart” that you make yourself, no one else. You are the one who controls your destiny, who makes the moves in your life. You can’t be shy, take chances if you want to move forward. ” You’ve got to want to succeed” — as my favorite line in the song goes.

As a person who believes in going forward is the best way, I seem to be stuck in one place now. I really want to quit my job in teaching as I really want to change careers. However, I get rejected from most of the non-teaching job positions that I applied to as I don’t have the skills or the experience. It is so frustrating because I want to move upwards. I want to get away from being stuck in one place like so many people are. I might be silly, I don’t want to be most people and want to run away from the negativity that comes from being stuck in one place.

On the other hand, I am also stuck on how to make money off this blog. I have been trying and trying to get this blog off the ground, but it is baby steps. I should join a course or get help, but don’t really to turn to. If you have any good recommendations for blog courses or help, let me know.

What Do You Think?

What do you think of Yes’ “Owner of a Lonely Heart”? What kind of message do you get from the song? Let me know in the comments!

The Lyrics of Yes’ “Owner of a Lonely Heart”

Move yourself
You always live your life
Never thinking of the future
Prove yourself
You are the move you make
Take your chances, win or loser
See yourself
You are the steps you take
You and you, and that’s the only way
Shake, shake yourself
You’re every move you make
So the story goes

Owner of a lonely heart
Owner of a lonely heart
(Much better than a)
Owner of a broken heart
Owner of a lonely heart

I know (x3)
Maybe there’s another way to do this

Say – you don’t want to chance it
You’ve been hurt so before
Watch it now
The eagle in the sky
How he dancin’ one and only
You, lose yourself
No not for pity’s sake
There’s no real reason to be lonely
Be yourself
Give your free will a chance
You’ve got to want to succeed

Owner of a lonely heart
Owner of a lonely heart
(Much better than a)
Owner of a broken heart
Owner of a lonely heart

Owner of a lonely heart

After my own indecision
They confused me so
Owner of a lonely heart
My love said never question your will at all
In the end you’ve got to go
Look before you leap
Owner of a lonely heart
And don’t you hesitate at all – no no
Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!

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[1] “Trevor Rabin Clears the Air on Yes Owner of a Lonely Heart: I’ve Bitten My Lip for a Long Time.” Something Else!, 20 Aug. 2017,

[2] Red Bull Music Academy 2011, 1:09:59–1:10:40.

[3] “Trevor Rabin Clears the Air on Yes Owner of a Lonely Heart: I’ve Bitten My Lip for a Long Time.” Something Else!, 20 Aug. 2017,

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