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NEW YORK — For eight years as NBC News president, Steve Capus worried about Brian Williams, the “Today” show and rapid changes in the news industry. Now he’s taking time for a passion project: getting Yes into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Capus is collaborating with two political pros on an awareness campaign for the band that enthralled him when he attended their concert as a 16-year-old in Philadelphia in 1979.
The team is already halfway there: Yes is one of 16 candidates for enshrinement next year, its first time nominated.
“I don’t want people to think I’ve completely lost my mind,” said Capus, who after leaving NBC last spring has done consulting work in communications and plans to teach journalism and management. “This isn’t my new career. I’ve got the luxury of some time on my hands and the ability to do some projects that I believe in and have some fun doing.”
Capus’ enthusiasm is no secret to those who know him. NBC got Yes members to film a salute for his going-away party. A reporter covering a rock hall induction a few years ago was surprised by an aggrieved email from Capus about Yes being overlooked.
“They’re all great musicians,” said Capus, who’s taking bass guitar lessons. “Nobody sounds like Yes does. They’ve got their own unique sound. They’ve kind of been the soundtrack to my life.”
He was contacted by Republican consultant John Brabender and Tad Devine, a Democrat, to join their effort. Both are Yes fans and admittedly bored between political campaigns. They thought boosting Yes could be fun, and perhaps fodder for a reality TV show about a Republican and Democrat cooperating during polarizing times.
“Maybe we should just play Yes music in the halls of Congress,” quipped an amused Chris Squire, Yes bass player.
The political team’s first step was to hire an opposition researcher — not to bash Deep Purple or the Moody Blues, but to find out what’s been holding Yes back.
The rock hall hasn’t exactly embraced 1970s era progressive rock, and even convened a committee to research the genre and see if it has been overlooked. The induction of Rush this year is seen as a sign the logjam may be breaking.
The campaign hopes to build a groundswell among fans and tapped Capus to produce a film extolling Yes’ virtues to rock hall voters. Capus attended a “Yestival” in New Jersey and went to Cleveland with the band to conduct interviews.
An act is eligible for the hall 25 years after its first release. A 35-member committee decides on nominees each September and ballots are sent to another 700 people, including all living inductees, music executives, musicians and journalists. Usually five to seven acts are inducted each time, said Joel Peresman, president and CEO of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation.
Campaigns aren’t uncommon, particularly in recent years as the hall has made the public part of the process. Hall and Oates supporters are also gearing up this year. The top five fan vote-getters are included as a single vote among the 700 experts.
“I love the passion,” Peresman said. But the hall doesn’t publicly identify its voters, preferring they make a judgment unswayed by campaigns.
Squire said Yes appreciates the support. Induction would be nice, even if the band has become accustomed to a bias against prog rock.
“I just accepted it and didn’t lose any sleep over it,” he said. “We still have a great fan base in the United States and all over the world and have a very enjoyable way to make a living playing to these people.”
Capus believes, though. “I think it’s only a matter of time before they get in.”