So who is the “you” referred to in this song? In an interview with Jon Anderson, he answered:
Probably God. Or it could be we collectively. The audience and I, collectively we look for reality of being a true understanding of the beauty of life. We reach over the rainbow for an understanding of things. You and I climb closer to the light.
Few song titles start with the word “and”; a more logical title would be “You And I.” Jon Anderson stated why the conjunction appears at the beginning:
I sang it that way as I was writing it with Steve (Howe) and it just stuck: ‘And you and I climb over the sea to the valley.’ It’s all about the reasons that we have to call our connection with the Divine. So it was something that just rhythmically worked.
The song, which opened Side 2 of “Close to the Edge”, was the lone single from Yes’ platinum-selling farewell album with original drummer Bill Bruford, was the last of four consecutive Top 50 Yes songs dating back to March of 1971, was Yes’ final such Billboard entry until “Owner of a Lonely Heart” shot to No. 1 more than a decade later.
The song is just over ten minutes in length and consists of four movements. The first and second parts of the song were released as a single edit.
I. Cord of Life
The song opens with Steve Howe on 12-string acoustic guitar, and his voice can be heard at the beginning of the track, then playing mostly natural harmonics, played around what will become the central melody, using a 12-string acoustic guitar which quickly forms into a simple chord progression over distant organ chords. Then, the Moog enters for a simple solo, presenting a subsequent phrase, albeit differently arranged. The vocals begin at about 1:40. The line “All Complete in the sight of seeds of life with you” is sung, which is repeated throughout the song. At about 2:50, there’s a distinct change: Anderson sings a sharper melody, accompanied by a second vocal track by Anderson harmonizing with himself, plus Chris Squire and Steve Howe providing a counter-melody and alternate lyrics, with their voices fed through a Leslie speaker.
“Eclipse” is the slowest part of the song based on a measured and deliberate melody reminiscent of Sibelius. It is led by Rick Wakeman’s epic Mellotron and Minimoog with a thematic quote from “Cord of Life” played by Steve Howe on a delay-soaked Sho Bud Pro1 Pedal Steel guitar. The lyrics are all from the first stanza of “The Cord of Life”, but are sung in a different melody, which is also epic and slightly sad. In this section, the song cycles from the key of D to the key of A, E, and finally B, in which it remains for the duration of the song. It ends with the 12-string acoustic guitar leading into “The Preacher, The Teacher”.
III. The Preacher, The Teacher
The melody and lyrical structure is very similar (for the most part) to that of “The Cord of Life”, with some variations. The exception is that “The Preacher, The Teacher” has a fast synthesizer solo by Rick Wakeman at one point during the song. The last stanza again consists of lines from “The Cord of Life”, now sung in a different order and a completely different mood. At 8:34 there is a reprise of the previous section “Eclipse”, which lasts until 9:12. The section ends with a cadenza-like orchestral statement, on Mellotron and Minimoog, reminiscent of neo-Wagnerian compositions from Strauss or Bruckner.
“Apocalypse” is the shortest piece of the song, only about 40 seconds long, it consists only of four lines, accompanied only by Howe’s guitars. The lyrics are taken from “Cord of Life”, but are sung in the key of B, making them more upbeat:
And you and I climb, crossing the shapes of the morning.
And you and I reach over the sun for the river.
And you and I climb, clearer, towards the movement.
And you and I called over valleys of endless seas.
While many have analyzed and attempted deep interpretations of the lyrics of this song, Alan Gullette of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville wrote:
…one might argue that the poet had a specific meaning in mind, one which he was trying to express. This I feel: the words of these poem are not an end in themselves, but only a means for the expression of the poet Jon Anderson. In them, Anderson creates a beautiful world of imagery and takes us into that world. He speaks to us of the most important things: life, emotion and expression, the world, growth: of existence moving toward essence. As a poet, a human being, he states his purpose simply:
… I reach out for reasons to call
To which I would add:
Coming quickly to terms of all expression laid
Emotions revealed as the ocean made
As a movement regained and regarded both the same
All complete in the sight of seeds of life with you.
Here is a live version they performed in Montreux, Switzerland in 2003 with the then current members.
A two-part edit of “And You and I” released in the United States reached number 42 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.
On April 7 2017, Yes were finally inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. Controversially, the institution’s complex rule system meant that of the 17 people who have officially passed through the band’s ranks, just eight were eligible: Jon Anderson, Steve Howe , Trevor Rabin, Bill Bruford, Alan White, Tony Kaye, Rick Wakeman, and, posthumously, Chris Squire. That meant no place for founding guitarist Peter Banks, vocalist/producer Trevor Horn or current members Geoff Downes, Billy Sherwood or Jon Davison.