By Chris Anderson
Chris Squire (1948-2015)
Rock & roll has a tendency to claim lives and it often claims them young. It’s terrible to think about but it always has, all the way back to Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran, through Hendrix, Joplin, and Morrison, all the way to the Cobains and Winehouses of more recent times. It’s sad but it’s to be expected from a business that allows kids to lose control at an age when they really don’t know any better.
Prog-rock, however, has been largely exempt from much of that. A lot of it has to do with the lifestyle choices of musicians who are serious about their craft, and there are many who follow a “new age” style of living, one in keeping with the musical and spiritual paths they tread. Surely some are just plain lucky, too. But, generally, proggers tend to live healthier lives and, as a result, despite being a subgenre whose origins are almost fifty years’ gone, there are very few major players who have left this earth.
Which is why the recent death of Yes bassist Chris Squire, at age 67, from leukemia, was all the more shocking and sad. Being the sole constant member in one of the longest-lasting and most successful of all the prog bands, Squire was more than just a star of the genre. He was the most important of all the players, a figurehead if there could ever be one. His influence as a bassist could not be understated. Approaching the bass like a lead instrument, he played with a pick and often high on the neck, managing to simultaneously hold down the low end as well as offer melodic leads and counterpoint, every note carefully selected and skillfully executed. A towering presence on stage, Squire possessed an angelic voice that, along with lead singer Jon Anderson and guitarist Steve Howe, defined the Yes vocal sound, a thick, rich harmonic presence that took the model provided by Crosby Stills & Nash and sent it into the stratosphere. At times, Squire was a dominant co-writer in the band, though usually he was known for hanging in the background, soaking up the musical ideas offered by his bandmates and arranging them into the sort of dense sonic tapestries that made Yes what it is.
Squire got his start in early British psychedelic bands such as The Syn and Mabel Greer’s Toyshop before joining forces with Anderson to create something larger than life. That result was Yes, which came together in 1968, releasing their debut album the following year. A going concern for the majority of the last 47 years, Yes has seen some nineteen different players come and go. Some stayed for decades while others came and went in a flash. Through it all, Squire was the glue that held it together, always making sure there was a Yes. When there were major gaps in the lineup, it was Squire who steered the band back on course, whether it was hiring the Buggles to replace Anderson and Rick Wakeman for 1980’s brilliant Drama album, or linking up with Trevor Rabin to construct the lineup that dominated the charts with “Owner Of A Lonely Heart”. When health issues sidelined Anderson in 2008, it was Squire who got the band back on the road, first with vocalist Benoit David (who sang on the masterful Fly From Here in 2011) and then Jon Davison, the band’s current vocalist. In fact, knowing that he would be sidelined by his illness, it was Squire who hand selected Billy Sherwood (former Yes member and Squire’s longtime musical partner) to fill in for him…and when Squire knew that the end was near, he called on Sherwood to permanently replace him and ensure that Yes would continue.
The love and devotion that Squire had for Yes was immeasurable. While many of the other members of the band maintain wickedly prolific solo and side careers outside of Yes, Squire’s outside output was relatively slim. His 1975 solo album, Fish Out Of Water, is often regarded as the best outside project of all the Yes-men. It would be a quarter-century before his name would grace another non-Yes album. He eventually recorded two albums with Sherwood (2000 & 2003) under the name Conspiracy, released a Christmas-themed solo album under the cheeky name Chris Squire’s Swiss Choir in 2007, and in 2012 he teamed up with former Genesis guitarist, Steve Hackett, for a fantastic album released under the name Squackett. In 2002, Squire was one of many bassists who participated in the Gov’t Mule album/film The Deep End, and he later joined a reunion of his original band, The Syn, who released a few relatively obscure albums, between 2005 and 2009. Aside from a bit of session work, that’s it for extracurricular activities. At the end of the day, however, it’s the 21 studio albums that he appeared on with Yes, as well as thousands of live concerts, for which Chris Squire will be remembered.
And now, some recommended listening:
- “Heart Of The Sunrise” (Yes – 1971)
- “Tempus Fugit” (Yes – 1980)
- “Sound Chaser” (Yes – 1974)
- “Hold Out Your Hand” (solo – 1975)
- “The Fish (schindleria praematurus)” (Yes – 1971)
- “Mind Drive” (Yes – 1996)
- “Tall Ships” (Squackett – 2012)
- “Parallels” (Yes – 1977)
- “New World” (Conspiracy – 2003)
- “Silent Revolution” (The Syn – 2006)
- “Sun Dance” (Gov’t Mule – 2002)
- “Beyond And Before” (Yes – 1969)
- “Technical Divide” (Prog Collective – 2009)
- “Close To The Edge” (Yes – 1972)
- “The More We Live – Let Go” (Yes – 1991)
That is just the tip of the iceberg and is most definitely worth a listen, to get a picture of what Chris Squire was all about. Yes will continue without him, as they should, but it will never be the same. And it could not be expected to. The music world has lost