Monday, June 29, 2015
Chris Squire, R.I.P.
Bill Bruford on Chris Squire:
Really saddened to hear of the death of my old Yes band-mate, Chris Squire. I shall remember him fondly; one of the twin rocks upon which Yes was founded and, I believe, the only member to have been present and correct, Rickenbacker at the ready, on every tour. He and I had a working relationship built around our differences. Despite, or perhaps because of, the old chestnut about creative tension, it seemed, strangely, to work.
He had an approach that contrasted sharply with the somewhat monotonic, immobile bass parts of today. His lines were important; counter-melodic structural components that you were as likely to go away humming as the top line melody; little stand-alone works of art in themselves. Whenever I think of him, which is not infrequently, I think of the over-driven fuzz of the sinewy staccato hits in Close to the Edge (6’04” and on) or a couple of minutes later where he sounds like a tuba (8’.00”). While he may have taken a while to arrive at the finished article, it was always worth waiting for. And then he would sing a different part on top.
An individualist in an age when it was possible to establish individuality, Chris fearlessly staked out a whole protectorate of bass playing in which he was lord and master. I suspect he knew not only that he gave millions of people pleasure with his music, but also that he was fortunate to be able to do so. I offer sincere condolences to his family.
Adios, partner. Bill.
"Close To The Edge" was possibly the first record I bought that wasn't The Beatles, Beach Boys or some other AM radio hit single. I have two vivid memories, both involving the same minutes of opening music of Side One. One is of me alone in my room, experiencing that opening blast of chaos, anchored by one of the greatest rhythm sections in music, Bill Bruford and Chris Squire. My room was no bigger than a walk-in closet, taken over by thousands of records, yet I managed to pace frantically in what little space was left for me. I was beyond excited by the music which was light years away from "Wouldn't It Be Nice." I was nervous. The intro had only begun and yet it was already longer than every song on "Pet Sounds."
When Side Two finished, I called my cousin. "Wait until you hear this!"
The second memory is from my cousin's room. I trained it over with my copy of "Close To The Edge." My cousin's friend had joined us. This band Yes was new to both of them, as well. Somehow, the band's four previous releases did not penetrate our listening wall of Beatles and Stones. They had little patience for new music, and since they were four years my senior, had even less patience for me. Same opening blast and they looked horrified. I begged them to wait it out. They did. They are still huge Yes fans.
It's easy to mock the pretentiousness of prog rock, especially a record called "Tales From Topographic Oceans," with four side-long epics, each with a title more ridiculous than the next. And maybe that was the record that fostered the ridicule from the naysayers who were still on the fence about the band and only needed one more gentle shove to fall off.
Bill Bruford was gone by 1974, and the ever-revolving doors brought in dozens more, all playing as Yes. I won't defend the last 30 years of output from the band. It has been spotty, though there was some magic here and there. But what Chris Squire, the anchor, and his band had accomplished on the first five records was special. These were unique sounds, blending early Beatles melodies and harmonies, psychedelic sounds, complicated rhythms and time signatures, and truly some of the best all out playing of instruments ever committed to tape. It is because of those first five Yes records alone that Chris Squire should be respected. A great influence on many and a great loss too soon.