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.


William Repsher said...

The first Yes album I bought in real time was Going for the One ... I think my parents assumed I was going to be gay as I recall buying Rush's Hemispheres around the same time, both featuring bare-assed guys on the cover. The title track holds a special place for me as a result.

Like many people who got into the "alternative" scene in the 80's, I had to disown prog rock, along with a lot of other 70's music hat was deemed "uncool" at the time. I came back to Yes some time in the 90's, and glad I did. I think by the time it became hip to disown prog, in all fairness, the prominent album tracks of all those bands had been played to death on AOR radio (Jethro Tull and Yes, in particular). Some music is so tied in to certain emotional stages of your life that it becomes necessary to abandon them at some point, and then to come back and recognize their greatness later.

With Yes, it was their versatility, Steve Howe in particular, could play anything, any type of music. I could hear strains of straight rock, country, jazz, classical, etc. in their songs, despite whatever lyrical goofiness was going on. So much of their early 70's material is elemental to me now, so ingrained that I can play the songs completely in my head and remember everything ... which is something with a nine minute track! With Squire, the loping bass line that pushed "Yours is No Disgrace" along and the dark, brooding mood followed by an explosion on "Heart of the Sunrise" ... just brilliant.

It's hard to explain prog to people who don't get it, or people like me who abandoned it for punk/new wave, but never came back. Part of the problem comes with the pretentiousness of trying to explain it. It's just good music, often times great. "Roundabout" might have drilled holes in my brian by the 5,000th time I heard it on the radio by 1979, but funny things happen when you don't listen to certain types of music for years, decades in cases, then come to realize there was a reason it got played on the radio all the times for years.

kevin m said...

I have a similar history as William. I grew up loving YES but upon entering college in the early 80's I thumbed my nose at them as they weren't cool. Instead I turned my focus on REM, Replacements, etc. It wasn't until YES released The Ladders in the late 90s did I come back to them.

The YES album remains one my top 20 records of all time and would certainly make any desert island list I had to come up with.

I saw them last year at Radio City. I was really disappointed in the show and frankly Chris looked awful.

I see that they have another tour (with Toto??) later this summer. I can't imagine that they will continue to perform and record.

Noam Sane said...

I'd heard Roundabout a zillion times by the time I went to a midnight movie in 10th grade and saw "Yessongs." Soon I had the triple-vinyl album - still my favorite Yes record, those songs I think benefit from their lack of studio lacquer - and played it constantly. They'd come around every summer, usually it was the Hartford (CT) Civic Center, a long drive from my upstate NY home, but that gave me plenty of time to modify my reality in preparation.

"Going For The One" came out when i was a high school senior, and while some of it doesn't really hold up, the title tune and "Parallels" are tops in my book. I remember being desperately disappointed that they didn't play "Going" on that summer's tour.

Squire played a lot of lines that, as mentioned in the piece, stand alone as great melodic parts. One of the true giants of that instrument. I've been waiting to see if that original line-up might someday manage to tour again, I would not have missede it. Sadly, not to be. Sal, you write a nice eulogy.

cmealha said...

Totally agree. One of the best rythm sections ever. What Bruford and Squire did together still amazes me. You're right as far as "Tales...." totally destroying all the good they did with the first 5 magical albums. I don't think I ever go all the way through any of the sides. One of my favorite bass players. He was so technically proficient but so many times technique leaves artistry by the wayside. Not in his case. He played beautifully and was always a pleasure to listen to his inventive lines. He and the band have been given short shrift because let's admit it they did get a bit pompous and rediculous but it doesn't negate their accomplishments.

dogbreath said...

I'm probably the opposite to your other readers - not for the first or last time, I suspect - in that, as a younger version of me now, I never owned any Yes to listen to or went out of my way to hear. Until the remasters of the early albums came along in the 90's, that is, when I discovered what I'd been missing. My ignorance (or blinkered viewpoint, depending on where you sit) probably stems from the fact that my high school pals were crazy for the band & always banging on about that drum fill or this riff or that lyric. One of them was a virtuoso at humming the intricate basslines while playing air bass guitar(thank you, Mr Squire) & the fact this lad was Scottish to boot probably fuelled my animosity towards all things Yes. Anyway, my conversion to prog was complete after hearing the Yes early stuff in its pristine loveliness (the later works don't move me the same way). And let's face it, Chris Squire was a pretty good bass player. Thanks for writing the nice article.

buzzbabyjesus said...

Sad News. Chris and Bill were the first rhythm section I noticed after Paul and Ringo.
"Roundabout" caught my ear because it sounded like the Beatles. The complexity and sound compared well with Side 2 of "Abbey Road". I noticed Bill's snare drum pop, and it might be no coincidence Chris and Paul both favored Richenbachers. Then there was "Long Distance Runaround" getting some airplay with some absolutely ripping bass. I didn't buy the album.
Like Sal, "Close To The Edge" was my first non Beatles (etc) album, and just thinking about it makes my hair stand on end. That is the pinnacle. Nice that Bill singled it out.
I bought "Fragile" and about half of it is great. The solo bits are embarrassing filler, but when I do a mental inventory, Chris gets a pass.
I bought "Fish Out Of Water", and I don't remember a thing about it except the cover wasn't too good.
I followed Bill into King Crimson, and that's another story.
Alan White plays drums on a couple records I really like "Instant Karma", and he plays with Eric and Klaus on "Live Peace In Torronto", another half record, but that didn't lessen my disappointment in "Tales From Topographic Oceans", one of my least favorite ever followups to a favorite.
"Yessongs didn't do it for me either. I missed Bill.
"The Yes Album" is my second favorite. There is a kick drum beat at the end of "The Clap" that we used for testing car stereos.
The first two have moments, but are pretty inessential except for that Richie Havens cover.
Then there's "Relayer" which is the last one I bought. All I remember about it was a ballad that sounded too much like "The Way We Were" for my tastes. Goodbye Yes! Hello Genesis, King Crimson, Roxy Music, David Bowie, and a cast of thousands.

Clarence E. Jones III said...

Same here. "Close", then "Fragile", then finding one day an import Atlantic various artists album with S & G's "America" at it's full length. The Alan White era began for me with "Yessongs", then "Tormato" & "Going for the One" (yeah, got "Fish Out of Water" too). Bruford and Squire were an incredible duo. Rest in Peace to a Musician's Musician.

Anonymous said...

a great long read about the early days of Yes -

Ken J Xenozar said...

Most of Yes is burned into my DNA too. Binge listening to Fragile. So EVERYONE knows Steve Howe's famous harmonics on the intro. But seriously, the bass riff by Squire at 0:44 hits like a sledge hammer. Wow. And not that it really matters, but is probably harder to play than the intro by Steve Howe. Chris Squire added aggressiveness to the band. And he was a pretty good singer too. I have no idea what kind of a human being he was, but he was a monster bassist.