Yes’ Chris Squire on “Fly From Here,” “Life Within a Day,” “Tempus Fugit” + others: Gimme Five

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Chris Squire joins us to discuss what sparked Yes to return to the long-form compositional style of its glory years on 2011’s Fly From Here, and how a failed early 1980s project with Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page ultimately led to the inclusion a Squire-sung track on 2001’s Magnification. He also talks about the difficulties of returning to music in concert from the underrated Drama album, and how he came to work with Hackett as part of the newly christened Squackett project …

“FLY FROM HERE,” with YES (FLY FROM HERE, 2011): A six-part, 25-minute suite of songs – very much in the style of Yes’ seminal prog-rock triumphs from the 1970s – which opened the band’s 20th studio release. The initial track grew from a demo originally recorded by keyboardist Geoff Downes and vocalist Trevor Horn for the Buggles, before both briefly joined Yes in 1980. A tour behind the resulting album Drama included another early version of “Fly From Here.” Horn then switched to the producer’s chair for Yes’ hit recordings 90125 and Big Generator, before departing. When Downes and Horn returned for this long-awaited album – the first in a decade by Squire and Co. – the tune was revived and then expanded. Enthusiastic fans then pushed Fly From Here into the Top 40.

CHRIS SQUIRE: When we got together to do Fly From Here, one of the first conversations Trevor Horn and I had was that it would be kind of interesting to expand the revamped “Fly From Here” song. It was originally written for the Drama album, but didn’t make it on because of the time constraints. When we talked about reviving that song, the second part of the conversation was that maybe we shouldn’t just do that. Maybe we should make it into a longer piece in the classic Yes style. And we embraced that idea. We trolled around for other bits of music to put together, and it all worked very well. It’s a good album. When we finished it, everybody was very happy with the way it turned out. Of course, working with Trevor Horn again is always a great experience for me. We have a lot of fun, creating in the studio together. I really feel very sure when I’m working with him, because he will make sure the best comes out of the project.

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: Better than it has any right to be, Yes’ long-awaited comeback ‘Fly From Here’ reclaims both parts of the band’s legacy – as prog-rock idealists, and pop-star geniuses.]

“SILENT NIGHT/NIGHT OF SILENCE,” solo (SWISS CHOIR, 2007): This choral-infused Christmas album was a nostalgic return to Squire’s childhood days as a member of St. Andrew’s church choir in almost every respect: It even featured the bassist’s reunion with Gerard Johnson and Jeremy Stacey of Syn – a youthful precursor to Yes that, at one point, including original guitarist Peter Banks. But perhaps more interesting was this also marked Squire’s initial recordings with Steve Hackett, who played on all but the album’s final bonus track, a rare 1981 Yes holiday song called “Run With The Fox.” The pair then began a lengthy collaboration that would include guest spots from Squire on two songs from Hackett’s 2010 release Out of the Tunnel’s Mouth, on three tracks from Hackett’s 2011 album Beyond the Shrouded Horizon and then the release, earlier this week, of the full-length studio project A Life Within a Day — credited to the newly rechristened Squackett.

CHRIS SQUIRE: Originally that’s how Steve came on board — to help me out on guitar for the Swiss Choir album — and he did such a great job, that I basically owed him a favor there. So, I said anything you need me to play on, any harmonies that you’re working on, I’ll be happy to oblige — to return the favor. So, that’s how this started off. We were working on some tunes, but I didn’t really know where they were going, whether it would be a solo project of his, or whatever. I was just reciprocating the favor, and then of course at a certain point, we realized: These tracks all sound real good. It dawned on us that we should possibly make this a project — a joint thing.

[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: Yes cofounder Chris Squire goes in depth on the 2012 Squackett collaboration with former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett, saying “we made good noise.”]

“CAN YOU IMAGINE,” with YES (MAGNIFICATION, 2001): Originally called “Can You See,” this track was part of the lost early 1980s sessions for a proposed supergroup called XYZ, featuring Squire, Yes drummer Alan White and Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page. (The name stood for eX-Yes/Zeppelin.) Renamed “Can You Imagine,” with additional contributions from other members of Yes, the tune eventually appeared with a new Squire vocal on Magnification amidst a full orchestra, a first for Yes since the 1970 release Time and a Word.

CHRIS SQUIRE: It was in a certain period of time when Yes, after all the shows and work we had done in the 1970s, we were having a break at the beginning at the ’80s. This was just after the Drama album, and it was a point when (longtime Yes guitarist) Steve (Howe) and Geoff decided to put the Asia project together. Alan and I were just really having a rest, and I ran into Jimmy at a Christmas party. He had moved into a house relatively close to where I lived at the time. This was just after (Led Zeppelin drummer) John Bonham had died. He had obviously been knocked back by that event, but he said he wanted to get back into playing. So we messed around with a few tracks. I don’t want to say it was therapeutic for Jimmy, but it really was. We just brought together some songs, and Jimmy was happy to be playing again. There were some discussions about Robert joining us, but it was too early for him — and that’s really why it didn’t go any further along that route. It was too early for Robert to think about a new project, so we kind of put it on the back burner. And it’s stayed there. (Laughed.)

“A LIFE WITHIN A DAY,” with SQUACKETT (A LIFE WITHIN A DAY, 2012): With sessions taking place over a period of years, most of the Squackett project includes songs that were brought in by either Squire or Hackett. Two of the cuts had been previously performed live, “Aliens” by Yes and “Storm Chaser” by Hackett. Squire had also begun work on both “Can’t Stop the Rain” and “Perfect Love Song” as part of a proposed solo album in 2006. (Another, “The Man You Always Wanted Me to Be,” ended up on Yes’ 2011 release Fly From Here.) There were at least two songs that were started in tandem, however, “Tall Ships” and the title track — this billowing, orchestral number that opens the new collaboration.

CHRIS SQUIRE: Steve brought in some songs, and I brought in some songs I was working on, and we both worked on each other’s. Then, at the end of the day, we were just writing organically together. In fact, “A Life Within a Day” was one of the last things we did. That was very much a cooperative event, from the ground up, music and lyrics and melodies and everything.

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: The debut Squackett collaboration with Genesis alum Steve Hackett finds Yes co-founder Chris Squire playing with an uncommon joy.]

TEMPUS FUGIT,” with YES (DRAMA, 1980:) Classically complex, and driven by a coiled bass line from Squire, “Tempus Fugit” was part of Yes’ first-ever album without Jon Anderson, and like most of Drama remained outside of the group’s concert setlist once Anderson returned later in the 1980s. By the time Yes took to the concert trail in the late 2000s, Anderson had again exited the lineup, and the group made a belated return to these all-but-forgotten songs. “Tempus” and “Machine Messiah,” the opening track on Drama, provided unexpected thrills in the tours featuring Benoit David in 2008-2011, and Squire said he plans to include a selection of other deep cuts in the upcoming summer U.S. dates — the first stateside appearances for Yes with new singer Jon Davison.

CHRIS SQUIRE: Going back to play “Tempus Fugit” absolutely was a challenge for me, because the bass playing at the same time as the vocals, is not an easy thing to pull off. It’s taken me a couple of years to really feel comfortable doing that again. It’s quite complicated, the harmonies and the bassline. Now, of course, we definitely have that down, and it’s a great pleasure to play that song. We played “Tempus Fugit” and “Machine Messiah” with Jon Davison, and they sound really good, when we were in Australia. We may keep one of them for our summer tour, but we will try to make some changes to add in some stuff we haven’t done in a while.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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