Yes’ Chris Squire was the quintessential rock star and consummate musician

Share this:

Christopher Russell Edward “Chris” Squire was both the quintessential rock star and the consummate musician — and not necessarily in that order. He died of leukemia one month ago on June 27, 2015 at age 67. It was a staggering blow that continues to reverberate around the world, and rightly so.

Chris was a major inspiration to both Yes fans and rock musicians as he was one of the true innovators. Drawing upon the styles of Paul McCartney and John Entwistle, he extended the boundaries of the bass even farther than those two incredible musicians. He played lines that were more melodic than one would have expected, which his few detractors condescendingly characterized as “lead bass.” It was a label that didn’t take into account that Chris Squire had the musical acuity to know when to lay back, and when to go for it. He didn’t “shred” just to be fancy or show off. Whatever he played was appropriate for the song at that particular moment.

Fortunately in Yes he had a playing field that he helped to create where his busier-than-usual style was right at home. In less expert hands trying to overplay over the likes of Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman might have resulted in cacophony, but Chris had the artistry to know what worked for a particular passage. His chunky, trebly bass lines would sometimes act as rhythm guitarist, an approach that wasn’t lost on the likes of Geddy Lee of Rush.

While Chris Squire’ bass playing alone is reason enough to place him amongst the rock greats, one cannot forget his distinct vocal harmonies. While his singing voice lacked the character needed to be a dedicated lead singer, his voice was a perfect complement to that of Jon Anderson. In an era where singing in a high range was done sparingly, in Yes it was front and center. Chris’s range sometimes eclipsed even Jon’s — listen to the two at the top of the “Solid Time of Change” movement from “Close to the Edge” (“A season’s witch can can call you …”), where Squire is singing higher than Anderson. It was practically heroic of Chris to sometimes have to play complex bass lines while singing lyrics that could be polysyllabic.

It bears a mention that Chris Squire would get his day singing lead and playing bass solos on his first solo album Fish Out of Water. The album featured then-current band mate Patrick Moraz, and a reunion with Bill Bruford — whose work there is exemplary, despite the tiffs he had with Chris before he left Yes.

In addition to his spectacular playing and singing, Chris contributed to many of Yes’ best songs. One that will be played by countless fans during this difficult time is one credited solely to Chris Squire: “Onward,” a high point of the much-maligned Tormato — though this author doesn’t share the disdain that other Yes fans have for the album. Ironically, another song from Chris — and one that originated in the XYZ sessions with Alan and Jimmy Page and later recorded with Yes on Magnification — was “Can You Imagine,” where the lyric continues the question, “seeing life from the other side.” I’m sure many thought of this song upon learning of Squire’s passing.

As mentioned earlier, Chris Squire was a natural when it came to playing the role of rock god. His fashion sense, his hair stylings, his excesses in living the life was somewhat unusual for a band that back in the day was singled out for being vegetarian and health conscious. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that Chris became a party animal when Alan White took over for Bill Bruford, as the two could be seen after many a show in the hotel bar yukking it up with family, friends and fans.

I have some great memories of Chris Squire. (To be perfectly candid, I’m not going to purport to being his best friend or anything remotely close to that, or that every encounter was a wonderful experience, but in respect am focusing on the positive experiences here.) When Yes were rehearsing in Seattle before one tour, I spent some time with Chris and his second wife Melissa, and that was when Chris introduced me to pinot noir. I wasn’t much of a wine maven prior to that, but have been since, particularly those pinots. During that time, I drove them to Chandler’s Crab House at Lake Union, where we met up with Reek Havok and his then-wife, enjoying the delicious fare there.

We spent time at their fabulous Kirkland hotel overlooking Lake Washington. (True to rock star form, they eschewed staying at the bland Embassy Suites in nearby Bellevue where the other Yes members were housed.) There, we discussed the setlist, and I’ll never forget how I was trying to get him to see the pros of performing “On the Silent Wings of Freedom,” and all he could see was the cons: While he agreed its intro was promising, he made a distasteful “dingadingadinga” sound for the rest of the song. It was clear I wasn’t going to convince him.

I have been fortunate in having interviewed Chris Squire a number of times for Notes From the Edge. In this memorial, I wanted to share one of my best conversations with Chris, and this one seemed to fill that bill. One of the hallmarks of my Yes interviews was that I didn’t fail to pull punches when there was information I thought the fans wanted to hear. In bringing the band into the Internet age by creating their web site YesWorld, I essentially began working for them. However, I was fortunate here in having my cake and eating it too, as from the NFTE side I always felt I was a fan advocate.

In the interview below, I wanted to know the same thing fans were asking on the pre-Facebook forums, including the NFTE journals and Usenet groups like alt.music.yes: with Keys to Ascension 2 being released at about the same time as Open Your Eyes, why was the band promoting the latter when the former was more in the classic Yes mold?

In addition, there are other gems in this particular conversation. I believe this was the first time Chris Squire told the story of his interacting with Jimi Hendrix. Another great story was how he pretended to share John Lennon’s outrage at a listening party for the Beatles’ Abbey Road.

In any event there isn’t much more to say beyond R.I.P., Chris. You made an enormous impact on the lives of listener and musician alike. Say hi to Pete.

Click right here to read Mike Tiano’s interview with Chris Squire.

©2015 Mike Tiano. All Rights Reserved.

Mike Tiano

Mike Tiano

Best known for his work with the Yes-related fan page Notes From the Edge, Tiano launched the official website YesWorld and has written liner notes for several of the group's reissues. The Seattle resident is recording tracks for his upcoming album 'Creetisvan,' and is an expert on movies, TV, prog rock, and the Beatles. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Mike Tiano
Share this:
  • Samasiam

    Thank you for posting this, probably the most informative and educational interview I’ve ever heard with a great musician.

  • Ace Hamilton

    If there’s really anyone left who thinks that Squire was showing off, just compare him to Billy Sheehan. No matter how complex, with Squire there is never a note out of place or ill considered. Criticizing his playing would be analogous to Emperor Franz Joesph I chiding Mozart for “too many notes.”

Close