Of all of the creators who have inspired my artistic pursuits over the years, there are two in particular that I revere as personal heroes. Ray Bradbury is one of these heroes. Bradbury is unquestionably one of the most prolific writers of all time and a master of the short story. But I’m not writing about Ray Bradbury today. I want to talk about my other creative hero.
My first musical encounter with Chris Squire took place in 1999. My parent’s got me a bass guitar for my 14th birthday. One of my dad’s coworkers—Andrew, who I’d never met—wanted to make sure that I had proper influences to emulate. He burned a CD that was absolutely jammed with songs featuring the lords of low-end: Geddy Lee, Doug Pinnick, Stu Hamm, Stanley Clark, Jeff Berlin, John Myung, Les Claypool, and of course Chris Squire.
The song was “City of Love” from 90125. That might have been an odd choice to introduce someone to one of the most important bands in progressive rock, but I get it. Andrew crammed in as much prog-influenced music as the disc would hold, but that meant that epic songs would get left behind in favor of more accessible and punchy tracks. In any case, it made for an effective introduction to a complicated genre. I doubt I would have been able to fully appreciate “Heart of the Sunrise” or “Close to the Edge” anyway.
The cover of that bass compilation was a home-printed collage of the bassists that were featured on the disc. A tiny, low-resolution copy of this image from Keys to Ascension served as my only mental image of Chris Squire for years.
While that collection of songs didn’t turn me into an instant Yesfan, it did provide me with some important balance to my otherwise steady diet of pop-punk. It was the first of many musical contributions that Andrew made to my evolving taste. My dad would occasionally bring home a burnt disc from Andrew, introducing me to King’s X, Eric Johnson, Dream Theater, Steve Vai, Al Di Meola, Spock’s Beard, and others. Meanwhile, I totally forgot about Yes and their “City of Love.”
A few years later, I found myself tinkering around with a bass line that I’d been hearing in my head for a few days. My dad heard me downstairs and questioned if I was trying to play a Yes song. For a while I argued that I was most definitely writing my own original music, but apparently I was only writing the bass part from “Roundabout” that my subconscious was clinging to.
Clearly, their music was powerful enough to make an impression on me.
I fired up our dial-up modem, and spent an hour or two downloading a handful of songs by the legendary progressive rock band; this was before the RIAA started beheading people for sharing mp3s online. For the first time, I got a real idea of what made Yes special. But their body of work was so massive—and my ability to download so limited—that I needed a place to start. So I bought a compilation.
I ordered The Ultimate Yes: 35th Anniversary Collection on January 29, 2004, a coincidental two days after it was released. It was the first item I ever purchased from Amazon.com. I was still afraid of having my credit card number compromised, and I was rewarded for my courage with an extraordinary introduction to the band. Though, the newer Wondrous Stories probably serves as a better—and slightly cheaper—starting point.
This was the beginning of an increasingly rabid fandom. By the end of the year, I would claim Yes as my favorite band.
I spent quite a bit of time listening to those 26 songs over and over (and over and over). As I became intimately familiar with each track, I was struck by Chris Squire’s unique approach to his instrument. He had an undeniable ability to pair with drums to provide the sonic foundation upon which a song could be built. Then he would confound the listener by launching into some of the most surprising lead basswork that I’d ever heard.
I’ve always been delighted to hear him maneuver deftly between rhythm and lead roles. This became a major influence on my own approach to playing; though I am certainly no Chris Squire. I tried to learn how to play “Close to the Edge” once, and it broke me.
Throughout the entirety of his career, Chris Squire’s sound was distinct. This uniqueness was not simply limited to bass guitar. His vocal contributions to Yes have been as formative as—though much more understated than—his instrumental presence. His knack for memorable harmonies is a necessary component of the magic of Yes.
As much of an immortal figure he might be, Chris Squire could not live forever. I was shocked to hear of his passing on the morning of Sunday, June 28. I appreciate what Darren Lock (from the ProgReviews YouTube channel) had to say about the tragedy: “Mourning is for those close to Mr. Squire. We’re here to celebrate.” And celebrate I have! I’ve been listening to Yes (and various other solo and side-projects) almost non-stop these past few days. Chris Squire left behind an expansive legacy of music that I will continue to treasure for years.
Thank you so much, Chris Squire!