Tuesday, June 30, 2015


The passing of Chris Squire on the weekend has brought a strange and profound sense of loss for me. Chris was one of my favourite musicians, and his band, Yes, was and still is my favourite band of all time.

I have written about so-called "Progressive Rock", that strange and often misunderstood branch of modern music, on a number of occasions. The genre has its detractors, of course, but it has a legion of fans around the world. I am one of them, and, for me, the best practitioners of the genre were Yes.

I was introduced to Yes by my good friend Dave Jack when we were both in high school. Dave had been a fan before me, and he lent me a copy of his tape ( I believe it was 8 Track! ) of "Close to the Edge". I was instantly blown away by this strange, unique and wonderful music. I became an instant fan and began to acquire other Yes albums.

While all the musicians in Yes were superb, it was Chris' bass that caught my ear. Most bassists are content to establish a basic beat, rhythm or "bottom" to the music they are playing. Not Chris Squire. His bass was bold and large. There's no other way to describe it. It didn't overpower the rest of the music: instead, it set up a counter-point, a type of low register harmony that enhanced the music. He was aggressive and fearless in his playing: his sound challenged the listener and riveted attention to it. It was an identifiable part of the organic whole that was Yes.

I only saw Yes perform live once. That was in 1974 at Maple Leaf Gardens. They were on tour to support their recent album "Tales from Topographic Oceans". This album was next in line to their other successes: "The Yes Album", "Fragile", and "Close to the Edge." To be honest, "Tales ..." was not a full success. It was too long, too pretentious and difficult to sit through in the concert. But, even as a possible failure, it was a magnificent failure, and to watch the musicianship and listen to the grand and far reaching music was a pleasure.

Chris on stage was larger than life, and not just because of his presence, but because he was a physically big man. Well over six feet tall and lanky in his youth, he seemed a little out of place during the "Glam" days, when bands would dress in satin and silky bright coloured outfits. As Chris got older, he put on weight and became even more imposing. A critic once described him as (paraphrasing) stomping around the stage like a Viking, wielding his Rickenbacker bass like a battle axe. That's a wonderful image.

His passing is a sad milestone in all our lives. The unfortunate thing is that Yes is still playing, still touring and still making albums. I have lost track of the recent ones, in large part because they have not had a good shelf life. And mostly because the band has gone through so many personnel changes, it's hard to keep track. But the one constant was Chris Squire on bass. He appeared on all studio albums, and in all tours and concerts. Now, he is gone. The classic Yes line up of Jon Anderson on vocals, Steve Howe on guitar, Rick Wakeman on keyboards, Allan White or Bill Bruford on percussion, and of course Chris Squire on bass, can never appear again.

Rest in peace, Chris. You were one of the greats.

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