Death of Yes founder member Chris Squire…
I bought my first Yes album when I was eleven years old. I spent all of my holiday pocket money on a triple live album by a band I’d never heard of before. Whilst my friends were buying football stickers I was trying to find a musical identity separate from my older brother’s. He stole a march on Black Sabbath and Hendrix so I needed something of my own and so began my love affair with jazz fusion, long, complicated guitar solos, incomprehensible lyrics and science fiction album covers. I loved it.
In 1984 I finally got to see Yes play live. They were enjoying a second wind of success on the back of a global hit single, ‘Owner of a Lonely Heart’ which saw them take a new direction and with it , enlarged audience. Trevor Rabin had replaced one of my guitar idols, Steve Howe but the line up still featured drummer Alan White, vocalist Jon Anderson and fellow founding member and bass player, Chris Squire.
I can see him now, rigged out in suitably appropriate over the top 1980s shoulder padded long jacket with highlights in his hair playing bass solos with consummate ease and musicality. Yes have always been the marmite of the music world, I get that. When it’s good, it is quite brilliant but even for this staunch fan there are many moments when you get the feeling the good ship indulgence has sailed a bit too far across the topographic ocean.
Chris Squire formed Yes in 1968 and would be the only member to play on every one of their twenty one albums thereafter. He co-wrote many of their finest songs, sharing backing vocals with Steve Howe on albums such as The Yes Album, Fragile, Close to the Edge and Going For the One.
Squire’s no-nonsense attitude kept the band going throughout its numerous personnel changes including a well documented rift with Jon Anderson. Whilst they were often the subject of ridicule, particularly by the time of the onset of punk, they were, in their heyday, a hugely successful group. Alongside King Crimson, Genesis and ELP they were the leading lights of progressive rock and regularly filled the biggest American outdoor arenas including a 100,000 at the JFK stadium in 1975. They were the first band ever to play five consecutive sell-out nights at the Rainbow Theatre and their concerts were a visual spectacle as well as a lesson in performing hugely complex pieces to a live audience. Nine of their albums reached the top ten in Britain and America and US album sales exceeded thirteen million to date.
Whatever one’s view on the music there can be no doubting the excellence of the musicians who created the music. Few keyboard players of any rock genre could match Rick Wakeman, Bill Bruford was one of the great jazz drummers of the seventies and it is hard to think of a more gifted rock bass player of the 60s, 70s and 80s than Squire, including Entwistle and Jones.
A month ago Chris Squire announced he was being treated for a rare form of leukemia, a disease which took his life today at the age of sixty seven. Chris Squire and Yes were an intrinsic part of my formative years as a teenager. I played their records and studied the album covers religiously along with my best school friend until we were old enough to go to the pub. I don’t play their music as often as I once did but they are a band which stay with you and when you revisit their work you do so with a smile and an appreciative nod of gratitude for memories they unwittingly helped to create.
RIP Chris Squire
Categories: The Music Lounge