FOR OVER 45 years Chris Squire was the sole constant in the ever-evolving line-up of Yes, the musical powerhouse he co-founded in London in 1968. His aggressive, percussive bass playing and talent as a singer and composer helped define their expansive and often dense sound, influencing several generations of musicians in the process.
Diagnosed with acute erythroid leukaemia in May this year, Squire had withdrawn from touring with Yes before passing away on Saturday June 27 at his home in Phoenix, Arizona. His death was confirmed by keyboard player, friend and bandmate Geoff Downes on his Twitter page the following day.
“Simply put, Chris Squire was one of the greatest rock bassists of all time.”
Geddy Lee, Rush
“Utterly devastated beyond words to have to report the sad news of the passing of my dear friend, bandmate and inspiration Chris Squire,” wrote Downes, who joined Yes along with Buggles bandmate Trevor Horn for their 1980 album, Drama.
Yes themselves then issued their own statement via their Facebook page, describing the bassist as “the band’s linchpin and, in so many ways, the glue that held it together over all these years” while crediting him with “having written and co-written much of Yes’s most endearing music.”
Ex-Yes frontman Jon Anderson – with whom Squire formed the band – praised his friend’s “very poetic” playing and his “wonderful knowledge of harmony”. The singer added: “Chris had such a great sense of humour… he always said he was Darth Vader to my Obi-Wan. I always thought of him as Christopher Robin to my Winnie the Pooh,” and concluded “he was still my brother.”
Roundabout, performed live on Yes’s Close To The Edge tour, 1972.
The news of Squire’s passing was met with thousands of further heartfelt tributes on social media from fans around the world, among them a host of musicians whose admiration for the man was unconfined.
“As a bass player and innovator on the instrument he was a huge inspiration to me,” said Rush bassist Geddy Lee, acknowledging his obvious debt to Squire. “Simply put, he was one of the greatest rock bassists of all time.”
MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer added a personal tribute, recalling an instance in 1970 when his band were recording their album High Time in London and struggling to get their bass sound right. Visiting the studio, Squire drove home to pick up his trusty Rickenbacker to lend it MC5 bass player Michael Davis in order to resolve the problem. “He was an incredibly generous, kind, easy-going fellow… AND, he was a wicked bass player,” wrote Kramer.
Masters Of Reality leader Chris Goss dubbed him as “a genius master of harmony and composition” also thanking Squire and Anderson “for creating the band that took us to heaven for 45 years.”
“Chris was our linchpin… the glue that held it together.”
As well as confirming Squire’s standing among his peers, the comments underline Yes’s musical impact. So often derided by critics, Yes took on the libertarian principles of psychedelia and married them to deeply harmonic structures and virtuoso musicianship to create their unique sound.
Having played in R&B outfit The Selfs and then psych combo The Syn, Squire’s musical vision lay at the heart of Yes’s approach, drawing inspiration from his love of jazz, The Beatles’ pop smarts, the melodic impact of Simon & Garfunkel, the genre-crossing vision of The Fifth Dimension and choral music he’d sung in his youth.
His creative alliance with Anderson and then guitarist Steve Howe proved particularly fruitful, and his bass work on a hot streak of landmark albums – The Yes Album, Fragile (both 1971), Close To The Edge (1972), the double Tales From Topographic Oceans (1973) and Relayer (1974) – helped transform Yes into one of the biggest, most flamboyant bands on the planet.
The Gates Of Delirium, live in 1975.
His own hyper-active playing style – which placed him firmly in the lineage of John Entwistle and Jack Bruce – is evident across all of Yes’s 21 studio albums, all of which featured Squire. His most celebrated tracks include the dazzling Roundabout and his popular bass showcase The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus) (both from Fragile), as well as the brain-scrambling The Gates Of Delirium (from Relayer, sections of which were recorded at Squire’s home studio) and, later, the smash hit Owner Of A Lonely Heart (from 1983’s 90125).
Squire’s solo album Fish Out Of Water emerged in 1975 and hit the UK Top 30, but Yes remained his priority throughout his life, although latterly in 2012, he recorded the acclaimed album, A Life Within A Day, with ex-Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett under the name of Squackett.
Hackett himself added his voice to the host of tributes describing Squire as “a huge talent who defined a genre.” MOJO can only echo those sentiments, as we extend our condolences to the Squire family, his friends, and his many musical collaborators.