Monday, 29 June 2015

The Late Great Chris Squire

Chris Squire, bassist and founding member of Yes, and the only member of the band to appear on every single one of their albums, died June 27 2015 at the age of 65. The cause was leukaemia.

Chris Squire was born on March 4 1948 in Kingsbury, London. He spent his formative years in north west London, in such localities as Kingsbury, Queensbury, and Wembley. His first real experience in music was as a choirboy at church. It was with the Beat music boom in the United Kingdom that Chris Squire decided to pursue music as a career. He took up the bass guitar, with his first bass being a Futurama. Suspended from school for wearing his hair too long, young Mr. Squire went to work at a Boosey & Hawkes shop on Regent Street in London, where he eventually bought the Rickenbacker 4001 bass he would play throughout his career.

It was also in 1964 that Chris Squire became part of his first band, The Selfs. The band played at various London R&B venues until merging with The Syn in 1965.  It would be through The Syn that Chris Squire would meet guitarist Peter Banks, who would go onto become one of the founding members of Yes. Peter Banks replaced John Painter as the band's lead guitarist. The Syn would prove slightly successful. They had a residence at the legendary  Marquee Club in Soho. They also signed a recording contract with Deram Records. Unfortunately, they would only release two singles before breaking up in 1967.

Following the break up of The Syn, Chris Squire and Peter Banks joined the band Mabel Greer's Toyshop. It was one night at the Marquee Club that Jack Barrie, owner of the nearby La Chasse club, saw Mabel Greer's Toyshop perform. It was only a little later at La Chasse that Jack Barrie introduced Chris Squire to Jon Anderson, formerly of the band The Warriors. The two learned they had much in common, including a love of Simon & Garfunkel, The Association, and similar vocal harmony acts. The next few days the two of them worked on the song "Sweetness", which would appear on Yes's first album. Chris Squire and Jon Anderson decided to form a new band, and brought in guitarist Peter Banks, drummer Bill Bruford,  and keyboardist Tony Kaye. It was Peter Banks who suggested the band be named "Yes".  Yes's first gig was at a youth came in  East Mersea, Essex on August 4 1968.

Yes signed with Atlantic Records and their self titled debut album was released on July 25 1969. While Yes did not chart in the United Kingdom or United States, it did peak at #38 on the Australian album chart. Their second album, Time and a Word, released on July 24 1970, would perform much better. It went to #45 on the UK album chart and #22 on the Australian album chart. Their third album, The Yes Album, would prove to be their first major success. Released in February 1971, the album went to #4 in the UK, #40 in the U.S., #46 in Canada, and #20 in Australia. Yes would see a good deal of success in the Seventies throughout the English speaking world with the albums Fragile, Close to the Edge, Tales from Topographic Oceans, Relayer, Going for the One, Tormato, and Drama. In 1971 Yes had a hit single in the United States in the form of the song "Roundabout".  In the United Kingdom Yes saw success with the singles "Wonderous Stories", "Going for the One", and "Don't Kill the Whale". Despite such success, Yes saw changes in their line up during the decade. Tony Kaye left in 1971. Bill Bruford left in 1972. It was in 1980, following the recording of Drama, that Yes temporarily broke up.

It was in 1975 that Chris Squire released his first solo album, Fish Out of Water. Fish Out of Water received good notices from critics, and it was moderately successful. It went to #25 on the UK album chart and #69 on the Billboard album chart. Despite this Mr. Squire would not record another solo album for over thirty years.

Chris Squire began the Eighties with the release of the Christmas single "Run with the Fox" recorded with fellow former Yes member Allan White. It was in 1982 that Chris Squire and Allan White formed the short lived band Cinema with guitarist Trevor Rabin. They would eventually be joined by former Yes members Tony Kaye and Jon Anderson. Cinema began recording what would become the album 90125. It was not long afterwards they took the name "Yes".  The album 90125 proved to be a success, hitting the top ten on album charts in multiple countries. The single "Owner of a Lonely Heart" would be a hit in multiple countries as well, hitting #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. The success of 90125 would be followed by Big Generator, the band's only other studio album in the Eighties.

The Nineties saw a very slight decline in Yes's fortunes. Union in 1991 would be the last Yes album to go gold. While Yes's albums would no longer peak in the top ten as they once did, except for Open Your Eyes (which only managed to reach #105 on the UK album chart and did not even chart in the U.S.) all of them did relatively well. From the Nineties to the Naughts there would be several membership changes, but Chris Squire remained a part of the band.  Their album Heaven and Earth, released last year, is the last to feature Mr Squire. He had played on all 21 of Yes's studio albums.

In later years Chris Squire would work on other projects besides those associated with Yes. In 1992 Billy Sherwood and Chris Squire toured the United States as The Chris Squire Experiment. Messrs. Sherwood and Squire would work on various projects together and Mr. Sherwood joined Yes in 1996. Eventually the two would form Conspiracy and release a self-titled album in 2000. It would be followed by the album The Unknown in 2003.

In 2004 Chris Squire was part of a reunion of The Syn. The reunited band recorded one album, Syndestructible, before breaking up again. In 2007 Chris Squire released his second and final solo album, Chris Squire's Swiss Choir. Chris Squire would later collaborate with Steve Hackett, formerly of Genesis, under the name Squackett. Squackett released the album A Life Within a Day in 2012.


There can be no doubt that Chris Squire was one of the greatest bassists of all time. Indeed, in many ways Chris Squire played bass the way that some guitarists play lead guitar. His playing wasn't simply dynamic and aggressive, but melodic, complex, and sophisticated as well. Chris Squire took the bass, often relegated in rock bands to playing simple rhythms, and turned it into an instrument capable of the most complicated music. It is not surprising he should prove to be very influential on bassists who followed him:  Geddy Lee of Rush, Steve Harris of Iron Maiden,  and Robert DeLeo of Stone Temple Pilots among them. In the end Chris Squire had a huge impact on rock music that went well beyond progressive rock.

1 comment:

Annmarie Gatti said...

Yes is one of my all-time favorite bands... I've seen them a million times live (okay maybe not exactly a million times) and they are incredible (understatement). I am always mesmerized by their musicianship, individually and as a group. I was so saddened to learn of Chris Squire's passing... Thanks for doing this post...