It was a bit of a shock to open Facebook and discover that Chris Squire had died last weekend, although I knew he was quite ill from a friend who knew Chris well. Chris was such an important influence on me growing up, especially since I started playing bass at 14. I was exposed pretty young to his amazing lines from the Fragile record which my parents owned on cassette in the early seventies. But during the summer of 1980, I heard the strains of Tempus Fugit blasting from a boombox and something switched on in my 12 year old brain. I was already a Beatle fanatic, having spent a year with a tennis racket tied around my neck perfecting Lennon’s triplet strumming to All My Loving. It took another year of maturation for me start to fully appreciate what this man and this group were doing. The catalyst was probably hearing Rush’s Moving Pictures through Sony Walkman headphones for the first time the following summer. It was a revelation. I was now a teenager and my neurons were starving for more of this kind of stimulation. I had caught the Prog bug and had it bad. Of course the air drumming to Neil’s masterwork never ceased. But Geddy’s bass lines captivated me with the melodic rumble of lead bass. I was already a professed worshiper of John Entwistle and this quickly brought me back ’round to Chris Squire to complete the holy trinity. It was years later that I realized how much they all owed to Paul McCartney in terms of melodic counterpoint.
But, It was Chris’ parts that I obsessively learned note for note over the next few years. I bought my first effect pedal, a Cry Baby Wah, to be able to recreate The Fish and On The Silent Wings Of Freedom. But, I also just loved the way Chris sang those countermelodies and harmonies. His special gifts as a choral singer and arranger were often overshadowed by his epic bass excursions and his literally huge stage presence. That Rickenbacker 4001 looked almost tiny in his hands. I found a used one I could afford in black that sadly had been turned into a goth style lefty with a flipped around bridge. I seriously considered having its body shaved down and repainted to match Chris’. I got to see Chris with Yes for the first time in 1983 during the 90215 tour and now I had to find a pair of those green boots as well.
After some time away from the band’s activities in the 90’s, I was lucky enough to catch Yes on its 30th anniversary tour. The band were in great form with Rick Wakeman back in the band for the last time. But in 2004 I had the privilege of seeing Chris perform with The Syn (including Alan White sitting in on drums) at Joe’s Pub in NYC. I had taken my young nephew Max, who is a very talented bass player, and we went backstage hoping that Chris might be signing autographs. We were disappointed to find out he wouldn’t be coming out of the dressing rooms, but couldn’t believe our eyes when we saw his basses, including his iconic Rick, just sitting there unattended in the hallway. Max remembers that we just bowed down to the bass, but I like to remember that when no one was looking we plucked a string.
Years later on Chris’ second to last tour with Yes, I got to meet him at a meet and greet. As I recounted in a previous blog about my song “I’m Your Fan”, I tried to think of the perfect way to express how important Chris was to me by telling him about this experience at Joe’s Pub, but what came out was a mumbling ramble. He looked exhausted and certainly didn’t want to try to decipher what this awkward grown man was incoherently describing. I wished I had quietly just thanked him for being such an inspiration and strong influence, not only as a innovative bass player, but as a singer and a songwriter as well. When I approach writing a bass line for one of my songs I basically have two automatic modes: John or Chris. While I can decently imitate a McCartney bounce, that’s not what comes out naturally.
So even though he’s gone, I’ll just say it now..thank you Chris