C H R I S S Q U I R E 1 9 4 8 – 2 0 1 5
B Y J O H N C O L L I N G E
The guys in Yes always seemed a breed apart. Not that they necessarily oozed entitlement, but through my many interviews with them over the years certain shared “quirks” became obvious. Such as when Jon Anderson stopped our phone interview after five minutes because lunch was served, or the time Steve Howe told me to buy him a ginger ale at the hotel bar as he left to fetch something from
Chris Squire combined business with pleasure during our telephone interviews by watching television. Once, he put the phone down to summon his wife when a mutual acquaintance of theirs suddenly appeared onscreen. Most recently, Chris opened our chat by excusing himself to “shift the cartoon action for my 5-year-old” into the next room. “Mommy’s putting it on in the bedroom for you,” I heard him say to daughter Xilan.
Fathering babies in one’s sixties is a serious act of optimism. But when you’re a forward-thinking rock star living high on fame and fortune, the illusion of unlimited days might be especially deceptive.
So a year ago, it was business as usual for Chris Squire and Yes. The band had just issued its 21st album after a surprisingly efficient two months’ studio work vs. the customary six. The tour calendar was filling up and Squire pondered further musical exploits both with Yes and outside collaborators.
“I don’t know,” he said when asked then if Yes might retire from active duty anytime soon. “The fortunate thing about being a musician/performer/entertainer
as opposed to a sports personality is there aren’t the same limits on how long a
career can be. I guess as long as we keep enjoying playing our music, we’ll probably do that.
“We forever are looking ahead. There have been thoughts that we might try putting together another expanded version of Yes as we did for the Union tour in 1991. So that’s hovering around on the backburner.”
Also on Squire’s “to-do” list: a second album plus concert dates as Squackett with guitarist Steve Hackett and a third Conspiracy album rejoining close associate Billy Sherwood, a project dormant since 2003.
Always a consideration for Chris was fresh Yes music. “Part of the Yes tradition is that we’ve always been proud to introduce new music and I think our fans appreciate that. I’ve never wanted to be part of a band that is just legend-peddling and plays the same set for 30 years, which does occur.”
The bassist/singer and group spokesman lauded new lead vocalist Jon Davison as an emerging artistic force for his songwriting contributions to latest album Heaven & Earth. He talked of Davison bringing “fresh blood into the Yes system” and helping the band “turn another corner of interesting creativity.”
Hopefully not to be its last, as Yes trekked fate’s mortal road onto an
unexpectedly daunting detour. On May 19 the band’s web site revealed that Squire was battling acute erythroid leukemia, a rare form of acute myeloid leukemia. A short 39 days later, at age 67, he was gone.
During that ordeal, Squire and the Yes camp assumed a very brave but evasively hopeful front. A joint U.S. tour with Toto pending, Chris decided Yes must carry on and chose group alum Sherwood as his replacement.This will be the first time since the band formed in 1968 that Yes will have performed live without me,” Squire said in a statement posted online. “But the other guys and myself have agreed that Billy Sherwood will do an excellent job of covering my parts and the show as a whole will deliver the same Yes experience our fans have come to expect over the years.”
Everyone had to know his time was short, yet official word was that Chris would return after undergoing treatment in his adopted home of Phoenix, Ariz. Remarkably (and presumably with Squire’s blessing), Yes proceeded to schedule even more tour dates in the U.K. and Europe through May 2016.
To the very end Chis was focused on the future, on sustaining his band’s musical legacy and serving its loyal fan base. In passing, he left us a most precious parting gift, one that will continue giving for months if not years to come: a living Yes.
Naturally, Squire will be remembered as among the first high-profile bassists to advance his instrument from the shadows of rhythmic support to a featured role. The thick, jangly sonorities of his trademark Rickenbacker propelling complex leads became synonymous with progressive rock, inspiring generations that followed.
And not just legions of bass players. Among numerous tributes following news of Squire’s death was an insightful Facebook post from Larry “Synergy” Fast, illustrating the Yes co-founder’s widespread influence. “I was fortunate to have been at Morgan Studios in London during the summer of 1973 when Tales from Topographic Oceans was being recorded,” Fast wrote. “He was an inspirational bass player, even to us keyboardists. I know that elements of his style and sound influenced my synthesizer programming and the development of bass parts within all-electronic compositions.”
Chris was a cornerstone, the only Yes member to appear on each of the group’s albums. He played thousands of concerts and touched millions of lives through Yes, his solo endeavors and high-profile side projects.
Most prog fans coming of age during the Yes era (practically everyone) have an impression of Chris Squire, perhaps a fond memory or two. This scribe will remember his commanding stage presence, the man’s slightly crusty, very “British” manner as Yes’s press liaison, and that awkward habit of not wearing skivvies under his stage trousers (concertgoers from the first rows know to what I refer).
Beloved icons are human, after all—a sad reality of which too often lately we have been painfully reminded.