One of rock's legends passed away last month when Chris Squire of the band 'Yes' lost his battle with leukemia. Monica and I both listened to Yes throughout the weekend to celebrate the contribution the band made to rock, specifically prog rock, and as their long, dramatic and very experimental songs filled our home I was reminded of why Chris Squire was my first favorite bass player. His bass sound was the first truly thunderous bass sound I was ever exposed to and without realizing it at the time, he set the parameters for what I seek in bass players. Chris Squire made the band surprisingly heavy at times but he also provided a smooth sense of melody and whimsy when it was required. It may be that in the very same way I 'rediscovered' The Beatles one night around the age of thirty, I just this weekend rediscovered the man who should sit atop my list of favorite bass players.
Chris Squire had just the right amount of growl in his signature Rickenbacker sound to bring a real dark edge to Yes' sound.. Often it was his bass line that was the driving force the band worked around instead of Steve Howe's guitar. Chris Squire had no problem stepping up to assume the lead role, and the smooth, ominous thunder that flowed from his fingers never made those sections feel like anything was missing. In fact, the parts in which he took that lead position are typically my favorite moments in Yes' music. While they were not trying to be heavy in the same way metal bands are heavy, Chris Squire created the same kinds of spaces that a lot of prog metal bands seek when they are opening things up. Yes were certainly capable of playing to most any level of technical musicality, and the very fact that they were on the cutting edge of the Prog rock movement means they are inexorably tied to what metal musicians like myself have been inspired by for years. Their music had the adventurous spirit of the late sixties and early seventies that has been missing in commercial music for a very long time. Yes tried to create different worlds for us all to explore that were full of open, free floating space punctuated by very precise and technical passages. They were truly experimental without going so far overboard in any one direction that they became one dimensional. Yes liked contrast, and through that contrast they were able to create new things that inspired generations of young musicians to take their own visions and run with them.
As is the case with most music from the sixties and seventies, or from any other era, Yes' music sounds dated to today's ears. I for one, miss the sense of adventure that bands had who were not so concerned with cashing in on proven success formulas. By today's standards it is impossible to imagine a time when a band like Yes would have been part of the pop music scene. Dance driven pop divas have ruled the airwaves for so long that it's difficult to believe rock was ever as big as it was for so many years. I don't love everything bands like Yes did, not by any stretch, but I do love that they were unafraid to try anything in pursuit of their vision. It was the kind of music that made me think. It was inspiring because it tried to create something new. It wanted people to consider their own potential and it encouraged them to dive in and explore their own universes . There was a shared sense of joy in that which I think is sorely missing from the music scene now. I don't know if anyone in Yes ever considered having surgical butt implants to enhance their music. Maybe they really missed a great opportunity there. They were just musicians with something to offer. I'd rather be known for making people think than for mutilating my body so celebrity reporters refer to my rear end in third person. You will know we have lost our way as a society if you ever see an interview with me in which I am asked what my butt plans to do next.
I was sad to hear of Chris Squire's passing, but I'm happy to have reconnected with such an inspirational figure in my own musical journey. There are countless gems for any bass player to discover in Yes' body of work, particularly in their older albums. If you like the Rickenbacker sound and bassists who choose tasteful discretion over flash, Chris Squire may be a wonderful discovery for you. So lift a glass to a Prog legend, and be thankful that musicians like him have done so much to make this a more interesting and inspiring place for all of us