In Memoriam – Chris Squire

I still remember blowing out the rear speakers in my car listening to 1973’s Yessongs. I’d just purchased the remastered CD. I turned up the bass volume and cranked it. Having the opportunity to listen to a few minutes of Chris Squire’s basslines from Yes’ best days made it well worthwhile.

Chris Squire, bassist and founding member of Yes, passed away this June 27th. I didn’t have the pleasure of knowing him personally. As a life-long Yes fan, lover of Progressive Rock and bass guitarist, I do feel like I got to know Mr. Squire somewhat through his music.

Mr. Squire didn’t just have an “original” style. The man revolutionized the approach to the bass guitar. In his proficient hands, the instrument transcended its original bounds. It became both a melodic and harmonic instrument. Mr. Squire transformed it into a compliment to and a rival for the lead vocals, lead guitar and keyboards. That was an astounding accomplishment while playing alongside virtuosos like Jon Anderson, Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman.

It’s difficult to define Mr. Squire’s style. Not to overdo it, the word progressive would be an apt description. When it fit the song he played “traditional” bass lines extremely well. Thundering chops like the bass line from “Roundabout” came blasting out of his amplifier with ease. He added a jazzy walking bassline to the rock anthem “Yours in No Disgrace”.  Always seeking new musical horizons I enjoyed his use of a fretless bass on a number of the tracks from 1983’s 90125.

I’ll remember him most for his myriad innovations to the bass guitar. He took the instrument to a completely new level on “The Fish”. On that track, every instrument except the drums and the vocals was a bass guitar. I’ve been listening to that song for over 40 years. It impresses me just as much now as it did the first time I heard it. This unique approach to the instrument laid the groundwork for future innovators like Jeff Berlin and Michael Manring.

Mr. Squire was the first bassist I ever heard use distortion pedals. To this day, I feel he’s the bass player who used them the most creatively. To paraphrase the lyrics from 1994’s “The Calling”, “In the beginning is the future.” His use of a Wah-Wah pedal on 1969’s “Survival” gave fans a sample of the many creative practices to come. (The riff sounds uncannily like the chorus to the 1971 Led Zeppelin classic “Stairway to Heaven”.)

Playing the bass guitar through a Leslie Amp on “And You and I” really stood out as original. I’ve never heard another bassist play the instrument with a rotating speaker effect. I doubt they would do so as well, either.

I don’t typically like it when bass players use picks. Mr. Squire was an exception. This choice as well as the use of a 1964 Rickenbacker 4001 Bass defined his signature sound. The man innovated throughout his entire career. In the late 1990’s he used a Carvin 6-String Bass. He tuned the low B-String down to A.

My deepest condolences go out to Mr. Squire’s friends and family.

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