Squire is the only Yes member to play on all 21 of the group’s studio albums, from 1969’s self-titled debut to 2014’s Heaven and Earth. While frequently overshadowed in the public consciousness by frontman Jon Anderson, guitarist Steve Howe, keyboard player Rick Wakeman, and multifaceted Trevors Horn and Rabin, Squire built the cosmically solid foundation up from which Yes arose and it was his divine thunder that always powered the engines.
Yes’s official statement on the loss of this giant reads: “It’s with the heaviest of hearts and unbearable sadness that we must inform you of the passing of our dear friend and Yes co-founder, Chris Squire. Chris peacefully passed away last night in Phoenix, Arizona, in the arms of his loving wife Scotty.”
The London-born instrumental genius’s mastery of the Rickenbacker 4001 bass prompted the guitar company to produce a Chris Squire signature line of models throughout the 1990s, the 4001CS.
Although Chris Squire may have left us in body, his vision, spirit, and creative brilliance will live forever through his music. Join us know in celebrating the life and art of Chris Squire’s eight greatest bass moments with Yes.
“The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus)” (1971)
“The Fish” is a slow-build semi-instrumental that proceeds, as its title indicates, upstream, propelled ever forward by Chris Squire’s waves of bass. He clanks, he strums, he dives to new bottoms, and then breaks the surface with wah-wah gusto en route to tornado-force whirlpools and cascading waterfalls of prog-rock bliss. What a trip!
“Starship Trooper” (1971)
Inspired by the classic Robert Heinlein sci-fi novel Starship Troopers (which also spawned the brawny, buggy 1997 cult film), “Starship Trooper” is the sound of Yes becoming Yes over the course of nine-and-a-half intergalactic-spanning minutes. Although 1971’s The Yes Album, from which “Starship Trooper” comes, was the group’s third effort, it’s right here that everything interlocks together as one.
Backing this divine leap forward, as always, is Chris Squire’s polyrhythmic bass—the ultimate weapon in forging a new consciousness in rock-and-roll, spirituality, and sonic derring-do.
Yes’s 90125 album reinvented the band for the 1980s. After mainstream rock critics spent years insisting that punk rock had exiled and/or “dinosaurs” such as Yes (despite the fact that actual punk musicians such as Black Flag and the Butthole Surfers were hardcore prog fans), the group stepped back, absorbed the new world of sounds around them, and charged forward to the top of charts again and plunged themselves deep into the hearts of rock fans who reject labels forever.
“Owner of a Lonely Heart” is 90215’s best-known single. It’s follow-up hit, “Leave It” is preceded by a blazing instrumental foray titled “Cinema,” named for the moniker under which Yes initially starting conceiving 90215.
At a punk-length two-minutes and eight seconds, “Cinema,” co-written by Chris Squire is a Yes wonderland in rapid-moving miniature. One of its most wonderful features of all, of course, is Squire’s bassline.
At the 1985 Grammy Awards, “Cinema” took the trophy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance. It remains the only Grammy bestowed upon Yes to date.
“Heart of the Sunrise” (1971)
Sprawling, brawling, and spanning a vast musical universe that creates itself as the song rolls out, Chris Squire’s bass is at the very heart of the ten-minute-plus “Heart of the Sunrise.” It also represents the song’s mind, soul, and other most vital organs.
Squire’s Rickenbacker relentlessly pumps out multidimensional platforms from which the percussion can swell and explode, and against which guitarist Steve Howe can pull the composition, and the magic of these master musicians perfectly in groove with one another, into infinite different directions, each one rocking harder and smarter and deeper than the last—but not the next.
“I’ve Seen All Good People” (1971)
Composed by Yes co-founders Chris Squire and Jon Anderson, the enduring radio hit “I’ve Seen All Good People” is a fascinating suite that begins with a folkish, lilting musical chess metaphor titled “Your Move” that incorporates medieval pageantry, Alice in Wonderland, allusions to John Lennon, and complex, exquisite harmonies up to around the song’s halfway mark.
Suddenly, then, the gears switch and everything revs immediately into “All Good People,” a barnburner that bounces heavenward up off of Squire’s mammoth trampoline bassline. It’s huge, it’s theatrical, and it’s a crazily complicated piece that pays off with Rick Wakeman’s cathedral organ drawing the entire epic undertaking to an appropriately breathtaking fade-out.
“Close to the Edge” (1972)
At 18-minutes, 43-seconds, Yes takes over all knowable forms of consciousness with “Close to the Edge.” It’s a pinnacle of prog-rock nirvana, with the foremost purveyors of the form busting out their boldest notions and most electrifyingly executed moves.
Each member of Yes shines like a thousand suns on “Close to the Edge.” Chris Squire glows with particular luminescence. Listen in especially around the six-minute mark. A departure into the vast cosmos led by Jon Anderson’s refrain of “I get up/I get down” takes off and powers past the sun entirely on the rocket fuel of Chris Squire’s rich, fat bass. It sounds like he’s leaving tire-tracks all over the totality of existence.
“The Gates of Delirium” (1974)
The opening broadside from Yes’s 1974 album Relayer, “The Gates of Delirium” is the band’s Herculean meditation on Leo Tolstoy’s similarly epic novel, War and Peace. The composition’s three sections run 22 minutes long and its final passage, known as “Soon” is so wholly formed in itself to the point that it was broken off from the larger song and released as a single.
The opening segment of “Delirium” sounds like many other Yes numbers, spinning a tale both through lyrics and otherwise. About eight minutes in, the instrumentalists sonically conjure all-out warfare, brilliantly battling one another with riffs, chords, nuances, and layers of innovative non-verbal storytelling.
Consistently throughout, Chris Squire’s bass supplies the very battlefield on which his bandmates can wage musical mayhem while also never, for a split-second, losing control. It takes a one-of-a-kind bass master to pull of such a feat. Fortunately, for all of us, Yes had one in the form of Chris Squire.
“Roundabout—Isolated Bass Track”
Akin to the words (and no other aspect) of a booty-bumping 2014 hit by Meghan Trainor, “Roundabout” by Yes is all about that bass—and we mean all about that bass!
More to the point, the bass-line of “Roundabout” rocks high, hard, heavy, and unforgettably among rock’s most planet-shattering rumble-storms on the order of “God of Thunder” by Kiss, “N.I.B.” by Black Sabbath, “Ace of Spades” by Motörhead, “Sweet Emotion” by Aerosmith, “Peace Sells” by Megadeth, “(Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth” by Metallica, and “Another One Bites the Dust” and/or “Under Pressure” by Queen.
In fact, “Roundabout” may even beat them all by virtue of its sheer open-ended and malleable musicality. Chris Squire creates a sound like no other on “Roundabout,” turning his Rickenbacker into a channel through which any musical adventure is possible. He was blessed, then, to have fellow explorers on his most elevated of levels among the members of yes. As fans, of course, we were blessed, too.
Thank you for the music, Chris Squire. It—and you—will live forever.