Even solely based on the evidence of his rather unappreciated ’80s playing, Chris Squire would surely still get into the pantheon of bass greats.
I first heard him on Yes’s 1987 album Big Generator and worked backwards from there. I was won over by Trevor Horn’s pristine production, the band’s outrageous musicianship and the sheer originality of the songwriting, but recently Chris’s bass playing from the era is kind of obsessing me.
To my ears, he detuned his low E string on a standard four-string bass to a low A, one octave lower than the second string, presumably to best accompany the new songs which generally tended towards A major. You can hear it most clearly on the powerful title track and ‘Love Will Find A Way’.
Anyone who’s ever picked up a bass will know how potentially treacherous that tuning could be, but he just sails through. It also gives him a massive melodic range, from the funky twang of the ‘I’m Running’ riff, to the brutal low-end grooves of the title track and ‘Almost Like Love’.
The 1983 Yes album 90125 is also full of great Squire moments (with mostly regular tuning this time), from the catchy riff underpinning ‘It Could Happen To You’ to the flanger freakout ‘Cinema’ and rifftastic ‘City Of Love’. He really extended the Paul McCartney melodic bass concept into exciting new territories.
Sadly, sometimes it takes a great player’s passing to spur you on to check out music that has thus far escaped you, so the 1980 album Drama is my latest discovery. The lead-off track ‘Machine Messiah’ and ‘Does It Really Happen’ are chock-full of classic Squire moments and I’m sure loads more will reveal themselves. I must also investigate his short-lived project XYZ alongside Jimmy Page and Robert Plant.
By all accounts, Chris was a great and totally unique character too. RIP to a definite lord of the low end.
Christopher Russell Edward Squire (4 March 1948 – 27 June 2015)
5 thoughts on “RIP Chris Squire”
I’m glad you posted this tribute to Chris Squire. We came to Yes’ music in different eras (I was a fan of their ’70s output first but I’m just as much a fan of Yes in the ’80s & beyond) but we share an appreciation for his bass-playing brilliance. In addition to his prowess on that instrument, his vocals (mostly harmonies but occasionally lead) have been integral to Yes’ sound in all their incarnations. I think that comes from being a choir boy in his youth. I’m so pleased you’ve discovered the amazing “Drama” album which has long been among my 4 or 5 favorite Yes albums.
FYI, the XYZ project (which I was just listening to again yesterday) was only a short-lived studio project that resulted in just 4 demos, 2 of which are instrumental. Robert Plant was only involved in one rehearsal but wasn’t interested in becoming a member of the group. At the time it was announced I was so excited (I was 15), so much so that I created a logo for the band & drew it on one of my notebooks. I’ve always been disappointed that they didn’t pursue that collaboration, as Page, Squire & White are three of my favorite musicians.
R.I.P., Mr. Squire.
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Hi Rich, thanks for the comment and a great point about his vocals. I saw them on the ‘Union’ Tour at Wembley Arena in ’91(?) and was really blown away by the tightness of the backing vox. I’ve also been checking out Chris’s solo album ‘Fish Out Of Water’ where he seems to sing all the lead vocals and which features a reunion with Bill Bruford on drums – what a delicious rhythm section.
Nice to see some love for Big Gen and Drama.
Thanks for your bass insights, too.
And thanks for the music, Mr Squire (who, as Rick observes, was a wonderful backing singer as well).
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The subby detuned bass works really well in Horn’s glassy productions but I still prefer that throaty Rickenbacker sound tearing up those early 70’s albums. ‘Roundabout’ remains one of my favourite bass parts. RIP Chris Squire.
Hi Leon, agreed, his ’70s playing really is peerless whereas the ’80s stuff is maybe more of an assimilation into their new style of music. Thanks for looking in.