Music, RIP

RIP Chris Squire

Among the “Big 6” prog bands, Yes was long my least favourite -though, as I age, ELP has taken their place very handily. I have always found their discography rather immense and, well, kind of repetitive – though I have not given it the time I have given King Crimson’s, for example. So, maybe how I feel about Squire will change once I get around to giving Yes’ discography the full attention it likely deserves, but who knows. For the moment:

If you didn’t know, the bassist and sole constant member of Yes, Chris Squire, died recently. The lateness of this RIP is due to the same reasons as the lateness of everything else in this space – construction.

I have never been the biggest fan of Squire’s bass playing. For one, I have an irrational dislike of bassists who only ever played with a pick. This comes from being a music snob and also from a friend of mine from back when I was more impressionable, who strongly believed that bass playing with a pick was a huge cop out – and who probably believes that to this day. (Thanks Bill!) I don’t believe that any more, exactly, but I do feel that rock bassists who can play a bass guitar “properly” deserve bonus points.

The second reason I have never been a huge fan of Squire is that I felt like he took Entwistle’s “lead bass” to a new extreme: when I am listening to Yes, I often feel like Squire is just doubling the lead, or playing the lead while Howe solos, or playing a separate lead part to Howe’s, rather than playing a bass part. I know this isn’t entirely correct – I know there are undoubtedly many Yes songs where Squire mostly or completely plays a more traditional bass role, but to me the impressive thing is to be able to juggle both; Entwistle did it, Bruce did it, Geddy Lee can do it, other great bassists have been able to do it. I don’t know that Squire ever did. Maybe I’m not giving him his due, though.

But there is one thing he did do that changed bass playing forever – not just within rock but without – and that’s what I’d like to remember him for. Les Claypool – the man I regard as the greatest bass guitarist in music history – probably does not become the Les Claypool we all know and love without this innovation and that innovation is contained in one song:

On Yes’ Fragile, each member contributed a song of their own design and conception, separate from the band tracks. This was Squire’s contribution. In it, Squire plays numerous bass parts (10? I haven’t counted properly) and is accompanied by only Bruford’s drums and Anderson singing the song’s subtitle (Squire might also be singing). It is the first “bass guitar orchestra” to my knowledge. It’s Hendrix and Zeppelin but on bass. I know of nothing else like it until Claypool but even if there is something else out there in the interim, this is likely the first time anyone used the bass guitar in so many different ways. And for that Squire should be celebrated and remembered.


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