30.6.15

CHRIS SQUIRE – Take A Straight And Stronger Course


Reading Adam Sweeting’s obituary of Chris Squire in today’s Guardian reminded me again of the support that Melody Maker gave Yes during the first few years I worked on the paper, and as such no other group brings back those years to mind quite so much as the quintet formed in 1968 by Squire and Jon Anderson when the pair met in La Chasse club, a small drinking den on Wardour Street that catered to music business insiders in those days. This support was largely the result of Chris Welch’s admiration for the group, and this had a drip down effect on most of us and, of course, on our readers who invariably voted strongly for them in the annual MM polls. But Chris Squire was always up against stiff competition – Jack Bruce usually won the Best Bass Player category, followed by Paul McCartney. He might have come third, beating John Entwistle, but this probably embarrassed him a bit as he knew better than anyone that the mighty Ox was his superior; not only that, Chris modelled his style on John and wasn’t too proud to say so in interviews.
          Chris Squire was a tall, sturdy fellow, Yes’ lynchpin, the only constant member of the group throughout their long and ongoing career, the only musician to play on every one of their 21 albums, true to the cause for his entire working life. His bass style was melodic rather than rhythmic, adding flourishes from the top of his fretboard much like Entwistle but unlike John he used a pick to help him get a trebly, twangy tone that became synonymous with Yes' sound, just as Entwistle's signature tone was crucial to the originality of The Who. In another piece on Yes here on Just Backdated I was a bit sniffy about Chris' attitude towards something I once wrote about the group’s income but I didn’t mean to offend. I’m sure he had Yes’ best interests to heart, as he did throughout his life.
          “Chris was a very special part of my life; we were musical brothers,” Jon Anderson has written on his website. “He was an amazingly unique bass player, very poetic, and had a wonderful knowledge of harmony. We met at a certain time when music was very open, and I feel blessed to have created some wonderful, adventurous, music with him. Chris had such a great sense of humor... he always said he was Darth Vader to my Obi-Wan. I always thought of him as Christopher Robin to my Winnie the Pooh.”
          So this morning I listened to a bit of Yes on my iPod, ‘Yours Is No Disgrace’, ‘I’ve Seen All Good People’ and ‘Siberian Khatru’. I have a ‘Best Of’ album on there with about 16 tracks, and two other tracks, ‘The Clap’, Steve Howe’s solo piece from The Yes Album, and ‘Every Little Thing’, from their eponymous debut record. This was the last Yes track I played this morning and I remembered it as a serious favourite of mine from 1969, one I used to include on cassettes I made up to play in my orange Mini back in the days when I drove up and down the M1 a lot to see my dad in Yorkshire, both speakers blaring out this extraordinary arrangement of what was always a great and largely overlooked Beatles song. Yes take ‘Every Little Thing’ to another level than the Fabs, opening with a brash free-form prelude dominated by Peter Banks’ guitar phrases that circle the riff ambiguously and Bill Bruford’s jazzy drumming which is all over the shop, busy and skittish. Just before the vocals pounce Banks takes the mood down and offers up the riff from ‘Day Tripper’, played straight, before Anderson swoops in: ‘When I’m walking beside her…’. At over five minutes, Yes explore every avenue of the song, grandiose maybe, symphonic in parts and embracing wave after wave of vivid crescendos that all lead to stupendous summits until the whole piece ends on a suitable note of high drama. After Joe Cocker’s ‘With A Little Help…’, it’s still my favourite Beatles cover.
          This track made me a Yes fan, at least for two or three years, but there was a lot of competition in those days and after Close To The Edge (1972) I lost touch with them, concluding their ambition had overreached itself with Topographic Oceans a year later, and never listened to them much again.
          Chris Welch wrote the definitive Yes biography for Omnibus Press, Close To The Edge, first published in 1999, that revealed how Chris Squire used to spend a lot of time in the bath back when they were poor and lived in a communal house in Fulham, hence his nickname - Fish. 
         

RIP Chris.

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