There is nothing like the passing of a musical hero to put your own life and mortality into some greater perspective.
First, it was Freddie Mercury, whose passing on 24 November 1991 was not unexpected as I had received an early tip-off that he was HIV positive.
However, the suddenness of Chris Squire’s untimely death yesterday aged 67, just a month after the news was released that he had developed a rare form of leukaemia for which he was receiving treatment, is a shattering, unbearable blow. Again, this horrible disease has claimed another high profile victim.
At the moment, while still recoiling from this hideous news, I feel a huge hole has been torn out of my musical, cultural and spiritual fabric.
Apart from family and friends, musicians have always been my closest “allies” and with the demise of Chris Squire, it has suddenly become almost too personal.
Let me explain. I can still remember way back to 1971 and the first time I ever heard Yes. A male school friend very kindly loaned me a copy of Fragile to listen to; and at the tender age of 13, my life effectively changed forever.
The opening track Roundabout always has been and will be “my” song.
As I tried to articulate in a group review for DPRP in 2013, my impressions of this timeless song were:
“Nothing could prepare you for what happened next. What happened was Roundabout. That sustained keyboard chord followed by a sharp acoustic guitar note and a delicate melody, repeated and built upon as the keyboard swelled up again. Suddenly, there it was, that gorgeous jazzy melody line with Steve Howe’s elegant guitar and Chris Squire’s bass thundering along like a giant juggernaut. Jon Anderson’s voice arrived, soaring upwards into the ethers, singing lyrics touching on romance, nostalgia, the elementals and emotion.
“Forty-two years after its release, this mini-masterpiece is still possibly the best prog opener ever, as well as being a landmark song. Constructed in several short movements, it is a chance for each band member to shine, from Anderson’s clear, pure voice, to Wakeman’s sonorous keyboards, Howe’s mannered guitar flourishes, Bill Bruford’s impeccable rhythms and of course, Squire’s earth-moving bass patterns.”
Then, to end one of the most momentous albums of my entire life, there came Heart of the Sunrise:
“So far, side two had not quite caught alight the way side one had erupted…until now. As Squire’s bass goes full throttle punctuated by Wakeman’s spacey keys, we have arrived at Heart of the Sunrise, which rivals Roundabout for having one of the best Yes intros of all time. The floorboards quake and the room begins to spin as the song starts unwinding until it reaches a quiet plateau when Anderson’s voice at its most angelic comes in with “Love comes to you and you follow”.
“The whole piece paints a series of aural pictures, dense, complex and dramatic, that twist and turn like the wind with “so many around me”. It is a multi-faceted piece about alienation and trying to find your place in the world, armed with just your dreams. It catches you unawares when it goes from smooth to frenzied, Wakeman’s slightly schizoid keyboards coming to the fore and then Anderson changes vocal tempo for the fast “Straight light” passage. It builds and builds to a heart-rending climax, Anderson stretching his voice to hit the magical last notes on “city” before the whirlwind intro is revisited for the sudden ending.”
I shall quit here because I could talk at length about the magnificent albums that followed in quick succession but somehow, that would dilute the message as Fragile, with its gorgeous Roger Dean artwork and accompanying booklet providing pen portraits of all the band, was the gold standard so far as I was concerned.
For my part, the zeitgeist of the early 70s, musically, culturally and sartorially, was all about Yes. As a young teenage girl, it also had a lot to do with these five extraordinarily beautiful, long haired guys in their early 20s, attired in the obligatory cheesecloth shirts and loon pants, that left its indelible mark.
Then came an appearance on Top of the Pops performing Yours Is No Disgrace on the show’s album slot, Jon Anderson in shades and Squire, as I recall, shod in a pair of “poodle” boots, which signed, sealed and delivered it for me.
It is these early days which will stay with me forever, especially when by dint of my then tender age, I was not allowed to see them perform at Bournemouth Winter Gardens on the Tales From Topographic Oceans tour.
Instead, it was at the Gaumont Theatre in Southampton on the Relayer tour where I had my first live encounter with Yes, with another eight or nine times to follow afterwards. There would have been more, especially the Union tour, but you know how it is when life gets in the way.
But Union was incredibly important in other ways. It was The More We Live – Let Go, a Squire/Billy Sherwood song on the album, released in 1991, which practically saved my life. Back then, I was trapped in psychologically damaging marriage to a man purporting to be “spiritual”, but in fact, he was insidiously destroying my life and there was no obvious way out.
However, when I listened to the album, especially this song, on my car cassette player, the truth was revealed through lines like: “The spirit of imagination can lead us through the dark; The more we see, the more we try, the more we show.”
I cried the first few times after I heard it because through the profundity of the lyrics and the unbelievably beautiful melody, I had discovered a way out from being close to the edge of the abyss.
It is not just from a personal perspective either. His body of work and the influence he has had on so many of the current crop of bassists cannot be underestimated. I can think of at least a dozen bass players of my acquaintance who would cite Squire as being the main reason why they took up this most unfashionable of instruments.
We so desperately need more musical role models like him, because simply put, Squire made the bass guitar sexy. Previously, it was there primarily to anchor the harmonies and establish the beat. But in the hands of the extravagantly creative and theatrically extrovert Squire, it became a musical kaleidoscope for previously unheard of or un-thought about melody lines and sonic seismic shifts. The Rickenbacker 4001 bass in his huge hands became as iconic and seductive as a Stratocaster.
However, I must fast forward the story again and recall one of the most memorable of all their gigs. This was the 35th anniversary tour in 2004 when I caught up with the classic Yes line-up at Wembley Arena. This was the night they went semi-acoustic with a heart-stopping rendition of South Side of the Sky and an amazing bluesy version of Roundabout.
To my mind, that was the defining moment that Yes finally came of age in terms of their maturity and ability to reinvent their music almost on a whim.
The hiatus in 2008, resulting from Anderson’s near death experience, following respiratory failure, was a difficult one to understand. That Benoȋt David then Jon Davison stepped in to fill the vocalist slot did render me somewhat perplexed and confused at the time, but with hindsight, the show had to go on. It has to be said though the last two albums, Fly From Here and Heaven And Earth. have left me somewhat nonplussed to put it mildly.
But no matter: the memory now lingers on as we revisit Birmingham Symphony Hall on Sunday 4 May last year when they brought us The Yes Album, Close To The Edge and Going For The One in one glorious sitting.
It was an event to remember. The band augmented by singer Davison was palpably on fire as they delivered the soundtrack of the lives of most people attendant that night. It was as if the decades had rolled back and here we were again, wide-eyed innocent teenagers listening through our mega headphones in state of the art stereo to Starship Trooper, Siberian Khatru or Awaken once more.
That night, the Great Man was at the height of his powers, firing out salvo after salvo of thunderous basslines, one of the overriding definers of the Yes music – in stark contrast, it has to be said, to the high vibration vocal frequencies of the original singer and his two successors.
I never met Squire unfortunately: however, following the release of his delightful co-project, Squackett’s A Life Within A Day with Steve Hackett in 2012, I did conduct a joyous telephone interview with him for DPRP.
In typical Squire fashion, he misjudged the time difference between his home in Phoenix, Arizona and Winchester, United Kingdom, and called an hour late, only adding my already frazzled state. Then, when he did call, it took me ten minutes to steady my pen-holding, shorthand-taking hand!
But he was charming, affable and chuckled a lot, especially when I asked him about some of his sartorial successes and failures – with particular reference to the amazing “doctor’s outfit” he wore on the 90125 tour.
There is so very much more I could say about him but these are the initial thoughts which come under my personal “High the memory carry on, while the moments start to linger” file.
This is all about The Remembering of Chris Squire and his place not just at the zenith of the prog pantheon, but also in a very much wider musical context.
Our lives are now much darker places because of his passing, but this colossus of a musical lighthouse shone brightly for the best part of nearly 50 years for which we should be eternally thankful. We shall never see his like again, but his immortality is guaranteed.
My thoughts go out to his family, band members from all the Yes incarnations and the huge global community of Yes fans.
Acoustic Roundabout: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=riE2xHDgODg
The More We Live – Let Go: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ajxABx3Zn8
Squackett interview for DPRP – http://www.dprp.net/wp/interviews/?page_id=2587
Shortly after getting up this Sunday June 28, I received some bad news. You see, the most recent launch of the Elon Musk’s SpaceX Falcon 9 was a failure, with the rocket exploding about two minutes into its flight. Being a space geek and an unabashed fan of Musk’s vision to create a spacefaring civilization (not to mention, his putting his money where his mouth is to make it happen), this was definitely a disappointment for me. If only that could have been the worst news of the day.
Not long after that, I heard about the passing of Chris Squire. Now that was a real punch to the gut. Rockets are replaceable. Chris Squire is not. It seems like it has only been a few months since we were informed that he was undergoing cancer treatments (leukemia, specifically). You would have thought he would have had longer, and maybe even had a chance for full recovery. And while age 67 is not usually associated with the term “spring chicken”, it seems way too young for someone to be dying.
While Squire has influenced countless other musicians, one did not need to have any musical skill whatsoever to realize how incredibly talented he was. It was blatantly obvious to anyone who even remotely paid attention. It certainly wasn’t lost on me on that fateful night in 1979 when Squire and his band mates converted me into a lifetime prog fan and Yes fan. Before that, I had always thought of a bass player as just somebody sort of in the background, there to “thicken up” the music a little bit. On that night, Squire taught me that the bass could be so much more, a melodic instrument, a lead instrument, a driver of musical innovation.
And good God, what a body of work. Go listen to The Yes Album … phenomenal bass work, from the subterranean driving bass on Yours Is No Disgrace to the counterpoint on Perpetual Change. Then there is, on Fragile, the “snake eating itself” bass line of Roundabout. There is also The Fish, built on multiple bass parts of which each, by themselves, are a testament to his skill. Together, they make up a singularly unique piece of music (it’s also the first song my son could identify by name, although he at two years old referred to it just as “Fish Song”). And who, pray tell, ever played bass the way Squire did on The Gates of Delirium, especially in the “battle” section? Nobody, that’s who. There are so many other wonderful pieces of Yes music that feature Squire at his best that I could go on for much longer than you could continue reading.
To be sure, Squire wasn’t the first virtuoso bassist in rock. I’m thinking of guys like Paul McCartney and John Entwistle. But Squire took bass virtuosity to a whole new level. He turned it up to 11. And for the decade of the 1970’s, I have no problem calling him the best bassist of that era. While others, such as Geddy Lee, may have passed him up in the 1980’s, in the 70’s, Squire was the king of the bassists. I can think of many other good ones of that era, but I can think of few that I would even put in the same league as him, and none that I would put even, much less above him. That’s not a slight on the others. That’s just a testament to a monumental talent. In the 1970’s, Chris Squire was to the bass guitar what Steve Jobs was to the personal computer, and later to the smart phone.
In our current era, we have a number of supremely talented bassists, such as Steve Babb of Glass Hammer and Mariusz Duda of Riverside, among others. I’m sure if you ask any of them, they will all say that Squire was a huge influence. While Squire may have been taken from us way too soon, his influence will be felt for generations – not only in the way he played bass, but in the example he set for other bass players in expanding its possibilities. In fact, the latter part may be where the most lasting impact resides.
As I sign off from this post, I’m going to leave as one last tribute to this most amazing musician, Squire’s own rendition of Amazing Grace. I assume it was performed on his trademark Rickenbacker. Listen to the whole thing and see if you can keep your eyes dry throughout. I, for one, failed.
Rest in Peace, Chris.
ROMANTIC LOMBARDY PROG
La Coscienza Di Zeno: La Notte Anche Di Giorno
Fading Records, 2015
Alessio Calandriello: Vocals
Luca Scherani: All keyboards
Gabriele Guidi Colombi: Bass
Andrea Orlando: Drums & Percussion
Davide Serpico: Guitars
Stefano Agnini: Mini Moog, Organ
La Coscienza Di Zeno (The Consciousness of Zeno) is an Italian progressive band from Milan, Italy. Their January 2015 release, La Notte Anche Di Giorno (The Night in the Daytime, or The Sun Also Shines At Night) is a tour de force of melodic beauty.
Italian is such a beautiful language that is so suited to this type of cinematic key driven love music that I wish I understood it. But the language barrier notwithstanding the emotions of joy, longing, and hope still resonate and saturate the listener.
All ten tracks are buoyant and expectant. This is serious music with gravitas but also with sunshine and smiles infused throughout. Not only is this a disc that would make an excellent soundtrack but it is music to create to. That’s not to say this is inconsequential background noise (I DO like Brian Eno’s ambient stuff that is meant to be palliative sonic wallpaper) but simply a wash that one could paint, write, read, and dream to. Each track segues into the next giving this disc a Pete Barden/Camel Snow Goose vibe—and that’s GOOD!
With an album that is so heavily keyboard and synth driven, think Morricone meets the ultimate Italian Genesis cover band by way of Nektar, Triumvirat and a dash of European power metal balladry (maybe Rhapsody of Fire).
While the rhythm section and electric guitar serve the songs it is the incredible keyboards (Grand Piano, Hammond, Moog, and Mellotron) of Luca Scherani along with the gorgeous tenor of Alessio Calandriello that make this disc so compelling.
Calandriello’s voice is crystal clear, emotive, uplifting and warm. Again, think of Howard Shores great scores mixed with the aching beauty of the best of Riz Ortolani or Stelvio Cipriani. This is orchestral adult contemporary tone-poem rock prog at its finest. I don’t have a favorite track because the whole is truly greater than the sum of the parts. All right, my favorite song is track 6, Lenta Discesa all’Averno (Slow Descent to Avereno?) with the beautiful backing vocals of soprano Simona Angioloni. Top notch accompaniment by flutist Joanne Roan, violinist, Domencio Ingenito, and cellist, Melissa Del Lucchese add an ethereal depth to this serious music that does not diminish the melancholy joy.
Do yourself a favor and become acquainted with this young band. They deserve to become a household name amongst prog lovers.
“I’m reminded once again that it’s not enough to be brilliant. You need that lucky break that crosses you over to the mainstream punters. And a shed load of marketing money. . . It happened to Marillion before I met them and we’ve managed to maintain a hard-core big enough to make it possible for us to function at a certain level. It’s like getting an enormous rock to roll. Once it’s rolling you can keep it going easier than the effort it took to get it started. So rockn’rolls’s not such a bad name for it. But it could have been called ‘momentum’ instead. Doesn’t have the same ring about it though. . . (and anything derived from Latin is very unrock n’roll.)”
–Steve Hogarth, THE INVISIBLE MAN DIARIES, vol. II, pg. 129
I am terribly sad to see that Chris Squire (1948-2015) has passed away.
And, yet, it’s hard not to think: what an incredible life. The man brought so much art and humor and personality to every single thing he did. Certainly one of the greatest bassists of our time, Squire also possessed a beautiful voice. And, though often overshadowed by the song writing due of Anderson/Howe, Squire’s compositions within and for Yes were just heavenly.
Back in the era of mix tapes, I made a mix tape for the ages—all of the Yes songs by Chris Squire, with On the Silent Wings of Freedom being my absolute favorite.
His one solo album, 1975’s FISH OUT OF WATER is a prog classic. Some have called it a missing Yes album, and yet it highlights just how much Squire did contribute to Yes. His distinctive bass, his distinctive vocal lines, and his distinctive personality make FISH OUT OF WATER a wonder to behold.
Squire has been the heart of Yes from its founding, even as countless numbers of others have swirled around him.
No more. Our loss, but Heaven’s gain. Godspeed, Chris Squire. As a man and as an artist, you changed the world. What more could we ask of anyone? We have all benefitted from you and your life’s witness to beauty.
I would guess he has already had some good chats with Hendrix, Davis, Coltrane, Wagner, Beethoven. . .
Dave Kerzner tells the story on Facebook:
I have a fun story to tell you, especially if you’re a Rush fan. On June 19th, for the first time ever, Rush performed the song “Losing It” live in Toronto (with special guest, the brilliant Ben Mink on violin). Here it is:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXq2KbiW7sc Now, let me tell you some cool events leading up to it that may possibly have had something to do with this happening. I can’t say for certain, but, it seems to have started with a feature Prog Magazine did where they asked various artists what their favorite Rush song is and why. They asked me and I chose the song “Losing It” from Signals because it’s a lesser known track (almost forgotten) yet one of their most beautiful songs lyrically and musically. Here’s the feature Prog did with me on that: https://www.teamrock.com/…/2…/rush-song-of-the-day-losing-it
Then, I sent Ben Mink an email about it just showing my appreciation for him and the song… and apparently so did others including a fellow named Darren who alerted me to this recent live event where somehow both Ben and Rush decided to perform this early 80s song for the first time (they didn’t even perform this song for the Signals tour!) This is a song most Rush fans probably thought would never be played live ever. I certainly didn’t.
This is also apparently their last big tour! Through doing Neil Peart Drums, I’ve become friends with the A&R man at their label, Anthem, and I even shared the Prog article with him (he may have shared it with the band too for all I know). The interesting thing to me is that all of those things ended up being a bit of petitioning that actually worked!!!! The responses to the idea of “wouldn’t it be great if they played ‘Losing It’ live?” were really positive on the net when it was brought up. What’s even better is that these shows in Toronto were apparently filmed for a DVD! This song wasn’t a single. It wasn’t from their biggest album. But, it’s a gem! So, at the last minute on their last tour somehow through either sheer chance or a bit of strong intention and will from myself and others who wanted this to happen… it did! Thanks Jerry Ewing and Prog Mag for your awesome publication that ignites such things as this! I was honored to be asked to participate in the article and now I’m even happier at just the thought that it *might* have contributed to them actually playing it!
By the way, I’m covering this song with David Longdon of Big Big Train for my special Rush tribute album that I’ve been producing. I did ask Ben if he wanted to play on it, but, as we can see he had another idea which is even bigger! You can hear some of the snippets of the Rush covers we’ve done so far with guys like Rik Emmett of Triumph and more on my Sonic Elements Sound Cloud if you’re a modern day warrior…http://www.soundcloud.com/sonicelements
This interview may be the best interview I’ve ever seen/read of any musician! It was posted to YouTube today, but was filmed in March of this year during Mike Portnoy’s tour with The Neal Morse Band. He is incredibly open and honest, even hinting as to why he left Dream Theater. It is truly a great interview by an even greater man and musician. Thanks, Mike!
If you’re submitting a physical CD, DVD, Blu-ray, book, etc. for review at progarchy.com, please make sure you address it to:
6 West Montgomery ST
Hillsdale MI 49242
We’ve been in Colorado for this academic year, but we return to Michigan in just a few days. Thank you!
I am pleased to report that the Steven Wilson concert in Vancouver, BC, Canada, on Saturday, June 20, 2015, was nothing short of AMAZING. The integration of video images and musical showmanship was pure artistry at its finest.
The venue was the sweet Vogue Theatre, which has beer and wine and other drinks available at a bar downstairs as well as at a bar upstairs in the balcony area. You can take drinks to your seat. The seating was a bit tight, but once you settled in to the concert and got lost in the music, you forgot all about it. Except for my wife, who had a hardcore Wilson fan sitting next to her on her left doing annoying air drumming (I was on her right). Hey buddy, I know every fill too, but I keep it at home! Oh well, everybody stood up for the encore songs at Steven’s invitation, so that was great. Earlier, security had shut down anyone trying to stand up and dance. We did get to stand up and give standing ovations after instrumental extravaganzas like “Home Invasion / Regret #9″ and “Ancestral”. As we should! They were amazing. So great to see live. I love watching top-flight musicians do their thing live.
Locally owned and operated, The Vogue is one of the last remaining theatres from the famed Theatre Row. Take state of the art sound and projection, mix it with phenomenal natural acoustics and a 1940’s art deco interior, and you have the Vogue, utterly romantic and completely unique. With a commitment to good old- fashioned hospitality.
Here’s the set list. I recommend turning it into a playlist, because it works really well, and I myself have been listening to it since the concert as a playlist, as I have been reliving that magic night in my mind and heart. I highlight in boldface the songs not on Hand. Cannot. Erase.:
3 Years Older
Hand Cannot Erase
Ascendant Here On…
The Raven That Refused to Sing
This show was Steven Wilson, with Nick “Blonde Bombshell” Beggs on bass guitar and stick, Adam Holzman on keyboards, Dave Kilminster on guitar, and Craig Blundell on drums/percussion. Steven paid tribute to them all after “Regret #9″ and said they were all better musicians than himself.
Steven also had kind remarks about Vancouver, after they played “3 Years Older,” since he had never been here before. The audience was pretty restrained during the show, like typical polite Canadians, but then started totally freaking out during the encores which he seemed to like. The evening ended with multiple bows as the audience gave a standing ovation that went on and on with thunderous applause and stomping. I guess we saved the loudest appreciation for last and it was a great feeling between performers and the audience as it went on and on to close the night so that the musicians knew exactly how we felt. We loved it!
Steven gave a little speech before “Routine” on the theme “MISERABLE MUSIC MAKES ME HAPPY” (direct quote). If you’ve read interviews with him, you’ll get the idea and know what he said. Same stuff he usually does about the paradox: in such art, we can discover what we share in common, etc.
It was fun hearing “Index” as a set-up for “Home Invasion”. The crowd really went nuts for it and lapped it up. It’s musical theatre, really; I get why the masses go for it. But it’s a bit one-dimensional, lyrically.
“Lazarus” is a beautiful song and one of my favorites. It was a real treat to hear it live, which just made it all that much more powerful. We didn’t get to hear “Transience,” which is one of the loveliest moments on HCE, but that’s okay, we got “Lazarus.” Man, I love that song.
Steven gave a nice little chat before “Harmony Korine” about how it is his tribute to the “shoegazer” genre. It was amusing as he spent a lot of time listing obscure albums and artists he liked and trading this back and forth with audience members, asking who had heard of what. A nice little nerdy way of bonding with the audience: comparing notes on your favorite music.
As for nerdiness, I thought it was hilarious how Steven would walk around on stage and do all his dorky hand gestures as he got into the music; when I told my my wife later that I found this hilarious and endearing, she reminded me that I make the same stupid hand gestures whenever I listen to loud music and get into it!
As for shoe gazing, I felt like gazing at my shoes because of all the disturbing images (people with bird heads, gas masks, screams of anguish) during “Harmony Korine.” But the audience loved all this oogly-boogly scary-scarey stuff during songs like “Watchmaker” and “Index” and “Raven” and so on; I myself find it kind of boring and limited in scope, but it is true that it is all very artistically done, if you like that sort of thing. I guess my tastes are just more classical than modern — I prefer beauty! Thankfully, the music was beautiful enough. The video pizazz was just icing on the cake for people who like icing. I would prefer smaller doses; hey, did you notice all the dopey video gets shut off during the prog instrumentals? Exactly! Point proved… who needs it, really… just inflates the ticket price by giving us, not just a concert, but an “experience”… I’m not complaining, I’m all for it, and no one does it better than Wilson. This was one of the greatest concerts I’ve ever been to. The Steven Wilson Experience!
“Sectarian” is one of my absolutely favorite Wilson songs, and so I was thrilled to experience it live — in a much more metal version, to boot! Great stuff… it was meant to be metaled up this way. Well played, Steven, well played…
If I had to come up with some extra complaint (since here I am, playing the critic), it would be that the sound mix wasn’t as perfect as I would have liked. Man… they should get Steven Wilson to do the mix… haha, but he’s busy on stage, I guess. On the plus side of the ledger, it was excellent that the sound volume was at an absolutely perfect level, so no earplugs were required. That is the way rock concerts should be! It’s time to end the dumb convention of making the music too loud to bear. Why insist on inflicting hearing damage? Anyway, it is great that Steven is using his influence to be a force for good in this area, as in so many others. Bottom line: all the positives blow away any negatives I can think up. This was a supremely excellent concert!
If you get a chance to see Steven live, don’t miss it. He is not just Mr. Prog, he is a musical talent that transcends all genres. Yes, he’ll give you that dose of perfect prog that will make you very happy, but he is one of those rare breed true artists that only comes along once in a lifetime. He can do anything, and he is even utterly pure magic when it’s just his voice and an acoustic guitar. He’s the real deal.
Don’t miss seeing Steven Wilson in your lifetime. You won’t regret it.
So, what are you waiting for? To grow three years older?
Why, this awesome picture of course!
This was taken last night at a Rush concert Mike Portnoy took his son to. Apparently Mike signed autographs for fans sitting near him at the concert. I can’t think of a better night than seeing Rush and meeting Mike Portnoy! Maybe meeting Rush, seeing them play, and meeting Mike Portnoy could top that.