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.