Bass legend Chris Squire may be gone, but he is most definitely not forgotten. During the time we were lucky enough to have him in this life, Squire produced some of the most innovative and interesting bass work of any genre of music. Not content to simply keep time along with the drums, Squire put the bass guitar square in the center of the melodic discourse of Yes music, with a unique picked sound that was thick yet trebly.
Compiling a list like this is no easy task when you are dealing with the level of talent that Squire possessed. While there are a few in the list that I knew would be on here, paring it down to just ten was a difficult task. Of course, any list like this is going to be subjective and your mileage may vary. These, however, are my 10 favorite Squire performances.
10. The Remembering
Most people reading this list would expect Ritual to be selected from the Tales from Topographic Oceans album rather than this piece. And to be sure, Ritual has some excellent bass playing. But none other than Squire himself had this to say about The Remembering:
“One of the nicest things I think I’ve ever played on is side two of Topographic Oceans, The Remembering … I’m prouder of that than I am about some of the things I’ve played on that people rave about. That section starts with a very interesting chord sequence. The key shifts for every bar, and the bass line just happens to bind it all together somehow by following a weird kind of scale. It’s a very successful piece of arranging, and when I hear it, I definitely feel that I couldn’t have played anything righter, and one doesn’t often get that feeling.”
Indeed, Chris, indeed. This has been my favorite piece off the Topographic Oceans album since I first listened to it, and Squire’s subtle, often sublime bass playing is a big reason why.
9. On the Silent Wings of Freedom
Tormato is a bit of an uneven album, but this song – propelled by Squire’s bass – is a definite high point.
8. Hold Out Your Hand
The leadoff track from Squire’s first solo album is an excellent example of how the bass can be used as a lead instrument.
7. Tempus Fugit
I do have to admit that this song has not held up with me over the years as well as I would have hoped. Mainly, it’s the self-referential lyrics that I find a little off-putting. That being said, one cannot deny the incredible, thunderous bass work on this song. While the other musicians playing on this song did their part, the bass is clearly the most memorable instrument here.
This is one of my favorite of the “shorter” Yes songs, and a big part of it is the bass work. In fact, it’s the work of the bass intertwined with that of Rick Wakeman’s church organ and Steve Howe’s guitar. The instrumental interlude prior to the last chorus is a thing of beauty, and the closing section is even better – and it’s all tied together by Squire’s bass.
5. The Fish
Recording a bass solo for an album might not seem like a great idea, initially anyway. Recording five different, overlapping bass parts? It’s a great idea when in the hands of Mr. Squire.
4. Heart of the Sunrise
The bass fireworks start from the very beginning riff of this early Yes masterpiece. A nice, bass-driven interlude follows before more fireworks from the main riff. Other great parts follow. All in all, a memorable song for all of the instruments, bass most certainly included.
Wow, Fragile was a good album for Squire, no? The most notable bass part is that which has been described as a “snake eating itself” during the verses. Squire’s work with Bruford in parts of the choruses is equally impressive.
2. Yours is No Disgrace
This song is great simply because it has a wide variety of bass parts within. At some parts, it’s the rhythmic bottom, some it’s squarely in the melody, some it provides a counterpoint, and in one particular interlude, it is a walking bass line. Squire’s versatility with his instrument simply shines here.
1. The Gates of Delirium
Good God, where do I start? This is exceptionally innovative bass playing even by Squire’s standards. In this piece, the bass does so much – it underscores the emotion of the lyrics, it paces the music, it drives it forward … it just does everything. The piece can be loosely divided into a prelude, a battle section, a victory section, and Soon, which is a contemplation of the costs of that which preceded. In every section, the bass does something interesting. My favorite part here is the battle section, with Squire playing at a frenetic, yet controlled pace, with an underlying logic that unfolds brilliantly.
For the videos here, I’ve included a two-parter which uses video from the famous QPR performance of 1975, but the much better audio from a bootleg of their 1976 performance at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City, NJ. I’ve always felt that the bass was too low in the mix of the original album, and that generally speaking the live performances sounded better than the original studio version (although the Steven Wilson remix definitely goes a long way to right the ship in that respect).
In short, I cannot think of a better piece of music to play to the uninitiated if you want to demonstrate the overwhelming talent of Squire on the bass guitar.