The progressive rock genre is in shock with the news of the death of bassist Chris Squire, founder and only constant member of Yes. Tributes have been pouring in from across the progressive rock world and beyond. At The Robin 2 last night Magenta opened their set with a cover of “Cinema”, the instrumental from “90125″ as a tribute, which was a lovely touch.
Chris Squire was one of a handful of true giants in rock. The Rickenbacker that was his instrument of choice always has a distinctive and instantly recognisable sound, but Chris Squire’s playing was unique. He expanded the boundaries of what a rock bassist could be, making the bass guitar into a lead instrument while still driving the rhythm. Many of Yes’ best songs had his propulsive riffs at their heart. Listen to “Roundabout”, “Parallels” or that incredible opening of “Heart of the Sunrise”. He’s known as a virtuoso bassist, but he was also a good singer, evidenced by some of his harmonies with Jon Anderson.
My introduction to Yes was a secondhand copy of “Fragile” acquired during my first year as a student, probably discarded by someone who’d rejected progressive rock in favour of punk and new wave. It was their loss. For a while it took me a while to get my head round what they were doing; the complex music that was forever taking off in different directions was a world away from anything I’d heard before in the rock world. But I persevered and eventually it all made sense, and it still sounds vital 35 years later.
I only ever got to see them live the once, back in 2004 on what turned out to be the last tour of the classic Yes lineup with both Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman; even decades after their musical peak it was still an incredible and spectacular show. More recently, the music editor of The Guardian asked me to write a piece about Yes; my first ever paid piece of music writing.
Yes are still dismissed in some quarters as “that band who made Tales from Topographic Oceans, which was awful and punk had to come and save us”. Which is a shame. When a band like Muse are currently one of the biggest bands in Britain, anyone who loves Muse really ought to be able to find something to love about Yes. That Guardian article of mine highlighting ten of their best songs is a good place to start.
So farewell, Chris Squire, and thank you for all the life-changing music you made.