Bassist, co-founder and linchpin of the prog rock group Yes
Published 05/07/2015 | 02:30
Chris Squire, who died last Sunday aged 67, was the bass player and co-founder of the British prog rock group Yes and the only constant name on its complicated family tree.
Founded by Squire with lead singer Jon Anderson in 1968, Yes rose to fame in the 1970s as part of a movement (with bands such as King Crimson, Genesis, Emerson Lake & Palmer and Jethro Tull) to produce a more sophisticated rock sound, characterised by songs with complex structures that often drew on classical or jazz influences, using suite forms, multiple tempo changes, unusual time signatures and poetic lyrics.
After opening for Janis Joplin and being signed to Atlantic Records, the band gained a large and devoted following with albums such as The Yes Album and Fragile (both 1971), Close to the Edge (1972), Tales from Topographic Oceans (1973), Relayer (1974) and Going for the One (1977).
Critics tended to dismiss prog rock as pretentious and overwrought, yet Yes inspired almost cultlike devotion among teenagers with intellectual leanings who found an atmospheric, almost mystical, depth to their music lacking in other rock bands. Yes, in its various incarnations, continued to fill stadiums for more than 40 years.
Squire, described by one critic as "perhaps the most nimble bassist this side of the late John Entwistle" (whom Squire much admired), was the only band member to feature in all of Yes's studio albums and also wrote many of its songs. He was its one constant through some 20-odd changes in the line-up, only retiring earlier this year when he was diagnosed with leukaemia.
The son of a taxi driver, Christopher Russell Edward Squire was born in northwest London on March 4, 1948. He was educated at Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School, where he sang in the choir, but which he left aged 16 after being suspended for wearing his hair too long. He got a job selling guitars at Boosey & Hawkes in Regent Street, buying his first Rickenbacker 4001 bass using a staff discount.
Squire recalled that as a teenager he had been "into Paul McCartney and Jack Bruce", but that most of his inspiration came from John Entwistle of The Who. "I got a Rickenbacker and Rotosound strings and I played with a pick, because that's what John was doing at the time," he recalled. "Musically, I learnt a lot of his and The Who's licks and tried to emulate their energy and attitude."
By his account, he developed his own contoured tone and spidery playing style (integral to such sprawling tracks as Long Distance Runaround (1971) and Roundabout (1972)) while recovering in 1967 from a bad acid trip which landed him in hospital for a couple of days: "I'd had lots of good acid trips prior to that. But I made the mistake of trying some acid some friends of mine had homemade. That knocked me back, and I did sort of hibernate in an apartment in Kensington and spent quite a few months - maybe as much as a year - just playing bass."
Yes weathered the late 1970s when the advent of punk made prog rock seem absurdly over-the-top. During the 1980s, the group was nearly torn apart when the mass of solo projects and personnel splits led to a legal battle over the rights to the name, between a breakaway group led by high-voiced lead singer Jon Anderson and another featuring Squires.
The row ended in reunion, however, and Anderson continued to front the group until he was forced to bow out in 2005 after developing a serious respiratory condition.
Known to his Yes bandmates as "Fish", Squire also released a solo album Fish Out of Water in 1975 and was a member of the supergroup XYZ, alongside Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin and Yes drummer Alan White.
He is survived by his third wife, Scotty, by their daughter and by four children from his previous marriages.