Remembering Chris Squire

csquire-1Chris Squire, the legendary bass player with Yes had died. I have few heroes, but during the gawky isolation of mid-teens when I listened to Yes obsessively, Chris Squire was my absolute hero.

He was born in Kingsbury, north west London where I happened to live as a teenager. He sang in the church choir of St Andrew’s church, which I passed on the 83 each day going to school. I used to look at that Church wonderingly. Could Kingsbury have spawned such a titan? Yet as a fan, I knew that his choir experience there maybe ten or so years before had taught him how to arrange the complex vocal harmonies Yes often employed.

For me listening to Yes was an otherworldly aural refuge.  I always heard the music through its relationship to Squire’s leviathan bass runs, or his subtle every-note-counts approach. I found his melodic playing sometime swelled full of a majestic pagan power which I found full of meaning. His one solo album, Fish out of Water is a lesser known gem too, full of stunning work.

Despite this reverence I only saw him play live perhaps six or seven times. The first time was in 1975 at QPR stadium, on the Relayer tour when I was fifteen. For me the juxtaposition of ‘cosmic’ Yes with the place that Stan Bowles and Gerry Francis got stuck in studs-first on the field was a bit jarring. An effect doubled when I and the school friend I was with were offered an enormous and aromatic joint by someone sitting next to us. We primly declined. But the event itself was enough to blow my head off.  It was utterly the best thing I had ever seen. I couldn’t wait to see them again, but I had to wait almost two and a half years till late October 1977 and the Going for the One tour. By then veteran of several gigs, as well as forays into gobbing punk, I took my younger brother and we saw what still ranks as the single best concert of any kind I’ve ever seen.

To quantify how much I worshipped Chris Squire, at the time I had a weekend job as a floor housekeeper in the hotel next to the what was then called the Wembley Empire Pool. A day or so before my concert, I was checking a room that was almost completely empty, opened the door of a cupboard and Squire’s unmistakable harlequin-like black and white stage clothes (see pic above) hanging in a wardrobe. Falteringly, I touched the great man’s trousers and left, feeling as if I had touched some potent religious relic.

But what is a hero? For me it someone who pioneers a path into new areas of the imagination. Squire reimagined the function of a rock bass guitar, in a way that changed the way bassists have played since and had brought joy to millions. In carving out new possibilities of music he will always be a hero for that alone, let alone for his excellent songwriting and general likeability.  What a guy.

About Peter Kenny

I lead a double life. Identity #1. A writer of poems, plays, libretti, prose, journalism and so on. Identity #2: A marketing outlier, working with London creative agencies and my own clients as a copywriter and creative consultant.
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