By Damian Fanelli
Bassist and vocalist Chris Squire, a founding member of prog-rock legends Yes, died today, June 28, at age 67 after a brief battle with Acute Erythroid Leukemia (AEL), an uncommon form of Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML).
The U.K.-born Squire had been receiving treatment in Phoenix, where he lived, since being diagnosed with the disease only last month.
Geoff Downes, Squire’s bandmate in Yes, posted the news via his Twitter account:
“Utterly devastated beyond words to have to report the sad news of the passing of my dear friend, bandmate and inspiration Chris Squire.”
Squire, who had been a member of every configuration of Yes throughout the band’s 47-year history, was recently replaced in the band’s touring lineup by Billy Sherwood, a former member of the band (1997 to 2000).
“This will be the first time since the band formed in 1968 that Yes will have performed live without me,” Squire said in May. “But the other guys and myself have agreed that Billy Sherwood will do an excellent job of covering my parts, and the show as a whole will deliver the same Yes experience that our fans have come to expect over the years.”
Squire was widely regarded as the dominant bass guitarist among the early Seventies British prog-rock bands, influencing peers and future generations of bassists with his biting sound and ultra-melodic bass lines. He often has been associated his trademark Rickenbacker 4001s bass. (Note: Squire’s trademark Rickenbacker bass was actually an RM1999, which he purchased in the U.K. in 1964. It’s considered the Rose Morris version of the U.S. 4001s model.) His most beloved Yes bass lines include “Roundabout” (check out his isolated “Roundabout” bass line below), “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” “Long Distance Runaround” and “The Fish.”
Besides his many years with Yes, Squire released a solo album, Fish Out of Water, in 1975 (his nickname was “Fish”) and formed Squackett with guitarist Steve Hackett in recent years.
Squire was born in Kingsbury, a suburb of north west London, March 4, 1948. He was trained in the St. Andrew’s church choir as a child, beginning his musical career with a group called the Selfs. After joining a string of other bands, including the Syn, Squire formed Yes with vocalist Jon Anderson, drummer Bill Bruford, keyboardist Tony Kaye and guitarist Peter Banks in 1968.
“I couldn’t get session work because most musicians hated my style,” he said. “They wanted me to play something a lot more basic. We started Yes as a vehicle to develop everyone’s individual styles.”
Yes released their first album, Yes, in 1969, and their latest, Heaven & Earth, in 2014. Throughout the band’s many mutations and configurations, Squire’s singing (backing vocals), bass playing and song writing remained welcome constants.
The last time I spoke with Squire, in 2011, we discussed his distinctive bass sound and the evolution of Yes over the decades. What follows is a portion of that interview:
I’d say you and Paul McCartney were among the biggest Rickenbacker representatives.
Yes. Of course, Paul McCartney’s sound is different from mine, but it’s the way you hear things, really. Paul’s Hofner bass playing doesn’t sound that different than his Rickenbacker bass playing. It’s more the player than the instrument, I think—or the way the player wants to hear things.
Speaking of your bass sound, I think when most people think of “the Chris Squire sound,” they picture your distinctive sound on “Roundabout.”
Yeah, it’s like the “Chris Squire quintessential.”
Would you say your bass sound has changed much over the years?
Well, no. I still basically use the same kind of tone settings. I’m still using the 100-watt Marshall amp I’ve had since the mid-Sixties. It still works, but of course, it has been through periods of needing work; it’s been broken down, had repairs. And nothing ever gets replaced with the same components because they’re not available all the time because they’re extinct now.
So in small increments, the sound has changed. I’ve had to replace parts in the basses when they’ve gotten old or worn out, so everything isn’t absolutely original. But where I could, I try and find a guitar from the same vintage and raid it for parts, which I have done with a couple of other basses from the same time.
With so many versions of the band throughout the years, is there one that stands out as the strongest or most rocking?
The thing is, every era of Yes has had something to say. It’s distinctly different—the Steve Howe guitar style and, of course, when Trevor Rabin was in the band in the Eighties going into the Nineties. He definitely was a different style of guitar player. So that sort of changed the band quite a bit in some ways, but there’s me and Alan White who are still playing, so yeah, things have moved around in the Yes sound picture, but basically, things have stayed the same as well. So I can’t really say which version is the more kickass because every version has come up with something good.
Damian Fanelli is the online managing editor at Guitar World and Guitar Aficionado. His New York-based band, the Blue Meanies, has toured the world and elsewhere. Fanelli, a former member of Brooklyn jump-blues/rockabilly band the Gas House Gorillas and New York City surf-rock band Mister Neutron, writes GuitarWorld.com’s The Next Bend, a column dedicated to B-benders. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram.