Things I Like: Yes

By Last Updated: September 7, 2015Views: 2808

A few weeks ago Chris Squire died of acute erythroid leukemia, he was 67 years old. Now its a fair bet that most of you reading this probably have no idea who Chris Squire is but if you do you know just what an impressive musician he was. Chris Squire was a founding member of the band Yes and was it’s bassist throughout all of it’s iterations over 47 years.

That in and of itself is impressive. Progressive Rock bands are known for their changing lineups and, as opposed to most forms of rock, is not only expected but looked forward to in some cases. Still most Prog Rock bands are defined by a particular member. For King Crimson it is Robert Fripp, for Jethro Tull it’s Ian Anderson and for Yes it is Chris Squire.

Squire’s sound is distinctive. Rhythmic and fluid with a hollow, metallic plunk that is unique and very much his signature. He is the reason in high school I took up the bass; I wanted to sound just like him. And except for a distinct lack of talent and motivation I would have, but that’s another story.

No this story has to do with a particular band that I have been a fan of for over thirty years and whose music has been playing in the background of a lot of pivotal moments of my life. Now it is no secret that I am a massive fan of Prog Rock and Yes stands at the pinnacle of that fandom.

I find it hard to put into words why exactly I like Prog Rock as much as I do. It often consists of overly long, complicated songs punctuated with experimental elements like strange cord progressions, wild offbeat rhythms and unusual instruments and sounds. It can be pretentious, sometimes ridiculous and grating just for the sake of being different. I have attempted to play certain songs for friends only to end up having to apologize when I see their tortured looks of horror. It is at times a difficult form of music.

[quote]It is no lie I can see deeply into the future. Imagine everything, You’re close. And were you there to stand, So cautiously at first and then so high. As he spoke my spirit climbed into the sky. I bid it to return
To hear your wonderous stories.
Return to hear your wonderous stories.[/quote]

But Yes was able to transcend that. Their music was incredibly complicated but still held pop appeal. Songs like Roundabout and Seen All Good People for instance still see heavy radio play despite being 7 plus minutes in length. Yes straddles the line between experimentalism and top 10 hits. They have had longevity and success while maintaining a consistent high level of quality.

Mind you I can’t say that I love everything they have done, let’s face it if you are putting albums out for nearly fifty years there’s inevitably going to be a clunker or two along the way, but the majority of their music I absolutely adore.

I bought my first Yes album, Fragile, when I was 9 or 10 yeas old. I will admit that I actually bought it because I liked the cover and really didn’t know what the music was going to be. The cover was a cartoonish picture of the earth with some funky text at the top. I thought it was cool so I bought it. When I put it on my turntable I was amazed by what I heard. It was different, it was weird. It was extremely catchy. I was a fan right away.

After that I collected as many albums as I could get my hands on. Some where easily accessible while other were…less so. But the music was challenging. Listening to Yes expanded my musical appreciation. For the first time I could distinguish and recognize different musicians by their playing style. Bill Bruford’s drums were distinct from Alan White’s. Rick Wakeman’s keyboards were vastly different from Tony Kaye. And I began to understand that Jon Anderson’s vocals were another instrument in the band and not just pretty words over the music. I learned to recognize movements and themes in the music and to understand progressions and how music was composed and put together. All of this was revolutionary to a young teenage boy.

And learning this stuff, being able to understand music added to my appreciation of other forms of music as well. My love of classical and jazz is directly traceable back to listening to Yes as a teenager.

And throughout my life this band has been a part of moments, playing behind the scenes enhancing and informing them. I can’t really say if the music fit the experience or if I made the experience fit the music – a little of both perhaps. But I can look back as I listen and remember how I was then; I’m a different person now but through the songs I can remember who I was then, what I wanted and what I dreamed.

Close to the Edge saw a pre-teen boy sitting in front of a stereo stack with headphones on and drawing in a spiral notebook with a number 2 pencil. This kid was scared, this kid was excited, he was looking forward to something he could not explain.

Relayer was listened to in my buddy John’s basement drinking Budweiser from cans and smoking Marlboro’s one after the other. We thought we were philosophers and poets. We knew we could change the world.

Tales from Topographic Oceans I listened to in a darkened apartment in San Francisco with the windows open and uncovered with the lights from the city shining in. I would sing along and conduct the music with a lit cigarette acting as a baton.

A worn cassette tape of Going for the One was playing in the car stereo as I pulled into Denver and decided that I liked this place and might stay for a while. 17 years later I’m still in Colorado and I still have that tape although I have nothing to play it on.

And tonight as I type this I am listening to Fragile, that first album I bought with my own money so long ago; except now its digital not vinyl. Music is still the same. Still fills my with wonder, still makes me smile.

And I’m listening hard to the distinctive bass lines of Chris Squire knowing that he is gone and there will be no more Yes songs. Is it selfish of my to be sad of that fact?

There are more stories to tell, more ways this music has influenced me, but what it really boils down to is this is music I like. It challenges me, it makes me happy.

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