Chris Squire – bass lines we love – 619

Produced by Joseph Cottrell, Jeffrey Crecelius and Ken Fuller

This week would have been Chris Squire’s 76th birthday. To celebrate his legacy, Mark and I chose 3 of our favourite Squire bass lines and also chatted about his signature sound and how he achieved it. Make sure you add your own selections to the comments on the show notes for this episode and let’s celebrate the legacy of the world’s greatest bassist together.

  • What are your favourite Squire bass lines?
  • How did Chris achieve his sound?
  • Did he always take the same approach?

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Theme music

The music I use is the last movement of Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite. This has been used as introduction music at many Yes concerts. My theme music is not take from a live concert – I put it together from:

17 replies on “Chris Squire – bass lines we love – 619”

An encomium to Chris Squire’s bass playing is always welcome. I love your top choices, and am glad “Beyond and Before” was included. Kevin points out that Chris’s bass is (appropriately!) the very first sound we hear on the first Yes album; and someone else (possibly on the YMP) has mentioned that Chris’s bass is also the very last sound we hear on his final Yes album.

Squire’s spectacular, active bass lines and tone colors were the first thing that hooked me on Yes music. Absolutely captivating! But I admire his more subtle work, also. So many little tricks, odd notes here and there, somehow it all works. There are scores of examples. Recently I’ve enjoyed these two:

1- “Soon”- All of it, noting these two places: the transition into the song, and the coda. In both, Chris insistently holds a bass tone which becomes non-harmonic under changing chords (lasting about 60 seconds in the intro, then 30 seconds in coda), until the other musicians eventually resolve into harmonic agreement with him.
2 – “The Remembering”- All of it. Who else would have dreamed up this unusual bass part, especially in the quieter passages, of which Chris expressed particular pride and satisfaction?

Looking forward to reading the favorites of others!

There are certain moments in Chris’ bass playing that I feel that only Chris could have the guts/genius to come up with, and the personality/strength to impose them. Since you talk about Soon – there is one other moment where Chris is doing a melody, as Jon sings, that causes quite some instability (if I’m not mistaken holding a major 2nd/9th). I mean only Chris could get away with that. I think every other band or produced would say “that’s wrong, do it the standard “correct” way. But Chris had the presence and fingers to make each of his notes to be so affirmative that we instantly have the feeling that those are the right notes. We feel the confidence and character within each simple note played by Chris. Just like each repetitive eighth-note in the beginning of “Real Love” – there is a stamp in each one with Chris signature which makes us instantly believe and feel secure for the ride.
“somehow it all works”

Hi, Miguel, your insights are always helpful and such a pleasure to hear. Would you please confirm/correct about the intro to “Soon”- is that indeed Chris on that long, low, held note (I think it is an A)? Is that a regular bass, then bass pedal? It sounds like it is, at least partly. . . though when notes are quite low or quite high sometimes it is hard for me to tell if it may be another instrument (for example, perhaps an organ pedal in this case?). In the coda, however it is clear because of the repeated attack on the string.

Hello M. On the live versions Chris uses his bass pedals, so that may have been the case on the studio version as well. The sequence is quite interesting, as the whole sewuence is A F# A B D F# C and finally A minor. That means Chris held his low A twice against the A# of the F# triad. Something that is still “possible” or “justifiable” as it is a pedal note that is sustained from previously being a chord tone. But, most of all – Chris makes it sound fantastic!

P.S. About the complexity: not long ago I came across an old CS interview in which he was asked about his unusual time signatures, and difficult, complex rhythms. His answer, to paraphrase: “No matter how complex the rhythm, my goal is always to come up with something that sounds natural, and feels natural to play.”
(Anyone, please help if you can remember this more accurately.)

That’s the starlicks interview from 1990. Chris said that he doesn’t use special counting tricks for the odd-time meters and everything must feel natural as if it’s in 4/4 – “it still has to rock”

There are so many great Chris Squire performances that you could have a whole podcast about them, not just one episode!

Agreed about Beyond and Before – what a powerful start to the Yes story. And I can’t quibble with the top 3 (or 6) that our hosts listed. Here are a few others, in no particular order…

1. Onward. Kevin probably talks about this one in his book, but Chris did a really tasteful job with the bass line here.

2. Parallels. While we’re talking about songs that Chris wrote, Parallels has some mighty bass playing on it! That video of the recording session really brings to light how he was a driving force on this song and in Yes music more generally.

3. Turn of the Century. More extremely tasteful playing here, on the more mellow end of the spectrum. Chris’s bass lines are so contrapuntal here and they weave in and out of the vocal line to perfection.

4. To Be Over. Another very contrapuntal piece – just listen to how Chris, Steve, and Patrick play off each other. Wow!

5. Long Distance Runaround / The Fish. Yeah, I know, this one is kind of obvious and a real showcase for Chris’s talents.

6. Ritual. A tour de force.

7. South Side of the Sky. This song is so underrated. There is some amazing syncopation in Chris’s bass part.

8. Close to the Edge. That opening bass line has all the signature Squire qualities (ascending scales, syncopation, counterpoint with Steve and Rick, etc.).

9. Perpetual Change. Talk about a change of pace – this has Chris doing a walking bass line at his most jazzy!

10. Awaken. His playing here has a grandeur that is totally befitting to this masterpiece of Yes music.

I could list even more, but I’ll stop at ten.

By the way, I’ve arranged six Yes songs for solo bass (including five of the ones listed above) but I haven’t recorded them yet. You can read more at including sheet music.

Superb list, Peter Saint-Andre! Regarding especially nos. 3 and 4, I’m reminded of an interview with Jon which you may have heard, saying that Chris knew exactly how to compose a bass part that would best support the vocal line, and that Chris’s playing actually made the singing easier.

“The word you’re looking for is ‘Razzmatazz.’” That cracked me up! I love your friendship, Kevin and Mark! Great discussion this week.

I agree with all of your choices of course. Another I’d like to recommend is the amazingly tight playing on the instrumental section in the middle of “Everydays” on TAAW. I think this is one of their best albums but is so under-rated

Just an extra comment on the episode. I don’t think you mentioned when discussing Chris’ Rickenbacker that these basses have two different output options. There’s the regular one which is mono where both pickups can be selected then there’s the, I think it’s called Rickosound or something similar. This one is a ‘stereo’ socket where each pickup has its own output allowing different pedal and amp selections per pickup.

Greetings Kevin & Mark & All –

I’m so pleased to see this week’s focus on Master Squire’s bass lines. At the time of his passing, I wrote a brief tribute to him acknowledging his enormous influence on me as a composer and as a bass player (though I’m primarily a guitarist):

About three years earlier I had added the follow sentence to the opening paragraph on Chris Squire’s Wikipedia article, and to this day it has stood relatively unchanged, something I’m very proud of:

“He was widely regarded as the dominant bass guitarist among the early seventies British progressive rock bands, influencing peers and later generations of bassists with his incisive sound and elaborately contoured, melodic bass lines.”

(Still, of course, someone could further edit that statement any time.) “In any case, within the realm of the rock bass guitar, here was a giant.”

Billy Sherwood once said, in a YMP interview, that the pinnacle of Chris’s bass lines happened on the Relayer album, and I couldn’t agree more.

All the best,


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