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Yes bassist Chris Squire talks breakups, John Lennon and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame




For 43 years, through drug problems, legal squabbles and near-death experiences, the prog-rock band Yes has had one constant: Bassist Chris Squire.

Squire (second from left, above) is the only man who’s been a member through all 19 Yes albums since 1969. It’s his rhythm and harmonies you hear on I’ve Seen All Good People and Owner Of A Lonely Heart. And he’s still touring with Yes today, albeit without original vocalist and co-founder Jon Anderson.

When Yes plays Jannus Live on Friday (tickets are $38.50; click here for details), Squire will be joined by longtime off-and-on members Steve Howe (guitar) and Alan White (drums) on this tour, as well as vocalist and Benoit David and keyboarist Oliver Wakeman, the son of longtime Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman.

Last week, two days before his 63rd birthday, called Squire at home in Phoenix, Ariz. to talk about the band’s history. Here are excerpts.

First of all, happy birthday. You got any plans?

Yeah! My plans are to be on a plane from Phoenix to Houston. (laughs)

This is the 43rd year of Yes, right? Does it feel like it’s been that long?

Not really, because time has flown, as they say. I never would have guessed when Yes first started. I thought, let’s try and have a decent career, five or six years, like the Beatles had. From the point when they became known to the point where they broke up was, I think, ’63 to ’69. That was a six-year career. I remember thinking, “Well, it would be great to achieve that.” Here we are down the road, 43 years later.

You’re the longest-tenured member of the band. Are you pretty much the man in charge at this point?

(laughs) You would think, wouldn’t you? But we try to run the band on a pretty diplomatic level.

You’ve been through so many lineup changes over the years. When people come and go from the band, are the reasons generally the same?

Yeah, usually. In the event of Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman — and Rick, of course, has been in and out of the band on a number of occasions — it’s usually because they want to go and do other things. People have gone off and come back again, and I’ve kind of gotten used to it. One of the good things about having as many changes as we’ve had is I’ve been able to benefit from all the incoming musicians’ talent and different ideas. So for me, it’s been quite an education, because everyone you play with leaves a certain amount of influence. In many ways I’m grateful for that.

When’s the last time you spoke to Jon?

I haven’t spoken to him for a little bit. We still do Christmas cards. (laughs) So that’s nice. But I know Jon is working away on various things, some orchestral thing he’s been working on for a while now. I think it’s going well. And so, you know, we still have our contact information.

Why do you think it’s so hard for bands to stay together?

I think musicians in general usually are free-spirit personalities. People want to do something different. I think it’s what drives other musicians to turn their hands to different ways of making music, with different people. That’s the way of the world, really.

Can you tell a difference in your fans’ reaction these days when you play a song from the '70s, like I’ve Seen All Good People, or a song from the '80s, like Owner of a Lonely Heart?

No, not really. We do our best to play the music as well as possible, and from then on, hopefully people will like it. People have been enjoying the current lineup, and the concerts are going very well. I think in the end, everyone has elevated spirits.

Did you know there’s a petition online to get Yes inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

(laughs) Is there? A petition for the general public? Really! I wonder who set that up? I didn’t know that existed.

Do you think it’ll ever happen?

It’s not up to us. It’s up to the voting committee that runs that thing. I know they’ve been very prog-rock-shy for a long time, although there was a ray of hope last year when they decided to put Genesis in there. That was well-deserved. What can I say? If it happens, there will be a lot of people in Yes to induct. (laughs)

Is it something you want? A lot of bands probably look at it and say, “Ah, it’s not for us.”

I don’t lose any sleep over it. Put it that way.

The Beatles were still around when you were coming up in London. Did you come into contact with them while they were still a band?

I didn’t know any of them during their big success period, although the first time I met John Lennon was at the Apple office, when British TV was doing a promotion for the Abbey Road album. I knew their publicist real well, and he invited me to come ’round the office. They had a big-screen TV, because it was the Beatles’ office, and we went ’round to watch the thing. John Lennon came in and sat down next to me and watched it, and every time something happened that he didn’t like, he turned to me and said, “They said they wouldn’t do this in the promo!” I don’t know who he thought I was. I was just sitting there nodding, going, “Yeah, that’s a drag that got included; I don’t know how that slipped through.” (laughs) They never introduced me or anything.

-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*

[Last modified: Tuesday, March 8, 2011 11:52am]


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