Chris Squire

Prog - - Contents - Words: Sid Smith Por­trait: Clive Ar­row­smith/Cam­era Press

“Those were

re­ally pi­o­neer­ing days. None of

us knew ex­actly what we were do­ing…”

The in­side story of his clas­sic 1975 solo al­bum Fish Out Of Wa­ter…

Chris Squire is check­ing the time and he’s smil­ing. It’s long gone mid­night, deep within St Paul’s Cathe­dral, where he’s watch­ing record­ing engi­neer Gregg Jack­man and a cou­ple of as­sis­tants plac­ing mi­cro­phones and check­ing lev­els.

Ad­vis­ing them as to the best spots within the vast, res­o­nant building is Barry Rose, the newly ap­pointed sub‑or­gan­ist who is about to play the third largest pipe or­gan in Europe. Join­ing Rose at the key­board, An­drew Pryce Jack­man, Gregg’s brother, goes over the de­tails of the score he’s writ­ten as Rose ad­justs his head­phones.

Look­ing upon this noc­tur­nal ac­tiv­ity, Squire re­calls when he and the Jack­man broth­ers were cho­ris­ters at St An­drew’s Church in Kings­bury. They had been un­der the di­rec­tion of Barry Rose, then their en­er­getic choir­mas­ter, and had even per­formed in this very building. Now, in the early hours of a sum­mer morning in 1975, here they all are once again, old friends re­united in the mak­ing of Chris’ first solo al­bum. This feels spe­cial.

Ner­vous smiles, a burst of laugh­ter and a last‑minute cough. A fi­nal tweak on the four‑track recorder. Glanc­ing back and forth, nods of the head ex­changed. Now, every­thing goes quiet. There’s a count in and the back­ing track of Hold Out Your Hand fills the head­phones and Barry Rose be­gins to play the notes be­fore him. Squire sup­presses a deep chuckle of de­light as the ju­bi­lant as­cend­ing chords fill the air of this cav­ernous, sa­cred space.

It’s a spine‑tin­gling mo­ment. In his head, he sings, the lyrics es­pe­cially apt: ‘You can feel it coming/ With the morning light/And you know the feel­ing’s/Gonna make you feel all right.’ As the rhap­sodic arpeg­gios and lines rip­ple and re­ver­ber­ate out from the pipes around the building, the boy who grew up in Sal­mon Street, known to his band­mates and mil­lions of fans around the world as The Fish, is in his el­e­ment and smil­ing.

It’s some­times easy to for­get the ve­loc­ity at which Yes trav­elled in the early 1970s. A dizzy­ing sched­ule of in­creas­ingly larger tours with more pres­ti­gious venues fol­lowed each newly re­leased al­bum. De­spite be­ing locked into this ap­par­ently never‑end­ing tread­mill, the cre­ative bar was in­cre­men­tally raised be­tween

Be­tween 1975 and 1976, the five mem­bers of Yes took some time out from the band to fo­cus on solo en­deav­ours. One of the re­sults was the late Chris Squire’s re­mark­able Fish Out Of Wa­ter. It’s be­ing re­leased as part of a deluxe box set later this month, and to cel­e­brate the cre­ation of the orig­i­nal al­bum, we speak to the men who were there.

“He had a kind of ‘halo’ around him, if I can put it like that. As quiet as he could be com­pared to Jon or Steve, he was ex­tremely forth­right in telling you what he wanted from you.” Pa­trick Moraz

1971’s The Yes Al­bum through to 1974’s Re­layer. Even al­low­ing for the crit­i­cal back­lash and con­tro­versy sur­round­ing 1973’s Tales From To­po­graphic Oceans, Yes main­tained their rep­u­ta­tion as the most in­no­va­tive and am­bi­tious band of their gen­er­a­tion.

In this con­text, the novel idea that all five mem­bers of the group would take time out to record sep­a­rate solo al­bums, which would then be re­leased over the course of a year, could be viewed as ei­ther au­da­cious or the hubris of over‑in­flated ego. Ex­ec­u­tives at At­lantic Records were un­der­whelmed, wor­ry­ing, per­haps un­der­stand­ably given the volatile na­ture of the line‑up, that Yes were in dan­ger of di­lut­ing what was a highly suc­cess­ful for­mula.

For Chris Squire, the trap­pings of that suc­cess pro­vided him with New Pipers in 1972, a sprawl­ing man­sion at Vir­ginia Wa­ter in Sur­rey, and later, like any self‑re­spect­ing mem­ber of rock’s aris­toc­racy, the in­stal­la­tion of a be­spoke record­ing stu­dio in the base­ment. It was here, be­tween tours with Yes, that Fish Out Of

Wa­ter slowly took shape.

It might have been as­sumed that any Squire solo al­bum would be an elab­o­rate show­case for his bass play­ing, us­ing The Fish (Schind­le­ria Prae­matu­rus) from Frag­ile as a tem­plate. Yet the core of the al­bum was com­posed at the pi­ano, in the com­pany of his old friend and for­mer band­mate in The Syn, An­drew Pryce Jack­man.

If Yes re­leas­ing solo al­bums rep­re­sented a kind of safety valve through which the band could let off in­di­vid­ual steam, for Squire it was also a means to re­new and re­con­nect the cre­ative bonds in a project that brought out the best in each other.

The in­ten­tion was to build some­thing grand and epic in scope, and An­drew Pryce Jack­man’s skill as an orches­tral ar­ranger meant that what­ever Squire con­ceived, his old friend was the man who could make the vi­sion a re­al­ity.

An­drew’s brother, Gregg, en­gi­neered the ses­sions be­tween his du­ties at Mor­gan Stu­dios and re­mem­bers be­ing called to work on the al­bum af­ter Eddy Of­ford be­came un­avail­able.

“I think I was 21 years old and re­ally not ex­pe­ri­enced enough to be do­ing this record, but the young have a brave heart, so I gave it my best shot. An­drew and Chris al­ways seemed to have faith in me,” he says.

The young engi­neer also re­calls that the ses­sions weren’t held at reg­u­lar hours. “Chris was the only bloke I ever knew who could be late in his own house. I would turn up with An­drew at maybe mid­day and we’d find things to do un­til Chris de­cided to get into the stu­dio. This might be as late as seven in the evening.”

Work­ing on the al­bum was Bill Bruford, who’d quit Yes for King Crim­son in 1972. Fol­low­ing Robert Fripp’s uni­lat­eral de­ci­sion to dis­band the group in 1974, he’d been en­joy­ing life as a peri­patetic drum­mer.

Bruford was de­lighted to be hired by his old band­mate. “Chris was re­ally my first bass player, as it were,” he says. “So I didn’t re­ally know what bass play­ers did or what they might want to do. I didn’t think it weird at all that he seemed to be adopt­ing a rather plec­trumy, tre­bly sound on his bass, and that he wanted it to be as pre­dom­i­nant as a gui­tar part. He be­came very good at coun­ter­point so the bass parts had a life of their own. They were some­thing you could sing or hum along to in their own right.

“You’re sup­posed to have this em­pa­thetic re­la­tion­ship with the bass player but that’s a very old fash­ioned idea that comes along re­ally with words like ‘gig’, ‘pad’, ‘charts’ and ‘rhythm sec­tion’. I’m not sure I ever thought I was in a rhythm sec­tion much, and I don’t think Chris did ei­ther.”

Bruford’s part in the record­ing be­gan at the end of Fe­bru­ary 1975, ex­tended through 13 ses­sions in March and then a fi­nal four dates in early April. He re­calls that the ma­te­rial at that stage was very mal­leable. “It was just like a Yes record. There weren’t any bits of pa­per. Chris played me a bit of a song and I said, ‘Well, I could do this,’ the usual kind of thing. We only knew one way of work­ing to­gether. An­drew was ef­fec­tively the mu­si­cal di­rec­tor and he would have been not­ing bits down be­cause he knew he was go­ing to have to or­ches­trate it all later. So we did have a real mu­si­cian present, thank God!”

An­other vis­i­tor to New Pipers was key­boardist Pa­trick Moraz, who drove in from the rat‑plagued base­ment

“Those were re­ally pi­o­neer­ing days – none

of us knew ex­actly what we were do­ing.”

Chris Squire

flat that he still rented in Earl’s

Court, just as he had done dur­ing the mak­ing of Re­layer. Squire had a cer­tain pres­ence, says Moraz.

“He had a kind of ‘halo’ around him, if I can put it like that. As quiet as he could be com­pared to Jon or Steve, he was ex­tremely forth­right in telling you what he wanted from you. His in­struc­tions could be ex­tremely metic­u­lous in terms of the ar­range­ment, the sound, the bal­ance and so on.”

Moraz’s in­cen­di­ary Ham­mond solo on Silently Fall­ing was judged by Squire to be “one of the best I’ve heard”, and, like his idea to play Min­i­moog bass, was am­ple proof of Moraz’s in­spired con­tri­bu­tions to the process. How­ever, as proud as he is about his work on the record, Moraz has one re­gret – that the al­bum didn’t lead on to a fur­ther col­lab­o­ra­tion. “There was an in­spi­ra­tional em­pa­thy be­tween Bill, Chris and my­self, you know?”

Al­though Moraz and Bruford would later work to­gether, tour­ing and pro­duc­ing two al­bums to­gether in the 80s, it’s ob­vi­ous that Moraz sees a fol­low‑up al­bum as ‘the project that got away’. “If only we had been able to do a trio al­bum, just the three of us. Man, it could have been ab­so­lutely un­be­liev­able. Un­be­liev­able!”

While on tour, the mem­bers of Yes would play each other their in­di­vid­ual works in progress. This had a gal­vanis­ing ef­fect, ac­cord­ing to Moraz, who also worked on Steve Howe’s Be­gin­nings. “What Chris did was cre­ate a kind of mo­men­tum and set the bar for each of us to come up with a solo al­bum that was as good as his.”

From the ex­u­ber­ant St Paul’s Cathe­dral or­gan lines of Hold Out Your Hand, the pas­toral in­ter­ludes within You By My Side, the driv­ing rock that merges into a Beatle­sesque coda on Silently Fall­ing, Lucky Seven’s jazzy un­der­tow and the surg­ing ro­man­ti­cism of Safe (Canon Song), with its orches­tral splen­dour and spec­tral phase‑shifted come­down, the range and reach of Fish Out Of Wa­ter is im­pres­sive.

Coming out at a time when ex­tended mu­si­cal­ity was an in­te­gral part of the pro­gres­sive rock land­scape, it’s an al­bum that not only holds its own next to any al­bums by Yes’ con­tem­po­raries, but also, whis­per it, tow­ers above the other solo re­leases of his band­mates.

Re­leased a month af­ter Howe’s solo al­bum in Novem­ber 1975, Fish Out Of Wa­ter found its way into the charts on both sides of the At­lantic. While Squire’s vir­tu­osic play­ing is clearly ev­i­dent, it’s serv­ing the needs of the song rather than placed cen­tre stage.

“If you lis­ten to what he plays there are so many voic­ings, so many dif­fer­ent styles and sounds and pro­duc­tion ideas go­ing on.” Nick Beggs

“Those were re­ally pi­o­neer­ing days – none of us knew ex­actly what we were do­ing,” Squire re­marked in 2007.

Hear­ing the notes leap from the pages of Pryce Jack­man’s no­ta­tion and into the air was a rev­e­la­tion for Squire, as he watched his friend con­duct­ing the or­ches­tra at Mor­gan Stu­dios in one three‑hour ses­sion.

“Be­ing able to write it down on the man­u­script and just know what it sounded like by look­ing at it was amaz­ing,” Squire said of Pryce Jack­man’s work. “Al­though later I met peo­ple who could do this, Trevor Rabin be­ing one of them, An­drew was the guy I grew up with and I thought, ‘God, it’s amaz­ing he can ac­tu­ally do this!’”

Per­haps not sur­pris­ingly given their close work­ing re­la­tion­ship, Squire of­fered Pryce Jack­man co‑writ­ing cred­its for the record, though this was po­litely de­clined.

“An­drew never pro­moted him­self and you’d never see ar­ti­cles in the press about him,” says Steve Nardelli, vo­cal­ist with The Syn. “An­drew was very mod­est and so he wouldn’t have minded about get­ting credit. He was re­ally pleased with the out­come. I know the ses­sions were tor­tu­ously slow some­times but that’s be­cause they were striv­ing for per­fec­tion. But it was worth it. I think it’s one of the great­est al­bums ever made.”

Brim­ming with a con­fi­dence that comes from be­ing at the very top of his game, the blend­ing of pop, clas­si­cal and rock music into one co­her­ent, the­matic state­ment re­mains a con­sid­er­able achieve­ment, and one which Squire was im­mensely proud of. There was talk of a fol­low‑up, though the end­less tour­ing cy­cle and in­creas­ingly in­ternecine pol­i­tics within Yes meant Squire’s pri­or­i­ties lay else­where.

The death of An­drew Pryce

Jack­man in 2003 robbed Squire of a dear friend, and the op­por­tu­nity to cre­ate some­thing with sim­i­lar as­pi­ra­tions. Per­haps the fact that Fish Out Of Wa­ter is a one‑off, some­thing Squire was never able to re­turn to, is the very thing that gives the al­bum its re­mark­able pres­ence and power.

Chris Squire: Fish Out Of Wa­ter limited edi­tion box set is out on April 27 via Eso­teric. See www.cher­ and www.chris­ for de­tails.







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