Tribute to Chris Squire

Written by Erik Wermuth

Chris_squire_1978Habit forms the backbone of our lives. Great or small, fry cook or Nobel laureate, humanity’s collective life is lived in the deep grooves we’ve formed for ourselves through years of repetition. Some use habit to free their minds from mundane details and focus on greater things. Some let themselves be controlled by habit; they become addicted to drugs or hostile takeovers or Netflix. Very, very rarely a person comes along who makes a habit out of doing the brilliantly unexpected. A man who can avoid the pitfalls of vicious self-destruction and accomplish this with integrity and grace is rarer still. Chris Squire, bassist for the London prog-rock band Yes who succumbed to leukemia on June 27 this year, was such a man.

His road was not always illuminated, however. Like all of the greats, Squire began simply as a curious child. At the age of 16, he was suspended from school for having hippie-length hair and given cash to cover a haircut. The pragmatic Squire took the money and never returned, finding work at a local guitar shop where the early beginnings of his technical prowess were to be found. This marks a crisis point in the bassist’s life. With the enveloping oversight of school removed, he suddenly found himself responsible for the formation of what was essentially a new life. In those early few years he turned to drugs—specifically he started taking acid on a regular basis.

Friday nights at the UFO club became a constant trip through the weekends and left enough time to recover for work on Monday morning. As a class of drug, psychedelics are legendary for their ability to take our minds out of their well-worn streambeds of consciousness and give new perspective (which is the reason acid has been used so effectively in therapies designed to break a person of alcoholism). However, steady use tends to unbalance the mind—after all, even the purest creativity requires some underlying structure to give it sense and beauty. Squire’s breaking point came one night in 1967 when he, sick with the flu, dropped acid a friend had homemade.

For 3 days afterwards Squire stayed in the hospital, completely divorced from himself not recognizing the well-wishers that appeared by the foot of his bed. After recovering enough to successfully lie to police about his source for the drugs, he spent the next year or so holed up in his girlfriend’s apartment, still too anxious to leave. His mind had returned, but something was still fundamentally wrong.

At this point in the story, Squire is not all that different from the thousands of others who have emerged into the world and found something there that broke a piece of their foundation. For some reason, they left the force of their old habits behind and what they saw frightened them back into a hollow recreation of their old selves. But Squire did something different. Day in and day out in week after week for month after month, he played his bass. With a recovering mind and seemingly endless time on his hands he tinkered and experimented, often finding and toying with his limitations on an instrument that wasn’t even plugged in. Throughout that lost year, Chris Squire rebuilt his shattered mind with music and when he emerged in 1968 he did so with an idiomatic style strong enough to sustain and develop through an almost four decade career. Combined with his amp-junkie genius for crafting the perfect sound, the 1968 reemergence constituted one of the closest things there can be to true rock godhood. The early Seventies perception of prog-rock as ‘drug music’ takes on an interesting irony here—the backbone of Yes’ sound did arrive on the scene through drug use, but it was the aftereffects and subsequent abstinence of a bad trip and not the transcendence of a high that produced it.

To this day (and hopefully for long after it), Squire is revered—particularly by his fellow bassists. Primus frontman and bass titan Les Claypool says Squire “always had and still has the best bass tone. His parts and the way he sat in the mix were always really incredible to me”. Claypool goes on to say that in spite of a youthful obsession, he still can’t play the entirety of the bassline on the Yes classic “Roundabout”.  Squire’s instrumental skill and guitar-geek approach to his sound were a large part of what made Yes such a compelling brand of music. Their ability to retain entertainment value while taking advantage of every available complexity in equipment and arrangement is truly staggering. Of all Yes’ admittedly talented members, Squire, the only one to play on all of their albums to date, is most responsible for their sound and its attitude of pushing rock music to the furthest corners of the stage and the studio.

The world lost Chris Squire for a moment there in 1967, but the person that was left when he forgot himself pulled him back with its music. Almost 4 decades later his music is again most of what remains. But this time we’re unlikely to be getting him back, so do him and yourself a favor and go listen to Chris Squire and Yes. If you’re feeling generous find a copy with enough quality to really appreciate his legendary bass tones and Yes’ epic production: an old record, a CD, or a lossless download.

#FreeFriday: American Beauty

It’s #FreeFriday, y’all! Here’s a little giveaway to end the week.

For a chance to win today’s featured album, all you gotta do is read this post, then share it on social media at least one of these ways:

  • Share the link on Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #FreeFriday
  • Retweet one of the #FreeFriday tweets we send via @murfiemusic
  • Share today’s #FreeFriday Facebook post

Be sure your social settings are on public so we can see your post! Enough details. Now on to the album we’re giving away…

Grateful Dead American BeautyAmerican Beauty (Grateful Dead, 1970)

The Grateful Dead are one of those bands. Some people love ’em and some hate ’em. I feel you need to hear the right song of theirs at the right time to get hooked. And once you’re hooked…it’s for life. American Beauty is The Dead’s sixth album, and possibly one of the band’s most popular. Stylistically it’s similar to Workingman’s Dead, which they released just a few months prior in 1970, because it channels the same elements of country, rock, and folk.

The first chords on track 1, “Box of Rain”, stir up images of driving down Highway 1 on a sunny day with the windows down. It’s a feel-good tune that sets the tone of the entire album, with plenty of acoustic guitar and easygoing harmonies. Track 2 is a fantastic song about an outlaw called “Friend of the Devil”, with the lyrics being the strongpoint, in my opinion. “I set out running but I take my time / A friend of the devil is a friend of mine / If I get home before daylight / I just might get some sleep tonight.”

Other stand-out tracks to me are “Ripple”, a song with a storytelling layout, “Brokedown Palace”, a slow country anthem, and “Till the Morning Comes”, a ’70s rock gem. “Attics of My Life” is another great one that’s a testament to The Dead’s surreal topics. The lyrics are amazing. “In the secret space of dreams, where I dreaming lay amazed / When the secrets all are told, and the petals all unfold.” The album closes out with the upbeat song “Truckin'” which boasts the very popular Dead lyric “What a long strange trip it’s been.”

American Beauty is a must-have in your collection if you love ’70s rock, and it’s a great place to start if you’re not familiar with the Grateful Dead yet. Time to get on the bus, man! ;)

Share this post in one of the ways listed above, and we’ll let you know if you won the album on Saturday! There can be more than one winner! Best of luck. :)

Last Call: Your Murfie Week in Review

 

Monday
7/21

[Blog] Grant picked the top 5 albums by Pink Floyd, one of rock music’s most influential bands.

Tuesday
7/22

[Blog] We previewed Lese Majesty by experimental hip hop/electronic collective Shabazz Palaces.

[Blog] We previewed Jenny Lewis’ upcoming album The Voyager.

Wednesday
7/23

[Blog] We previewed The Breeze: An Appreciation of JJ Cale, by Eric Clapton & Friends.

Thursday
7/24

[Twitter] Any good #ThrowbackThursday albums? Bueller? Bueller?

Friday
7/25

[Blog] When Andrew bought a copy of Gwen Stefani’s Love. Angel. Music. Baby., things went bananas.


 

Interview with The Nadas [Podcast]

The Nadas are an alt-rock-country rock from Iowa with a history that spans 20 years. As you’d expect, they’ve seen a lot changes in that time, and successfully stayed on the front edge of things. In this interview, you’ll hear behind-the-scenes info about a tried-and-true American band that any rock lover will really dig.

Who: Jason Walsmith; interviewed by Kayla Liederbach
What: Jason talks about the band, the great music scene in Iowa, changes in the music biz, and favorite musicians.
Where: Murfie HQ via Skype, Madison, WI
When: Thursday, October 10th, 2013
How: Recorded by Kayla Liederbach
File: 
mp3 version

Find music by The Nadas in our shop.

Check out more of the band at thenadas.com.

Into RSS? Follow our podcast feed via https://blog.murfie.com/category/podcasts/feed.

Sounds Like Wisconsin: Hometown Acts Both Big and Small

Volcano Choir
Repave

We’ve already shown our love for Wisconsin native Justin Vernon for his work on Bon Iver, but Repave shows an entirely different side of him: this album makes him look like he’s just a guy having fun. Collaborating with members of another local favorite band, Collections of Colonies of Bees, Vernon and company have created a record with a fresh rock sound, killer lyrics, and most importantly of all, the ability to stick in your head.

Repave is in many ways all about power. The album sounds absolutely fantastic, and powerfully so—truly unique guitar lines effortlessly combine with a deep and incredibly clear sound. Even amidst all that power, Vernon never allows his voice to be outshone. He sings with all the guts of a power ballad while maintaining his trademark dark mood. Unlike Vernon’s work with Bon Iver, however, this album has potential for real stadium sound.

Don’t miss tracks: “Alaskans”, “Comrade”

Violent Femmes
Permanent Record: The Very Best of the Violent Femmes

Some of Wisconsin’s most famous musical natives released this essential collection of their all-time greatest tracks in 2005. This album is really mood music, but not in the way you’d usually picture that phrase. The mood here is teenage angst and ecstasy, bouncing off the walls and sometimes falling to the ground. It’s also just really, really wanting to party. This album captures that scream-it-at-the-top-of-your-lungs vibe that was so essential to the band’s success.

This album makes a good call in focusing largely on tracks from self-titled debut album Violent Femmes, an incredibly fun collection of songs that was nearly impossible to follow. These songs are instantly and insanely catchy, but not without the music clout to back it up. There’s a fantastic minimalism going on here—acoustics, a single drum—but it’s far from boring. These Milwaukee natives know how to keep a party going, wherever that party may be.

Don’t miss tracks: “Blister in the Sun”, “Kiss Off”

PHOX
Friendship

Don’t be intimidated by the impossibly long tracklist here. Those 19 tracks look deceptively long. About half the songs, however, are in the 20-second range, creating an album that actually comes to feel like the perfect length.

Part of that perfect length feeling comes from the fact that this is just a really nice listen. Friendship has an eclectic, indie-pop sound that blends seamlessly from track to track. The seven-piece PHOX, originally Baraboo natives, have created a unique combination of longer songs and shorter, transitional musical arrangements that tie together into a tight album that’s fun all the way through.

Instrumentally, the album focuses on crystal-clear vocals and awesome instrumentation, featuring horns, banjos, synths and the whole nine yards. This band is certainly up-and-coming—time to get on the bandwagon!

Don’t miss tracks: “Clubs and Spades”, “Shrinking Violets”

Get to Know a Murfie Staffer!

Our operations team is the best! Ops staffers are here seven days a week, ripping discs, checking metadata, processing downloads, sending kits, and more. This week you can get to know an operations pro:

                ALEX SCHACHERL

c8babb38-df3d-11e2-8ec3-3520997e13f8Where are you from? > I’m originally from Galesville WI, about 20 minutes north of La Crosse, and I moved to Madison in 2010.

How long have you been working at Murfie? What is your role? > I’ve been here since February 2012, and by now I am a 9th level Audio extractor with cross class capabilities in Download Protection (Operations Staff).

What do you like about working at Murfie? > I love the fact that anyone I talk to about my job is instantly jealous of the amazing work environment and job description.

What kind of music can be found in your collection? > Mainly folk, pop/rock, and stand up comedy. Lately I have been acquiring lots of film soundtracks and scores.

Who are your favorite artists/bands of all time? > Mumford & Sons, Tenacious D, Flight of the Concords, The Beatles, and Daft Punk.

29214-largeIf you could have coffee with any musician, from any time, who would it be and why? > Harry Connick Jr., because according to several of the Murfie staff I am his Doppelganger.

Are you a Beyoncé fan? > Who doesn’t love Foxxy Cleopatra?

What album are you really digging right now? > The Greatest Video Game Music, performed by the London Philharmonic. I’m an aspiring game developer, and there’s just something about an orchestrated Tetris theme that I just can’t get over.

photoDo you have any pets? > Currently, my two gerbils, Korra and Katara.

What is your favorite food? > I could probably eat boneless wings for dinner every night.

What can people find you doing when you’re not at Murfie? > When I’m not at work or school, I spend a good chunk of my time rehearsing and performing with Fundamentally Sound, an all male acappella group from the UW Madison campus. Other than that I enjoy gaming, frolfing, and all sorts of other merriment with friends and family!

Now you know more about Alex, a Murfie ops staffer extraordinaire! We love showing off all the cool cats who work here. Stay tuned and meet someone new next week!

“Champagne with Shirley”

8412 Shirley and Me

Holy cow! Our Murfie Staffer, Tynan, got to meet Shirley Manson the other day! Shirley is lead singer of the band Garbage and a genuine rock icon.

Tynan wrote about this experience and included a great recap of their conversation in an article for xojane.com. You can check it out here:

CHAMPAGNE WITH SHIRLEY MANSON:
MY INTERVIEW WITH THE GARBAGE FRONTWOMAN AND ROCK GOD

Nice, right?!