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.

Album Preview: “Heaven & Earth” by Yes

Heaven & EarthAlbum
Heaven & Earth

Artist
Yes

Release Date
July 22, 2014

Label
Frontiers Records (Universal)

Pre-order Link
Pre-order Album

Preview
Very few progressive rock bands have enjoyed a career as successful as Yes. Any The Yes Albumfan of the genre will undoubtedly have loads to say about the band’s influence on music. With roots in 1960s psychedelia and a seemingly constant change of member personnel, Yes has consistently pushed the boundaries of pop music through lengthy compositions that combine symphonic sounds and rock and roll.

FragileThe early 1970s were perhaps the most fruitful period of the band’s career. The Yes Album, released in 1971, was packed with songs that instantly became icons in the Yes catalog. In the same year, the band released Fragile which peaked at #4 in the United States and contained one of the band’s most popular songs, “Roundabout.”

Close to the EdgeThe following year, Yes released Close to the Edge which charted even better than the previous two albums and spawned several hits. The band would continue to write and record over the next three decades as their music evolved stylistically.

Although many members have come and gone throughout the band’s tenure, early member and lead guitar player Steve Howe remains confident that the band’s current lineup will satisfy Yes fans of every era. Speaking on the new album, Howe stated that “Heaven & Earth has a freshness and different stance from many records we’ve done before.” Check out a preview of Heaven & Earth‘s first track below!

A teaser from Heaven & Earth

Pre-order your copy of Heaven & Earth today at Murfie! Each CD comes with unlimited streaming (Web, iOS, Android, Sonos) and downloads in mp3, aac, FLAC and ALAC.  

This Week in Music History (December 11th-17th)

What’s music history got for us this week? Learn up and boogie down!

12/11- On this day in 1964, soul legend Sam Cooke was shot and killed by the manager of the Hacienda Motel in Los Angeles, California. Courts later ruled the shooting a justifiable homicide, but the ruling and the circumstances of Cooke’s death have been widely debated since.

12/12- On this day in 1970, The Doors played what would be their last ever live show with frontman Jim Morrison. The show was played at The Warehouse in New Orleans.

12/13- On this day in 1997, kids’ TV characters The Teletubbies reached No. 1 on the UK singles chart with “Teletubbies Say Eh-Oh!”. The single spent a total of 32 weeks on the charts, but continues to haunt parents to this day.

12/14- On this day in 1968, Marvin Gaye scored his first US No. 1 hit single when “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” began a five-week run at the top of the charts. The song had previously been recorded by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles and Gladys Knight & the Pips.

12/15- On this day in 1977, The Sex Pistols were refused entry into the United States two days before they were scheduled to appear on NBC TV. Johnny Rotten was turned away because of a drugs conviction, Paul Cook and Sid Vicious because of “moral turpitude”, and Steve Jones because of his criminal record.

12/16- On this day in 1974, guitarist Mick Taylor announced that he was leaving The Rolling Stones. Taylor said the time had come to “move on and do something new”.

12/17- On this day in 1968, The Who played their Christmas party at the Marquee Club in London. Also on the bill was a new and largely unknown group called Yes, which would go on to produce several number one singles, including “Owner of a Lonely Heart”, and tour the world.

Check out these and other pieces of history in our music marketplace! Enjoy unlimited streaming and downloads in mp3, aac, FLAC and Apple Lossless to go along with every album in your Murfie collection!

What Makes a CD Collectible, Part 1

What makes a CD collectible is to some degree a totally personal question. CDs play such a huge emotional role in our lives, and it’s easy for a disc that critics might not consider music’s greatest work of art to hold an irreplaceable spot in your collection. Examples of this include the Avril Lavigne CD that’s still on my bookshelf 10 years later. But from a more objective level, what really makes a CD collectible? I dug up one class of CDs that are widely classified as collectible items. What’s more, many of them can be found on Murfie!

Target CDs

Target CDs are a class of CDs that were released by Warner-Elektra-Atlantic in the 1980s. Their name comes from the design WEA used, which resembles a target. They’re also easily identifiable by the bright colors used on the label side in their jewel cases. What really makes Target CDs collectible, however, is the fact that they are original issues. In the world of CDs, these are historical artifacts.

Here’s an example of what a Target CD looks like.

In addition to being relics of the early days of the compact disc, Target CDs also caught collectors’ eyes (and ears) because of their pure sound quality. These CDs are a “flat transfer” of the original tapes, and have not been subjected to compression or noise reduction. The sounds you’ll find on a Target CD are most true to how the artist intended.

If you’re a CD collector, check out this comprehensive list of Target CDs available out there. Here are a few albums on Murfie that were once issued as target CDs, and have later been re-released in the past few decades. You can’t go wrong if you listen to them in FLAC:

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Dire Straits (Dire Straits)                         Houses of the Holy (Led Zeppelin)


Hearts and Bones (Paul Simon)                  90125 (Yes)

If we come across discs that are rare or valuable on Murfie, we’ll give you a heads up so that you know about it! Then you can know to hang onto them, or even sell them for a higher price. It’ll surprise you what gems you’ll find!

Target CDs are not the only kind of collectible discs out there, but more on that later…