|If you harbor any doubts that Yes bassist Chris Squire is one of the best in the world at playing bass and singing, give a listen to Close to the Edge. Studio or live, it doesnâ€™t really matter because he did it just as well on stage as he did recording that monster. Pay special attention to what he is playing at the point the vocals commence (mm:ss 3:34)
This is bass/vocal counterpoint at its most difficult.
Check out 00:03:34-00:03:39
He can sing as if he were in a very good choir and thatâ€™s how he began his musical journey, singing in the St. Andrewâ€™s church choir, London, when he was young. His clear voice and ability to sing extremely difficult passages reflects those origins. He was musically inspired by the Beatles (and who wasnâ€™t?) and by Paul McCartney to take up the bass.
What was it that made him so good at playing and singing? We can only speculate. We know that we have a bad acid trip to thank for his amazing technique on the bass. He ended up in a hospital and then holed up at his girlfriendâ€™s house wood shedding and developing his unique bass style. By the time he was ready to re-emerge into the world, he was probably able to play extremely well without having to concentrate on it, opening himself up for playing and singing with the best of them. It would appear highly likely that he could already sing at that point and that he was a fan of the vocal groups of the sixties (Simon and Garfunkel, the Byrds, etc).
It may be that by the time he re-emerged into the world that he had the singing/playing gift intact. It may be that his endless practicing got him to the point that he was so good at playing that he did not have to concentrate on it.
He gained a reputation around London with the group Syn and stepped it up a few notches when Yes formed in 1968.
Right from the start, from what we have available to us recording-wise, Squire was incredible at playing hot bass lines while singing beautiful harmonies. Even then he was more than an emerging bass player. He had emerged.
|Iâ€™ve never heard or read what his techniques are for singing and playing simultaneously but it appears to be a gift that comes naturally to him. I once saw a snippet of him in the studio playing a complicated bass line and singing his harmony part with the appearance that he was working his part out on the spot and it was already spot on.
But thatâ€™s how Yes worked, at least in the 1970s. A simple version of a song might be brought in and the group would whip it into something other. The musicians had to be able to respond to changing musical tides and play them well without a lot of time wasted. From comments Iâ€™ve read, Squire feels that he and his cohorts should be able to play about anything at any time. And so they can.
photo credit: Lorri37
How did he become good at playing and singing? I would hazard a guess, but Iâ€™ll bet Iâ€™m right. If you asked Chris Squire what he did to become a great singing/player, heâ€™d respond like most seasoned pros who say that they just did it. They had to do it or they would not have made it. They play in bands so many nights, so many gigs for so long that they just become good at it. In Chris Squireâ€™s case, I think youâ€™ll agree that he became damn good at it.