Gary James' Interview With Chris Squire Of
It could be said that there is not another band in Progressive Rock history who has stayed at the top of its game 38 years after their beginning like Yes.
To celebrate the group's long standing career and contribution to the music world, Eagle Eye Media, the wholly-owned subsidiary of Eagle Rock Entertainment, released the DVD "Yes Live At Montreux 2003".
To talk to us about Yes is group member Chris Squire, a man who wrote the book on Progressive Rock.
Q - Chris, I'm actually old enough to remember hearing Yes on AM radio in 1972.
A - Wow! They were probably playing "Roundabout".
Q - Exactly. And you were touring the States.
A - Yeah.
Q - Did you ever think the band would receive that AM radio airplay and that the band would be playing decades later?
A - Obviously not. Around the '60s it was the period of The Beatles' success. It was '63 and they broke up in '69 or something. That was like a 6 year career. To me, being a young guy at that time, 6 years! Wow! That's a real long time for the band to be together. And of course when we formed Yes in '68, there's a possibility that we'll be touring next year for our 40th anniversary. Who would've thought that? I would never have thought that there's a 40 year long career in one band.
Q - How long did you think you'd have in the band? A couple of years?
A - Well, yeah. Like I said, I thought The Beatles career, which was 6 or 7 years, seemed to me like a real long time.
Q - Did you think to yourself after, I'm through with this band. I'll move onto something else? And did you know what that something else would be?
A - No. I didn't know what that was or what it might have been. I was pretty convinced that being a musician had kind of come to fruition for me. I guess I always knew I'd be involved in music, maybe possibly I'll be a producer. But, I didn't think, oh well, I'm gonna do this and then I'm gonna go work on Wall Street. (laughs) I just didn't have any aspirations to do anything else.
Q - Since you were at the right place at the right time, did you experience the "British Invasion" up close?
A - I didn't actually ever see The Beatles, but I did see The Stones when I was about 14 years old in Guilford Surrey, which is a medium sized town South of London. I remember going with a buddy of mine and being packed into this real little club and seeing The Stones. It was very exciting. I actually did get Bill Wyman's autograph.
Q - Is that why you decided to pick up the bass?
A - No. The reason I started playing bass was I had a buddy at school who had been playing classical guitar since he was 6 or 7 years old. A pretty good guitar player. His name was John Wheatley. When in 1963, when I was 15 and The Beatles had just released "Please Please Me" and all their early stuff, my buddy John and I were talking at school. He goes "Well, you've got big hands and you're tall, you should play the bass." That's really how it started.
Q - Maybe if you were a little shorter, he would've suggested you play drums.
A - (laughs) I don't know. I never had aspirations to be a drummer. I know that. Of course it made sense. Later on I realized my hands were more suited to the bass. I do enjoy playing guitar. I'm more of a chordy guy. Joni Mitchell tuning kind of thing.
Q - The 'live' DVD of yours; it took a while to get it released, didn't it?
A - Well, I just think that the company Eagle Rock that released the album, believed they had bought the rights to the whole Montreux Festival in 2003. So, I guess they have a bunch of other bands and artists as well. They made a deal with the Montreux Jazz people to get the rights to release it. They're certainly doing a real good job though.
Q - I thought it might've had something to do with the company trying to gauge the popularity of the DVD. Every few years the technology changes.
A - Yeah. Well DVD is not a new technology is it? I actually watched a little bit of it a couple of nights ago and I'd already been given a sample to check out if the sound is good before they went into their promotion and release of the album and I was real surprised that it sounded pretty damn good for a thing that was just recorded totally 'live'. There was no after show re-mixing or over-dubbing of any kind. Whoever the guy was recording it seemed to get a pretty good balance and the songs sound real good.
Q - Do you feel Yes has been snubbed by the Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame?
A - Well, you know the odd thing about the Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame is they tend to revere The Ramones and the Sex Pistols and anything that's more gritty. For some reason, Progressive Rock doesn't figure. I believe Genesis aren't even in there. I think quite a lot of the genre is ignored. It's hard to say. Maybe if we paid the right guy next year, do the right promotion. (laughs) Yes will get a 40th Honorary Rock 'n' Roll Award. Let's face it, in the 70s, Yes was the biggest band in the States ever. We played Philadelphia at the JFK Stadium, which has since been demolished, to 130,000 paying people. Zeppelin only did about 50,000. Why we're ignored I don't know. I know if you pay the right guy, you'll get in there.
Q - You know that for a fact or are you just guessing?
A - No. I know that for a fact. But, do we want to be in there particularly? No. Having been ignored as probably the biggest band in the '70s, it's a bit of a snub, and of course Ahmet Ertegun was on the board and all of his other bands got in there, apart from Genesis. Who knows why. Yes and Genesis have not been put in there after being stadium size acts. It's weird.
Q - Does it really matter to Yes whether or not you get an award? Your reward is that you got to do what you wanted to do in this life. You toured. You recorded. You sold millions of records, cassettes, CDs. Isn't that enough? You're successful. You made it.
A - The thing is, Yes is represented in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame Museum in Cleveland, but not on the actual roster that people feel worthy to giving an award to. Interestingly enough, we were put in there about 10 or 15 years ago and they say Queen were hated in the States. They're the biggest band ever in Europe. Somehow or another they slid in there, along with the Sex Pistols and The Ramones and people who were really not that worthy. I don't know. I think it's about money.
Q - That's too bad. I hate to hear that.
A - You explain to me why the Progressive Rock genre is ignored by the Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame. I don't know why.
Q - I have no explanation.
A - They put the museum in Cleveland, which is a very odd place. People go there, but it's not where it should've been I think. They should've put it in either L.A. or New York, or at least Philadelphia. Somewhere a little more central. But, what am I talking about? It has nothing to do with me. (laughs)
Q - Yes had been kicking around awhile and nothing much was happening for you until you subbed at the last minute for Sly And The Family Stone at a major London club. Do you remember the name of that club?
A - Yes, I do remember very clearly. The club was called Blaises. It was one of the two most popular late-night, until 4 AM, London clubs, along with the Speak Easy. They were pretty much owned by the same people I guess. I remember clearly actually being in bed, doing some late night reading and Jon Anderson actually lived in the same building. He had a different apartment in his house, The Kensington. I think he also was asleep. It was around midnight or something. I get this phone call from someone who I knew and the manager of the club came on: "Hey, I know you guys just live around the corner and it'll take you 5 minutes to get here. Can you come down and do a set?" Of course the place is packed with people who are here to see Sly for his first ever London appearance. They had to put somebody on, 'cause he was not arriving. I got to know him actually quite well later in the 80s when Yes was recording ideas for the "Big Generator" album, and we were in Los Angeles and I became real friendly with Sly at that point. I don't think he would've remembered (Blaises) 'cause he didn't show up. Eventually they did and played the Lyceum Ballroom, which is another big Rock 'n' Roll venue. They were fantastic.
Q - What did Yes do that made the crowd love the band so much?
A - We just got on stage and did what we did. I guess we were probably applauded for the fact that we actually mobilized ourselves at such short notice. I guess people in the club were really grateful, especially the manager, a guy called Roy Flynn, that actually became Yes' first manager for about a year or two.
Q - Where does Yes perform these days? Are you primarily in Europe or do you perform in the States?
A - Generally, when we get rolling on a tour, we do a US, Europe and South America. We're very popular down there. Of course the Far East. Singapore is very big for us. When we do a tour, we probably do a leg in the US and European leg and a Japanese and Far East section and then South America and then come back to do another end of the tour in the US. But, that kind of thing is what we do. Probably 65-70 shows, something like that.
Q - Why is this band called Yes? Why not No?
A - Well, because that's particularly negative.
Q - That's what I thought you'd say.
A - (laughs)
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