Heroes are supposed to be immortal – they’re not supposed to falter or die. At least all the ones I’m supposed to believe in either real or imaginary – but as of last Sunday morning disillusion rapidly slipped through the thin veiled cracks. Super heroes and gods will always live on, but not always those who continue to invent them.
I’m Fifty-one and a half years young and now I’m approaching the crossroads of watching MY personal legends from yesterday amalgamate with my legends of tomorrow hopefully merge to keep keeping on that same path for as long as humanly possible – and now the realization dawns that no matter how we weather that storm, some will just wither by the wayside with barely a blink of a thought.
There are days when I wake up and think to myself, ‘how does the world continue to revolve over and over days upon days, months, years, decades, centuries, etc; when the people I’ve looked up OR have always looked up to since the beginnings of my own personal cognizant awareness are merely occupying the color of thin air? How does one hope to carry on to your personal pinnacle without the aura of legends to look down upon you as you continue to strive to enlighten and enrich your life with inspiration? What accomplishment can I perform to achieve those goals equal to those gods I would do anything to appease.
I felt just like that when I finally got off my 37 year ass back in 2001 and took over the reins of a comic book venture I was sharing with a inker professional across the country who was trying to quit his day job and dabble in the art of trying to be a manager and agent. HE was taking too long to get the product noticed or bought. I got impatient and took upon myself to self-publish it – an idea planted in me or inspired within me by my still to this favorite storyteller Harlan Ellison who once told me to stop moping around and DO it yourself. And so I did – just to prove to an idol – I can follow in a protégé’s footsteps IF properly motivated.
I sometimes consider myself lucky. I’m relatively on the borderline crossing of still retaining some shred of my youth, but at the same time starting to feel the pangs of wear and tear – genetic decay is certainly around the corner ready to make its’ ugly entrance at any time or anywhere without any word of warning. I cajole in the reverence that both my natural-born parents are still amongst the wandering gems upon this mortal coil and in relatively fair health. A lot of my personal heroes are still with me to this day: the aforementioned Harlan Ellison (still clinging on despite a few strokes), David Lynch, Steve Ditko, Tony Banks of Genesis, and pretty much any musician who has ever played in the band YES, especially Jon Anderson who introduced me as a child to the beauty of the compound complex lyric. I cherish them. I cherish them all in hope of each and every one gets to live forever.
BUT who am I kidding? No matter how much we can recharge those batteries – none of us are built to last. Warranties don’t last forever – it’s in that secret society handshake we’re all given at the will call window when we enter the charge blindfold.
And we can’t temper the core.
Chris Squire was the core of the band from all the line ups going back to the band’s inception. I’ve been in admiration of him for the last four and a half decades going back to that first exposure my aunts bought for me on a four record disc set from the early seventies (Superstars of the 70’s ON K-TEL) that featured the ‘hot singles’ of the day that included Yes’ Roundabout (the short version) as the most adventurous story song I ever heard in my life to those long ago summer days in Laguna Beach in the summer of 1978 walking with a tape deck planted to my ear on the PCH, listening to the double whammy long epic classics of Tales from Topographic Oceans and Relayer to ad infinitum while copping off of other people’s dope up until that day in my early freshman days starting out at Parsippany High School NJ enrolled in Mr.Weisner’s (pervert creepy music teacher if I remember correctly) Music Appreciation class and asked to contribute a selection for Listening Day, and it was in that classroom that I premiered the new Yes album at the time called Tormato. It freshly was released when the summer was turning into fall It was the first album in the Yes discography of which I’ve always considered to be ‘the catch up album’ back in the day when I was striving to be a life long fan and concentrating on getting the back catalogue THIS was my initiation album that cemented my being of all caught up (except for the solo albums).
I remember Weisner’s creepy molesting sounding voice vouching for me once I was done trying to summarize what the album was about for the class:
“AN excellent choice – Mr. Coatney. You know while I worked selling organs at the Willowbrook Mall Radio Shack, Rick Wakeman came up to me on his way to a signing at the Harmony Hut and whispered in my ear and said…”
Yeah, yeah whatever. Just put the fucking record on.
And so that being in sync moment with the band’s current activities of the day reflects in the title of this blog.
The album to me, in my impressionable teenage years retains some my favorite all-time Chris Squire moments in the band – ALTHOUGH many of the hard-core fans regard Tormato as the weakest collaboration of the core five of Anderson/Howe/Squire/Wakeman/White lineup – it still resonates with the best ever wildest Chris Squire moments and that folks would be the closing finale to the album called “On the Silent Wings of Freedom” where it’s Chris fingers that is doing most of the talking musically – his Rickenbacker hooked through foot pedal controls to give it a more harmonized sound. Thus, the bass line retaining a different tonality to it from previous albums, yet was still able to retain his signature “growl”. It was a preview of happier rumbles to come from Drama. This track just soared to insurmountable melodic heights.
Just check out the video – with the playful rhythm section of Alan White and Chris belting out a portion of this tune. it’s just fucking heart wrenching beautiful to behold.
It was that song that really dressed to impress and it was the most that resonated the most with the class that day – I mean who in their right mind would ever think of using a Rickenbacker bass guitar as a lead instrument? IT’s almost inconceivable to fucking jack up that treble and just take off on a melodic tangent like that – ALMOST inconceivable to compose ACTUAL songs on a four instrument – FOR CHRISSAKES – you’re supposed to BE in the background. ALMOST inconceivable to utilize the bass guitar AS A COMPOSITIONAL TOOL.
BUT NOT CHRIS SQUIRE – he put the bass in the forefront – he knew how to achieve the impossible WITH the possible. Most people think playing bass guitar seems to be the easy way in a band. Just plug and thump a thick string with your thumb. But not Chris- Chris had to make it all complicated and thus born a brand of like-minded players such as Tony Levin and Geddy Lee. Bass guitar was now a force to be reckoned with. He inspired others to no longer treating the bass guitar as a mediocre instrument or as a mere conversation piece to put a buzz in the room or to make distortion sound more inaudible.
And I also want to contribute to Chris and the rest of the band past and present my well-being – my mild behavior of never having the need to become a bad ass or a career criminal. I think the members of Yes were good role models for me, Their way of reaching certain nuances in creativity kept me curious enough to have kept me of trouble with the law – except for that misunderstanding back in 1979 that I chronicled in the Paris sessions in 1979. To this very day, I have yet to see the inside of a jail cell all thanks to my positive belief in the power of Yes.
Just incredible to see him live on stage in this lifetime approximately give or take, 20 times – like as if the bass in ALL shapes and forms was a phantom limb to him.
And not’s forget those beautiful back up harmonies, in choirboy or in Beach Boy mode -Chris naturally complemented and enhanced Jon Anderson’s natural tenor voice, simply because his voice is a higher register than Jon’s. A voice can’t be really duplicated by anyone except that Trevor Rabin or Billy Sherwood comes amazingly close.
Lest we forget his other music contributions. Let’s remind ourselves that during the time of the mid-seventies hiatus (and taking two years off between band projects Relayer and Going For the One – was it really that bad of a period of silence as compared to a decade off between Magnification and Fly From Here later proved to be?) and all the present members at that time released solo albums instead of sitting on their thumbs watching old Star Trek reruns through a kaleidoscopic gloryhole. Which band member’s solo album resonated the most with the fans? To me personally, it would have been a toss-up between Jon Anderson’s “Olias of Sunhillow” or Chris Squire’s single solo album “Fish Out of Water” – that brings back the most memories.
You know personally I hate it when people ragged on Chris for never releasing a follow-up to his solo album. Why would he have been obligated to? His best work was playing with friends without having to tag his own personal signature to it. I was unfortunate enough to miss the west coast dates of a solo band venture called the Chris Squire Experiment – of which all it really was – just an experiment – but an experiment that set the foundation for future collaborations between Billy Sherwood and Chris that led to a two incredible ambitious albums between them while calling themselves Conspiracy. I had lukewarm feelings about the first effort – but it was the second album entitled “The Unknown” that they really smacked it out of the park with its’ bubbling bouncy bombastic rhythm section on the opening track “Conspiracy and “New World”
“Squackett” was another such ambitious project. The pairing of ex-Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett and Squire made for strange bed fellows but fell in place without a hitch. It’s the better of Hackett’s collaborations with other members of Yes, most notable, the pairing of Hackett and Steve Howe on GTR with Geoff Downes producing. One song on this first and only debut album, “A Life Within a Day” put to work an unused Yes song entitled “Aliens” which was premiered on the first leg of “In the Present” tour with Benoit David on vocals. This collaborative effort also won a Progressive Music award (the inaugural ceremony of the awards in fact) for the title track as “best anthem”. There are also a good number of Chris Squire and Steve Hackett collaborations on the past couple of Steve Hackett solo albums including the latest one “Wolflight” which was released just a few months back.
Billy Sherwood has hinted on his facebook page that there were some bits and pieces recorded in Sherwood’s Phoenix hotel room during a recent visit to Chris’s house in Arizona earlier this year. Hopefully there were enough outtakes during the Heaven & Earth sessions to hopefully to make another full album. Geoff Downes did mention something along the lines about an unfinished 17 minute epic piece in a couple of interviews conducted at the last tour.
I count myself lucky that I was able to luxuriate myself (on an unemployment check at the time) on last summer’s Heaven & Earth tour. It’s hard coping that it was merely less than a year I saw him perform live last year on the stage at the Greek Theater under a canopy of stars beneath a beautiful crisp cool Hollywood hills night and I laughed really loud at the first words he said after a rousing performance of the entire Close To The Edge album without an interruption. He introduced the band to the crowd as “Good Evening Los Angeles and welcome tonight to the MTV Video Music Awards“. I instantly got the joke BECAUSE just across town at either Universal Studios or the Nokia Theater they were giving out those cheap tin awards for the best twerking performance.
Anyway, I need to keep this short and sweet because I’ve got to get my head around the upcoming Comic Con International taking place in San Diego next week and try as fucking as hard as I can to get my comic book writing professional career on the side in order ( I was originally planning to write memoirs concerning the creation of my independent self published comic book series, the Deposit Man, but I’ll have to rearrange my notes until after its’ over.) – but of course I’ve told this story in my Yes Log entry dedicated to the Ultimate Yes collection and the live acoustic performance I saw the band give at a Tower Records that used to stand at the Sherman Oaks Galleria which was a hop and skip a block or two from my house at the time. I spent a good portion of going through a shitload of storage boxes to unearth those cheap disposable camera glossies and here are two that feature Chris and the signed copy of the Unknown album he collaborated on with Billy Sherwood as the duo Conspiracy..
It was quite a memorable night – for two reasons: ONE: as previously mentioned it was a YES gig taken place literally two blocks from my house on Sepulveda Blvd – so close, that I’ve would’ve invited the whole band and a handful of likewise fans over to my house and fired up a barbecue in my backyard (it used to be the house owned by the Wizard of Oz’s Tin Woodsman Jack Haley before he died and I used to live there for a decade or so with my half-sister and stepmom) and TWO: for not enough of those who didn’t read my blog on the Ultimate Yes – it was at this promotional gig where I was first introduced to Harry Perzigian, a songwriter and rabble-rouser from Brentwood who became my best friend for the last decade of his life.
And as I reiterated before, it was also the time that I walked up to Chris Squire and begged him to please sign my copy of Conspiracy – The Unknown. He flat-out refused at first because the items restricted to be signed at Tower Records that night was the Ultimate Yes collection or the Yesspeak dvd. I pleaded further and since I was only allotted a few seconds before security rushed me to move on – I just blurted out: “But Chris – IT was my favorite album of 2003. I would play it on my stereo at least three times a day, etc; etc.”
He smiled at that little admission and quickly yanked it from my hands and looked both ways to make sure security guards weren’t frowning down on us and just scribbled his signature and now, after all this time, I finally have a personal treasure of mine to always cherish from my brief few minutes with an towering giant of a musical legend.This July 4th weekend, instead of setting off firecrackers and M 80s off in my hand…..(er wait, I can’t do that – I’ll need to play keyboards and write comic book scripts with both hands.)- I plan on hunting down the last couple of Yes releases that I haven’t gotten around to picking up, like the latest remix of Relayer, The Like It Is CD and DVD (cover pic that opens this blog) – and I suppose I’m going to have to cave in on getting the newly released “Progeny – Seven Shows From Seventy-Two” 14 disc collection, although I’m very reluctant on dropping a hundred or so bucks (from what I’ve heard from retailers – IT isn’t really that expensive – it’s just hard to keep in stock) on something that looks cheaply manufactured which I hear has Chris starting at the peak of his live performance prowess. I’m sure it sounds terrific, but I got to remember I’ve relatively young – I still have goals to achieve professional wise and prove to the world that my creativity matters – and a lot of money I’ll be putting aside in going into my self publishing comic book endeavors. Chris Squire always leaped that plateau in a single bound many times over, his goals are sorely minted in the hall of fame of mighty music memories – and now with Billy Sherwood newly captaining the good Yesship forward in the near future to bring to us new hopes and new music goals, new collaborations. Chris is probably more prouder to leave his legacy in more than capable hands.