“Sunshine of Your Love should be in the dictionary under the best-known bassline of all time”: Chris Squire on the five bass players that shaped his sound

Chris Squire, bassist of British progressive rock band Yes performs in Ahoy, Rotterdam, Netherlands, 24 July 2003.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Having served as their bassist for nearly five decades, Chris Squire – who would have celebrated his 75th birthday this year – was the key ingredient in the envelope-pushing sound of prog rock icons, Yes. He’s also credited as a co-writer on many of the band’s greatest cuts, including Starship Trooper, Owner of a Lonely Heart, Yours Is No Disgrace and Heart of the Sunrise

“Chris Squire’s contributions as a songwriter were huge,” Rudy Sarzo once told BP. “As well as his bass playing. Chris made everything bigger with his tone. I’m a huge Yes fan, even though you might not hear it in my playing.” 

In addition to his work with Yes, Squire’s 1975 solo LP Fish Out of Water is revered among prog fans. In 2011 Squire also recorded with Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett in a side project called – you guessed it – Squackett. On the eve of release of Squackett’s self-titled debut album in 2012, we asked Squire to name the five albums that influenced him most as a bass player.

1. The Who – My Generation (1965).

“Of course, the iconic bass solo of all time is played by John Entwistle on My Generation. I’ve got to tell you that over the years, I’ve tried to actually imitate it, but I really can’t do it in the same way and with the same tone that he managed to achieve on the record. I thought I knew a thing or two about that sort of sound, but no,…. My education in bass guitar didn’t really precede the Beatles or The Who. I was 15 in 1963 when the Beatles came out and I learned to play their songs. I’d see jazz pianists with amazing bassists playing string basses, and I’d think, ‘I’m not sure what that is, but it’s not what I’m doing!”

2. The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967).

“Paul McCartney was a great influence on me. He really knew what he was doing. All his bass parts are amazing, even though he was really a guitar player. When he teamed up with George Martin and they started doing those descending basslines, he might not necessarily have thought of playing like that when he was doing Long Tall Sally in the early days, but then he started to move into this very English baroque style, especially with John Lennon’s influence. You couldn’t ask for a better recipe for success, actually.”

3. The Rolling Stones – Their Satanic Majesties Request (1967).

“I had a great choice of bass-playing talent to listen to when I was a young man, but Bill Wyman really impressed me when I was a kid. To me, he was a major part of the way the Stones swung, and they definitely did swing in a certain manner. Since Bill hasn’t been with them, they haven’t swung in the same way. It’s a shame: I used to like the rhythm of their music. Then again, they’re still a great band, even now that he isn’t playing with them any more. There really isn’t another band quite like the Rolling Stones.”

4. Cream – Wheels Of Fire (1968).

“Another big influence on me was Jack Bruce. I saw him play when I was at the exact age when I was learning to play: I remember being 15 years old, going to the Marquee Club and seeing the Graham Bond Organisation, which had Jack and Ginger Baker. Dick Heckstall-Smith played sax with them too, and that was a night of great music. Jack was really amazing in his bass playing and his harmonica playing. The Cream albums had great basslines: Sunshine Of Your Love is in the dictionary under the best-known basslines of all time.”

5. Red Hot Chili Peppers – Mother’s Milk (1988).

“Shall I put a modern bass player in here, after all the early albums I’ve just mentioned? In that case, I definitely have to say Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. He’s a great player and he absolutely has to be in here, especially if you want to include Mother’s Milk, the album where they covered Stevie Wonder’s Higher Ground, which is a real highlight of the record in my opinion. Later on, a long time after this album was released, I got to know Flea quite well: he’s a lovely man. A hell of a bass player, and his singing is very good, which is something that a lot of people don’t know.”

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Nick Wells

Nick Wells was the Editor of Bass Guitar magazine from 2009 to 2011, before making strides into the world of Artist Relations with Sheldon Dingwall and Dingwall Guitars. He's also the producer of bass-centric documentaries, Walking the Changes and Beneath the Bassline, as well as Production Manager and Artist Liaison for ScottsBassLessons. In his free time, you'll find him jumping around his bedroom to Kool & The Gang while hammering the life out of his P-Bass.