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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Farewell to The Fish

Chris Squire has died. Just last month the announcement came that he had AML, a rare and deadly form of leukemia. His fans hoped for the best, that somehow he'd beat it or at least be with us a while longer, but AML is a fast killer. I hope his passing was easy.

Not everyone knows who Chris was. He was the co-founder (with Jon Anderson) of Yes, the legendary Progrock band. At the announcement of his illness Chris sent regrets that he wouldn't be on this year's Summer tour, the first time in Yes' 47 years that he'd be absent. There is much online about Yes and Chris, anyone interested can find their entire histories. Youtube has all the Yes albums as well.

This feels like losing an old friend. With his death, and Jon Anderson not in the band anymore, to me it's the death of Yes as well. All things must pass, but that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt.

From Wiki, on his nickname: "Chris Squire was commonly known by his nickname, "Fish", and the name is associated with many of his works including his solo record, Fish Out of Water, and the solo piece "The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus)" from the 1971 Yes record Fragile. The name has multiple origins, not least of which is the heteronymic meanings of "bass", describing low frequency sound or the bass guitar as well as the fish. Additionally, Squire's astrological sign was Pisces. Further, in the early days of Yes' career, he once accidentally flooded a hotel room in Oslo, Norway, while taking a shower, and Bill Bruford gave him the nickname. On the 2007 documentary "The Classic Artists Series 3: Yes", Bruford says that the nickname arose because Squire spent long periods in the bathroom while they shared a house together in Fulham."

He was a close friend of Greg Lake's for almost 50 years, going back to their being roommates in London when they both were starting out and finding their first successes.

Chris played bass like nobody else could. He wrote songs we'll have forever. I'll treasure that moment when he smiled wildly and gave me a protest fist as the cops carried me off in Madison Square Garden all my days. 

Farewell. RIP. Thanks.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Foster's Hay Truck

Out of nowhere and unrelated to anything else, I just had a vivid memory.

It was Summer '80 or '81, those were the two Summers I worked on Foster's farm. There was a blueberry field complete with air guns that blasted every ten minutes from sun up til sundown. People drove from everywhere to pick their own by the pound. There were 20 dairy cows, clumsy, gentle and not caring about much. I loved their big sweet eyes and soulful moos. They walked up the same track every day to the grazing field that smelled of timothy and deerstongue. After the hottest part of the day they'd meander back down the trail for the barn- sometimes without our going after them- to be milked and brushed, fed, watered and washed down as necessary. It was a small farm and ran efficiently. 60 year-old Foster, a high school kid, 2 little boys, and I made sure everything was done by 7 p. Long days, but healthy and peaceful.

My favorite part of the whole operation was the haying. Foster owned huge fields along both sides of the highway and after filling his silo and barn he sold bales to other people. He'd drive his old wooden-bed hay truck with the aluminum floor (I sailed right off that when unloading bales, twice) and I'd sit shotgun. With a SLOW sign flashing on the back we trundled up to the hayfields and loaded the tremendous crib with bales. I was so fit in those years that I did chin ups in the barn to stretch.

But the cab of that c.1940s truck is the flash scene that brought all this back. The only seat was the old bench style, no seatbelts. The whole interior was utilitarian blue and filthy. There were spaces for the driver and a farmhand and every other available inch was a pile of boxes with parts for things and various pieces of paper. The only thing that was clean was Foster's omnipresent cup of coffee. It sat in a tin box he'd jammed into a hole in the dashboard and it miraculously never sloshed over as we bounced along.

It was that that I just remembered so clearly, all that in an instant.

If you've never been in a beaten up hay truck on a hot Summer day with a fresh cut load, when a breeze floods the cab with the heady scent of a dozen different grasses filling your senses, you've missed something.

Thanks, Foster. You were one of the best bosses ever.