READER SUBMISSION: My Evening with Chris Squire of the Band YES By Heather Stogsdill…
”You know a lot about music… for a girl.” ~Chris Squire
When my YES-inspired band in Austin Texas started going through some changes and took a break from playing, I decided I would take some time away and so I departed for a sojourn in Santa Cruz, California in the year 2000 to hone my approach to musical composition and find inspiration in the redwood forest and the Pacific ocean coast. Within my first month of living in Santa Cruz I met, at a party, a whimsical artist and musician named Merry Celeste, whom I quickly learned shared a deep and abiding love for YES like myself. She was a little older than I and had been following YES on their tours for many years. She shared many a personal story about her incredible rendezvous and adventures with each of the YES members, which I listened to with avid attention. These stories made me feel that it might really be possible for me to do this too and I began to entertain the, more real than ever, fantasy of doing just that; meeting Yes in person and living my own fantastic story.
YES was on their Master Works tour that year in 2000. It was through this new kindred friend Merry that I found out where the YES members would likely be hanging out after their performance and just how I might go about meeting them face to face. As the image in my mind gained more and more clarity, I gathered all my courage and ended up taking full advantage of the opportunity. I attended their concert on June 21st at the Concord Pavillion in Concord California that night and after the concert I found the hotel where they were staying. I entered the lobby and lo and behold there was Chris Squire and Alan White sitting in plain view in an open area near the lobby… with nothing stopping me from approaching them directly. There were only a couple of other people seated with them in an intimate living room type set up. I boldly, but with as calm a demeanor as I could muster, made a bee line straight to the left side of Chris Squire as he sat in a comfy lounge chair.
I introduced myself as a musician and a great fan of himself and his band, the incomparable YES. They put me at ease right away and were both super warm and welcoming to me. Chris told me I had “star quality”, which was lovely to hear coming from one of my idols, and also said how my outfit reminded him of ones of his own he used to wear back in the day. I was wearing a long vintage Afghanistan sheer black Kaftan which accentuated my arm movements with its’ wrist to floor length. It had sparkly decorations down the front and I wore form fitting black levis underneath so you could just make out my form and 70’s platform shoes which made me look even more willowy than I already was. I wanted to pay homage to them and had hoped to strike a cord with my presence and it seemed to work! Alan and Chris pointed to the couch where I should sit down right between the both of them. Alan and I were the only two people on the couch. Chris Squire, sat in a chair facing me to my left. A quiet guy, who I surmised was a fellow fan, sat across the coffee table from Alan who sat silently listening throughout the evening. Leaning against Chris Squire’s chair was another female musician/bassist whom they informed me had been following them on their tour since Los Angeles. Somehow the dream of a lifetime was occurring and the conversation ensued for hours. I found myself hanging out all night discussing the finer points of musicianship with none other than Chris Squire and Alan White. Steve Howe was there too on the next couch over. Alan and Chris courteously explained to me that Steve probably would not be joining us, as he was currently being interviewed. My new mentor Merry whilst giving me instructions had made sure to impart that Steve Howe is very spiritual, a vegetarian and meditator and usually eats in the restaurant and retires to bed early. So I had not expected to have luck talking to him. But he was right before me and I could see the two talking in interview for quite awhile.
As we talked through the night I found Chris Squire to be outspoken, merry, full of drink and celebration… loving to tease and to toy with people. Both Alan and Chris kept a lively and interesting conversation going with me. I was very interested in comparing experiences with improvisation and music creation. I began discussing a few nerdy and technical aspects about music and initiated a discussion about polyrhythms. I described one of my observations about how if one player keeps a steady and simple pattern, this can provide enough grounding to give other players the freedom to move around in unexpected and unusual patterns. Alan told me he often liked to be the player to keep a relatively simple beat on the drums to give more leeway to the others to leap off into the sky, so to speak. I’m paraphrasing. Then Chris responded by saying to me, “You know a lot about music…for a girl”. I had initially felt a wee bit insulted but then Alan swooped in taking up the conversation, assuring me it was a complement Squire had just given to me. Alan and I continued discussing talas (Indian rhythms) and other things and he shared many of his views about playing with Yes and music. I still haven’t sent Alan a chart of polyrhythms I use in my work as I had promised to send. I guess I better get on that! Sorry Alan. Please send me an updated address if you happen to see this. Chris noticed me staring into my small collection of stones in a small yellow Chinese silk bag I held in my hands as we spoke and asked to look at them. I had carried the small pouch for many years near my heart. Chris requested to hold them for a closer inspection and afterward he asked me to fashion them into a necklace for him. I found a magazine and pulled out the address order form card from the center of it for Chris to fill out with his mailing address so I could send it to him. I still have that prized memento which is in a cd case. I kept one crystal stone in the pouch to give to Jon and saved the rest for Chris’s necklace. I did end up meeting Jon the next morning when he and his wife were departing the hotel. I’m sure Jon was wondering why I was handing him a bag with only one tiny crystal inside. Now, you know Jon…. Chris got to it before you.
If it were not for that cosmic meeting with my dear kindred friend Merry, with whom I have since shared continual creative inspiration and many fine moments over the years, I would not have had this magical life experience. Merry passed away on my birthday in 2013. Two luminaries in my life have left their mark and then departed. It was a time to remember… I love you guys. You are my inspiration… you live on in my heart. Thank you!
About Heather Stogsdill
I am a progressive rock fan and musician, singer, song writer, composer, multi-instrumentalist poet and fantasy artist from Austin Texas who Played in bands such as The Heather Ensemble, Green Ship, Green Ship Rocinante (a merging of two groups), Llama, KHAT Radio (with one member of Cold Sun) and Elflore (my newest project), and more.