Walter Bitner

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The Firebird

Image credit: snob.ru, Wikimedia Commons, veche.razved.ca

It is 1980, and I am 14 years old. I don’t know exactly when this happened but I feel sure it was in the summer or fall. I am standing before the record player I had received for Christmas a few years earlier, in my adolescent lair in the basement of my parent’s house in Camillus, New York. The turntable could be rotated on its side to hide within the wooden cabinet in which it was housed when not in use, and the spindle could accommodate up to 6 LPs at a time (by the time of this memory I had learned never to do this, with the hope of preserving the quality of my record collection as long as possible).

I have just unwrapped the 3 LP set Yessongs from its plastic shrink wrap and set the needle down on the record at the beginning of side A of the first LP. Yes was my favorite rock band when I was in high school (they still are) and I have saved up money from several weeks of early mornings on my bicycle delivering newspapers to buy this, only the second triple album in my collection (the first was Keith Jarrett’s Solo Concerts Bremen / Lausanne).

As I marvel at the stunning artwork by Roger Dean that not only adorns the cover but in fact nearly every surface of the package, what I hear at first are the sounds of an arena crowd anticipating a Yes concert to begin – Yessongs was the band’s first live album. But when the music begins, it isn’t Yes at all – instead I hear the tender horn solo over quiet tremolo chords in the strings that begins the Finale of Igor Stravinsky’s 1910 ballet score The Firebird.

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Chris Squire 1948 – 2015

Chris Squire circa 1972 - from Fragile

Chris Squire circa 1972 – from Fragile

Chris Squire, who laid down the bass line for much of the soundtrack of my adolescence, died yesterday of leukemia.  He was 67.

Chris and Jon Anderson founded Yes in 1968.  The band has gone through many permutations in personnel and evolution in style since then, but Chris has always been at the heart of the group.  His unique sound, approach to playing bass, and contribution to crafting the group’s compositions have been an integral part of what makes Yes Yes.  When Billy Sherwood joins the band on stage as bassist at the beginning of their North American Summer Tour in August, it will be the first time that Yes has ever performed without Chris since the band was formed 47 years ago.

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