Although Rush was called the “Canadian Led Zeppelin” after they released their self-titled debut album in 1974, the power trio started to change the direction of their sound on the second album “Fly By Night” which was the first one to feature the drummer Neil Peart, who as Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson, loved Progressive Rock music. So their music and lyrics became more complex, mixing the Hard Rock and Prog, what became their trademark for all the decades they performed together until Peart’s death in 2020 at the age of 67.
The band’s singer, bassist and keyboardist Geddy Lee is probably the one who most shared his love for Progressive Rock over the decades. He talked about many of his heroes, even revealing which in his opinion is the best Prog Rock bass player of all time.
The best Prog Rock bassist of all time according to Geddy Lee
The most influential Progressive Rock bands were formed in England but as any group they were really interested in the North American market which was always huge. Because not only could give them a big record sales number but also the opportunity to tour for months in the same area. Every band that came from the United Kingdom to perform in the U.S.A. also scheduled a few dates in Canada. That gave Geddy Lee the chance to see many incredible groups live in concert when he was still a teenager.
Those shows were crucial to give him the will to become a professional musician and to form a band. Later in his career, Lee had the chance to many most part of his heroes that he had seen playing live when he was a young music fan in Canada. One of them was the late Yes bassist Chris Squire, who Lee said it was the best Progressive Rock bassist of all time.
When promoting his book “Big Beautiful Book of Bass” back in 2019, Geddy Lee was asked by UDiscover Music which was the greatest bassist of all time. He explained that it depends on the context and mentioned Squire.
” (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage) Judging bass players is really about the context of that bass player. (…) If I was to pick the greatest Progressive Rock bassist of all time it would have to be Chris Squire without a question.”
“I think it’s all about context. It’s very hard to pick one guy out and say he does that the best. If you look at Flea’s playing, for his style of music, I mean, it’s fantastic, he’s an amazing player. I’ve got great respect for his bass playing. But how can you compare that to what Chris Squire did. Because it’s a total different genre,” Geddy Lee said.
In that same interview the musician answered which the question of which group he wished he had been a member. His choice was Yes, but he noted that he didn’t think he could have done it.
“When you talk about which bands I would like to have played with. Any band I love growing up I dreamed of being able to play with. I dreamed of, you know, filling Jack Bruce’s shoes in Cream, John Paul Jones‘ shoes in Led Zeppelin. Even Jack Casady’s shoes in the early Jefferson Airplane.”
“These guys were my heroes and their bands were awesome to me. I would have loved to play with any of them. Chris Squire in Yes, did I think I could play with them? Fuck no (laughs). But I would have loved to have given it a shot,” Geddy Lee said.
He said he was blown away with Chris Squire’s playing when he first heard Yes
Curiously, it was a friend that introduced the music of Yes to Geddy Lee. Both of them used to skip school and go to his house to listen to records. One day his friend played him the Yes album “Time and a Word” released in 1970. He recalled that experience in an interview with Rolling Stone in 2020.
“I was just blown away by the sound of Chris Squire’s bass. I mean, it was so up-front. And again, it reminded me of John Entwistle in that aggressive way. But the music was much more adventurous. Much more layered.”
“The song I first heard was the song called “No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed.” If you put that song on, it’s very bold the way it starts, almost like a classical intro. And then boom, the bass comes in and it’s so blistering. For a young kid bass player, it was amazing. I mean, it blew me away. And for the next umpteen years, I became a die-hard Yes fan. A die-hard Chris Squire fan (too),” Geddy Lee said.
It’s not a coincidence that Lee told in the same interview that Yes was the only band that he had waited in line all night to get tickets to their concert when he was young. He revealed that he waited alongside his friend Oscar and Alex Lifeson all night at the Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto to buy the tickets. They also drove to Kitchener, Ontario later to see them again live during that week.
More than four decades later Lee and Lifeson were lucky enough to have inducted Yes into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. At the ceremony in 2017, the Rush bassist was the band’s bassist for one night, occupying Squire’s post since he had died in 2015 at the age of 67, victim of Leukemia. That night Yes performed the classics “Roundabout” and “Owner Of a Lonely Heart”.