As a teenager,
I once spent about a whole year listening to practically nothing but early to mid-Yes (up to "90125"). Though, I hasten to add, many years after the albums in question were originally released. Hey, I'm not that old! ;-)
At the time, I'd slavishly copy Chris Squire's bass lines note-for-note, but to be honest, I didn't have the slightest inkling about what he was doing harmonically. The track "Going For The One" is a good case in point. Chris' contrapuntal bobbing and weaving left me completely bamboozled. Prior to getting into the world of jazz, this was the first time I'd encountered a bassist who refused to subordinate the bass to the role of mere plodding foot-soldier. Indeed, thanks to his pioneering approach, Chris helped free the instrument from its root-fifth shackles, which in turn inspired countless bassists to become more creative and adventurous.
I now know a lot more about how and why Chris plays the way he does, but this doesn't for one second diminish the sense of teen-tinged awe I still feel when listening to albums such as "Going For The One" or "Close To The Edge."
(To avoid confusion, "Going For The One" will hereafter refer to the album of that name, and "GFTO" to the individual track itself.)
Rhythmically, "GFTO" messes with your mind: The contraction, expansion and superimposition of rhythmic patterns forces the ear to continually refocus its attention in an attempt to keep a handle on the slippery-as-an-eel "downbeat."
the song is fairly straightforward, though thanks to Chris' melodic peregrinations and no-holds-barred approach to passing and implied modulation, it sounds, in parts, anything but simple.
The track starts haltingly, with Steve Howe's pedal steel guitar wailing a bluesy figure in 7/8 before the band smashes in for a single abrupt bar of 4/4 to momentarily orient listeners, only for Howe to break up the party with another bar of 7/8. Though the band establishes a "standard" 4/4 from bar 4, any sense of stability is immediately undermined by Chris' aggressive 3-on-the-floor cross-rhythms.
One of the noticeable features of this track is the way Chris reinforces Jon Anderson's vocal melody for certain phrases, as seen in bars 9, 12, etc. This is classic Squire - viewing the song from a melodic perspective rather than concentrating solely on providing a harmonic footing. This approach has long been an inherent part of his style and is one of the main factors that has sustained Yes through the years. Let's face it, Yes without Chris Squire is a mere shadow of the real thing, as evidenced by 1989's interesting-for-fans but ultimately lackluster offering from Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman and Howe.
Chris' melodic sense imbues everything he plays. For example, take a look at bars 15-18. After the chords rise up through C, D and E major in bars 15-16, he lands on a G over the C chord in bar 17, drops down a semitone to F#, the third of the D chord, and then slips down another semitone to the hit the root of the F chord on the downbeat of bar 18. If you try playing this section using the root of each chord, as less adventurous bassists would be apt to do, it gives the music a completely different - and completely bland - flavor.
In bar 20, Chris introduces a scalic figure that dominates large chunks of the song. These descending (and later ascending) motifs take off fully in bars 41-48. At this point, the chords start alternating between Bb and A minor and the harmony takes on a series of subtle hues as Chris starts walking up and down Bb Lydian and A Dorian scales as the chords alternate back and forth
This same chord sequence dominates most of the second half of the track from bars 77-111. As a youngster I naively believed the chord was changing every quarter note and was blissfully unaware that this illusion was merely due to Chris' determination to imbue these sections with motion and interest. Even now, I'm still amazed that so much harmonic juice can be squeezed from a combination of two chords (Bb and A minor) and an imaginative bass player who doesn't mind a bit of grit as he journeys between his double check-in points. Bars 88-92 serve as good example of this section as a whole. As Chris steps down the Bb Lydian scale in eighths, the chord takes on a G-minor flavor on third beat of bar 88; an Emin7b5 color on the downbeat of bar 89; and a C7 tinge on the third beat of bar 89. After settling briefly on the root of the A minor chord, he achieves a similar harmony-altering effect by ascending an A Dorian scale (the brazen F# of which thumbs its nose at any possible hint of a solid sense of Bb). Rick Wakeman sprinkles these sections with splashes of keyboard colouring, and I've always had a particular fondness for bar 92, where he fires off a lovely bluesy phrase using chromatic enclosure to emphasize the third of the Bb chord.
Occasional imperfections underline the fact that "GFTO" was recorded prior to the digital audio workstation era. The analogue warmth of the whole album stands in stark contrast to the generally flawless - read "sterile" - production of much modern musical fare, which is often over preoccupied with punch-ins; consumed by a need for quantization; and pointlessly passionate about pitch-tweaking plug-ins.
One example of a minor, uncorrected error can be found in bar 109, where Chris lands on an Eb instead of a D on the second beat of the bar, but realizes his error and slips down a semitone to his intended note in the twinkle of an eye. The fact there are only a couple of minor slip-ups by any of the musicians is amazing, given that the main meat of the track was likely recorded simultaneously in one take ala "Parallels."
Though click tracks were around at the time, the fluctuating tempo of the song indicates that the band was operating without one. I've indicated a provisional speed of 89 beats per minute, but the track actually wavers somewhere between about 87 BPM and 91 BPM.
One of the trickiest aspects of transcribing "GFTO" was related to the numerous percussive elements that interfere with the bass range. Drums, guitar (especially unpitched rhythmic strumming), and bass guitar ghost notes can all engender migraine in even the most enthusiastic transcriber. However, the bass drum is usually the worst offender, as it can often make it sound as though the bass is articulating notes when, in reality, it's doing no such thing. This problem arises in a lot of bass transcriptions and requires a lot of patience to pin down what's happening.
Let me illustrate this point with a lengthy and boring example. If you're not even slightly interested in the mind-numbing minutiae of transcription-related navel-gazing, then I recommend you click here to skip this section.
(Though the following phenomenon first occurs on the second beat of bar 19, it's more pronounced in bar 22, which I'll use as an example.)
In bar 22, it sounds as though Chris is playing an eighth note followed by two sixteenths on the first and second beats of the bar. However, these sixteenths are an aural illusion. Chris is actually playing straight eighths all the way through the bar. These phantom sixteenths are caused by the bass drum sounding as Chris' 2nd and 4th eighth-notes sustain. The following excerpts will demonstrate this effect. (Headphones essential.)
Example 1. Loop of bar 22; normal speed, normal pitch
Example 2. Loop of bar 22; half-speed, raised an octave
In example 2, you should be able to hear a slight difference in the placement of the bass and the bass drum within the stereo field, which makes it easier to hear that the bass is playing straight eighths; something that's almost impossible to discern at normal speed.
These spurious sixteenths abound throughout the track, especially in the Bb to A-minor
sections. Another of the reasons for this perceived effect is that Chris regularly slides to the next note of a given scale on the same string, often at a time when the bass drum sounds. In the case of major-second movement, this can add in the perception of an intervening articulated semitone, usually in the form a sixteenth. (I've notated these slides where appropriate.) To compound the issue, Chris occasionally does articulate phrases that contain sixteenths, but just not as often as these bass drum- and slide-related phantasms would have us believe.
Now, you may say: "My good man, you are - to put it bluntly - a cloth-eared buffoon. Mr. Squire is clearly articulating the notes in question."
And I would say: "You could be right." However, I would merely ask that you try listening to the sections in question about a hundred times each, using slightly different EQ levels, stereo balance, speed and octave shifts on each occasion. Then when you've done that, buy the 2003 remastered reissue of "Going For The One" and dissect the bonus track that features Steve Howe, Alan White and Chris Squire rehearsing the title track in all its naked 3-part glory. Then just for good measure, buy the 1980 album "Yessongs" (which contains a live version of "GFTO" with Chris high in the mix that was recorded a mere couple of months after the July '77 release of the "Going For The One" album)and dissect the bass part here, too. If, after doing all of this you still think that Mr. Squire is articulating those controversial sixteenths with any degree of regularity, then yes, I am indeed a gigantic cloth-eared buffoon. ;-)
(Please be aware that the preceding paragraph was written with a grin on my face, a twinkle in my eye and with tongue firmly in cheek.)
Actually, no transcription can ever claim to be truly definitive. The bottom line for any transcriber is this: If you're uncertain about something, you've just got to use your best judgment and jump one way or the other - right or wrong; for better or for worse. Amen.
Deciding how to notate irregular measure and phrase lengths (real or perceived) is also a matter of discretion, and it's likely that no two people would notate "GFTO" in exactly the same way. To take a random example, have a look at bars 34-36 (or bars 73-75), which contain a total of 9 quarter notes. I've chosen to break these bars down into 3/4, 4/4, and 2/4, rather than keep the 3/4 running across all three bars. While the latter is perfectly acceptable, it's not the way the phrasing is heard. Similar examples abound throughout the track.
Though there are occasional slash chords used in the notation, in light of the way Chris avoids a "standard" root-note style, practically everything he plays is some kind of slash chord! In the main, I've been content to write out the basic chords as played by the guitar and the organ and leave it at that. Studying the chords while checking out Chris' choice of notes is a great way to open up your ears while also getting a handle of how he perceives the harmony.
For anyone who's interested, the A6 and B6 chords first encountered in bar 115 could also be notated as F#min7/A and G#min7/B, respectively. But guess which version takes up less space on the page, notation-wise...
Touching upon the singing for a moment, it's interesting to note that "GFTO" has been gradually lowered over the years to accommodate Jon Anderson's aging voice: Though the original track was recorded in E major, it's possible to find versions on YouTube keyed in D major and even Db major. It's kind of reassuring to know that the perpetually young-looking Yes vocalist is merely human after all!
Interestingly, by comparing the videos of the different versions, its easy to see/hear - based on Steve's use of open strings on the pedal steel and Chris' hand positions and open-string usage - that the band merely retuned their instruments, rather than relearning the track in a new key. Rick also can be seen playing the chords associated with the original version, indicating that he likely just used the transpose function found on most keyboards.
Ironically, my favourite part of "GFTO" is the last four bars of the track. The way the vocals in bar 122 echo Steve Howe's guitar phrase of the previous bar is a small but beautiful detail that knocks me out each time I hear it. This, in addition to Rick Wakeman's soaring harmonized synth line and the almost imperceptible F# that subtly pokes through the feedback of the final E major chord, is enough to ensure this song an eternal place in my musical heart.
By the way, given the length of the ramblings on this page, I expect only one person will ever make it this far down the page. Hello Mum! ;-)
Transcription © Stevie Glasgow 2009