Lee's fandom of Yes and his admiration for its bandleader and resident bass icon Chris Squire has always been apparent, but the bassist recently elaborated on why Yes is so much closer to the heart than the rest of the music he loves.
In a bass-based conversation with Rolling Stone, Lee recalled how much Yes's Time and a Word impacted him when he first heard. Beyond the sheer ambition of the music, Lee could barely wrap his head around the mammoth sound of Squire's bass.
Lee was an instant fan, and though he had a voracious appetite including lots of different music, he was determined to experience Yes in person.
"The first time [Yes] came to Toronto, my friend Oscar and Alex [Lifeson] and myself, we lined up at Maple Leaf Gardens all night to get tickets, and we ended up with second-row seats," he recalled. "Yeah, I'll never forget that. We drove out I think it was that same week, they were also playing in Kitchener, Ontario, and we drove out there and saw them out there as well. They still are the only band I've line up all night to see [laughs]."
Lee noted that when he started playing in bands, most bassists were actually guitarists who had the instrument foisted upon them by their bandmates. That's how he came to play and eventually fall in love with the instrument.
"Now, of course, it's cool to be a bass player, but it wasn't always," Lee recalled.
Squire's brusque bass sound was an aural manifestation of his ogre-like frame and his unapologetic personality. It reminded Lee of The Who's John Entwistle (of whom Squire was also an acolyte), but Yes's much was "much more adventurous and much more layered."
Rush's early albums were largely a result of the band's admiration for Yes's groundbreaking work.
A few years after Lee first heard "No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed," his own band was a contemporary of Yes's. Not long after that Rush eclipsed Yes's own popularity and even made it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame first (in 2013).
But Lee and Lifeson were on hand to induct Yes into the Rock Hall in 2017.
Lee even filled Squire's role on the bass for the band's performance of "Roundabout" in what he recalls as a "surreal" moment.
"...['Roundabout'] was such an important song, not only for me as bass player, but also, there are very few progressive rock songs that have been such important hit singles, too," he added. "So it's a fairly unique song, and the bass drives that song. There's not just doubt about it. So I was really deeply thrilled to be able to play with them. It was a very strange but happy experience for me."
That makes for another parallel between Yes and Rush. One of the other big hit prog rock songs was Rush's "Tom Sawyer" in 1981.
Lee himself ranked 24th on Rolling Stone's recently-published list of the '50 Greatest Bassists of All-Time.' Squire turned up at No. 18.
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