The imminent re-release of Chris Squire’s Fish out of Water as a lavish box set (a box set of one album…?) has sparked interest in my involvement, and questions are coming my way about the how, why and what. In an interview with the always reliable Sid Smith for a lengthy accompanying booklet, I pointed out that Chris was really my first bass player, as it were. I was so little experienced (hence the move to King Crimson to gain some more) that I didn’t really know what bass players could do, or did, or might want to do. I didn’t think it weird at all that Chris seemed to be adopting a rather plectrumy, trebly sound on the bass, and that he wanted it to be as predominant as a guitar part. He became very good at counterpoint, so the bass parts had a life all of their own. They were something you could sing or hum along to in their own right.
I’m not sure either of us was entirely committed to the drum cultural idea of the ‘rhythm section’ as having an exceptional identity. The Collins dictionary definition of a rhythm section of a band as ‘the musicians whose main job is to supply the rhythm’ collapses when that function is assigned around the group to different members at different times, as in the better rock and many jazz groups. I don’t believe I thought I was in a rhythm section in the sense deriving from the big band era (comparable with horn section, for example) and I don’t believe Chris did either. As my ears patrolled around any ensemble, they would naturally gravitate to the musician(s) providing the greatest rhythmic information or density, which in King Crimson of the 80s, for example, might frequently be guitarist Robert Fripp or Adrian Belew.
Anyway, the album was yet another sharp learning curve for me, even if it unfolded at an excruciatingly slow tempo, as most things did with Chris. Recorded at his home studio, the record has worn well, and much of the reason for that was due to the painstaking work of the arranger and orchestrator, Andrew Price Jackman, who passed away in 2003. In fact Fish out of Water was a family affair: the recording engineer for the album was Andrew’s brother, Greg. Greg tells the story of Chris at rather short notice calling upon Henry Jackman, Andrew’s son, himself a successful orchestrator and arranger, to help out at a 2006 Rickenbacker bass event in the U.S. “Chris wanted to see if Henry could possibly stand in for Andrew playing keyboards and reproducing the orchestrations. It was the first time Henry had heard the record and he couldn’t believe how good it was and how he’d have to work his nuts off to reproduce what his father had done”.