Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Bass Bits - open call for submissions

Friends!  To while away the February longeurs, how about another celebration of sonic particulars?

We did Guitars Riffs. Guitar Solos, too.  Drummage, dealt with. Intros, also.

But - unaccountably - we have never tackled BASS.

Basslines. Bass sounds. Bass solos, even, though there aren't many (well, outside jazz).

My own trawl will largely involve the electric bass guitar, but bass drops and low-end irruptions of all kinds are welcome. No doubt I will stray into the programmed-not-played zone now and then. Synth bass also. Sequenced and sampled B-lines.

Anything that goes boom, basically - and a lot of things that don't. 

Those blog-less, please send through your nominations for Best Bass Bits.

Ideally accompanied with some pertinent, profound yet pithy commentary.

And  - if it's a discrete bass event rather than a B-line or bass-texture running through the whole track - then do provide a time marker for when-abouts it appears.

Ideally you would also -  to make my job easier -  provide the embed code from YouTube (i.e. not just the url) especially if you have multiple suggestions.


OKAY - let's get this one out of the way straight away.

When I were a postpunk lad, my dream was to play the bass - above all, to play the slap bass.

To me twas verily the sound of heaven.

I cannot remember the actual song that turned me on, that made me so slap-happy - for there was a LOT of it about in the era of postpunk / New Pop / late-phase disco-funk.

But it wasn't long before I learned that the man who invented the technique was Larry Graham from Sly and the Family Stone.

Cannot remember if I ever listened to this album:

Now one record from that time (postpunk / new pop) that does feature a nifty and notable slap bass bit is the debut single by Heaven 17:

Erupts at 1.30 minutes, courtesy a young man called John Wilson, 17 years of age, whom Marsh & Ware found in Sheffield and who apparently came in the studio and just whacked it off like that, first take.

And just as well - for as Barney Hoskyns noted mordantly in the NME at the time - otherwise, rhythmically speaking, you might as well be dancing to a metronome with "Fascist Groove Thang". (H17 got properly funky later, once Ware really got to grips with the Linn drum machine).

Here's another one I really dug back then - and in truth pretty much only bought for the bassline:

The bassist on that was Muzi Nkabinde, who I'm guessing is the sibling of Oneness of Juju leader Plunky Nkabinde. 

Well, silly me - of course Bow Wow Wow - my favorite group for about a year and a half - had quite a bit to do with the slap obsession.  Bassman Leigh Gorman went in for it uncontrollably.

Also loved the more languid 'n' undulant slap-bass slink of "Hello, Hello Daddy (I'll Sacrifice You)". Which is embedding-disabled annoyingly - do give it a listen, though.

Finally,"Funkin' For Jamaica". Although quite pingy, I'm not actually sure this is slap bass, in the thumb-thwack percussive sense. But it fits here. Certainly in terms of its bass-sensitizing, bass-conversion effects on yours truly. 

This was this fifth or sixth single I ever bought  (in Virgin Megastore, if memory serves - along with "Down In the Tube Station At Midnight").

So prominent and dominant  is the bass on "Funkin' For Jamaica" that I just assumed Tom Browne was the bassist. Of course it's Marcus Miller; Browne is the trumpet player.

At the time I only really had ears for the bassline... but the whole record is fantastic, including Browne's quite brief trumpet contributions, and especially the vocals by Toni Smith a/k/a/ Thomassina Carrollyne Smith. But really hat's off to everyone involved.

The full title is "Funkin' for Jamaica (NY)" - but I don't recall registering that at the time. Indeed was somewhat puzzled that a funk record was name-checking the island of reggae.  Had no idea that there was such a place as Jamaica, Queens.

Slap-bass no longer sounds like the very sound of heaven to me  - it sounds a bit fussy and unnecessarily agitated. At a loss to explain exactly why, unless it's simply all Flea's fault. But listening to the records above and others from that time, I can momentarily reconstruct the special feeling.