Thursday, March 17, 2016

Bass Bits Finale - Lifetime Low-End Achievement Awards + A Valedictory Barrage of Bits

Lifetime Achievement Award #1

All praise to mighty Jah

Wobble, that is...


How many times did I play this next one in the big bedroom at 113 Bridgewater Road?  Wobble singing here as well as funking it  up with that great elasticated B-line. My DiscoFunk conversion, probably (unless it was another Lifetime Award recipient further down, which it probably was now I think of it). "Fodderstompf" certainly propelled me faster down that track at any rate, the path to "One Nation Under A Groove," "Shake Your Body", "Funkin' for Jamaica"

He's the soul-glue and sound-foundation of Metal Box - but which to pick? 

This might be PiL's greatest track - and one of Wobble's toughest B-lines.

Wobble was the reason for my briefly-entertained dream of learning to play the bass.

And he came over like a good guy in the music press profiles, like the approachable, sensitive one in PiL..  the member with the library card.

So I bought the solo album (but had no idea then how many solo singles and bits and bobs he had done).  "Betrayal", the single, has this wonderfully lanky, lurching bassline, like someone a few drinks worse for wear, staggering down the High Street after the extensive drowning of romantic sorrows in the pub... vengeful thoughts flailing in the brain.

Great guitar too.

The Legend Lives On... is overall a bit goofy - too much wacky-ing about at the mixing board - but this is one of the good tunes.

I confess I never checked out The Human Condition, his post-PiL group with Jim Walker, the first and perhaps best of PiL's many fine drummers. Nor do I recall being aware at the time of the things he did with Czukay and Liebezeit in the early 80s. So the next time I really noticed what Wobble was up to was Invaders of the Heart (here's my interview with him from around then) and of course this colossal B-line.


Lifetime Achievement Award #2 goes to - 

Herbie Flowers

The Glam Era's Supreme Bass-for-Hire

Shan't bother with "Walk on the Wild Side" (fine as Herb's line is) but then there's this - one of the most radical singles of the early Seventies.

Everybody knows "Rock On". But how about this awesome performance?  (Hat's off to everyone really - the drummer and  the percussionist, the guitarist,  the backing chicks... Jeff Wayne obviously, not forgetting Mr Stardust himself)

Flowers was also responsible for the astounding basswork on this track. Check especially the bit here (from about 4.40) where the bass sort of divebombs and disintegrates in mid-air, before re-cohering into the mighty main pulse

Again, hats's off to everyone in that session - yet another example of how really hard it is to excel in rock unless everybody else in the band is cooking. One of the most exciting pieces of music from the entire rock era - and I wonder if I'd ever have heard it if not for Goodfellas. "Jump Into the Fire" is not exactly on the radio often, or ever, despite being a middling hit at the time.

Flowers also played on this, of course:

It's not all gold, though, the Flowers discography. There's a solo album, or two, and there's this, which he co-wrote with Kenny Pickett for Clive Dunn

Last little toke of Herb... He played with Bolan in his twilight-or-would-it-have-been-a-comeback-ifn't-he'd-croaked  (we'll never know) phase. This tune is terrific (although the bass is merely solid). Actually I'm not sure if he even played on the record, but by the time of this Top of the Pops appearance, Steve Currie was gone and Flowers was in, and he was in the group that backed Bolan for the Marc TV series.

Lifetime Achievement Award #3

John Entwhistle

Actually I don't have particular special feelings towards Thunderfingers - and feel ambivalent about the Who as a whole (terrific start, wobbly middle, dismal never-ending end-phase).

But what he does on this early effort was both groundbreaking and unfeasibly exciting.

Wrote about "My Generation"for The Wire's Low End Theories bass-bits celebration of a few years ago:

.".. Often described as lead bassist to Townshend’s  rhythm guitarist, on this late 1965 single Entwhistle's is the loudest instrument (with the possible exception of Moon’s cymbals). For the first minute “Thunderfingers”, as his bandmates nicknamed him,  churns and grinds as relentlessly and remorselessly as a gigantic tunnel-boring drill. Then, outrageously, he takes the solo and slashes a rent in the song’s fabric with a down-diving flurry of notes at once fluidly elegant and brutishly in-your-face.  This is generally regarded as the first bass solo in recorded rock, and as such, it’s a mixed portent.  Entwistle would immediately attempt to reprise the shock effect on the Who’s debut album with the bass-dominated instrumental “The Ox” and over the years he became an increasingly ostentatious player, peaking with the verging-on-Pastorius floridity of Quadrophenia’s “The Real Me” (much admired in the technical guitar magazines).....   Mod, as a musical form as opposed to a subcultural style, represented a uniquely English contribution to rock: the sound of frustration and neurosis, tension and explosive release.  In their own way, for a moment there in the mid-Sixties the Who were as radical as the Velvet Underground. Certainly, as far as Britain is concerned, punk starts here. Entwistle can even be seen as a forefather of postpunk’s  “lead bassists”, or at least the  aggressive hard-rocking sort, such as Jean-Jacques Burnel and Peter Hook. 

This performance is robust and creative but a bit busy

The technical magazines much-revered "Real Me"

(Permit me to digress here and elaborate my riff on Seventies Stodge....   an en-shite-nment of rock that happened in the Seventies when studios started adding more and more tracks... so you lost the focus and impact and smudged organic solidity of Sixties rock....  the sounds started getting separated from each other.... more layers kept getting added... but because it wasn't groups (like 10c.c. or Dark Side of the Floyd) who were all about seizing the possibilities of studio spatiality and postproduction magic, nothing was gained to offset the losses....  it was bands still trying to create a marginally enhanced version of the live-performance model. So all you got was this superfatted sound that was plumped up, but weaker...  feebler...  fainter...   all that is added is just empty calories: flab not sinew. Hence stodge. Because it's rock music whose fundamental premises were better suited to a Sixties set up of  less-options, less time to faff around. Van Morrison's records after Astral Weeks increasingly succumb to the Stodge-ification Syndrome...  The Band's albums too such as Northern Lights-Southern Cross ...  But Quadrophrenia is one of the worst. Just sounds so weak.  )


Lifetime Achievement Award # 4

A much more full-throated endorsement, this one - Danny Thompson.

The whole album, but especially the title track, "Go Down Easy", and "I'd Rather Be The Devil"

He's only on a couple of cuts on One World, but they are two of the best

One thing I'm glad about - catching John and Danny play together at a rare gig in New York, very shortly before the big man's death.


Lifetime Achievement Award #5

John McVie

When we did Drummige, I had a post on Mick Fleetwood - about the mind-meld between him and McVie, about it being no accident the group was named after the rhythm section. I could just reproduce that post and replace Fleetwood's name with McVie's, and vice versa, and even use the same music clips, and it would say what needs to be said. 

But this is one I didn't post, I don't think. A song most Brits know and likely love from its use
as the intro theme to the Formula One motor racing show. The bit used being not the first part with the harmony vocals,  but after the breakdown when it starts up again with the fabulous bassline and then sprints off towards the finish. 

As a kid I had no idea that was Fleetwood Mac so you can imagine my surprise circa 1987 hearing Rumours for the first time... 


Lifetime Achievement Award #6 goes to... 

Norman Watt-Roy

Who I think was in fact - prior to "Fodderstompf" and Wobble - my Funk initiation. 

I actually have the Loving Awareness album somewhere but only given it a desultory listen...


Lifetime Achievement Award #7 

Cris Kirkwood

Whose praises deserves to be sung as much his  guitaring brother

Miraculous music....

do yourself a favour, listen to the whole thing...



Separated At Birth


Miles Davis, "Bitches Brew" - the main B-line that kicks in at 2.51  (either Dave Holland or Harvey Brooks)


The Birthday Party, "She's Hit" (Tracy Pew)


Addendum to the Bassline post:

I ended with Jackin Bass....  But in fact the most recent version of this British tradition - which started way back with bleep - of bass-intensified house music,  is deep tech. Which seemed highly promising for a season or three... 
... but again like Bassline seems to have gotten stuck.... 

So perhaps that particular  UK narrative -  house + bass - has exhausted itself


And now we enter the closing stretch - the Finale's finale: Flashes of Random Bass Brilliance.

Not actually that random, since the perpetrators of each of these usually did some other fab stuff, but I'm aiming to hasten here. 

Horace Panter 

David Steele. Could have picked another dozen, all the early singles and almost all the debut LP.

I know, pass the sick bucket, magic voluntarist anthem etc etc....   But listen how wide and glossy the bass is, how much space on the record it takes up...  Ross Valory

Making for a neat ideology / nation-spirit contrast  - America can-do versus British can't-do

John "Segs" Jennings

A different side to America

Possibly the ultimate Arsequake Anthem....   conceivably the track that inspired the coinage "arsequake". Jeff Pinkus

Brad Lang.  The simple thud-pulse even more than the nimble-fingered stuff.  

Rick Goldstraw. Colossal.  The Hurdy-Gurdjieff Men (and Woman) with a spiritual anthem for a counter-Britain.

Martin Gordon. Also the whole of Kimono My House.

Many contenders but the fluoro-glow of this stand in for them all. Richard D. James

And that's all folks.