Monday, February 29, 2016

Bass Bits #4 - Psychedelia

Catching up for a bit  now with my own copious bass back(b)log....

(but keep the suggestions coming if you got em)


Something about bass playing on records in the mid-Sixties... in the years just before the Heavy Period. (Excuse me).

Something to do with the state of art with effects, amplification, the studio? For the bass is usually quite a compact presence on records. Instead of being "wide" or thickly textured, the bass attracts attention through melody and mobility.

Hard to pick a specific track for Love so I'm plonking down the whole album. Ken Forssi.

But if you're a hurry then just give "You Set The Scene" a listen.

Tempting to plonk down the whole of Da Capo too - well, except for the execrable "Revelation" of course, which is the whole of side 2 - but here will limit myself just to "The Castle" for its wonderfully jaunty 'n' nimble, yet also poignant and mysterious, bass. Forssi, again.

Contradicting what I wrote above about compact presence - the exception that proves, okay? - just check the girth of the bass on this. The rumble of it.

Chris Hillman's playing for The Byrds elsewhere does, however, largely fit the clean, compact, agile thing I was talking about. 

Love the crispness of the sound overall on this track.

Sixties rock bass sound  probably has something to do with how engineers and producers mixed records in those days too - the bass less prominent and thrusting, the drums mixed down.  Something that later remasterings for box sets and and reissues has adapted - boosted - for the modern bass-sensitized, bass-greedy ear.  (The original technicians were mixing and mastering for vinyl, too, whereas compact disc can put over bigger and sharper contoured and deeper body-penetrative bass).

Another beautiful, winding 'n' chiming bass performance: 

The group's playing is telepathic.

This album takes me back to '83  - that's when I would have first heard Younger Than Yesterday (and Forever Changes). Borrowed in both cases from Steve Micalef's legendary collection. 

I remember us - the Monitor crew, back then the Margin crew - sitting in Hilary's room absolutely spellbound, silent through the entire album, eyes shining...

Hadn't known music like this existed...   Whole areas of history were locked off in those days, in a way that is hard to understand now...  But which made discovery and revelation possible. 

For psychedelic bass, I was going to do "Rain" - while equally expecting many others to pip me to the bass post. Which they did. 

In its stead, "Beeside" by Tintern Abbey. Gorgeous, all of it, but here what counts is the part played by Stuart Mackay

Love the bass-detonations on this - courtesy Roger Waters

Enjoyably lackadaisical:

Hard to pick a Noel Redding. Perhaps this one  - most likely my favorite Jimi Hendrix Experience tune alongside "I Don't Live Today". 

Hang on a minute, there doesn't appear to be any proper studio versions of JHE tunes on  YouTube! They've been BLOCKED.

There's only cover versions (and no I'm not going to play Stevie Ray Vaughan's version, no thank you) or peculiar fucked-around-with versions.

This 45 rpm not 33 rpm version does actually let you hear what the bass is doing

Digression - a curiosity: Jaco paying tribute to both Jimi and Noel simultaneously?

Back to Sixties bass...

Now at this point - late psychedelia starting to turn a bit heavy - the bass is getting big and bulgy and wide and sprawling  - and sort of colorized. Nice job, Ronnie Lane

This next isn't really psychedelic, but it is pure rolling glory. To isolate the bass is both hard to do with such a gorgeous smushed-together sound  - and sort of goes against the whole spirit and feel of the song.  Still, hats off to Pete Quaife for the rollicking bass. 

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Bass Bits Guest(s) Posts #9


Phil Zone on Level 42 and "a ubiquity that left no legacy"


Jon Dale: 

"Forgot about this monster. A long-time favourite. Good vocoder at the start too"

Gap Band! Lot of things could be mentioned as regards the Gap Band and bass.  As played by Robert Wilson, although synth-bass enters at a certain point I should have thought. Even while it's bass guitar it's so thickly textured, so legato-lubricious, so large as a presence in the sound, it feels like synth-bass.  

Slip 'n 'slide

Jon also points to a post-prime Simple Minds beauty, the B-side to "Don't You Fuggedabout Me", albeit not particularly for its bass element: 

CJ comes again:   

That's Michael "Busta Cherry" Jones on the bs there. 

My Life in the Bush of Ghosts is crawling, wriggling, with brilliantly strange bass, especially on side 2 where it is like pretzel bass, contortionist bass, Escher-bass. 

Like this one:

As well as Busta, Bill Laswell and Tim Wright play bass on a few tracks on the album, but on that one it appears to be either Byrne or Eno who handled the bass-gloop duties. 

Same here

and here

Another killa B o' G B-line  -  the effect is sort of yammering, or like a heart pounding,  like eyelids fluttering moth-mad, as the eyeballs start to roll back and the exorcisee starts shaking and going into convulsions

Do not understand the typical reviewer's verdict at the time - 1981 - which was that MLitBoG was "coldblooded" and"egghead" and "laboratory white-coat scientist" in vibe. To me it sounds ecstastic, fascinated in the original magical-hypnotic sense...  full of longing and awe....  You can hear B & E's neck hairs a-tingling almost...

The excised cut

Back to CJ's picks

The Banshees single I always forget about. Fluorescent sounding.

What a tune... When Ja ruled. 

About the latter, CJ notes the "pun on words" and producer "Metro Boomin with a quasi-Mentasm stab."

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Bass Bits, Guest(s) Post #8


Carl at Impostume/Neither here keeps it hardcore (not ardkore)

Action Time Vision  on some classy operators


Matt Moore  brings alarming news about the postpunk legacy of bands with two bassists:

"I regret to inform you that Ned's Atomic Dustbin had 2 bass players"


CJ is the first to bring up the Reese Bass, as it came to be known in drum & bass circles

A/k/a Kevin Saunderson

One of the first house tracks I picked up, that one! On a trip to NYC in very early '88.  I thought of it as acid house; Detroit techno didn't exist then as a category. Also acquired in the same batch was "Strings of Life". I preferred the B-side "Move It":

Back to CJ's picks:

"Was Mick Karn the Jaco Pastorius of the New Romantics? Live version attached so you can see him sideways moonwalk across the stage, plus David Syvian's hair does not move at all. Nice bass work also on "The Art of Parties""

"Chicago civic pride working for these next two, the second representing acid TB 303 madness"

Another acid house fave of mine - I did love the classic 303-bas(s)ed stuff - but tended to love even more the acid-not-acid ones like "Control" and "Your Only Friend". Didn't get Sleezy D on vinyl then, though -  had it on one of the many acieeed-X-ploitation comps of '88. On cassette, in fact, would you believe it! 

Moving on to bleep - a whole can of writhing low-end worms that I had clean forgotten needed opening - CJ nominates: 

Nightmares on Wax



mentions Unique 3, leaving it up to me to get specific: 

Annoyingly YouTube does not have the most immense mix of "Weight for the Bass", the Original Soundyard Dubplate Mix.... 

This one is incredible - album track off Jus Unique

Prefer this flipside to "The Theme" to be honest

Two layers of bass there - sub-lo and xylo-bass (first time appearance in UK music?)

Back to CJ's copious suggestions-bag:

Jungle - "too many I could put down" - co-sign that.

Fluoro-wobbler, that one

"I could go on all day with this genre"

Same here - and probably will do, when I get a chance to



Eddie Masher

"O'Jays definitely is iconic, as your correspondent points out.  Here's something else from Philly Int'l":

"I wonder where this archetypal disco bass groove originates? I'm not musically-minded enough to be able to describe what exactly is happening - I seem to remember Peter Shapiro describes it in his Disco book."

You mean the walking bassline? Couldn't tell you, but an archetypal example occurs in this next, which neither your serious disco headz nor serious Rod bods will give any credit at all, but it's fab and the bassman - Philip Chen -  is a big part of that - his sheer joie-de-groovre. Just wait for that breakdown from 2.23... and then, the drop, ooh gosh, 2.40 

Back to Eddie....

"This guy Monk Montgomery released one album on Philly in 1974; was perhaps the first jazzer to use electric bass in the 1960s"

Never 'eard of him! Digging deep, digging wide!

Tasty lickmanship though. Sweet tone... 

"Thinks: "When's that guy with the generator going to turn up?""

"Stanley Clarke has already featured - I reckon this is the greatest riff of all time, on whatever instrument"

"And there's Louis Johnson. This is brutal":

"In Blighty, a wine bar anthem circa '81"

We need a whole installment on Mark King really. 

"FINALLY : It's not all jazz funk n soul.  Never thought I'd like this lot, but Chris Squire's bass here is ruff"

Dunno bout "ruff" but certainly gnarled and scrofulous and exuberantly wriggly - and as Phil Knight observed, texturally pointing the way ahead to J.J. Burnel. 

I was surprised - given the very negative reputation Yes would have been laden with for anyone who grew up indoctrinated by punk + popstunk -  that when I finally listened to the band that quite a few of their tunes are really rather groove-oriented, and generally aggressively played. Not as stilted-stately or pompous or indeed preposterous as I'd been led to believe. 

"I wonder if someone at Motown liked their British prog? The Miracles' 'Love Machine' bears some resemblance . . ."


Regular Andrew Parker returns with some Macca appreciation:

"Paul McCartney's bass lines were remarkably creative and sympathetic, and always in service to the song. These qualities were especially evident in the bass parts he wrote for songs by John and George, and his contribution to the development of bass playing in popular music cannot be overstated"

Excuse the odd or naff versions of these I'm posting - some of the ones Andrew himself provided appear to be blocked in the US

"While My Guitar Gently Weeps" does not seem to be up there at all.

Andrew also offers some Tina Weymouth appreciation via The Heads - a band that does not figure in many conversations, ever, I'd wager. A move that effectively Byrne-d their bridges with their erstwhile leader/frontman.

That sounds a bit Cure-y, and feeds nicely into this morsel of data Andrew found about Simon Gallup in re. my earlier tribute to "A Forest" and how it's a novice-level bassline: 

"Simon Gallup is admirably (appropriately?) modest about his abilities on bass:

To be honest with you, every night I see all the other bands, all
these great musicians, and then when I’m up there I look down at my
bass and the minimalist stuff I’m playing and think, I’m just getting away with murder here.” And then, a shuffling sound over the phone as Gallup begins laughing. “In fact, and I swear I’m not lying to you, in my bag right now I have a book for beginning bass players called You Can Do It . . . Play Bass Dammit!. It’s great—it’s got all these different bass lines to practice. You can even learn to play Latin rock at the end, so maybe one day when this is all over I’ll be joining Enrique Iglesias’s band.
”  - 
Baltimore City Paper, 8/4/2004


Marco brings more Jaco love, starting with two I was going to post myself: 

"Teen Town" - "here played with Weather Report - Fretless Bass doubled on ARP quadra by Zawinul"

"River People" off my personal fave Mr. Gone, the one the serious jazz headz disparage

"Pentatonic riff again doubled by Zawinul. Strange album for  Weather Report. A melting pot of fusion, with disco, technology, soul music, timpani and crazyness all around. Zawinul trying to outmacho Pastorius all over the track."

So rubbery and mechanistic, that one, at first - almost sequenced. Like Kraftwerk if Zawinul had displaced Ralph Hutter somehow.  Or if Jaco had formed a group with Moroder after his strange 

Einzelgänger solo album of '75.

And then it lets rip into the mutha of all grooves - like an elephant at a rollerdisco. 

And they could do it live too

Keeping it proggy 'n' fusionoid with some Primus, lord 'elp us: 

"The creepy Les Claypool - weird voice weird bass. the 90's"

And more Chris Squire (r.i.p.)  love:

"This man literally took months to arrange his bass parts and made the drummer (bill bruford) go crazy. this tune is literally layers of bass on top of each other. it is going nowhere."

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Bass Bits, Guest(s) Post #7

Paul Myerscough was quick to point out the absence of Derek Forbes from the Postpunk Bass post

The subject of the curiously steep decline of Simple Minds came up - how the second half of the career managed to almost completely erase from collective memory the brilliance of the first part - and Paul suggested that:

"the transformation of the band after New Gold Dream happened musically partly in and through the relegation of Forbes within the group. An amazing decision, really. He stuck around for two more albums (one of them included 'Waterfront', but even though that was the first big hit of their stadium era and was startlingly bass-led, Forbes was essentially playing one note). I remember even at the time his complaining about what he was now being given to do; they'd taken the melody away from him."

From the Glorious First Career-Half, Paul nominated a whole bunch of jewels, which I've had to thin out a bit:

Empires and Dance:

Incredible, eh?

Sons and Fascinations/Sister Feelings Call:

New Gold Dream:

To Paul's selections I would add:

The first Minds single I bought, that

The second Minds single I bought - where the bass seems to whir and chatter...

Still prefer "Glittering" to "Promised" although the latter is fab too.


Keeping it post   - post-punk, post-rock - Jon Dale addresses the question of bands with two bassists, mentioning Ui and Tortoise.

Jon mentions this one as a Tortoise fave of his:

... while many would nominate the clinky and winding moodiness of this one

Jon also says:

"One of my favourite bass players would have to be Naomi Yang - very unique melodic approach to playing, though influenced by both Kendra Smith and Peter Hook... (Kendra's bass is great too, unassuming but unrelenting, esp on some of those Opal songs...)" and says that "one of my fave bass lines of all time would have to be Klaus Voorman on Yoko Ono's "Why" - as lifted by Stereolab for "Emperor Tomato Ketchup"..."


Kevin Quinn offers

Dave Allen in his Shriekback second life

She Wants Revenge - "Adam Bravin programmed no doubt, but ..."

Never 'eard of them...

Nazareth's Pete Agnew!

"Hypnotic, snake-charming bass x 3"

Buzzcocks - Steve Garvey

A fantastic choice, that one, I must say...

Queen - "The Invisible man" - John Deacon

But not "Another One Bites the Dust"?

Michael Nesmith  - "Cruising" - David MacKay 

Goodness me -  some of you lot are digging deep 'n' wide!


Ben Squires with "some (fairly random) suggestions":


23 Skidoo - Fritz Catlin - "I guess I could have picked 'Coup' but 'The Gospel Comes to New Guinea' is produced by The Cabs and has such a dark brooding vibe. Later Sketch from Lynx joined of course..."

Now if I was to nominate a Skidoo it would be this one - which actually has "Bass" in the title, along with the loathsome Unity Mitford nattering on about civilisational purity versus "senseless reiteration' of race-mixed rhythm:

Back to Ben's picks:

Revolting Cocks - Paul Barker -

"Early Revco (before the guitars took over) is a great, bass driven, groovy sound..."


King Crimson - John Wetton -

"Wetton's playing on 'Red' is pretty decent but the last 90 seconds of 'Starless' has such a great distorted tone it seems amazing that what seems like not long after he was fronting Asia"

Magma - Janick Top -

"This track was written by Top and is a pretty funky groove. I know nothing about Magma's music really but am fairly convinced they and King Crimson were a fairly big influence on the Japanese Prog/Punk bands like YBO2, Ruins and Zena Geva."


The Jesus Lizard - David Wm Sims

"David Sims of Rape Man, Scratch Acid and The Jesus Lizard has always been a favourite. Great tone..."

"And a great intro:"

Fugazi - Joe Lally -

"Musicman bass and post-Ruts groove..."


Bauhaus David J - - "Their albums might not have always been very consistent but their top moments are pretty great. There are plenty to choose from but this might be the bass winner..."

On the subject of bands with two bassists, Ben mentions  an Impostume-favorite:

Cop Shoot Cop - Tod A./Jack Natz -

"There lo-end/hi-end bass seemed to be reflection of the daily grind."

On the subject of bands with four bassists:

Evil Blizzard - ???? -  "Not sure if you can really tell though..."


Crowleyhead, via Twitter, with  some Jaco-love - not the first we've seen, and not the last either

the first of

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Bass Bits, Guest(s) Post #6

Blog round up:

Cardrossmaniac 2 gets dubby, trip hoppy, jungly

Phil Zone gets to grip with the 'Glers

Action Time Vision pitches in 


Some new guests, some regulars returning:

their comments are in italics

Asif Siddiqi drops science:

The Beatles - Rain 

 ('bout time somebody did that one!)

"Paul being completely nutters, with a beautifully thick sound that was very new at the time "

Beatles - I Want You (from Abbey Road)

"Paul being nutty again, with the little manic fills between verses. Here's the bass and drums isolated" -

B-52s - Planet Claire

"Kate playing an awesome interplanetary synth bass"

"which was copied note for note (w/ a real bass by David J) and amped up on" -

Bauhaus - Hair of the Dog

"On a different note"

Buffalo Springfield - I Am a Child

"Sublime, beautiful, makes you feel as if the song is skipping along…"

"Pretty much any late 1970s Joni Mitchell (all played by Jaco Pastorius) but especially" -

Joni Mitchell - Don Juan's Reckless Daughter

"which seems like the bass is grounding the song into a holes deeper and deeper until Joni's voice disappears into echoes at the end…"

"Brilliant minimalist bass here" -

Flipper - Ha Ha Ha

The Smiths - Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now

('ere I was going to nominate that one! in an Andy Rourke Special possibly)

"Here, one of the greatest bass guitarists of the post-1960s British pop, Andy Rourke, spirals up and down the choruses and verses, creating such a lovely effect"

"the BBC sessions version of 'This Charming Man' in which seems Rourke is playing a counter-melody through the entire song that completely and utterly gives the song a three-dimensional quality"

"And let us not forget "Barbarism Begins at Home" in which Rourke tries out his white funk, and acquits himself quite well. The song is basically Marr's fantasy homage to the Pop Group, Rip Rig & Panic, etc. but it basically flows from Rourke's fingers. A famous live version here" -

This is not the only nomination for "Barbarism Begins At Home", which I kinda hate as a song  - along with roughly two-thirds of Meat Is Murder, frankly - but must be admitted this bass is ace, as far as it goes (which is deep into not-really-Smiths territory).


Bobby Wratten bigs up:

Derek Forbes of Simple Minds (this just a taste of future Forbes fanfaring)

Neil McKenzie of Artery

Jeremy Kerr of A Certain Ratio

Dave McClymont of Orange Juice


Sadmanbarty has a couple more

Gene Kupra 

confesses that "I don’t know the bassist’s name"

Dave Holland & Barre Phillip


Ed Crooks with a bunch that are "all from the 80s"

One in fact was "Barbarism Begins At Home", about which Ed comments that here Rourke is "disproving Joe Carducci's contention that punk de-skilled British bass players. He has so many great moments, but this is my favourite, especially when he plays for Morrissey and Marr's awkward but endearing dancing from 6'10" on. He and Marr sound oddly like the Meat Puppets at times here." (here meaning the video already posted above)

Steve Gustafson - 10,000 Maniacs - "My Mother The War:

(great choice)

"A strange band, which went on to have a long and undistinguished career. This is their only great song, thanks to John Lombarbo's sheets of guitar and Steve Gustafson's thunderous bassline."

(sadly concur with that verdict although I did quite enjoy their cover of "Peace Train")

Debbie Googe - My Bloody Valentine - "Slow"

"The quality is terrible, but it's great to watch Googe play. It's hard to believe that bass sound really is created by a human being"

Tim Sommer and Adam Peacock - Hugo Largo


"Another two-bass band, and a terrific one. All their music sadly out of print these days."

"And the greatest bassline of all time: The SOS Band, Just Be Good To Me"


"Played on the keyboard (by Jam or Lewis?), the bass transforms the song, turning an abject confession of bad life choices into a triumphant anthem. Norman Cook's cover as Beats International replaced the towering original bassline with Paul Simonon's gloomy plod from The Guns of Brixton. It fits better with the lyrics, but destroys the tension that makes the SOS Band's version so great."