Realizing this morning that it was National Radio Day, it seemed only fitting that a song about the radio be the choice today. There are countless examples; the Clash ‘Radio Clash’ from Super Black Market Clash certainly fits into any exemplary bass examples run down, and Elvis Costello’s ‘Radio, Radio’ has some nice driving bass runs too. The Ramones’ ‘Do You Remember Rock N’ Roll Radio?’ features mostly traditional Ramones’ stylings in the area (Spector always preferred bass drums to bass guitars) and Refused’s ‘New Noise’ (a wonderful driving track about taking radio back for the masses) were considered too; but in the end, it just seemed too obvious—especially when considering the bass guitar: Joy Divisions’ remarkable ‘Transmission’.
Peter Hook’s work with Joy Division and New Order has always had a special place in the hearts of fans, and considered what New Order was (a band where the bass guitar was really the lead instrument) and what they eventually became (one of the biggest bands in the world) his style and wonderfully catchy runs could be considered as important as any. Listening to them now, it’s remarkable how elementary many of these lines are. Seemingly intricate and massive, he often spends minutes alternating between two notes. ‘Transmission’ is a perfect example, it’s a beginners line, Hook often commented just how boring it was to play life, but then that’s the point isn’t it? There’s a dreaded monotony to much of his work, the bubbling anxiety that so gets under your skin and agitates just enough for Curtis and Company to fully thrash and rip open to which we’re left with a smoldering wreckage and the bass just keeps going and going and going. Taking us to the destruction and egging it along then, offering us our only lifeline. He’s still giving it out.