ONE DAY OF BASS

Anyone who has shared space within my vicinity since I was around 14 years of age could tell you where a discussion on bass guitar players was going to land. I’ve been an avowed Who fanatic since then, seeing the best parts of my last two decades as a loyal disciple in the cult of Pete Townshend. John Entwistle would then have been my first idea of what a player on the instrument should be, and even if he isn’t my ideal now (my tastes have changed in what I expect and appreciate from the bass in recent years), he’d never be that far from whatever new track or player had emerged in my mind. I can’t see him any differently—he might just be the reason why the Who were the Who and why there wasn’t (and hasn’t been) a band totally like them; his singular talent infused with an ability to play lead and rhythm simultaneously (or quickly switch back and forth with an instinctive flare coupled with a taste not often known to players of his ability [anytime you hear a flash, showy solo on any instrument with endless unnecessary notes you’ll understand what I mean) letting Pete roam and create fury, or play measly rhythm leads as he danced around onstage. Keith Moon also relied on Entwistle’s rock solid time keeping, as he too couldn’t be bothered with anything but the ultra showmanship of the fastest drummer alive. Yes, without Entwistle, the great charms that made the Who totally unique and wonderful—they were brash, combustible, and erratic—would have completely fallen apart at the seems. If Entwistle wasn’t there to keep everything buttoned down, playing the traditional role of the drums (time keeping), guitar (leads and flourishes) and bass (additional rhythm support), the Who would have been a wild, incoherent cacophony, rather than a tightly orchestrated cacophony that worked against all odds. Continue reading

TWO DAYS OF BASS

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Over the previous 18 pieces there has been a strong attempt to highlight the unknown, or the unheralded in the realm of bass guitar. Not only is it an essential stance to take when discussing the instrument—it’s the most relegated piece of the standard guitar-bass-drums rock template, but also its performers, even the true masters, are generally players completely fine standing in the background, thumping around a groove. For every one bass player who preens and shucks, any fan of rock music can think of several dozen guitar players or lead singers who do the same, and often to much more obnoxious affect. With this being understood, how then could minorities hope to find notoriety in such a shadow? It might sound outlandish to ask now, but as rock and pop were making their first tentative baby steps, civil rights and the women’s movement were still almost 10 to 15 years away. Plus, to make matters worse, the industry was largely shrouded in anonymity, groups of session musicians known not by given name (when they were even cited at all) but rather terms like ‘the Wrecking Crew’ or, even more generic, the house band of insert label or studio here. Carol Kaye was one such bass player (and she played lead guitar too; most notably on the Crystals wonderful ‘Then He Kissed Me’), she of Spector’s Wall of Sound creating ‘Wrecking Crew’ fame (a term she supposedly didn’t like, and instead preferred the less violent ‘the Clique’), always lending a perfectly sympathetic line or hook to a chart-topping hit. Continue reading