Weird, Obscure, Strange, and Overlooked Bass Lines that Shred.

Photo by Brett Sayles from Pexels

Infectious Grooves-Violent and Funky. Not sure of what ever became of bass player Robert Trujillo but I hope he is still able to eek out a living with music.

XTC- Helicopter

“Hey man, can you make your bass sound like a helicopter?” “You got it, Andy.”

Roxy Music-Love is the Drug

Real drugs are also fantastic. I’m not sure what is up with the eye patch, either.

Porno for Pyros-Good God’s Urge

Mike Watt doesn’t play bass. He works it. My man is always clocked in.

Besides filling in on bass for the Stooges, he also played in fIREHOSE and the legendary Minutemen. The breakdown part at 3:10 gets stuck in my head for days at a time. The eagle-eyed will notice that this is the second song to feature drummer Stephen Perkins.

Pere Ubu -Small was Fast

Devo, Pere Ubu, Brianiac. . . Ohio sure produces a lot of strange music. One of the best live bands I’ve ever seen.

Meshell Ndegeocello-If That’s Your Boyfriend.

She used to play bass for some dude named David Bowie and can probably slap your damn face off with her thumb.

Spizz Athletico 80-Where’s Captain Kirk?

Everyone’s favorite Star Trek Tribute band from the 80’s. (If you don’t shed a tear listening to “Spock’s Missing”, then it is time to seek online therapy, you monster.)

Sonseed- Jesus is my Friend

Satan may inspire the best metal musicians, but it looks like Jesus might own ska.

Try to deny that breakdown at 1:22. I double-dog dare you.

Talking Heads- Sugar on my Tongue 

Tina Weymouth sure got a phat tone from a short scale bass. I love how her bass line is almost a duet with the vocals.

The Kinks- Sunny Afternoon

Maybe not the most obscure bass song, but when you run a Magazine called Next in Line. . .

A Sure Fire Hack that Makes Everyone Want to Jam With You.

Don’t Worry. This method has nothing to do with scale, modes, or time signatures. Technically, It doesn’t even really have to do with making music. But I guarantee, if you just follow these two simple steps, your jam card will always be full. Your bandmates will love you, and so will every sound engineer that you encounter live or in the studio. Heck, you may even snag some session work off of it. And you literally have to do nothing. 

Step One: Stop making noise and STFU when other people are trying to talk or trouble shoot gear around you.

Step Two: Repeat as necessary.

Who hasn’t been in this situation? The guitar player is showing the bass player the chords, while Keith Moon in the corner is thrashing away at full volume, trying to decide between a paradiddle, a double paradiddle, or a flamadiddle to lead into the next chorus. 

But, of course— and this isn’t said out loud very often— it’s not always the drummer’s fault. If only there was a way for the guitarist to doodle between songs without getting on everyone’s last nerve. Sigh.

But Wait! There is! We have the technology in the form of a new fangled device called the “volume knob.” (see picture below.) 

First try playing a power chord with the volume knob turned up all the way. Then ask your lead  singer how much back rent they owe their landlord. It’s not easy to discern the amount, is it*? 

 Now, turn the volume knob completely off. Notice how you are the only one who can hear the guitar now, and people around you can enjoy a conversation without shouting? Volume knob technology has also made its way to keyboards, Omnichords, Stylaphones, and even bass guitars! 

But what about Acoustic instruments, you say? They don’t have volume knobs. Drummers can play air drums or on your knees. Guitar players can just strum quietly. Didgeridoo players, use a didgeridoo mute. Everyone around you will be so much nicer to you.

Think you got it down? Take the quiz:

  1. You are waiting for an engineer to finish setting up your drums mic. His ear is located right next to an 24” Paiste Rude ride cymbal and he isn’t wearing hearing protection.

Should you: 

A. Do your best Meg White impression and wail on the edge of the cymbal.

B. See how your rim shot technique has come along. Is it loud enough yet? How about now?

C. Do nothing but stare blankly into space.

2.  Your keyboard player spilled another beer on her $650,000 vintage Farfisa organ. 

Should you:

A. See if you can get your sax to squeal like Big Jay McNeely.

B. Play the Benny Hill theme while she scrambles to find canned air to dry out the insides.

C. Do nothing but stare blankly into space.

3. The front of the house engineer yells “kick” and starts tweaking the gate on the drummer’s bass drum. Should you:

A. Jam along with kick drum ¼ notes, because what is drums without bass? Boring!

B. Tune your four-string at full blast for the whole audience to enjoy.

C. Do nothing but stare blankly into space.

Please forward this to anyone who needs to read it.

Answers: C. The answer is always C.

*This was a joke. Any lead singer worth their salt has no idea how much money the landlord is owed. That’s what roommates are for. That and toilet paper. And peanut butter. And . . .

Beat the Heat! These Isolated Tracks will give you Goosebumps.

John Bonham: Fool in the Rain.

I could get kicked out of the drummer’s union if I didn’t make Bonham number one. A variation on the Purdie shuffle, this drum beat combines two time signatures: triplets on the hi hats with a 2/4 backbeat on the kick and snare. 

Being able to play it is one thing. Grooving it is another.

I’ll let James Brown’s Bernard “Pretty” Purdie himself ‘splain how to play a half time shuffle as only he can.

Clyde Stubblefield: The Funky Drummer.

Here is another of James Brown’s drum assassins, rocking the most sampled breakbeat in history. 

Ain’t it funky? Why yes, James. It is. It sure is.

Freddy Mercury: Don’t Stop Me Now.

100 degrees. He is the intersection of technique and passion, with a voice as bashful as a berserker. Damn, when he glides from chest voice to head voice, it’s like he was born without a zona di passaggio. Not sure if this was before or after he wupped Sid Vicious’ ass.

Marc Bolan: 20th Century Boy.

I love everything about this track: the playing, the sound, the production, the attitude, the style. While not the most technical guitar player, Marc Bolan has feel for days, so much so that Ike Turner tapped him to play rhythm for Tina.

Billy Preston: I Want You. (She’s so Heavy)

The fifth Beatle, Billy Preston, sprinkles a quarter-pound of fairy dust all over this track. I can see why the Fab Four kept this dude on retainer. The rooftop concert is the only live footage I could find of Preston playing with the boys.

I love the stabs during the bass feature parts. Speaking of…

Paul McCartney: Paperback Writer.

While I wouldn’t call it a shame that the Cute One’s singing and songwriting overshadows his talents as a bass player, the proof is in the pudding. Recording engineer Geoff Emerick said that McCartney was generally easy going in the studio, but was a stickler for his bass tone, spending hours redoing his parts when the other guys retreated back to the giant row home that shared from Help!

Wilton Felder: I Want You Back.

Randy Roads: Crazy Train.

On my first day at Scouts, I tried to make conversation with a long-haired, older kid while he sneaked a smoke.“Hey Jay, what is up with that patch on your jean jacket? Who is Randy Roads?”
He looked at me like a slandered Mr. T. ”Are you kidding me? You don’t know who fucking Randy Roads is? What the fuck is wrong with you, Steve? And if you tell anyone about this cigarette I’ll kick your ass.”
I still owe him.
Randy’s amp was so loud that they needed to put him in an isolated room for his own safety.

Whitney Houston: “I Will Always Love You.”

Dolly Parton first heard Whitney’s version on her car radio.” I was shot so full of adrenaline and energy, I had to pull off, because I was afraid that I would wreck, so I pulled over quick as I could to listen to that whole song,”

The only person happier than Dolly was her agent after the royalty checks rolled in.